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July 7, 2021

Violacein | Kate Reed | Industrial Design | 2021

by katereedreads

Recap: I am Artist in Residence at BosLab, in Cambridge, MA, researching new ways to use bacteria to dye textiles. So far, I have been successful in growing beautiful shades of pink dyes using magenta synthetic e.coli, but unsuccessful in maintaining the colors through the bacteria killing process. I have been researching other types of bacteria for textile dyeing.

In my research, I came across the bacteria Violacein. Violacein creates a variety of colors ranging between deep purple and light gray. It is a bacteria that can be found naturally in puddles all over the world. After talking to some of my advisors, we found a source for Violacein and I was able to start working with it at BosLab.

To dye with the Violacein, I followed the same bacteria dying process as I had used before. I grew up a vat of the dye in LB Broth, added textiles to the dye bath, put the dye bath on heat and came back a few days later to the most beautiful rich blue and purple hues.

The Violacein dyed the textiles beautifully. It really seemed to fuse to the textile fibers, which was unlike anything I had experienced with bacteria in the past. Even better, I was able to kill the bacteria with the autoclave and the color stayed true. I have officially dyed my first textiles using Violacein!

Once I knew the Violacein could dye the textiles, I spent the next few weeks trying different dying techniques and starting to understand the intricacies of the textile bacteria dying process. I was able to create many beautiful tie dye effects and consistent dye swatches. While I am happy about my ability to dye the textiles, I am now hoping to find a way to dye the textiles allowing each bacteria to grow in its own natural patterns, which are very beautiful.

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