The Magical Intersection Between Art & Science
Mycelium is the vegetative part of a fungus or fungus-like bacterial colony, consisting of a mass of branching, thread-like hyphae. The mass of hyphae is sometimes called shiro, especially within the fairy ring fungi. Fungal colonies composed of mycelium are found in and on soil and many other substrates. You can think of mycelium as a tree. The fruit a tree would produce would be an apple, but with mycelium, the fruit is a mushroom. However, the mycelium I am using has no seeds to produce fruit. I only work with mycelium made from agriculture waste, which produces no fruiting bodies.
Preparing the mycelium
The following steps have been documented to share my process of growing the mycelium material. This material was donated by Ecovative Design. When the mycelium material arrives, it looks like this with a lot of white on the inside. You move the bag around until you have a well-mixed bag of material.
My in-progress body of work, A Generous Kingdom: The Use of Art & Science to Inspire the Next Generation of Gatekeepers, is meant to act as a series of experiments on the use of organic materials, including mycelium. This is the same substrate used to grow mushrooms. In addition it grows food, leather, furniture, and, recently, biomedical scaffold for bio tech.
The activities of mycelium help heal and steer ecosystems in their evolutionary process, acting as a recycling mechanism to nourish other members of the ecological communities. By cycling nutrients through the food chain, mycelial networks benefit the soil and allow surrounding networks of plants and animals to survive and thrive.
Climate change affects the delicate and dynamic ecosystems of life. The activities of mycelium help to offer a path of connection towards remediation. Universally beneficial, mycelial networks are seamlessly reaching out, grasping and grabbing for more soil, more friends, more familiars. Together, the network acts like a thriving hive of higher intelligence. It’s not a wonder that we share 50% of our DNA with mycelium (a finding by UK Mycologist Merlin Sheldrake.) It is their ability to heal, nourish, and hold the space around us which we all call Earth, he says.
Today, I am at a pivotal point in my research where I have found this: man’s exploration still matters, that humanity needs mycelium. Mycelia findings, uses, and valuable properties offer continuation of life on this planet by its engagement with human innovations.
These findings require the connection and engagement of humankind. It is still that connection that is needed to heal, help and hold us in place. Additionally, of the possible billions of mushroom species out there, we have only unearthed maybe a few hundred who have aided us in a variety of sectors. Penicillium ascomycetous fungi is the mushroom that contains the molecule for the first antibacterial drug, penicillin. Findings on turkey tail mushrooms which currently grow in my backyard are considered a 'superstar' of the fungi kingdom. Medicinal mushrooms have been used for thousands of years to promote health and longevity. And one of the true superstars when it comes to mushrooms is turkey tail mushroom. This article published on 9/24/2021 Wonder Mushroom: The Top 10 Health Benefits of Turkey Tail Mushroom focuses on anti-aging properties and explores many of the health benefits of turkey tail such as reducing inflammation, boosting immune function, and providing protection against cancer, heart disease, and neurodegenerative diseases. Mycelium and its fruiting bodies called mushrooms are truly the worlds greatest connectors.
Connection to what?
Connecting us to alternatives to biomedical properties
Connecting us to alternatives for construction materials
Connecting us to alternatives for food
Connecting us to alternatives to healing
Connecting us to alternatives for leather goods
Connecting us to alternatives for medicine
Connecting us to alternatives to styrofoam and plastics
Made possible by Ecovative.
To obtain mycelium, the fungus spores must be germinated in a suitable, previously sterilized substrate. It is important that it is kept without light and with the ideal temperature and humidity for its development. This phase is very delicate, especially if we work directly with the spores. There is a high risk of contamination by other types of fungi, bacteria, and insects. There are many different types of substrate for growing mushrooms, such as cereal grains, wood sawdust, pellets, straw, cardboard, compost, agar gel, coffee grounds, rice, and water with honey, among others.
How have you connected?
Creating a safe and supportive environment helps the mycelium grow. Do this before you begin working with the material. Create a space that keeps a consistent temperature and is free of any other possible contamination.
Remember...this is science. This process can be difficult and may require some trial and error before you get it right. But once you have the technique down, it is a satisfying and earth-friendly way to create! I will be making a series of videos to help support your project. A key factor is time. There is a 4-6 day gap between the grow period, so be sure to clear your calendar. This is living material, and it will need your attention, just as in any living species needs a hand when it is growing.