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Kombucha Grown leather

For my final project, I decided to embark upon the growth of Kombucha leather to create sustainable and low impact leather for use in the fashion industry.

In pursuit of this project , I attempted to grow my own leather at home with the hopes to sew this into a shirt which I 3D modeled.

My initial sketch showed multiple ways of which the information could be displayed. This included a mannequin with the wearable shirt, a table with leather samples, displays showing the growth process, and framed information on the process as well as about the leather itself. I set off to model the shirt first.

While the leather is flexible, it will still remain relatively stuff unless conditioned, and I wanted to reflect this in the design. This led to a front and back panel being joined by ropes at the side for the “seams” and straps.

While working on the digital part of the project, I attempted to grow the physical part as well.

To start, I dissolved two cups of sugar in boiling water in a clean plastic container
Then I steeped 9 bags of green tea for several hours
The container was placed in a dark room on a heating pad to encourage bacterial and yeast growth and a lid was added on sticks to keep out contaminates but allow air movement.
The tea bags were removed and the project was ready to grow
Day one had no change, as this takes weeks to grow.
Day 8 had what appeared to be the beginnings of growth!
Day 10 and you can really see the strands starting to connect
Day 13 disaster struck. Contamination occurred and mold began to grow on the surface of the bath. At this point, I would need to start over, however, I was not sure at the time if this was normal or not and continued the bath.
Day 15 the mold worsened.
Day 16 A lot of the mold disappeared but I suspect it was simply pushed into he tea by the condensation of the warm tea on the lid. At this point I discontinued the growing to avoid further mold growth.

My personal attempt at growing the kombucha leather failed, however, much was learned. I would like to try this project again with changed. I would better secure the lid and cut a hole. The hole would then be covered with fabric lie cheesecloth to allow air but further prevent contamination. I would also use a pre grown chunk of SCOBY called the mother culture to promote the correct type of growth within my bath. Additionally, I would turn down the heat on the pad to prevent so much evaporation as the water level had dropped dramatically over time.

For the final presentation of the project, I created an informational poster to go with my 3D render to explain more about the process and product, as well as Petri dishes of the different stages of growth and a sample of the final product.

Each of these Petri dishes will likely grow their own scabby in the shape of the dish they are in by the end of the display period, which can then be cut apart and put into bigger baths and continue the process again.