Coloured by Flavo

”What if artists, scientists and bacteria co-developed ‘high-performance colour’ as a sustainable alternative to petroleum-based pigments and dyes?”

Emma and transdisciplinary artist Ivan Henriques worked from March 2019 until September 2020 as researcher in the new professorship Bio Based Art & Design. This professorship is intended as a platform for practice-oriented art and design research and will focus on the understanding and development of biobased raw materials and processes. This joint professorshop between Avans Hogeschool AKV St. Joost, TU Delft and Willem de Kooning Academy push the boundaries of traditional materials development by capitalizing on the compounded role of art, design, science and engineering for understanding materials and their transition into meaningful artefacts.


Colour is at the heart of the creative industries and critical to the quality of our lives. Most colourants used in artifacts have problems in performance (e.g. intensity and stability), are often based around petroleum products and/or transition metals.

Currently, the choice of bio-based high-performance colours is limited. “Structural colour” (SC), is a viable, sustainable alternative. The best examples are found in nature (e.g. the peacock), in which nanostructures interact with incident light to reflect intense hues. Previously we have shown that SC can be created by non-harmful Flavobacteria grown on low value industrial waste.

In this research, we promote a notion of collaboration with these living organisms, to enhance the fusion of technology and organic systems. We propose to establish this collaboration by capitalizing on artistic practice, not only for discovering unforeseen design potentials of these organisms but also conveying them to society. We offer a methodology which combines diverse technical and creative methods taking artists and scientists (and bacteria!) as equal and active partners. Outcomes will be realized within educational modules, material demonstrators, strategies to communicate design potentials and future research directions.


This research is handed over to another research group, you can read more info here.