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(Archive) Spinning Bombyx Mori

a biodesign experiment

This project was part of DDW 2021
Silkworm in 5th larval stage on 2D structure — © Derya Irkdas Dogu

Embracing the uncertainty of working with living-systems, the aim is to create a new spinning experiment conditioning the bombyx’s genotype by putting pressure on its environment to explore the potential that resides in its sense of adaptation.

A New Spinning Experiment

Bombyx Mori is a domesticated silkworm moth. The practice of sericulture represents roughly a 5000 year old tradition. As a result of thousands of years of selective breeding, the farming of silkworm moths has become one of the most profound processes of domestication. The methods used for harvesting the silk are also outdated in many respects, as the process involves boiling the cocoons for silk extraction, which is as an unnecessary suffering of a sentient organism.

Spinning Bombyx Mori aims to create a new spinning experiment, conditioning the bombyx’s genotype by putting pressure on its environment to explore the potential that resides in its sense of adaptation. Design of surfaces and structures created to make this experiment successful primarily aims to change these parameters; as the epigenetic limits of the living-system are tested with different geometric alternatives.  

On the other hand, it is also intended that the silkworm turns into a moth in its natural cycle. For this reason, living-organisms that have completed their spinning process were placed inside 3D printed cocoons designed to create a similar experience to its natural variables.


Biodesign can be defined as an aesthetic movement that has emerged recently and will continue to exist in the future. This movement not only places living beings —including bacteria, plants, and animals— in products and works of art, but sees living-matter as systems that have the potential to cooperate in reshaping material culture. This approach integrates the natural with the cultural, the environmental with the technological, and the philosophical with the organizational. In this approach, the role of the designer and the values that guide the design of living things are still in the process of being defined. 
Biodesign also questions a new experience in which the boundaries of the relationship between nature and the designer are blurred. This experience aims to involve living-organisms as a design tool rather than a material. The cross-species collaborative approach aims to contribute to the paradigm shift, known as the problem-solving activity of design, with a new perspective. With this new perspective, design can be defined as an activity that manipulates the system from one condition to another.

Designer & the Phenotype

Organized living-matter (organisms) represent a remarkable form of dualism, a dualism partly physical and partly metaphysical and it arises from the fact that organisms possess both a genotype and a phenotype. The genotypic feature of silkworms’ spinning behavior is a three-dimensional construction of silk thread into different cocoons in shape (spherical, ellipsoidal, peanut shaped or some rare peculiar shapes).

Although the genotype contains all the information for an organism’s existence, it is how its constituting-matter behaves while interacting with environmental factors that defines its phenotype. These phenotypic properties (environmental dependent properties) are seen as important as the genotypic properties in the taxonomy of a specific species. Therefore, what a living-system will be can be partially defined by the designer as its phenotype is defined by the way the base substance interacts with environmental factors.

Object spinning experiment on 3D tension structure — © Derya Irkdas Dogu

Pupae in 3D printed cocoon & natural cocoons — © Derya Irkdas Dogu