In an effort to visualise bacteria cultures the textile collection Bacterial Motility looks to innovative technologies such as Shape Memory Alloys and 3D printing to create the most natural effects.
Bacterial Motility was inspired by the growth of bacteria populations and intends to make the usually invisible bacteria visible, thus creating a second layer on the human body. It is the final collection of Erdem Kiziltoprak, a recent graduate from the Central Saint Martins BA course in Textile Design. I spoke with him about his recent work.
What inspired you to make this collection?
I was exploring single-celled microorganisms and fascinated by the growth, shapes and the movement of invisible membranes in nature, such as bacteria populations. As growth and movement are key aspects of future designs I wanted to take them to a new level. My research question for this project was “How can we translate scientific data into textile design representing a hybrid language in-between science and future design?” In my project I investigated scientific data and methods with textiles in order to find a balance between individual identity and the invisible membranes.
In your collection you transform scientific imagery into textile designs. What methods and techniques did you use to make this translation?
To understand the nature of the invisible bacteria I grew my own bacteria population. During the growing process I did time lapse recording to explore the growth, movement and the amazing shapes of the bacteria, which through the recording became visible. I used different techniques to mimic my bacteria population and their characteristics such as abstract drawings, rusting, 3D crafts, origami, knitting, rapid prototyping and exploring some unusual and smart materials (such as SMAs). During the printing process I used unconventional materials to screen print on silk rather than pigments or acid dyes. I used artists’ mediums, plaster of Paris and sculptors materials for fabric printing. I also used a mixture of black/green tea solution, sugar contents, Kambucha mother (yeast and bacteria mix) and Kambucha tea to grow my own fabric out of bacteria.
What was your motivation for using technologies like 3D printing and Shape Memory Alloys for this specific project?
When cultivating my own bacteria population I was fascinated by the growth and what was becoming visible in little petri dishes. According to time-lapse video recordings I started to draw the shapes of the population, which were very organic. My main idea was to create contemporary body jewellery for men. I wanted to link the different combinations of areas together (Fashion/Textile and Science/Technology) to create a platform for human being and skin flora. I turned my 2D drawing ideas into tangible 3D creations thus creating shadow jewellery, which was a sort of shadow tattoo on the human body representing the growth of bacteria as a second growth layer on skin.
The idea behind my bacteria fabric was same as for the rapid prototyped shadow jewellery. By using the shape memory alloys I wanted to mimic the movement and the slow growth process of the bacteria population. Using SMA was the best way to create that organic soft movement to interpret the movement of my organisms into an engineered textile design.
What made you decide to include porcelain in this technology oriented collection?
I have always been very experimental and like using different techniques and materials rather than the usual ones. Moreover, with contemporary bio-textiles developments, the known approaches and the way that we perceive things has changed. Thus, it is important to blur the boundaries rather than hanging on the traditional way. During my experiments I ended up with a new technique, which is a sort of porcelain but not a real one. With mixing some different sort of materials, my porcelain fringes are %100 bendable and have an organic look. While I was looking at one of my bacteria samples under a microscope, I saw that the bacteria which I grew out of a nail sample in a petri dish was producing shapes which were like tiny soft fringes, like soft moving spiky elements. The idea behind my fringes came only from this sample and it was a completely white bacteria. So I created my body jewellery sample in white as well.
Did using these specific materials and technologies change your design process?
It actually did not change the whole design process but it did change some of my ideas. When you make some mistakes during your experimentations, you sometimes come up with an amazing outcome (like in my bendable porcelain fringes) and you can change your first idea. Thus that happened to me twice in this project. Moreover, exploring the nature of shape memory alloys, especially learning how to train my own alloys, was a bit time consuming. [Ed. Erdem eventually trained his SMA with a heat gun!]
Will textile designers have to broaden their skills into territories not normally associated with textile design if they want to keep up with current developments in design?
I think so. Textile and Fashion are a form of art and it is all about having the potential to shift existing design boundaries and re-shape how we live. Designing cannot be stable and people has to engage fully with the challenges of creating for the 21st century. To broadening the skills in different areas means embracing the new innovations and creating a hybrid language in-between art and design. Thus it is very important for me to explore my work field not only within itself but to include every aspect of life that I can relate and translate into textiles and fashion.
Do you think that new technologies have the capacity to change the aesthetic conventions in textile design?
Yes they have, but in a more innovative and more aesthetic way. It is not just about creating textiles or fashion but it is about creating an incredible link between a form of art and our lives and our needs. The known approaches and the way that we perceive things have changed. The ideas for innovation and creation have to change in the same way. Rather than creating in a traditional way, using technology and science within textile design creates an amazing language between the viewer/wearer and the design itself.
Erdem also elaborated on some of his works specifically.
“My bacterial colony print [Ed. shown below] was originally a silk viscose fabric. However I used artists’ acrylic mediums and a screen-printing liquid mix on it before the printing process. So the actual fabric became a see through, soft / papery feeling fabric, loosing its silk viscose characteristics. Then I printed my design with unusual materials such as Plaster of Paris and yeast. So when the yeast started to produce moulds, I got living bacterial patterns on the fabric. Finally I attached laser cut acrylics, which are my translation of bacteria shapes.”
“This picture [Ed. below] shows my main print design. Before I tailored my silicone and porcelain body piece into a garment shape, I scanned each of the silicone mould pieces into PC. Then I organised them in Photoshop. Then I just mirrored them and got this result.”