BioFabricating Dyes & Materials


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
  • starch
  • glycerine
  • water
  • vinegar
  • pigments


The students can work in group, identifying tasks and splitting them, as long as they all proof they are able to carry out each task.

Explore at least:

1 natural dye or bacterial dye

•1 crafted or grown material

Dont just reproduce, mix, match, change amounts or patterns and compare.

Order, display, map / compare and credit, for the process and the results:
Ordering – organised material is knowledge. Name your materials, classify them by typology.
Displaying – display them in a way that makes sense. Badly displayed materials, loose all their beauty.
Mapping is essential for comparing results. Change small elements in a recipe and compare the results.
Credit your recipes and changes


(Google Drive - high res)

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(Direct - low res)

Biofabricating Dyes

Biofabricating Materials