Why Cork?

As a product design studio, Wiid Design is constantly exploring different ways to work with unique and sustainable materials. And cork – the bark of the cork oak tree – is just such a substance. With a large variety of applications and available grades, it’s one of the most sustainable materials in the world.

Wiid Design started experimenting with cork more than 11 years ago. Though it took us a lot of time and work to understand its various properties and grades, we soon realised cork’s fantastic manufacturing capabilities – and we grew more and more certain that cork was to become one of our studio’s core materials and focus.

The Cork Oak Forest

The cork oak tree reaches maturity at 25 years. From then on, it can be harvested for its bark (by specialised professionals) in cycles of nine years. The cork oak is the only tree whose bark regenerates, acquiring a smoother texture following each harvest. Over the course of its lifetime, which on average lasts 200 years, it may be stripped around 17 times.

Cork oak forests are found mainly in the Mediterranean region, particularly Portugal. Crucially, these forests act as powerful agents against climate change, as every year they absorb up to 14-million tonnes of carbon dioxide. In its lifetime, each cork oak tree becomes a massive storehouse of CO2, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the main cause of climate change. Even better, during the natural regeneration process that follows harvesting, the tree’s ability to absorb CO2 increases up to five times. The more it is harvested, the more it protects the environment.

The cork oak forest is also a biodiversity hotspot, providing a home to over 200 animal species and 135 plant species, some of them endangered.

By playing a crucial role in the world’s ecological balance, fighting climate change and desertification, and sustaining biodiversity, the cork oak forest is a living ambassador of sustainability and a driving force of sustainable development.

Cork as Material

Cork is one of nature’s most amazing raw materials. It’s so exceptional that no human-made product has yet been able to replicate its unique combination of properties. It’s 100% biodegradable, recyclable and renewable; incredibly light and impermeable to liquids and gases; elastic, compressible and resilient; it provides excellent thermal and acoustic insulation, is a fire retardant, and is highly abrasion-resistant.

To have all these features in a single, undivided material is truly unique. And the possibilities are endless!

Cork Applications

Cork application started centuries ago, mostly as cork stoppers for wine. But it was Dom Pérignon and his fellow abbots who spread the solution of glass bottle and cork stopper on a large scale. Throughout history, however, there have been numerous references to cork and its varied applications, and today is no different, with new and innovative ways being developed to use cork and its unique properties.

Some interesting applications include:

Portuguese cork was the material chosen for professional big wave surfer Garrett McNamara’s new surfboard, developed in a partnership between Mercedes-Benz Portugal and Corticeira Amorim.

In the European Space Agency (ESA)’s IXV mission, cork was used in the Ablative Thermal Protection System. Since the beginning of space exploration, cork has been used so successfully in the aerospace industry that Donald Thomas, NASA astronaut, went so far as saying: ‘Never leave Earth without cork!’

Cork as material has been used by numerous well know designers and brands in the fashion and footwear industry.

Recycled Cork at Wiid Design

Cork is one of the main materials used in the design of our furniture and decor items. Notably, we use recycled cork grades, which adds even more sustainability to our products.

Agglomerated cork (composite cork) or compressed cork is a cork grade created when the natural raw cork material is obtained from:

  • Cork left over from producing one-piece cork stoppers
  • Cork bark unsuitable for the manufacture of cork stoppers
  • Cork collected from recycling initiatives

This material is ground up, and the resulting cork granules are mixed with a binding agent and compressed into moulds. By adding heat, it is shaped into agglomerated cork blocks, or agglomerated cork rolls or sheets.

For most of our solid cork products, we use façade grade cork, whereby only the bark from a cork oak tree’s first harvest (called virgin cork bark) is used. This material is quite rough and unsuitable to produce wine cork stoppers and contains higher amounts of tree resin.

All our cork products are assembled and finished by hand. This is a delicate process of precise craftsmanship and a high standard of quality control, which is how we create our beautiful and unique pieces.

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