Artist Diana Scherer is the New Material Fellow at Het Nieuwe Instituut. She was awarded the fellowship for her project Interwoven, in which she manipulates the root systems of plants to create a textile-like material. During the fellowship in 2017, Het Nieuwe Instituut provides her with mentorship and support in the further development of her research project.
Diana Scherer works with wheat, and specifically its fast-growing root system. By growing the wheat on a subterranean template, she can manipulate the root system to create ‘woven’ patterns. Scherer takes inspiration for these patterns from the geometric structures of cells, snowflakes and shells.
Root system as textiles
The form of the textile-like material she cultivates is dictated by the 3D-printed bioplastic template: sometimes finely tuned, sometimes fairly undirected. Seed, soil and water are the only ingredients necessary for the process. When the roots have grown into the desired pattern, Scherer harvests the crop. She cuts the wheat down and dries the root structure. The photographs she takes of the resulting textiles are an integral part of her working process, but she also preserves the actual materials.
For her research, Scherer works together with biologists and ecologists from the Radboud University in Nijmegen. The project is of interest to academics because of the important role that roots play in the storage of greenhouse gases and because of the project’s potential to develop a material that combines its beneficial ecological characteristics with a new form of natural production. Together with botanist Gerard van der Weerden, Scherer is exploring the possibility of growing complete items of clothing underground. The next step will include an attempt to eliminate soil from the process by using hydroculture to grow the roots. Scherer’s experiments with other kinds of plants such as bulrushes (water purifying) and astelia (methane filtering) are at an early stage.
The Materials Farm
During design festival Fadfest 2017 in Barcelona, Diana Scherer presented her work in a group exhibition and during a talk. Het Nieuwe Instituut organized last year together with Materfad the first edition of the Materials Farm for which three designers were invited. This year the programme is continued with support of the Spanish government.
Since her participation to the New Material Award, Diana Scherer’s goal is to grow and harvest a dress under the ground. One year after the New Material Award 2016, she developed a first study to create a dress made out of plant roots.