PaperLillies are drawings on paper made with blue-algae ink and black ink.

After having experimented for years the design and fabrication of photobioreactors to grow algae into architectural environments, I realised that the most common question we received is: “What do you do with the biomass?”. Of course, if we cultivate Spirulina, the obvious answer is “Food”, or better, “Super-food”. But actually, there are many other more creative potentials. So I took some of the algal mud harvested from our studio prototypes, I transformed it into algal bio-ink by adding some natural  glue, and used it to create drawings: the PaperLillies.

Variations in the algal concentration and in the amounts of water create a variety of vegetal inks with different effects. The green color comes from the algal cells. More algae in the solution creates darker and thicker color, similar to acrylic paint. More water creates transparency and becomes similar to watercolours. Eventually, the final result depends on three factors: concentration of algae, liquidity of the solution, and paper absorption.

The liquid algal ink is usually dropped on paper to form geometrical compositions. When the ink is thicker, it’s laid on paper with a sponge. Sometimes, around the algae, a cloud of black ink dots create populations of human created environments, sort of human colonies. Most of the drawings are 59×84 cm, and some are smaller.

PaperLillies are the last step of a process that starts with the production of micro-algae in the WaterLillies, continues with the transformation of the harvested biomass into algal bio-ink collectd in LillyJars, and eventually proceeds in the creation of algal drawings. The entire process is a celebration of human ingenuity and the claim for a collaborative design practice in which humans and nature celebrate a love affair, instead of practising a suicide design strategy in which humans try unsuccessfully to overcome nature.

In every PaperLilly there is a bit of the primordial soup that is the origins of us all.


PaperLillies, 2019 – 2020
Dimensions: 84×59.4 cm (each)
Materials: algal-ink and black ink on paper

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