Interwoven – Can grass roots be new textile fibers?

“In my work,” says the visual artist Diane Scherer “I look at the relation between man, his natural environment and his wish to control nature. My major interest is botanical material. Living materials form the basis of my research.”

Interwoven gives expression to Scherer’s fascination for the dynamism of subterranean botanical life. For the root system, the concealed subterranean life of plants – regarded as the brain of plants not only by Charles Darwin but also by botanical neurobiologists. Roots navigate on behalf of plants, knowing where top and bottom is, consider such phenomena as gravity and can locate humidity and chemicals. And scientists also discovered that plants are a lot smarter than we all thought.

Since 2015 Scherer has capitalised on this intelligence in her work. She makes the hidden growth visible and channels the dynamism of roots into design processes. In cooperation with biologists from Radboud University Nijmegen she has come up with a technology to control root growth. By means of specially developed patterns the root system is shaped into a textile-like material. During the cultivation process the roots connect in underground stencils and “weave” the material as they grow.

“I look at the root system as if it was made of yarn,” says Scherer, and goes on to say: “Interwoven came about as an art project with an intuitive approach. It has now grown into a multi-disciplinary material research exercise following up the progress made by this innovative, sustainable textile resource. In developing the technology and design I cooperate with biologists, engineers and designers.”

The conceptual approach of Interwoven – introducing a work yet to be completed to the wider public – meets with a lot of interest: Scherer’s root fabrics formed part of the exhibition “Fashioned from Nature” at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum and received the New Material Award Fellow 2016 at the Dutch Design Week.