From their research funded by the Australian Network for Art and Technology, Elliat Rich and Donna Franklin have created furniture and garments featuring textiles that use plants in a unique and beautiful way.

Rich, based in Alice Springs, used thermochromatic ink to print the shape of yala (or bush potato) flowers onto fabric upholstery. The flowers on Rich’s Yala Sofa are invisible until body heat activates the ink, and then the flowers appear, mimicking the way the plant blossoms after it rains in the Australian desert.

Franklin’s Fibre Reactive dress, constructed from vividly orange coloured fungi, is alive and grows. The cloth of the dress is made from prolific, non-infectious and non-hazardous West Australian bracket fungi.

The experience of wearing the living garment feels uncanny, says Franklin. “Its soft suede-like texture feels like an extension of your own skin. It links back to when our ancestors first wore the skins of other animals.”

According to Dr Melinda Rackham, executive director of the Australian Network for Art and Technology, the glowing Fibre Reactive dress forces us rethink our relationship with nature.

“It challenges us to consider how we as a society tend to commodify and manipulate other living entities and how that will manifest in the not-too-distant future through the physical and cultural impact of biotechnology,” she says.

To produce the ‘living’ surface of the textile, the mycelium, or vegetative part of the fungus, is grown in sterile conditions in accordance with Institute of Agriculture regulations.

The orange surface is adapted from the organism’s ‘fruiting’ stage by artificial manipulation in a laboratory. The fungus is then relocated into its new pseudo environment. 

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