Materiality of Colour

Materiality of Colour

Dyes can be created from organic compounds, derived from plant sources such as roots, berries, bark, leaves, wood, fungi and lichens. Historically dyes were created using common and locally available materials. But with the growth of industrialisation, machinery development and growing demand, mass production of textiles began. This meant that synthetic dyes were created after 1856, which began with the synthesis of Mauve. Now thousands of synthetic dyes are used in the manufacturing of millions of tonnes of textile products. These synthetic dyes are predominantly fossil fuel and crude oil derived, and contribute to their deletion as well as hazards of toxicity, bioaccumulation and pollution. Therefore, many designers are looking at how we can once again use natural sources as a way to colour. Making more sustainable alternatives, and even doing research into their potential medicinal value. 


ALTER by Iria Fernandez is an investigation into the materiality of colour. Iria explores how colour impacts the environment, questioning how colour is understood by society and our expectations from it. Renewable resources are used to create colour, such as bacteria, algae and other living organisms. Examples of this include spirulina on wood, and bacteria dyeing with Janthinobacterium Lividum onto textiles. Iria states how colour within nature can act as a biomarker. We are able to see how it reacts within the environment and how it is an information carrier. The fleeting nature of colour is also apparent in nature as it can evolve, change, disappear and disintegrate. Therefore, this project looks to the Sun as a design partner, allowing the colours to change. This interaction means that the colours change with the environment, and over time. Showing that this impermanence is in fact natural and beautiful. ALTER aims to create awareness around colour sustainability, while also showcasing how we can design both from and with biology.


Micro and macro-algae are a viable source to create dyes/pigments from. Green algae gets its colour from the chlorophyll which is found within the chloroplast inside the cell. This chlorophyll is crucial as it creates energy from the sun. Although some algae don’t appear green, they all contain chlorophyll. Red and brown algae do have different types of pigments however. Brown algae gets its colour from the xanthophylls pigment fucoxanthin. While red algae get their colour from phycoerythrin. The pigments made from algae have also been found to have ??various anti-microbial and antioxidant properties, making them good candidates for use in dying medi-textiles for use in hospitals. There have been explorations into the use of algae as dyes, one of the most notable by Studio Blond and Bieber, who in 2014 created Algaemy. Since then they have experimented with various applications of using algae as a dye, predominantly for fashion garments and textiles for furniture.



Iria Fernandez