Material

Blue elf cup

By

Made in

Dye 48 Ink 19 Pigment 50 Regenerative 54 Textile 96

Blue elf cup
Blue elf cup
Blue elf cup
Blue elf cup
Blue elf cup
Blue elf cup
Blue elf cup
Blue elf cup
Blue elf cup
Blue elf cup

Myco Colour

It is no secret that the textile industry is among one of the most polluting industries in the world. Furthermore, textile finishing methods – including colouring – are estimated to be responsible for one-fifth of industrial water pollution. It is the harsh chemicals, the heavy metals, the large amounts of water that need to be used and the unregulated wastewater disposal which creates this problem.

But what if there is a way to achieve colour by nurturing nature instead of destroying it?

The project started with a brightly coloured blue-green piece of wood found on a forest floor. The bit of wood had been coloured by a mushroom called Blue Elf Cup that is surprisingly common in UK forests and has been used as a decorative feature in woodwork for centuries.

This fungus can release a turquoise pigment into the object it is growing on – a property that holds the promise to completely eliminate the use of chemicals in the textile dyeing process. When growing and colouring fungi directly onto materials, only two components are needed: simple nutrients as a food source and fungi. The blue-green pigment produced by the mushroom has shown equal colourfastness measurements to commercial dyes allowing us to imagine a future where fabric is coloured solely by living organisms.

Future textile printing will rely on growing multiple organisms/colours and applying them to materials in life-friendly conditions. This will enable designers to create half-controlled designs, where the human selects the starting point of growth and food source, but the mushroom creates the rest of the pattern.

This method has the potential to revolutionise not only industrial material finishing methods but also the cultural perception of colour and could renew our connection with and appreciation of nature.

Text submitted by the maker and edited by the Future Materials Bank. For information about reproducing (a part of) this text, please contact the maker.

Future Materials Encounter

Future Materials Encounters are a series of workshops and conversations around the materials of the Future Materials Bank. Each event in the series focuses on a specific material, staging a conversation between the maker and the audience.

Ingredients

Blue elf cup mushroom, water, nutrients, cellulosic material

Credits

Dipl.-Ing. Stephanie Stange, Research fellow at the Chair of Wood Technology and Fiber Materials Technology, Technische Universität Dresden Dr Shem Johnson, Specialist Technician, Grow Lab, Central Saint Martins

Physical samples

  • 0017-1

  • 0017-2

  • 0017-3

  • 0017-4

  • 0017-5

Accessible to participants at the Jan van Eyck Academie and during Open Studios.