Sonja Hindrum, University of Tasmania
Bacterial cellulose is currently being investigated by various industries due to its potential ability to literally grow the final product and eliminate various stages of production (Jang et al., 2017). The Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast (SCOBY), better known as the mother used for brewing kombucha tea is grown from readily-available domestic materials, like sugar and tea and is an easily accessible form of bacterial cellulose.
SCOBY bear aligns the material with a familiar and non-threatening object – a child’s teddy bear. At the time of photographing the work, the SCOBY material used for making the bear was still alive and in a state of hibernation. All it would take to reactivate the material used for the bear’s skin would be to add a cup of cooled sweet tea. This reactivation process would allow the material to once again begin growing. The bear is made from bacterial cellulose, in this case, the SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of bacterial and Yeast) produced when fermenting tea.
The significance of the final prototype is not readily apparent without first understanding the growing process implemented. This prototype involved the innovative method of literally growing the pattern pieces to size, with no cutting of material required. As a result, zero material waste was produced to create the SCOBY bear pattern pieces. This design process required the negative space of the pattern pieces to float on the surface of the fermenting tea, restricting the available growing surface to the required pattern. Once the SCOBY grew to the desired thickness, the pieces were washed and dried. This process produced the required pattern pieces that could be stitched to form the 3-dimensional bear.
Jang, WD, Hwang, JH, Kim, HU, Ryu, JY and Lee, SY. 2017, ‘Bacterial cellulose as an example product for sustainable production and consumption’, Microbial Biotechnology, vol. 10, no. 5, pp. 1181–1185.
Sonja Hindrum_ is a cross-disciplinary artist and designer. She is currently working on her PhD in Creative Arts at the University of Tasmania. www.sonjahindrum.com.au
SCOBY Bear: Bacterial cellulose and cotton. Image by Sonja Hindrum