The Rhizosphere Pigment Lab, 2013.

The Rhizosphere Pigment Lab

Science Gallery Dublin

Grow Your Own, Life After Nature

For biodesign to be accessible as a design and craft discipline, new tools, languages and methods would need to be applied to laboratory protocol. This project set out to explore what that those might be, and to consider how a material’s provenance could one day be derived from a plant’s root microbiome.

The rhizosphere is the section of soil that is directly influenced by root secretions and associated soil microorganisms – including S.coelicolor. This project sought to recreate the organism’s natural habitat in a laboratory context, allowing us to create tools to facilitate the discovery and isolation of pigment-producing soil microbes. These were used to screen soil from four common herbs (tarragon, basil, mint, and rosemary) to visually determine their unique microbiome – and to analyse the material potential of the colour-producing organisms living within it.

The experiment was curated to illustrate a three-stage process: determining the botanical associations of bacteria; evaluating the visible material properties produced by the microbial colonies from each plant; and assessing the corresponding samples capability to actively dye fibres in vitro.

The project provided an opportunity to witness the ‘alchemy of the unseen’ become visible in the form of a unique collection of biologically coloured and patterned silk scarves. As well as charting the progress of the experiment, the fluid fabric forms also demonstrate how a design-led biology practice might define new processes in craft and making.

The Rhizosphere Pigment Lab | Progress! Revive! Heimtextil, 2014.
The Rhizosphere Pigment Lab, 2013.
The Rhizosphere Pigment Lab | Hybrids: Interspecies Collaboration in Craft and Design, National Centre for Craft & Design, 2016. Photography by Electric Egg.
The Rhizosphere Pigment Lab, 2013.
The Rhizosphere Pigment Lab | Grow Your Own: Life After Nature, Science Gallery Dublin, 2013.
The Rhizosphere Pigment Lab, 2013.


Grow Your Own, Life After NatureScience Gallery Dublin (2013)

Progress! Revive! | Heimtextil (2014)

V&A Presents Friday Late with Mastercard: Synthetic Aesthetics | Victoria & Albert Museum (2014)


Professor John Ward, Ward Lab, Synthetic Biology Labs, Biochemical Engineering, University College London


Pringle of Scotland and Disegno presents Material Change (2014)

BIOFABRICATE: Technology, Biology, Design / DESIGN LAB (2014)

Big Data: Designing with the Materials of Life, Central Saint Martins (2014)

Research Through Design,
Microsoft (2015)


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