Root Systems

Root Systems

Diana Scherer is a German visual artist working in Amsterdam. Her process focuses on biofabrication through root-weaving, but she is also a photographer and sculptor. Her materials research begins with biology. By testing how different plant species respond to growing environments she has been able to manipulate them to create interlocking geometric patterns that resemble lace. Sympathetically creating forms and patterns not normally found within nature, but grown from one of the most crucial parts of an ecosystem. 

In order to create cleaner fabrics she began creating 3D textile panels made from plant roots in 2015, and since then has developed her process to create different forms, and patterns which can be used for a number of applications. Fascinated by the relationship of man in the natural environment her work explores human interaction with a natural system, looking at boundaries and how something can remain ‘natural’. By having some control she is able to create her desired patterns, but welcomes irregularities. This helps with the materials narrative, giving people an insight into the process and paying homage to the natural material. 


Roots can be seen as a by-product. All plants have high fiber roots, but when harvesting the yield of the plant this material is not utilised. By allowing roots to grow into desirable patterns they can be turned into a material to use in the fashion industry. The material qualities of roots also means that this process can also be utilised to make products such as bricks that harden over time, this is beneficial as the roots can be grown into lattice structures that not only makes them lightweight for shipping, but also is beneficial for wildlife, ventilation etc. The plants that can be used also have beneficial qualities such as; sound absorption, heat isolation, and CO2 storage. 

If we grow crops this process does not require more energy, so it becomes extremely energy efficient. Scherer sees this material and process as a ‘Second Yield’, as it allows farmers to create more income. This business model sees an additional harvest of the roots from their crops, which can then be sold to other industries as a usable material. Thus adding value to their process and harvest cycle. 


This process is extremely time consuming taking from one month to a year as Scherer prunes the roots, separates them from the rest of the plants system and then the roots are treated so that they remain stable. All of this done within her studio, featuring miniature greenhouse lighting systems to grow each type of plant, such as grass and grains. The process that she has created encourages the roots to naturally form around templates she has designed digitally. The patterns come from historical influences but are 3D printed, mixing tradition with modern technologies. These templates are placed into a bed of soil before seeds are sown on top of them. During cultivation the roots will follow their natural network and intertwine underground. As they create strong bonds they become unified into one large piece.

Like many other people working within this interdisciplinary design field, Scherer collaborates with biologists at the Radboud University in the Netherlands in order to develop her process and scale production. Here she conducts her research and grows her root systems in the university’s greenhouses. 

At Amsterdam arts centre Mediamatic she has been working in collaboration to create an exhibition, working with Aquaponics. Her project Spectrum Crops – Findings in Color sees her building six greenhouses to showcase how different plants grow, all with different coloured stained glass windows to stimulate different plant varieties. This exhibition also acts as research as she is able to investigate how different wavelengths influence the shape, colour, taste and medicinal powers of different plants. But one of Scherer’s most notable recent exhibitions was Fashioned from Nature at V&A in 2018, where she showcased her root dress. This exhibition aimed to raise awareness of the negative impact of fashion, but also highlighted how designers and scientists are creating innovations within the industry and material science.

Images by:
Bastian Achard
Diana Scherer