Dutch designer Lieske Schreuder fed coloured paper to snails and then collected their vibrant-hued poo to make floor tiles (+ slideshow).
Having noticed that snails in her garden seemed to enjoy eating paper and cardboard, Schreuder purchased hundreds of them from a snail farm and built a laboratory to test what would happen if they consumed coloured paper.
"The result was that snails do not only eat coloured paper, but also defecate in colour," said the designer. "So blue paper means blue excrements! Snails cannot take the colour pigment of the paper into their bodies and that is the reason the excrements are coloured."
Her laboratory comprises a series of compartments where the snails have access to sheets of coloured paper, which has a similar cellular structure to the plant matter they typically eat.
Schreuder gathers the excrement, which has a malleable texture, and feeds it into a portable machine she designed to grind, mix and press it into tiles with a roughly textured surface that retains the colour of the original paper.
"Walking outside, in the garden or on the streets, we are constantly walking on snail excrements," Schreuder explained. "But because these excrements are very small and look like normal dirt, we are not aware of this. This made me think of a situation where these excrements are in colour. This would be some sort of snail excrement carpet."
The faeces can also be pressed into a mould using a spatula to create a delicate thread with a five-millimetre diameter that the designer is currently researching uses for.
"One metre of thread will take me an hour and contains six grams of excrement that is ground before processing," said Schreuder. "It will take approximately nine snails five days to produce these six grams."
The project is one of 57 ideas for combining biology with art, architecture and design presented at an exhibition called Biodesign at The New Institute in Rotterdam, which continues until 5 January 2014.
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