Francis Dooley, GFA, 2024

Project Overview

After reading Anna Tsing’s “Unruly Edges”, one line that stuck with me was “Delight makes an impression: an impression of place”. I wanted to use the mycelium to create an expression of delight in the form of a human face. I was also interested in letting the shapes from separate molds grow together.


Originally planning to make my project using both reishi and oyster, I filled some substrate bags with wood chips and some with straw, and both with distilled water. After the substrates were autoclaved, they were inoculated with the mushroom cultures. Because of a shortage of reishi, I inoculated all of my bags with the pohu oyster. I made a face out of airdry clay that I then used to create three vacuum form molds. The first vaccum form mold did not capture enough detail, so a second mold was made with higher heat settings and longer wait time. This also didn’t capture all the detail I wanted it to, but it was much more successful than the first trial. I made two of that version because I intended to stick the shapes together after seeing Philip Ross’s Mycotecture work. After a few days of growth, I broke up the growth in my bags and poured it into my molds. For the base of my sculpture, I poured into two boxes (one wooden, one metal)- the interior of the wooden box was covered in foil and the metal with plastic wrap (11/30). The cultures in the wooden box received wheat germ and extra water as an experiment for growth. After about 6 days (12/6), the mycelium was removed from the molds, and I pressed the two facial shapes together after pressing down on the backs of their surfaces in order to achieve a level surface/reduce the gap in between the two shapes. I repeated the process for the two box shapes. The bottom box shape had a good amount of growth, likely because of the wheat germ and water added, but it was thinner and longer than the other box, causing the edges of it to easily break off. 3 days later (12/9), the faces had grown together, and the boxes had grown together as well. I sprayed bamboo skewers with 70% isopropyl alcohol and stuck them through the bottom of the face shape, making sure to avoid the more delicate seam holding them together. The skewers were then stuck through the box shapes, giving the faces a base to stand on. The sculpture was placed in a bucket to grow further, and covered with another bucket as a lid after being misted with sterilized water. A day or 2 later it was re-misted and the bucket was lined with speedclaved wet paper towels. I added the ribbon to the skewers on 12/11 and checked the growth on 12/15. After noticing some flowering, I decided to let my project grow over winter break, knowing it may get moldy and need to be disposed of during that time.

I wasn’t successful in creating enough detail to show delight in the faces of this piece; hopefully it at least looks friendly.

Learn More

“Unruly Edges” by Anna Tsing:

my email: