The invisible membrane- sonja baumel

extremely interesting project. Check it out.

life on the human body and its design applications

Thesis project

My thesis project deals with a re-evaluation of our second skin, clothing, which instead of focusing on valuated historic forms zooms on the microcosm which excists already on our skin.

The (In)visible membrane confronts scientific data and methods with fashion design in order to find a balance between individual identity and the surrounding local environment. By doing so, I want to create a new second living layer on our body based on the interaction between individuals and the surrounding.

How will a piece of clothing, which is defined by personal physical needs or, for example, our body temperature look like? What if we were able to use our skin bacteria for producing our clothes?


All these assumptions led to the crocheted membrane design in 2008. Crocheted membrane displays a fundamental change in the aesthetics of clothes. Usually, the conventional production of clothes is connected to some aspects of fashion design history, for instance, regarding an item’s shape: a shirt is defined as a shirt; trousers are defined as trousers etc. Opposed to this, the crocheted membrane process had a different starting point: an individual human body and its needs with an outdoor temperature of 10 degrees Celsius. Completely new functions, aesthetics and shapes emerged. This caused further questions: What if our second skin would be able to locally adapt to changing conditions in a flexible and autonomous way? Would the aesthetic diversity of our clothes with individual colors, shapes and structures, be more inspiring and would we be more aware of our surroundings? Is it possible that more significant clothes would develop which would accurately adapt to local conditions? Is it possible that even social integration would become more dynamic due to the adaptation of the outer layer to its surroundings?

In 2008, all these questions brought me to Wageningen University in the Netherlands. In order to learn more about the lives of bacteria, I had the opportunity to complete a microbiological internship. After having been introduced to the basics of microbiology, I started to experiment with skin bacteria and, at a later point, their reaction to textiles.

During this time I have learned how inspiring interdisciplinary cooperation between art and science can be for all the parties involved. New aesthetic and verbal vocabularies emerged. I noticed that scientists usually focus on their own special microcosm and that designers prefer interdisciplinary projects so that designers are usually in a position to recognize causal relations more easily.

This led to the next design steps. I called the next project bacteria mapping. I started to chart bacteria on my body. I developed a number system ranging from 1 to 20 and denoted different parts on my body in order to find out and document how and in what way bacteria varied on the different parts of my body.


see you soon.




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