BioGenic Textile Designs: A BioBatik in Purple and Red

This is a work from a new series of explorations that continue my fascination with purely biogenic designs. The colours and patterns derive directly from nature, and explore its complexity, natural laws, and inherent creativity. Each design also reflects, and is generated by a story, much like a traditional tapestry might be. In this work though, the colours and designs are generated solely by naturally pigmented bacteria, as they move through a silk fabric, interact with each other, and respond to various challenges offered to them.

The textile just after inoculation with the different coloured streaks of the two bacteria clearly visible

The textile just after inoculation with the different coloured streaks of the two bacteria clearly visible

Here is the story of this particular design. Two cultures of pigmented bacteria have been inoculated onto silk in the form of a long streak at either end. The two living cultures are Serratia marcescens (red) and Chromobacterium violaceum (purple). In addition, towards the centre of the silk, four drops of the antibiotic cloxacillin have been introduced onto the fabric to provide a challenge, and in the hope that much like wax does in the Batik Process, these spots might act as a resist (the antibiotic is colourless so these spots are invisible at first).

Both bacterial strains are motile, and thus the bacteria begin to move and swarm through the textile colouring it with their corresponding pigments wherever they are present. In terms of the territory occupied it can be seen the red coloured bacterium has gained the greater share of the silk, and could thus be considered to be the faster moving, and most aggressive species. In the greater territory occupied by the red pigmented bacterium Serratia marcescens, however, there are two undyed circles within the silk, and these correspond to the location of the spots of the antibiotic cloxacillin. This red coloured bacterium is clearly sensitive to the antibiotic and it cannot grow in its presence to colour the silk red.

After 24 hours of incubation. The two bacteria have moved. Red has moved the furthest but the white zones where the four antibiotic spots are clearly visible. The upper zones will later be taken over by the purple coloured bacterium

After 24 hours of incubation. The two bacteria have moved. Red has moved the furthest but the white zones where the four antibiotic spots are, are clearly visible. The upper zones will later be taken over by the purple coloured bacterium

After 24 hours of incubation. The antibiotic spots are clearly visible.

After 24 hours of incubation. The antibiotic spots are clearly visible.

After 24 hours of incubation. The antibiotic spots are clearly visible.

After 24 hours of incubation. The antibiotic spots are clearly visible.

There are two other spots of antibiotic above those that caused the white circles, and the antibiotic has still prevented the growth of Serratia marcescens in these, but here, these Serratia-free zones have been occupied by the purple bacterium, Chromobacterium violaceum, which must be resistant to the antibiotic and which has exploited the antibiotic vulnerability of its competitor, to establish a foothold in its territory.

After 72 hours of incubation. The urple bacterium has now occupied the upper antibiotic zones where the red bacterium could not grow.

After 72 hours of incubation. The urple bacterium has now occupied the upper antibiotic zones where the red bacterium could not grow.

The dried and sterlised textile.

The dried and sterlised textile.

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