Newest Makers in Residence

Our newest Makers in Residence Laura Martinez and Natsai Audrey Chieza are up to some fascinating experimentation with biological dyeing processes and are pushing the boundaries between traditional craft and technology. We asked them how their residency was going and got some insightful answers:

Can you tell us a bit about your background as a maker, and your practice and areas of interest?

Both Natsai and Laura’s design practices are centred around a materials-driven discourse that deals with the context in which craft evolves in response to shifting ecological, technological and societal contexts. Natsai is a designer whose primary medium is alive: she was the first to translate an established microbiology protocol for growing bacteria into a design-driven and craft-orientated system for textile dyeing and printing that eliminates toxic dyes and significantly reduces water use from textile production. This has called for the invention of new tools and the development of disruptive ideas about what it is to grow fashion in the future. No stranger to hybrid technologies, Laura’s work explores how digital fabrication technologies could be informed by processes associated with the hand-made to redefine future craft. Her approach to making is driven by an interest in how tools and processes like 3D printing, can be adapted to generate novel materials and surfaces. Laura has considerable experience in both artistic and commercial environments within this area.

Can you tell us a bit about what you’ve been working on, and what you will be working on, at Machines Room?

Chieza’s system of dyeing textiles with non-toxic dyes derived from bacteria faces a key challenge: many of the tools that could scale it for the production of garments do not exist yet. Martinez’s expertise in digital fabrication for fashion provides an opportunity to develop inventive tools and processes that respond specifically to this unique method of biofabrication.

Most laboratory tools and equipment are designed for small scale experiments and as such Chieza has had to improvise to dye larger pieces of textiles. There are obvious opportunities to create high performing design-centered tools for the lab to enable better control for bacteria growth for print-making.

The residency would be an opportunity to combine knowledge of digital fabrication with biofabrication to produce a series of tools and methods that are easily incorporated into laboratory parameters and protocol.

Does having access to the machines, expertise and community at Machines Room influence your work and practice, if so then how?

Makers in Residence Natsai and Laura CNC Machine

Does having access to the machines, expertise and community at Machines Room influence your work and practice, if so then how?

Together Natsai and Laura propose to design and craft tools to mediate processes whereby pigment producing bacteria actively dye textiles. This collaboration will align their skills in digital and biological design for textiles. The ability to pursue the collaboration in two environments – the makerspace and the laboratory – provides a unique opportunity to engage with this subject matter from a wide range of perspectives. Natsai and Laura hope to consolidate the knowledge and insights they have already amassed, whilst presenting a new case for design-led intervention in the fields of science and innovation.

What are you finding most challenging?

There is a tension between the timescales for working with biology vs. those for working with digital fabrication. With the type of bacteria we use, the average time for dying textiles is anything between 4-10 days depending on the desired aesthetics. Balancing expectations of how quickly prototypes can be resolved during a four week residency will be our biggest challenge.

Makers In Residence Natsai Laura Fabric dyeing


What is the highlight of the experience?

I think we will have a better idea of this towards the end of the residency.

What is next for you? Are you planning to continue this stream of work or start a new project? 

We both hope that this work will inform future projects and help to articulate the thinking behind our work. We are really excited about putting forward a maker-centred perspective over the creative application of hybrid fabrication technologies.

Makers in Residence Jewellery Natsai and Laura


Laura Elvira Martinez

With over ten years experience working in art and textiles, Laura’s work explores how digital fabrication technologies could be informed by processes associated with the hand-made to redefine future craft. She was an artist in residence at Plymouth Fablab (2016), and has recently been selected by the British Council for the Hello Shenzhen programme (March 2017). The latter is aimed at building stronger links between UK and Chinese maker spaces. She has exhibited internationally in more than 20 institutions including the Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester (UK) Audax textile museum (NL), V2 institute for the Unstable in Rotterdam (NL) and various editions of the 3D printshow (FR, US, UK). Her work has been published in a range of recognised international media including S Moda No 137, Neue Zeuricher Zeitung, Casa and Stili, and L’officiel du Design.

Natsai Audrey Chieza

Natsai is Founder and Creative Director of R&D studio Faber Futures Ltd. The design studio’s research and creative consultancy is driven by a desire to conceptualise, prototype and evaluate the resilience of emerging systems of manufacturing that are driven by the convergence of biofabrication, digital fabrication and traditional craft processes. Leading on design-led protocol development for material colour finishing that utilises biopigments derived from bacteria, Natsai’s pioneering body of research potentiates a scalable natural dye alternative to toxic synthetic dyes, and seeks to transform harmful and outdated textile manufacturing practices. She has developed this innovative process through a longstanding collaboration as the resident designer at the Ward Lab, Department of Biochemical Engineering, University College London.

Working with institutions, brands and industry is an integral part of Faber Futures. Natsai has developed projects that explore alternative futures for Microsoft, Nissan, Unilever and EDF Energy. Her own biomaterials research for textiles has been exhibited internationally and disseminated widely through speaking engagements, including at Genspace, Biofabricate, Microsoft Research, SXSW Interactive, Pringle of Scotland, Disegno, Victoria and Albert Museum, Science Gallery Dublin, Fondation EDF Paris.