The bio-designer who claims “bacteria can be beautiful”
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I am in a park staring down at my feet and, from this angle, they are mounds of earth sprouting grass. There is a blackbird cleaning herself with her beak and the feathers become sheets of silk. The sun is kissing the back of my neck and if I am very, very still, I feel one cell pass a baton of heat on to the next. Since I discovered Faber Futures, there are more of these moments where materials shape-shift, and I am dizzied by their new form.
The agency, studio practice and bio-design lab was founded by Natsai Audrey Chieza in 2018. Originally from Zimbabwe, she studied architectural design at the University of Edinburgh before moving to Central Saint Martins and completing an MA in textile futures. It was here that she began to explore how craft, technology and design could intersect with living biological systems – an investigation that led to the creation of a dye process using pigment-producing bacteria, with no toxic inputs and reduced water usage. These microbes offer great potential as a sustainable dyeing method for industrial textile production, as well as for private and public commissions of bespoke textile-design pieces.
Next year, a Faber Futures project curated by architect Hashim Sarkis will debut at Venice’s 17th International Architecture Exhibition, and a silk coat, Assemblage 02, currently sits in New York’s Cooper Hewitt design museum. Chieza anchors her design work in the traditional southern African philosophy of Ubuntu, loosely translated as “I am because we are”.
My husband calls out, it’s time to leave. I look down and my feet are just feet again.