Ivory nut palm jewelry
The Kapingamarangi people of Micronesia's Pohnpei Island began carving ivory nut palm after their mangrove forests were damaged. In Muehling's hands, the hard seed is transformed into faceted cuffs that follow the nut's crescent shape. "The nut does beautiful, unpredictable things," says Muehling. "It gets darker at the edges where it starts to oxidize."
Red maple bench
The shape of a red maple on the banks of Maine's Upper St. John River inspired architect Lin, who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in D.C. "We tend to pollute that which we can't see," she says. "My work is about revealing the unseen in the natural world." Lin's dynamic bench, built from lateral slices of sustainably harvested timber, comments on how the vertical forest itself is reshaped into chairs and tables.
In Alaska, salmon skin is a food-industry waste product. But fashion designer Mizrahi turned it into a glamorous material, cutting it into sequinlike paillettes. The good news: Fish leather is stronger than calfskin or lambskin, and it doesn't smell. "I always think of salmon skin as something you peel off your food," says Mizrahi, "but in fact, it is a beautiful substance."
A version of this article appeared in the May 2009 issue of Fast Company magazine.