jen keane is a designer and creative researcher working in between the disciplines of design and science, technology and craft. inspired by the notions of sustainability and fascinated with new digital and biological tools, keane explores how these technologies could be employed to design a new generation of hybrid materials, and perhaps change our approach to making. this is grown — the designer’s graduation thesis project — is exactly that, a project driven by the frustration with plastics aiming to demonstrate a biological approach to material design.

jen keane - this is grown -microbial grown shoe
images by jen keane



this is grown by jen keane merges modern, mass-production textile practices with a philosophy of future biotech. enhancing a new form of ‘microbial weaving’, the growing process of k. rhaeticus bacteria is optimized to weave a hybrid material that is not only strong but also lightweight.

jen keane - this is grown -microbial grown shoe



‘taking an organism-driven approach to material design, I manipulated the growing process of k. rhaeticus bacteria, to employ it in a new form of ‘microbial weaving’,’ says jen keane. ‘the process optimizes the natural properties of bacterial cellulose to weave a new category of hybrid materials that are strong and lightweight, and allows the potential for entire patterns and products to be designed and grown to shape with little or no wastage.’

jen keane - this is grown -microbial grown shoe



the this is grown project grew the upper part of a shoe to showcase how this could affect the way we make products in the future. this part has been constructed entirely as a whole piece, without sewing and using a continuous yarn held into place by the cellulose produced by the bacteria.

jen keane - this is grown -microbial grown shoe



‘the really interesting part will come when we employ synthetic biology to control what the microbes produce and how and where they grow them,’ keane concludes. ‘but as we begin to exercise our new knowledge of nature to try and solve our material problems we have to question what is natural really, and accept that we may not actually be collaborating with nature anymore but controlling it.’

jen keane - this is grown -microbial grown shoe jen keane employs microbial weaving in 'this is grown' shoe



project info:


name: this is grown

designer: jen keane

type: microbial weaving