Bacterial Cellulose Experiments

Starling Wolfrum, Painting 2023

Starling is a painter and illustrator with an interest in nature and ecology.

Project Overview

I was really interested in the materiality of the bacterial cellulose that we worked with, particularly in the ways it interacted with light and it’s versatility. I made a series of objects intended to be suncatchers, interactive with natural and bright light. I tried sculpting forms, embroidering, and watercolor painting and layering.


I grew my pellicles in a 5 gallon tub. They grew for roughly 14 days before being harvested and washed in a seven day process. The pellicles started out very thick, and I decided to separate them out to complete three projects. First, I tried draping some of the bacterial cellulose over a deer skull, shown below. Though this created an interesting effect, it wasn’t as detailed as I had hoped. I then moulded my sculptural hanging piece by pressing cellulose with paper towels and then moulding the thinned material around pointed bottle tops and twisting them. I allowed these to dry. I then stretched two pieces of cellulose in embroidery hoops. One I allowed to dry and one I embroidered into while it was still wet. I wanted to see how the material took to embroidery, and though the process was difficult, I think it creates a nice effect. With the other stretched surface being dry, I decided to make a stained glass sort of effect by pasting cut pieces that were dyed and painted with watercolor onto it. I used just water to affix pieces and then painted the whole piece with details once it was dry.

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