Growing Materials to Make Sculpture

Currently Jane Fox is growing cultures and mycelium and exploring their applications for Fine Art and sculpture. Such organic materials are ecological, bio-degradable and non-toxic to humans, other life-forms and the planet.

These living materials are fed, brewed and grown. This is a very different ethos and culture for making sculpture. Often the traditional materials for making sculpture are purchased and expensive. Conversely fungi are easy to grow, cost effective, light-weight and durable. The also bio-degrade at the end of life without harmful implications; in fact they can naturally decompose and nourish the soil.

In the process of making the increasingly familiar probiotic tea Kombucha, the Scobys (symbiotic colonies of bacteria and yeast) grow in physical size.

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Scoby outgrowing 2Ltr box
Day 21 mycelium growth

Processing the mycelium will be done once it has finished fruiting the mushrooms and they have been harvested.

Historically and until recent years the Scoby cultures and the mycelium would be regarded as the bi or waste products of brewing Kombucha and growing mushrooms.

Fox has questioned the use of traditional materials to make sculpture for some time. This is for several reasons, including the availability and the richness of waste-treasure from many varied production processes. In addition, this concern has developed alongside our throw-away culture and a desire to use and re-cycle materials and found objects as much possible.

Also, the disposable of the materials used to make sculpture is a concern. For example, currently plaster disposal remains tricky and there are few plaster re-cycling centres in the UK. Plaster waste must be kept clean and not mixed with other materials for it to be genuinely re-cycled into new material. Disposing waste plaster into landfill is also problematic and can produce toxic fumes if mixed with certain materials.

An institute in Manhattan, New York are making furniture and various domestic fittings with mycelium; and many building materials made from mycelium are set to replace traditional ones. A company called ‘Ecovative’ in upstate New York are growing building materials out of mycelium. Mycelium architecture building with ancient fungi is on the rise and an exciting way forward.

The Design Department at Central St Martins School, London are researching applications for the fashion industry; including vegan leather and how to make Scoby clothing water-proof and durable.

Please refer to Portfolio Section 2022 for further details on the projects