Natsai Audrey Chieza is an artist and researcher exploring the integration of life into the manufacturing of the materials of the future.
Natsai Audrey Chieza wants to break with the current paradigm of fashion design and textile production with the help of microbiology. Her research focuses on developing bacterial biopigments for textiles to replace the harmful and pollutant synthetic pigments used traditionally. She cultures the bacteria directly on the clothes, so that their growth patterns, unique each time, are what determine the final result.
Born in Zimbabwe and based in London, the artist has founded Faber Futures, an R&D studio to develop biomaterials using the latest technology in biological and digital fabrication. Through a series of experiments that started in 2012 and are still ongoing, the artist plays with multiple variables, including different culture media, bacterial strains, inoculation methods, culture time and fabric types.
With beautiful fabric patterns as a result, Natsai Audrey takes a scientific research approach at exploring the emerging convergence of biology and digital technologies. She is currently a Resident Designer at University College London, and big names like Microsoft, Nissan or Unilever have seek her expertise in this field as a consultant.
“Imagine a world where our materials are alive or derived from living systems,” she told Ideo. “Every maker will intimately know the biochemistry of their chosen species, and will find new ways of transforming those organisms’ behaviors into truly unique products and processes. We’ll be using other living systems and even amalgamating layers of digital technology to biofabricate.”
Her latest piece of work, “The Rise & Fall of a Micropolis”, is now exhibited at “Craft becomes Modern: The Bauhaus in the Making”. The exhibition is hosted at the well-known Bauhaus where modern design was born at the beginning of the 20th century. There, Natsai’s work aims to contrast the Bauhaus tradition with how craft and design are being reshaped a century later due to the myriad possibilities biology and digital technology offer.
“Wearable technology, household electronics and the Internet of Things, in my view, will expand and come together to create mutually-beneficial ecosystems of bacteria and digital technology.”