Material

Mycelium

By

Made in

Biodegradable 246 Composite 103 Woodchip 5 Yeast 4

Mycelium
Mycelium
Mycelium
Mycelium
Mycelium
Mycelium
Mycelium
Mycelium
Mycelium
Mycelium
Mycelium
Mycelium

Photos: Emma Huffman

Mending with Mycelium

"Mending with Mycelium" explores the possibilities of mycelium as a living material to mend our garments. Mycelium, the root-like underground structure of mushrooms, is a decomposer of organic material. It has gained traction as an innovative alternative to synthetic and natural animal-based leather in the fashion industry. Huffman questioned using mycelium merely as a new material within the industry's mass production and consumption model, especially when the world is already filled with sneakers made of synthetic materials that will remain on Earth for centuries. Hence, she sought an alternative relationship with mycelium and with her sneakers.
Huffman started by growing mycelium on fabrics to see if it could cover up holes and damages in textile garments. She damaged or cut holes in various textile pieces, including plain woven cotton, silk, wool, hemp, knitted and mesh polyester, and nylon, and placed the textile pieces over a mycelium bed. After two weeks of cultivation, she was reminded that mycelium is indeed a decomposer, as she found the fabrics made of organic material broken down by the mycelium and falling apart. On the other hand, she found that mycelium would grow in and out of the little gaps of synthetic fabrics as if it were weaving itself and becoming one with the fabric. The outcomes sometimes looked like the mycelium had darned the holes in the fabric. The synthetic fabric, although heavily combined with the mycelium, stayed perfectly intact.
Inspired by these outcomes, Huffman proceeded to test the mycelium's ability to mend sneakers, a ubiquitous product in our daily lives which is infamous for being hard to recycle. Among the numerous reasons sneakers are discarded, she focused on the soles of sneakers wearing down. She found that it is possible to grow a new sole made of mycelium directly onto an old sneaker, as the mycelium would weave itself into the fabric of the upper of the sneaker while also growing into the mould of the new sole.
The project aims to stimulate discussion about our relationships with both living and non-living materials and with mass-produced products. It ultimately invites us to imagine an alternative way of living. Within her research, Huffman discovered that almost all materials needed to mend with mycelium could be sourced within a 20 km radius from where she was based in Kyoto, Japan, with the exception of the PLA filament used to print the mould. This local sourcing emphasizes the potential for sustainable practices in the fashion industry and encourages a rethinking of our current consumption models.

Making process

1_Create a 3D model of the mould of the new soles.
2_Print the mould using PLA filament.
3_Clean the sneakers well with soap and water. Dry in sunlight.
4_In a clean space, place the mould around the sneaker and place the mycelium bed into the mould.
5_Pour MYG (Malt extract, Yeast, Glucose) culture over it. (Beer worked too)
6_Cover with plastic, to avoid contamination.
7_Leave in a warm and humid place. If using an incubator, set the temperature to 28 degrees and 80% humidity.
8_Let the mycelium grow for 2 to 3 weeks to fill the mould and grow into the sneaker's upper.
9_Carefully take off the mould and let it dry.

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.

Ingredients

Woodchip, MYG (Malt extract, Yeast, Glucose) culture or Beer

Credits

Kyoto Institute of Technology, KYOTO Design Lab, Daijiro Mizuno, Kazutoshi Tsuda