Since the turn of 2016, Material Monday has concerned itself on several occasions with innovative manipulations of commonly used substrates, revisited and repurposed with more than half an eye on the environmental implications of their production and use. Remake, a paper made from more than 50 per cent up-cycled Italian leather, and ExpandOS, an alternative packing material recycled entirely from post-industrial waste, provide good examples of how enterprises have recognised the appetite for materials that leave a smaller environmental footprint whilst remaining industrially and commercially viable.
Products such as Remake or ExpandOS are the current manifestations of years of research and testing that have informed the up- and recycling processes respectively. And despite increased awareness of the devastating effects of unchecked deforestation, and greater recognition of organisations such as the FSC and PEFC, it’s difficult to see a future in which paper – in all its forms – will become entirely obsolete.
Such are the levels of technological and scientific advancement in 2016, however, that it’s equally difficult to imagine a future in which some of those materials and processes that are themselves currently in the early phases of testing and development will not also play a pivotal role. That’s why this week’s post delves into the innovative and inspiring work of Faber Futures, a nascent, London-based research and development studio that exists at the crossroads of science and design, in the space termed Living Technology, or Biodesign.
Spearheaded by founder and creative director Natsai Audrey Chieza, Faber Futures is, in its own words, “driven by the theory that harnessing living systems – from Biomimicry to Synthetic Biology – could lead to a more resilient future.” It’s a bold manifesto, and one that has already yielded some spectacular results, most notably the advancement of pigment-producing bacteria for use in the dying and printing of materials, and the development of “an adaptable and scalable system of biofacture for the Fashion and Textile industries.” At its core, Faber is about using research and exploration to challenge conventional thinking on how the objects and materials we encounter are created, in order – ultimately – to affect change for the better.
‘Fold’, one of the studio’s most recent projects, left the highly creative, supposedly ‘human’ process of pattern design at the mercy of nature by allowing pigment-secreting bacteria to diffuse through habotai silk scarves over the course of a number of days. The stunning patterns are the product of a truly unique process that not only harnesses the reproductive power of the bacteria itself, but also provides a musing on what it means to see, touch and keep something that was, however briefly, a living object.
More of Faber Futures’ mind-blowing explorations into Biodesign – including ‘The Print Room’, which expands on the studio’s use of pigment-secreting inks – are available to view at faberfutures.com and on Instagram.