QUT & Kombucha

Every year, The Edge and QUT Fashion students work together on developing cutting edge fashion with a new era, sustainable material – Kombucha.

Context

About Kombucha
Kombucha is produced by fermenting sweet tea using a symbiotic colony bacteria and yeast. It is a lightly effervescent drink regarded by many as functional food that assists in digestive health and liver detoxification. But The Edge is growing kombucha tea for an entirely different reason. Researchers, the most prominent of these being Suzanne Lee, have suggested the microbial cellulose pellicle produced by a kombucha culture can also be used as a clothing textile. Over the last three years The Edge has been experimenting in growing kombucha and harvesting the cellulose pellicle as artificial or vegan leather.

Kombucha drying on the bench, Dr Cameron Wilson, The Edge, Brisbane

Kombucha drying on the bench, The Edge, Brisbane

 

The Nuts and Bolts

The Fashion Challenge

In 2015, the fashion students were given a new challenge. Create shoes using kombucha!

Sustainable Footwear: A QUT Fashion Exhibition
The project involved 31 first year students studying Fashion Design at QUT. Their brief was to develop a shoe design using kombucha – a material grown from tea through a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). The dried material feels like a cross between leather and paper, and is sustainably grown and fully biodegradable in its natural state. Along with Dr Peter Musk, The Edge’s Science Catalyst, students were introduced to the process of growing kombucha. They experimented with blending it, moulding it, and adding dye and glitter to change its naturally brown colour. Others introduced spray paint and included 3D printed and laser cut elements in their shoe designs.

Kombucha Shoe

The Teapot
By Erin Jones, Lauren Richardson, Sharka Marvilla, Rebecca Cryer

 

Links:

Our website is full of information about Kombucha, to get you started here are a few:

Media & Stories:

The Legacy:

  • The Edge continues to work with Kombucha, running workshops and experimenting with new treatments.
  • To view any upcoming kombucha workshops, check out our what’s on calendar.

Cameron Wilson

About

Having come to biology from an engineering background, Dr Cameron Wilson had an excellent foundation for communicating science to our non-specialist audiences. Already a poet, musician and medical engineer, he joined The Edge team in 2012 as a Catalyst through the Bioscience programming period, after returning to Brisbane from a four-year stint in Berlin researching blood vessel regeneration in bone fractures.

Cameron’s work

Probing bioscience in the broadest sense, Cameron brought biology out of the lab and got into science inspired by art. His workshops explored things like bacterial and yeast based fermentations (NB: Not as gross as it sounds: in real terms this means that you will be able to get into the science of brewing ginger beer and making kimchi) and growing sustainable textiles from kombucha cultures.

You can also read about Cameron’s time at The Edge on our blog.

Bioscience for the Belly
Cameron put some friendly micro-organisms to work in the kitchen in this tasty bioscience workshop. He introduced participants to the science of fermentation, using bacteria to turn cabbage into kimchi and yeast to turn ginger and sugar into (low-alchohol) ginger beer. Those who came along got to see, taste and measure what went on in the bottle and jar, and even got a look at the little critters that did the work.

Grow & Sew
Grow & Sew was a weekly meetup designed to give anyone and everyone an opporutnity to nuture crops of kombucha destined for use in fashion and accessory design. During casual meetup Cameron showed all willing participants how to harvest a pellicle, brew the nutritious tea, and harvest, wash and dry the finished product.

This project has had a long lecacy at The Edge, powering sustainable fashion workshops, talks and giving the Creepy Lab its name.

Window Farm
Starting with a workshop, Cameron put out a call to action to deck The Edge’s window bays in window farms using the open source Windowfarms™ design. The group was encouraged to experiment with different plants, nutrients, light levels and designs. Cameron’s own experiment at The Edge grew great crops of lettuce (and not so great crops of algae).