Kombucha pellicles are produced by a bacteria, Komagataeibacter xylinus.
The following is an excerpt from an interview we did for our friends at DDMP.
How would you describe kombucha to someone who had never heard of it before?
It is pure wood, that is soft. Or rather cellulose, a thin matrice of it. This biomaterial is the result of a symbiosis between yeasts and bacteria, which is historically most likely to be due to humans (about 2000y back). It smells. Oh yes, it often smells like vinegar. But we made it into smelling sweet, or rather as a soft mix with a black tea smell. Sometimes sticky, always other, it is this kind of materials that triggers a feeling of wonder. Yes, homo faber does not yet know all of the materials and milieux that exist!
What is the best thing and the worst thing about working with Kombucha?
The wonder starts not by touching the dried pellicle, but rather earlier as observing for hours the rapid development of the pellicles. And the mycelial expression of the yeasts, stalactites. And the trapped CO2 underneath the spongy pellicle. And the wet pellicle, just out of its bath for the first time, it has this sweet skin-like feeling. Gross? We say beautiful. There is a world there, there are lives there. What a wonder to produce our own material.
And it sometimes attracts flies in the workshop. Which is the worst.
What have you learnt through working with Kombucha?
Patience. Discipline. There is a necessary discussion with the material. Kombucha does not do what we want, it rather agrees to collaborate with us. This is a ménage à trois kind of deal: kombucha is ours as long as we are theirs. We have to respect its boundaries and be respectful to its agenda.
What is the goal of your work and what kind of impact would you like to make in the world?
Our mission is to foster social resilience. As such, we focus on auto-determination, challenging perspectivism, favoring situated knowledge. We gather practically into thinking and making at the intersection between crafts and open source. This focus unfolds in a holistic practice: a design research actualizing in arts, applied arts, engineering and education.