#MakeYourMark Gallery

Last week we took part in the #makeyourmark event run by the University of Edinburgh Buisness School. MakeYourMark is a 3-day start-up project where students from different courses get together to develop business ideas for a social enterprise based upon a particular topic.
It was a great experience to work with students from different course backgrounds including Business & Marketing, Accounting & Finance, Chinese Studies, Textiles and more. We learnt a lot about the different ways a business can get funding and how a social enterprise works, especially from the perspective of addressing a selection of social issues such as loneliness in elderly people, gender equality, financial literacy and homelessness. After pitching to business professionals, prizes were given to the teams who came 1st, 2nd and 3rd which included one-to-one consultation with a business expert!

Work in Progress

From now…

Having started our fourth year here are some blog addresses for you to look at and keep up with our progress!


Activities Exhibitions

Further exhibitors at Major Externality Crisis

Our PD3 End-Of-Year show will exhibit work designed to address current social narratives, as well as examples of designs for those with disabilities. We invite you to come to our opening night drinks reception on Monday 24th April at 5pm in the Edinburgh College of Art Sculpture Court.


Activities Exhibitions

Upcoming exhibitors at Major Externality Crisis

A preview of some of the work being presented at our upcoming exhibition in the Sculpture court at ECA 24th-28th April. From slime mould computers to harvesting energy from waste, this is the beginning of things to come…


Activities Exhibitions

Exhibition: Major Externality Crisis

3rd Year Product Design at the Edinburgh College of Art is hosting a week-long exhibition of our robots, lamps, and chairs, in which we explore the shape of things to come.

Communicating with scientists and engaging with the unknown, our exhibition presents the reality of design projects with countless iterations, workshop failures and unexpected successes.

You are warmly invited to our Opening Night and drinks reception 5:00PM 24th April 2017.

An overview of projects can be found here and here

Biodesign Projects

Mycelium Futures Documentation

Making mycelium material


Transactions began with a very limited understanding of what microorganisms were and their potential within the field of art and design. Over the past two years I have heard of many projects involving the design of living things such as 3D printing mushroom canapés (C.Rutzerveld, 2014) and growing bacterial cellulose into endless rolls of material (Domestic Futures, 2015), but it had remained a mystery as to how you would go about doing it yourself. Over consumption and subsequent waste being sent to landfill has lead to governments employing energy efficiency standards and sustainability development around the world (M.Braungart and W.McDonough, 2009). Although having said this, when we dispose of our waste, recycled or otherwise, we know it goes “away”, but we don’t have a connection with the remains of what has been consumed(M.Braungart and W.McDonough, p81, 2009). Where is “away”? By putting the job of recycling and waste disposal into another’s’ hands we feel justified in ignoring our responsibility when thinking about what could be done with our leftovers (be that food, packaging, old clothes etc). What would the world look like if we had to keep everything we ever bought? If we couldn’t throw anything away and had to physically recycle our waste ourselves? I had heard about growing material out of agricultural by-products and mushroom mycelium (Ecovative design, 2016), but how could people do this with their own waste in their own homes? Mycelium is the root structure of mushrooms that is made up of threads called hyphae that spread out like glue to connect substrates together. It grows all over the world in different strains and 90% of the earth’s plants are connected by it. This project looked into how I could make my own mycelium material at home with limited knowledge, and how I could communicate my designs and method effectively with others.


Process and Outcome

My research started by looking into projects that use mycelium to make structures. These included Maurizio Montalti and his ‘Growing Lab’, Ecovative designs packaging ‘MycoMake’ and MycoWorks’ leather. These projects helped to feed my imagination about what could be possible when growing mycelium materials. I looked into waste and by-products from the manufacturing and natural systems that are already in place around me, such as scrap fabric pieces from the fashion department at ECA, waste paper from illustration and graphics, used coffee grounds, waste cardboard and dead leaves fallen from trees around Edinburgh. If I could grow a useful material on such by-products, perhaps people would not think of the substrates as waste, but as food, for the mycelium to grow on.

It was essential to start making my own mycelium and testing its capabilities. I started by following Youtube tutorials and then, after looking at the outcomes, I could refine the method to make them more successful. For example, in order to prevent contamination it was essential for the components and working space to be sterile, as well as this, the mycelium needs air circulation to grow so it should have air gaps in its container. After two more experiments using different substrates for growth (including ground coffee, dead leaves, cardboard and malt agar), I was able to refine my experiment even further and after speaking to mycologists in both the Royal Botanical Gardens of Edinburgh and Kings Buildings at the University of Edinburgh I could confidently set up my final tests for my project outcomes.

I used:

  • sterile equipment
  • a strong strain of oyster mushroom mycelium (bought mycelium from Ann Millers)
  • a range of substrate (cardboard, scrap cotton calico and dead leaves, individually soaked in sugar)
  • a sturdy container for them to grow in
  • a warm, dark place in order to store them and encourage growth
  • cling film to cover the tests with pin holes to provide air circulation

This meant I had nine samples showing the stages of growth and four final baked outcomes to show the possible material types from these substrates.

TestsMaking and refiningpresentation


Diving into the world of microorganisms was difficult at first; there was a definite knowledge gap, but I found that if you showed an interest and asked questions then researchers, scientists and students were eager to show you what they were working on. It helped to remind myself that I wasn’t meant to understand everything they said, but that I could extrapolate the important characteristics of the microorganisms that could potentially be useful for my project. Sometimes I spent a couple of hours speaking to researchers who were not very helpful in terms of the area of their research, such as focusing more on the fruiting body of mushrooms or having expertise in lichens, rather than the root structure of mushrooms. Nevertheless these interviewees helped lead me to those who would be more helpful within my project, hence my being able to find Dr Patrick Hickey, a doctor of mycology, and the first conversations were still valid and useful components of my research.

When looking at the current resources for how to grow your own mycelium I was working from YouTube videos and various tips from the Ecovative Grow-It-Yourself guide, but one thing stood out, I needed to stop researching and tangibly get hold of some mycelium. By getting my hands messy, armed with cardboard and oyster mushrooms from an Asian supermarket, I was able to discern what worked well (using cardboard as a substrate) and what needed to be improved (ensuring sterile conditions of the work place). Trial and error helped me to refine and adjust my methodology. There was a risk with this project that the mycelium would not grow and therefore would leave me with small piles of chopped up cardboard and leaves. This risk, alongside being uncertain of how best to generate mycelium, meant there was a reasonable amount of failure. Having seen these errors and refining my methods I am more confident to continue with my project; knowing the pitfalls such as contaminated apparatus means I can work to avoid infecting the mycelium by sterilising all components in the process.

My project has been able to identify how to grow my own oyster mycelium locally, but in the time allocated for the project I have not been able to grow any other strains. As another result of the time constrains I found it best to order mycelium spawn from Aberdeenshire in order to inoculate my substrates for the tests three (B) and four. The result was a fast growing feathery mycelium that spread throughout the substrates within two weeks, which was exciting to see and document. The answer is, yes, I can produce it locally, but there is still a lot of research that could be done in order to create different mycelium strains that have different material properties when being grown on various substrates. My challenge was to be able to communicate my design and making process, in order for others to be able to understand better how we can grow mycelium materials. The difficulties here were being able to document all stages of growth, since the mycelium wasn’t always growing in the same place, from the ASCUS lab to the studio to my flat, and therefore get a rounded view of the best conditions for mycelium growth.  Having said this, my final artefact shows a development from the oyster mushroom, to the home grown mycelium, to the mycelium growing in different substrates and then finally to the baked samples where the mycelium has been prevented from growing further. This development helps to explain the journey of growth and that is very satisfying to see in a final outcome.



E.Bayer. (2010). Are mushrooms the new plastic?. Available: Last accessed 24/10/16

M.Braungart and W.McDonough (2009). Cradle to Cradle: Rethinking the way we make things. New York: North Point Press. p1-280.

Content. (2015). 3D Printing With Living Organisms “Could Transform The Food Industry”. Available: Last accessed 03/12/16.

Domestic Futures. (2015). Growing a roll by Stefan Schwabe. Available: Last accessed 04/12/16.

Ecovative Design. (2016). We Grow Materials. Available: Last accessed 04/12/16.

Fungal Futures. (2016). Fungal Futures / Growing Domestic Bio – Landscapes. Available: Last accessed 04/12/16.

J.Hutton. (2011). Mycorrihizial Rejuvination. Available: Last accessed 24/10/16.

Dr. G.Mazza. (2016). SHORT NOTES ABOUT THE HISTORY OF THE MYCOLOGY. Available: Last accessed 24/10/16.

A.Miller. (2016). Shop. Available: Last accessed 05/11/16.

MycoWorks. (2016). Redefining Leather with Mycelium. Available: Last accessed 24/10/16.

Oude Hortus / Universiteitsmuseum Utrecht. (2016). Fungal Futures / Growing Domestic Bio – Landscapes. Available: Last accessed 24/10/16.

schinosi. (2013). Mycelium. Available: Last accessed 24/10/16.

C.Rutzerveld. (2014). Edible Growth. Available: Last accessed 04/12/16.

Biodesign Work in Progress

Further experiments

Using the refined method of experimentation the new tests worked! Below is a picture of tests three (B) and four where the mycelium was left to grow in substrates including cardboard, cotton calico and dead leaves. In one test I left the mycelium spawn to grow in between layers of bubble wrap to see how it would take the shape.

Tests three (B) and four

I left test four to grow for 14 days and tests three to grow for seven days to display the different stages of growth in my presentation.

Final outcome samplesFinal presentation

Biodesign Work in Progress

A new method

The outcomes from the first tests worked…but not particularly well.  Mould grew on my first mycelium tests and didn’t have a particular structure in the sealed plastic bags. It was time to speak to a professional. After searching high and low I found Dr Patrick Hickey, based at Summerhall, he completed his PhD in Mycology at the University of Edinburgh and has completed many projects looking into the structure of mycelium as well as the bioluminescent qualities of mushrooms ( Hickey's workspace

He suggested that I need to think about three key components:

1.The type of mushroom mycelium will affect the composition of the final substance and its qualities

  • wood rotting fungus has cord-like mycelium which is tough
  • oyster mushroom has a dense, feathery mycelium
  • some good ones are stropharia aurantiaca and physalacria armillaria (see below).

Stropharia Aurantiaca and Physalacria Armillaria

2. Choosing the substance for it to grow on is important

  • On wood you get white-rot fungi and brown-rot fungi that eat different parts of the tree.
  • White-rot eats lignin which makes up the scaffolding of wood.
  • Brown-rot fungi (like honey fungus or armillaria) decomposes cellulose which is the structural component of cell walls in plant material.

3. The process in which you’re growing the mycelium substance needs to be as sterile as possible so as to prevent other micro-organisms from growing.

  • In order to sterilise things you need to either heat them up so as to kill the bacteria on the surface or spray them with ethanol.

With this new information I have now moved on to work in more sterilised conditions, so as to reduce the risk of contamination. More to follow…


Biodesign Work in Progress

Exploring, gathering and testing.

Foraging for mushrooms around Edinburgh I found various types of honey fungus (armillaria), petticoat mottlegill (Panaeolus papilionaceus ) and turf mottlegill (Panaeolus fimicola). Having also bought mushrooms from local shops as well as supermarket chains, I had a collection of eight different types of mushrooms (including varying location of source).  I had three different mediums in which the mycelium could grow: cardboard, dead leaves and coffee grounds.

Documenting their features, where I found them and which medium I was putting them into will help in the future to see differences in the samples.

Preparing the collected mushrooms and placing them in the corresponding mediums
Mushroom samples to make mycelium
Eight mushroom samples; some found, some bought.
Table of mushrooms and mediums

I placed all combinations in separate plastic ziplock bags to grow in a dark and warm place (24-27degrees celcius) to grow for a few days…

With all the samples ready, I left them in a warm, dark place to innoculate
With all the samples ready, I left them in a warm, dark place to innoculate
Biodesign Work in Progress

“Why don’t you just make it?”

If I want to work with mycelium and see how it grows and interacts with mediums then I might as well grow some myself-so I did.

Oyster mushrooms have one the easiest and fastest mycelium growth, so I picked some up from an Asian supermarket and after slicing them up  with some soaked cardboard I left them to grow happily*.

Set up:


Setting up my mycelium experiments at the ASCUS lab at Summerhall (see
  1. Found some cardboard with corrugated insides
  2. Ripped it up
  3. Soaked it in water for 20 minutes
  4. Make layers between corrugated cardboard, slices of oyster mushroom and flat cardboard in a plastic box


Four days, seven days and fourteen days

After four days hyphae had formed and were running down the corrugated cardboard. Seven days after the inoculation and the mycelium was growing happily, constructing a spongey circular around the original mushroom sample. Mould grew and spread between days seven and fourteen; probably due to the lack of sterile conditions under which I first inoculated the cardboard medium. Also, from checking on the mycelium growth without being cautious about sterile conditions meant bacteria would easily have flown in.

Positive outcomes:

  • It’s easy when you know how
  • Relatively simple process
  • Could be done with different mushrooms to see a variety of mycelium strains

Negative outcomes:

  • Need sterile conditions, could be difficult to do at home
  • Oyster mushroom mycelium is feathery, so not very strong, to continue might be good to find another more dense and strong mycelium to grow

Next steps…

  1. Find a collection of mushrooms from around Edinburgh
  2. Grow their mycelium on different mediums and document growth
  3. Speak to professionals about the best way to go about my project

*using the instructions from


Biodesign Work in Progress

Mycelium Futures

Back to mycelium! Throughout my research I have been astonished at the amount of research and opportunities that have been discovered with this material…and yet there is still so much more that could be done.

Some of the projects I came across started to get my inspiration cogs turning; first of all I was reminded of the work that Ecovative do in the States (using mycelium as a glue-like substance to hold together agricultural waste and use the product as a biodegradable packaging component). Then I came across Eric Klarenbeeks mycelium chair (filling a 3D printed structure with mycelium spawn on a medium of straw to make a dense but lightweight core) and a collection of work by the organisation Fungal Futures, which continue to open my eyes into the possible advances in material properties when working with mycelium and fungi.

Eric Klarenbeeks mycelium chair
The Hoitink Dress by Aniela Hoitink from Fungal Futures

My concern is that I could easily buy some grow-it-yourself mycelium spawn from Ecovative in New York for as little as $10, but then it would take five weeks, $40 and countless thousands of gallons of oil to transport it across the Atlantic Ocean to my studio in Edinburgh. Especially when I know that one can grow mycelium anywhere in the world depending on strain and medium.

My next challenge is to grow it myself and to discuss variations in how to go about it with those who are in the field, namely professors of mycology, engineers and scientists who have conducted similar research.

Some of the websites I have found most useful as part of my research so far:



There is a (Musical) Fungus Among Us




In the beginning…

Started diving into the world of fungi and mycelium…first things first: what does a fungi family look like? Knowing the basics about the material we’re working with will help along the way, as well as learning how it interacts with its environment and other organisms. This is Transactions on a micro and macro scale.Fungi Family Hunting for fungi in Roslin Glen