Ashes to Ashes, Earth to Earth

Mycelium Based Sculpture

Starling Wolfrum, Painting 2023

Starling is a painter and illustrator with an interest in biology, ecological studies, and thanatology.

Project Overview

This project consists of two boxes grown from mycelium. The smaller box is made with grey dove oyster mushrooms, and the larger is a mix of grey dove and pink oysters. Each is decorated with passionflowers. The boxes are intended to be small caskets or burial vessels for birds or other small animals. Fully biodegradable coffins are an important aspect of ecologically conscious burial, and mycelium is a unique material for burial because mushrooms function as decomposers within many ecosystems. As someone who has always made a habit out of examining, honoring, and burying dead birds and small animals, I wanted to make a small, usable burial box. I see it almost as a preparation for the next time a bird is lying on the sidewalk – a way to show respect and care for creatures as well as an imagined prototype for ecological burials for animals, pets, and humans.


Both of these boxes were made using molds, the small one a silicone mold intended for resin pouring, and the larger one a mold made from pyrex and a vacuum mold of a cut piece of wood. The smaller piece consists of a mixture of oats, dried leaves, and hemp hulls inoculated with oyster mushroom mycelium. It was allowed to grow in the mold for seven days before it was taken out and allowed to grow for another seven days. The larger box is made up of wood chips, straw, and hemp hulls and inoculated with pink oyster mushroom mycelium. It was allowed to grow for nine days, after a first attempt was contaminated. The final products were dried in an incubator, making them hard and light by removing moisture.

Learn More