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Biofabricating Dyes & materials#

October 16th, 2018

Cecilia Raspanti

The textile industry is one of the most polluting in the world, in which one the most environmentally disastrous processes is the dyeing of fibers and textiles of the clothes we wear. Chemicals are released daily in rivers and nature destroying the environment around us to satisfy the colour demands that we create as designers, industry and consumers. Very few options are being explored in this fast changing fashion, clothing and textile industry, and the list of chemical treatments is only expanding.

This class will focus on exploring material and colouring alternatives to the current ones. Ranging from natural dyes, using pigments and bacteria, to material biofabrication. Local recipes of DIY materials

Program outline#

  • Overview and context
  • BioFabricating Dyes: Natural dyes & bacterial dyes
  • Base materials, animal fibers and vegetable fibers
  • Mordants
  • Color modifiers
  • Dyes from roots, leaves, flowers - recipes
    • madder
    • hibiscus
    • turmeric
    • alkanet
    • et c
  • Dyes from pigmented bacteria
    • overview
    • inspirational projects
    • recipes
    • instruction videos
  • BioFabricating materials
    • Crafted materials & Grown materials
    • for each: overview of projects, recipe and whats needed
      • Bioplastics
      • kombucha
      • fish skin leather
      • mushroom leather
      • fruit leathers
      • hi tech
      • cooperative research
      • researchers around the world


  • natural dyes:

    • madder root
    • alkanet roots
    • turmeric roots powder
    • hibiscus flowers
    • onion peels
    • campeche wood
    • weld plant
    • annatto seeds
    • mordants/scouring agents:
      • alum & cream of tartar
      • copper liquor - copper pipes+vinegar or in crystals form
      • iron liquor - rusty irons+vinegar or in crystals form
      • Na2Co3 (sodium carbonate)
    • ph modifiers
      • acids: vinegar, lemon
      • base: sodium carbonate
  • Bacterial dyes

  • janthinobacterium lividum

  • Serratia (bio safety lvl 2) - ONLY if you have a biolab environment and are prepared to use biosafety lvl 2 organisms
  • micrococcus luteus
  • LB Broth & Nutrient agar
  • animal fibers/textiles
  • wool, silk, camel hair, angora
  • vegetable fibers/textiles
  • cotton, linen, hemp, ramie *

  • Bio -plastics -resins -silicones

  • gelatine

  • agar
  • starch
  • glycerine
  • water
  • vinegar
  • pigments


  • Produce at least one natural dye or bacterial dye.

  • Natural dye - modifying it’s colour and mordanting it in different ways to dye at least 2 different categories of fibers

  • Bacterial dye - Explored dyeing with bacteria of different fibers and/or bacteria

  • Produce at least one crafted or grown material

  • Crafted material - explore the different recipes and understand how to adjust them based on the ingredients

  • Grown material - explore the different recipes and understand how to adjust them based on the ingredients

  • Document your recipes, the ingredients and process and if there have been changes, document your unexpected discoveries

  • Name your materials, classify them by typology and display them in a systematic order of samples.
  • EXTRA POINT Submit some of your swatches to the analog material library of your lab. (20cm *20cm aprox)

How will it be evaluated#

  • Master techniques for natural dyeing or bacterial dyeing
  • Master techniques for growing or crafting personalised materials
  • Documentation : Anyone can go through the process and use the recipes
  • Final outcome: create a material or color chart
  • Originality - Aesthetics : Has the design been thought through and elaborated


Lecture Video