Pathetic Taxidermy – Bacterial Cellulose

Francis Dooley, GFA, 2024

Project Overview

I wanted to play with the likeness of bacterial cellulose to skin by mimicking the appearance of veins, being inspired by Jaroslava Frajová and my own personal examination of skin texture. I also think it’s really interesting how the nature of the cellulose means that in my time with it, it became smaller and smaller as it reached its final stage. The “grandness” of taxidermy is challenged by this small, “pathetic” skin fragment.


After growing the bacterial cellulose from G. hansenii cells and washing the media out, I dyed two sheets of cellulose with 1 tablespoon of GalloTannin and a dash of Myrobalan (a little less than a teaspoon). I then dyed some cotton twine with logwood to achieve a purple color, and dipped the twine in a vat of indigo for a strong blue. The logwood didn’t end up sticking, despite the use of alum and tannin as mordants prior to dyeing, but the indigo was successful. I washed the cotton twine and arranged it in a vein-like pattern on one of the cellulose sheets, then placed the other cellulose sheet on top and began the drying process. To speed this up, I laid the cellulose sheets on paper towels, flipping the sheets and changing the towels every few minutes at first, and then less frequently in the following days/ as the cellulose had lost most of its moisture. In the last few days of drying, I noticed the cellulose trying to fold on itself, so I sprayed it with water and laid some heavy books on top of it to prevent further warping. Starting about the second day of drying, I noticed that I hadn’t washed the indigo out of the twine well enough after dyeing it, and it was bleeding onto the bacterial cellulose. This brownish/blueish/grayish hue the cellulose took on was due to that bleeding, and while I was disappointed at first, it began to grow on me. One of my classmates compared it to “zombie flesh”, which made me think more about decay and worked with the display I had in mind. Although the bacterial cellulose was fairly stiff at this point, I wanted to create the effect of it being hung and stretched, like the hide of a hunted animal. I created a frame from a branch I had found outside a year or two prior, and attached extra twine to the corner threads that stuck out of the cellulose sheets in order to attach the sheets to the frame. I had a lot of fun during this process, wish I had taken more pictures of my baby as she grew (shrank), and hope I am able to do similar work someday in the future.

Learn More

Jaroslava Frajová sparked my interest in creating “veins” for bacterial cellulose- here’s her work:

my email: