The origins of the "tortoise shell" pattern hail from the now illegal use of Hawksbill Turtles’ shells for products.
Since ancient times, Hawksbills have been hunted for their beautiful shell which is made up of colorful overlapping scales in shades of gold and brown and orange, called scutes. The scutes are polished and used to make combs, jewelry, sunglasses, ornaments, and other luxury and decorative items. Commonly referred to as tortoiseshell, or “bekko" in Japan, the illegal trade of hawksbill shell has pushed it to the brink of extinction. In Japan, bekko combs are still worn as part of their traditional wedding dress.
This might have continued if European scientists hadn’t invented a plant-based plastic (made from pulp, usually from cotton plants) called Acetate at the turn of the last century. By the 1950s, manufacturers were churning out a tortoiseshell-like material possessing a depth and richness of colour that, along with an international treaty in the late 1970s banning the hunting and sale of hawksbills, gave the critically endangered sea turtle a chance at survival.
The unique pattern lends itself well to products. Examples range from watches, eyewear, guitar pics, and jewelry.
Acetate colour combinations are generated by mixing organic colours with acetone and the raw acetate plant based material. Rollers help mix the paste onto already thin flat sheets of acetate to achieve the special colour effects.
Complex colourations are produced by layering several colours and sandwiching them together or pressing them through a variety of dies. The acetate film may be chopped into small cubed and rolled again. These layers are molded into large blocks. After which technicians intricately slice off single new sheets which are dried in large kilns for several weeks to cure the material.
For this collection of snowboards, we photographed slices from these blocks of material to showcase the depth and complexity of this aesthetically stunning material.