Living Bacteria as a natural dye

Natsai Audrey Chieza works at the intersection of biology and design, and wants to show how living organisms can make sustainable materials

Silk dyed as part of Project Coelicolor   Toby Coulson

Silk dyed as part of Project Coelicolor

Toby Coulson

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Designer Natsai Audrey Chieza has an unusual creative partner: the soil-dwelling bacterium Streptomyces coelicolor. Under the right conditions, S. coelicolor produces a pigmented compound, which Chieza uses to dye fabric and garments in patterned hues of pink, purple and blue. “It dyes textiles in a colourfast manner with barely any water and no chemicals,” Chieza says. “In many ways, that's the definition of a natural dye.”

Chieza has been working with her “companion species” since 2011 and this year launched Faber Futures, a London-based biodesign lab that aims to help other researchers and companies harness the power of living organisms to develop their own sustainable materials. “Project Coelicolor is a great way to say, ‘This is what we did with this micro-organism; let us help you figure out what to do with yours,’” she says

Regardless the industry, Chieza hopes that biodesign can lead the way to more sustainable means of production, helping manufacturers to shift away from petroleum-based materials, divest from fossil fuels and reduce waste. With Faber Futures, she is also keen to develop an ethical framework for working with living organisms. “If we can engineer life, that means science has become a design space," she says.

Dream Machine by Frank Kolkman

Dream Machine

Swarovski set a brief entitled ‘smart living’ exploring future thinking in design and technology.

Building on the work of artists from the 50s and 60s like Brion Gysin, Tony Conrad, Bernard Leitner and Ugo la Pietra -- the project attempts to create an immersive crystal 'dream machine'. By generating light and sound patterns that synchronize with alpha and theta brainwaves, the machine would allow individuals to enter a state of deep relaxation or ‘artificial dreaming’. It’s tapping into the notion of creating profoundly individual experiences that can't be easily captured or converted to other media. I like the idea of it being a type of immersive 'inside out chandelier'.

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