Recorded on 20 December, 2022 at the Jan van Eyck Academie

For this material Encounter, Future Materials invited Aastha Poddar to deliver a print-making workshop for the Jan van Eyck participants. The workshop explored Aastha’s innovative use of spirulina algae to print with on natural textiles.

Expanding upon the cultural background of the Indian Block-printing industry, its colonial past and current correlation to globalisation, the workshop shed light on a sense of identity and design ethics. Participants explored intersectional issues of a globalised industry, cultural heritage and technique, and more holistic forms of making.

Historically, the Block-printing industry has used natural dyes, however, due to industrialization, synthetic and artificial dyes have become prevalent and easily accessible. Unfortunately, such toxic, untreated effluents as bleaching agents, salts, acids, alkalis, and heavy metals are often discharged into nearby water ecosystems. Spirulina algae is a 3.6-billion-year-old cyano-bacterium, common to all areas of Earth and prevalent in Jaipur, India where the project is based. Through photosynthesis, these micro-algae absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. Significantly benefitting from intrinsic antioxidant properties, spirulina can also ameliorate heavy-metal toxicity in polluted water.