GIY Maker Spotlight: Nora Chavooshian

GIY Maker Spotlight: Nora Chavooshian

What is your background?

My traditional art school training was figure and portrait painting, which evolved into sculpting. Then came theatrical set design which utilized my sculpting abilities, which led to art direction/production design for feature films and music videos ( i.e. films for John Sayles, sculptural set pieces for Martin Scorsese, videos for Bruces Springsteen and Madonna among others). Presently I’m back to full time sculpting…happily!

Give a brief explanation your project(s):

Initially I experimented with grinding the inoculated hemp to a fine powder and casting into prior silicone molds that I had from previous sculptures. 


Then I sculpted and cast urns (Karas) for iele paloumpis’ performance of “In place of catastrophe, a clear night sky” presented at Danspace Project, NYC. Some Karas were hollow to hold dried eucalyptus and some were cast solid to position binaural microphones which often are placed on styrofoam forms emulating human hearing.  


After which I continued experimenting more with how mycelium grows and behaves. 


I have recently been working on sculptures that make connections between personal ancestral trauma, current cultural trauma and women’s collective efforts to resurrect their threatened cultures. Mycelial networking elegantly mirrors these connections. 


How did you hear about GIY mycelium materials? 

I first learned about mycelium around 2013 from the work of Philip Ross when I was in SF. Soon after, back on the east coast I started to follow Ecovative and when they developed the grow your own packages I started experimenting…around 2015. The generous guidance and advice I’ve gotten from them (specifically Grace Knight) has been invaluable. They even tested my grinding technique/questions before I embarked on that method.

How was it working with mycelium? What do you like most about the material?

I love that I am collaborating with a living microorganism and find myself having a relationship and affection for the material. I am feeling like I need to expand my perspective and practice to make more room for the expressions of my collaborator, the mycelium.

What was your biggest takeaway? If you ran into any problems, what advice would you give someone if they ran into this issue?

Growing a solid casting of mycelium inoculated hemp, I had to aerate the center of the casting.


The other solution was to cast two separate solid halves and pull them out of their molds a day early and bind them together wrapped in cellophane and allow to grow together another day or so.


I’ve grown some contaminating molds and in hindsight think that the green mold I got consistently last winter was probably because we were keeping the growing area too cold. Ironically it was in the California high desert, but it was a cold winter and Southern Ca. electric bills are exorbitant. Installed solar now so no longer an issue for us!

Who would you recommend this GIY material to and why? 

It’s an ideal educational material for classes and folks that want to experiment without having to inoculate a substrate yourself.

What do you have in the pipeline that you're excited about?

I’ve been casting with an algae based urethane


….and now I'm studying lichens. I’m working on a sculpture with lichen imagery to be cast in both algae and mycelium…two of the components of lichen in a mutualistic relationship.

Follow Nora's work on her website and instagram!

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