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MaDe Participant

Lauren MacDonald

Nutrient Film

Lauren MacDonald is a multidisciplinary artist and designer. Her approach and aesthetic have been tempered through academic studies in Material Culture and Textile Science, vocational experience in the London fashion industry, and an ongoing obsession with materiality, form, and functionality. While drawing guidance from historical design movements and with an innate respect for those who came before, she seeks to create a contemporary aesthetic through experimentation ands self expression. 

Lauren holds BSc in Human Ecology and an MA Material and Visual Culture. She run textiles studio, Working Cloth, which aims to bring an appreciation for textile processes and craft practice to a wider audience through a combination of workshops, gallery shows, and commissioned textile works.

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Project Information
Material Qualities
Colour: Variable
Soft / Hard: Hard, Flexible
Shiny / Matte: Matte
Smells: Neutral
Texture: Crispy
Material Recipe
2 tbsp Agar Agar
500 ml Botanical Dye Effluent
(Images include Onion, Avocado,
Logwood, and Buckthorn)
Material Application
1. At your house right now.

2. At your neighbour’s house.

3. In your child’s school (more greenery in the classroom might be nice)

4. At a small scale textile design/production enterprise

5. Virtually in any domestic or small commercial setting to feed plants that feed our souls by making beautiful colours.
Material Method
1. Grow your dye stuffs. Do this in a system of co-planting (I am developing suggested planting patterns as part of this project). Grow things that flourish in the ecosystem that you are in. Nurture your soil.

2. Harvest your dyestuffs.

3. Make a dye bath, dye your textiles. Botanical dyes work only on protein and cellulosic fibres. Think about the energy impact of these as well, where are they from?

4. When finished dyeing, create solid films from your dye bath. Mix 500ml of dye with 2 tbsp agar agar (this is only suggested, if there is a gelling material that makes more sense based on your geography, use that).

5. Heat on medium until the mixture starts bubbling, continuously stirring (3-5 minutes).

6. Pour out the liquid onto baking sheets and put in the sunshine if it is warm. If it is not, put in the oven on a low heat (50 – 80 degrees C) for two hours until dry.

7. Embed these into your potted dyestuffs and grow more plants!
Material Narrative
My project, Cultivating Colour, and its subsequent nutrient plant films were spurred by the overwhelmingly complex supply chains in the textile dye industry. We know that the synthetics industry is intensely pollutive, and at its height in the mid 19th century, the natural dye industry was too. Dyeing with plants on an industrial scale does not offer the ecological solution needed. A 2010 estimate suggests that 30% of the world’s agricultural land would need to be used in order to grow the colour that we consume. How can we subvert this system? The nutrient films suggest an alternative: capturing waste energy and nutrition in botanical dye baths, and encouraging independent, domestic production.

The final result of my recipes are thin, translucent films, whose nutrient bases are dependent on the dyes that create them. Onion skins, for instance, produce colours from gold to pink, and their dye bath is a source of Vitamin A, C, and E. Solidifying the dye bath into a film allows the contents to be stored easily, used in small spaces such as patio/balcony gardens and for indoor houseplants, as well as preventing the run off of the dyes in water ways. This is important, as though the dyes are not necessarily toxic, they may be slow to biodegrade, pigmenting the water and preventing light from permeating its depths.
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MaDe, a project co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of The European Union, aims at boosting talents towards circular economies across Europe partnering with design and cultural institutions, Elisava, Ma-tt-er and Politecnico di Milano.

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