Nature Lab Fall Workshop Series 2019

Biomaterials Graduate Workshop

Last month, Nature Lab Graduate Assistants Charlotte Clement [MID 20] and Sarah Garrison [MID 20] led a special biomaterials workshop alongside our Biological Programs Designer, Jen Bissonnette.

RISD students gathered from a diversity of departments to attend. Some included: Nature-Culture-Sustainability Studies, Print-Making, Apparel, Graphic Design, Illustration, Industrial Design, Landscape Architecture, Furniture Design, and Textiles. The variety of disciplines spoke to the proliferation of sustainable design practices, and their limitless applications. Creating materials inspired by, and found in nature, is becoming increasingly popular as we learn how to more ethically coexist with the environment.

Followed by a biodesign presentation by Jen Bissonnette on the historical and artistic methods of making, the students were taught how to culture kombucha and produce sustainable leather from cellulosic biofilm (formed through the symbiotic relationship of bacteria and yeast). They were even provided with instruction on how to creatively upcycle food waste and make natural dyes from compost and other decaying plant matter.

This recap by Sarah Garrison provides a closer look into the workshop’s activities:

“The students got a deep dive into the history and current landscape of sustainable materials and got to try their hand at making their own biomaterials. I co-taught them how to harvest SCOBYs for bioleather and utilize food waste and native plants for natural dyeing techniques.”

Chelsey Frost, a Master’s student in the Nature-Culture-Sustainability Studies program reflected on her experience with an Instagram shoutout on her “Waste Less New England” page with these words:

“Spent my Sunday at a RISD biomaterials workshop! We learned about the MANY different ways that natural, biodegradable materials can be used to produce plastic replacements. Swipe to see mushroom, milk protein, pistachio, seaweed, and orange peel. The last photo is a faux LEATHER made of mushroom!! Incredibly inspiring day that ended with a kombucha workshop and learning how to make kombucha leather!”

The outpouring of enthusiasm for this academic year’s first Nature Lab workshop has encouraged the Lab to host others moving forward. Keep your eyes (and fruit) peeled for more biophilia in the future!

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