The Hop Project is a research project about the potential of the hop plant as raw material. By using discarded hop stems that are considered waste after the harvest of the flower, the project explores different approaches on how to make hop fibers suitable for textiles.
The project started in 2019, a few months after my arrival in the Netherlands to follow my MA course Practice Held in Common at ArtEZ University of the Arts. With a combination of passion and need for exploration, I started researching hop fibers after reading about it in an old book. It instantly caught my attention for two reasons: the similarity with hemp, a promising and valuable fiber, and the fact that the fiber would be extracted from the agricultural byproducts from hop farming – it was considered waste by the farmers. I then applied, through ArtEZ Future Makers, for the ACT module at Wageningen University, where students from different disciplines work with you on a research project or problem. They then came up with a novel degumming method for hop fibers, which was later experimented with by experienced scientists from WUR, while at the same time I conducted other homemade experiments on the fibers by myself.
After harvesting the hop flower (usually for beer production), the stems of the plant – where the fiber is at – are considered waste. For this reason, collaborations were created with local hop farmers from the Netherlands, such as Hop Voor Bier and Hogenelst Hop in order to gather enough material to work with. They have kindly agreed to donate their byproducts for the experiment. We nurtured a relationship throughout the whole cycle of the plant and collaborated together during harvest time in September 2020.
HOMEMADE EXPERIMENTS WITH THE HOP PLANT
The bark remaining from the washing process was also experimented with, exploring the possibilities and potential of the material. By molding it while still wet, two objects were created and then dried for a few days. In another experiment agar-agar was also mixed with the bark, resulting in a firmer object.
The woody core which remained intact after the peeling of the bark was then broken into smaller pieces, resulting in hop “shives” that were sent to IsoHemp to explore the possibility of creating “hopcrete” – a building component resulting from the mixture of hop shives + water + lime. According to Dirk Van Impe, sales manager of the company, the material has good potential but still has to go through further testing and research.
This is an ongoing research. I will be updating this blog when new developments are achieved.