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Project Coelicolor: Assemblage 002, 2019; Natsai Audrey Chieza, Faber Futures in collaboration with Professor John Ward, Department of Biochemical Engineering, University College London. Image Credit: Oskar Proctor. Silk and Streptomyces Coelicolor pigment; 1.5 × 1.8 m.

Regulars / Ones to Watch 2019

Natsai Audrey Chieza explains her latest bio-fabricated installations

It’s Nice That’s Ones to Watch shines a light on 12 emerging talents who we think will conquer the creative world in the coming year. Over the coming months, we’ll be catching up with creatives from our 2019 selection to see what they’ve been up to. Ones to Watch 2019 is supported by Uniqlo.

When we last spoke to Natsai Audrey Chieza, founder of Faber Futures, for our Ones to Watch 2019, she mentioned an upcoming exhibition she would be participating in. Nature – Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial, a joint show on display at the Cooper Hewitt and Cube Design Museum in the Netherlands, is now open to the public and Faber Future’s two installations – Assemblage and Terroir – are going to be on show until January 2020 before going on tour.

Natsai’s work to date has shown how microbes can be used to dye fabrics in ways that use a significant amount less water than traditional dying processes, and she builds on this knowledge for both Assemblage and Terroir. What’s new about these pieces, though, is that they explore scale in a way that she and Faber Futures have never done before. “It’s all about the biological limits and finding out where they are,” she tells us. “You can do an experiment in a 5cm petri dish, but you can also scale that up and every time you’re learning more about biological limits.”

Assemblage is a garment dyed using her experimental new techniques, while Terroir is more architectural, showing strips of fabric on a vast frame. For the latter, 35 metres of fabric was cut up into strips just 5cm wide, which were then dyed by the microbial colonies. “With every attempt, you learn more about the experiment’s biological limits,” says Natsai. “Then you can discern what new infrastructure is needed to make the process easier, what adjustments need to be made. Scale is such an important question in the future of bio-fabricated materials.”

Envisioning innovative solutions to the environmental problems of today is precisely what Faber Futures does best. The studio’s holistic ethos, which fuses biotechnology and design, is fundamental to its progressive experimentations. And that’s really important – these two installations don’t just use cutting-edge science; they also look both mysterious and beautiful. “On Terroir, you see this beautiful marbling effect from the colonies, when you’re up close,” Natsai explains. “From further away, you see a much larger-scale pattern.”

Nature – Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial is divided into seven sections: Understand, Simulate, Salvage, Facilitate, Augment, Remediate and Nurture. Assemblage and Terroir are currently on display under Facilitate, where designers are encouraged to utilise natural resources to promote “biological growth in architecture and products”. By celebrating creativity and sustainability in equal measure, Natsai’s message is clear: the future of design can be both aesthetically inspiring and ecologically ethical.

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Project Coelicolor: Terroir, 2019; Natsai Audrey Chieza, Faber Futures in collaboration with Professor John Ward, Department of Biochemical Engineering, University College London. Image Credit: Oskar Proctor. Silk and Streptomyces Coelicolor pigment; 3 × 1.8 m.

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Project Coelicolor: Terroir, 2019; Natsai Audrey Chieza, Faber Futures in collaboration with Professor John Ward, Department of Biochemical Engineering, University College London. Image Credit: Oskar Proctor. Silk and Streptomyces Coelicolor pigment; 3 × 1.8 m.

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Project Coelicolor: Terroir, 2019; Natsai Audrey Chieza, Faber Futures in collaboration with Professor John Ward, Department of Biochemical Engineering, University College London. Image Credit: Oskar Proctor. Silk and Streptomyces Coelicolor pigment; 3 × 1.8 m.

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Project Coelicolor: Terroir, 2019; Natsai Audrey Chieza, Faber Futures in collaboration with Professor John Ward, Department of Biochemical Engineering, University College London. Image Credit: Oskar Proctor. Silk and Streptomyces Coelicolor pigment; 3 × 1.8 m.

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Project Coelicolor: Terroir, 2019; Natsai Audrey Chieza, Faber Futures in collaboration with Professor John Ward, Department of Biochemical Engineering, University College London. Image Credit: Oskar Proctor. Silk and Streptomyces Coelicolor pigment; 3 × 1.8 m.

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Project Coelicolor: Assemblage 002, 2019; Natsai Audrey Chieza, Faber Futures in collaboration with Professor John Ward, Department of Biochemical Engineering, University College London. Image Credit: Oskar Proctor. Silk and Streptomyces Coelicolor pigment; 1.5 × 1.8 m.

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Project Coelicolor: Assemblage 002, 2019; Natsai Audrey Chieza, Faber Futures in collaboration with Professor John Ward, Department of Biochemical Engineering, University College London. Image Credit: Oskar Proctor. Silk and Streptomyces Coelicolor pigment; 1.5 × 1.8 m.

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Project Coelicolor: Assemblage 002, 2019; Natsai Audrey Chieza, Faber Futures in collaboration with Professor John Ward, Department of Biochemical Engineering, University College London. Image Credit: Oskar Proctor. Silk and Streptomyces Coelicolor pigment; 1.5 × 1.8 m.