MycoPunk envisions a world where biotech and knowledge is shared and people make what they need at home. To share our passion and techniques at DDW, we present a range of household items fermented and sewn at home with bacterial cellulose leather, including wallets, purses, and a lampshade.
What does their unlikely collaboration bring forth?
Poorva: The story begins with an old wallet. My old wallet had torn apart and I
needed a new one. I didn’t want to buy a new wallet, out of a mixture of thriftiness, procrastination, and also because none of the wallets I saw in shops captured my fancy or fit my style. A wallet seemed like a simple enough object to make at home. I am a biotechnologist and in my work, I am always struck by how we can use science to harness the millions of years of evolutionary knowledge of microorganisms to sculpt aesthetically interesting and yet functional materials. As a result, my student room in Wageningen looks like a little lab and is bursting with self-built 3D printers and low budget fermentation reactors. My work days are filled with experiments on 3D printing of living materials.
But back to the story - I needed a new wallet. In a span of two-three weeks, I
fermented a thick sheet of bacterial cellulose, dyed it a deep pink with hibiscus flowers, and took it to my housemate Clara. Clara is a seamstress who learnt sewing by creating her own stuffed toys as a child and making dreamy hats out of her relatives’ old clothes. She has an affinity for caring: caring for animals, caring for people around her, and caring for nature. A vegan leather wallet seemed to fit the bill (no pun intended!) It might seem like an unlikely combination at first - a biotechnologist and a seamstress - but we both share a vision of creating with our own hands the things we need instead of buying them, sharing knowledge and methods with others, and decentralized, small-scale circularities and cooperations. The wallet, which we coated with plant oils and waxes to make water-repellant, is tough, sturdy, beautiful, and has a pleasant honey-lemon smell. Clara and I stitched a few more wallets and bags to show the range of folds, textures, and colours possible with this material using a simple stitching machine at home and golden and silver thread found in a thrift shop. Our house bloomed
We are also passionate about sharing our techniques and knowledge with others, and so will have a little gift for visitors - our own culturing liquid - in small glass vials to take home and start experimenting and making stuff with.
Our collective is called ‘MycoPunk’, which is inspired by the utopian vision of
SolarPunk. Our vision of the future sees a society where people use a combination of open-source manufacturing methods like 3D printing combined with traditional knowledge like stitching clothes and fermenting microbes to produce the things they need - using local waste resources around them, adapted to the geography and society they live in. The MycoPunk vision strongly emphasises open source knowledge, decentralized biotechology, and economic and social accessibility to these processes for communities all over the world.