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Zena Holloway
All images courtesy of rootfull.com

Q&A with bio-designer Zena Holloway from Rootfull

12 March 2024 • Written by Lucy Dunn

One of the speakers at this year's Ocean Talks is bio-designer Zena Holloway of Rootfull, a material innovation company which creates groundbreaking textiles using plant roots woven into one-of-a-kind objects such as lamps, wall hangings or  sculptures. Ahead of the event, Holloway talks to BOAT about her work. 

How did the idea for Rootfull come about?

As an underwater photographer, I’ve spent a large part of my career witnessing the impact of plastics on the marine ecosystem. This experience led me to set down the camera in 2018 and research bio-design. It was a bit like Alice falling down the rabbit hole and led to experiments with mycelium, algae, seaweed and then plant root. Bio-design has the incredible potential to revolutionize our approach to sustainability. It offers a bridge between technological innovation and ecological harmony by providing a framework for reimagining our materials and systems.

How does your making process work?

Wheatgrass seed is cultivated in templates I carve from beeswax. Over 12 days the shoots grow to 20cm while the roots bind below to form a naturally woven structure. The root weaves itself into fabric that is biodegradable, pollution-free, water-efficient and estimated to be carbon neutral. Water is recycled from runoff, and any excess shoot or seed is repurposed as animal fodder, leaving no waste behind. The creation of root textile demonstrates a solution to the problem of plastic pollution by creating artefacts using resource efficiency, sustainable production and natural materials.

In what ways could Rootfull be used in superyacht interiors? 

I grow lightweight wall hangings inspired by jellyfish, lamps resembling coral and kinetic floating, marine sculptures. The root is cultivated into patterns and textures inspired by my life as an underwater photographer and bridges two seemingly separate worlds – from underwater to underground. The material serves as both reality and metaphor, highlighting the intricate dynamics unfolding in the depths below.  Root forms a lightweight, natural textile that has strength and durability like cotton or wicker. Among other things it can be formed into textured surfaces for wall coverings, wallpaper, kinetic sculpture, vessels and lighting.

What other uses could you see for root in the future?

I see root-textile as an exciting solution for creatives across disciplines - from fashion and architecture to interior design and craft. By creating beeswax casts from 3D printed templates, root combines digital precision with natural growth to "programme" living materials. The innovative process pushes past the limits of 3D printing alone, pointing towards a new era of programmable, sustainable design. Root textile merges biology and design, helping the creative industries to transition to circular, eco-friendly materials.

You also take incredible underwater photography – where’s the most amazing place in the world that you’ve worked?

I’ve witnessed so many amazing underwater spaces, I don’t think I can choose just one! It depends on the lens you look through when you enter the water. I’d pick the Maldives for large marine life, the colours of the Red Sea for a vibrant critter, the River Plate for a hidden treasure in Uruguay, the Caribbean for depth and clarity, and South Africa for a wild, wild ride where anything can happen.

What do you love about the ocean and why?

The truly expansive majesty of water and the natural world.

Zena will be exhibiting her latest work at this year’s Ocean Talks, taking place in London on 6 June 2024. The event brings superyacht owners, suppliers, builders and designers together with those in the field of marine conservation, for an evening of inspiring talks, exhibits and networking.


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