AWRI Residency week 4

The grape vines are at their least romantic at this time of year, they go into a sort of dormancy, their trunk remains but their leaves fall off and the stems are cut off. The vines will not start flowering or fruiting until the warmer part of the year. But I was reading about the processes that take place for the plant during this time which are arguably just as important as those processes that take place during fruiting. I was specifically reading some of the AWRI literature about the breadth of concerns that apply to the plants all year round. The health and ‘experience’ of the vines (temperature, disease, soil quality) have a major impact on the flavour characteristics of the wines that are discussed in the sensory lab. This is by no means an original idea, and is in fact a very fashionable way of discussing points of differentiation in food products in an industry flooded by choice. I have been trying to explore this idea further by studying the structures and organisms that support the vines, another way of formalising the intangible nature of flavour.

There are some very beautiful old books at the AWRI library that include botanical drawings of grape varieties and their various plant parts; fruit, trunk, seed, leaves etc. It was the seeds that seduced me, when magnified they are considerably different between species, and quite fascinating forms. The seed is a part of the plant that is rarely considered in the wine-making process, neither are the tiny delicate flowers, or the predator insects protecting the plant. These often-unseen elements might be ambiguous or entirely unrecognisable to anyone outside the industry, yet they are exquisite forms.

I am bringing together my own drawings of these small, almost invisible parts of the system, and turning them into a wallpaper. The process of designing digital wallpapers is familiar to me, having produced many different versions for gallery installations (link). For me, wallpapers work as an immersive framework or background, using the decorative as a catalyst to introduce a new set of ideas into the space. Wallpaper will literally and conceptually frame and cross-pollinate other things that exist in the space, which seems like the appropriate medium for this research topic. I often use William Morris designs as a foundation, and bring my own content in, copying his repetitive arrangements. By using this iconic English designer’s work as a foundation I hope to connect the works I make to an English heritage. This is significant for the work as a substantial portion of Australian food culture is derived from English roots (for better or worse), but Morris’s highly popular designs also connect to the idea of ‘good taste’, a phrase with meaning in both food and design industries.

This research and design is still under production, but I thought I would share some of my drawings of seeds and flowers that will likely make up the final artwork.

AWRI Residency Week 3

Week 3 at the AWRI has only increased my interests in the yeasts – I found out about the fascinating ‘Shipwreck yeast’ as it is casually called. As I understand it there is a shipwreck in the Bass Strait out of which some old beer bottles were unearthed. The staff at the AWRI were able to isolate 220 year old yeasts from one of these bottles and then partnered with James Squire to produce a beer.  The story is told much better by many more people, here are a few links.

I have also been doing some more detailed reading about the birth and bud scars of yeasts. The drawing above is my impression of the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae (the variety that produces bread, beer, and wine). I drew it because I am unsure if I am allowed to reproduce other images I found.

I also found this quite delightful description of the separation of the budding yeast cells, it is an older publication but it is the most poetic description I have found. I find it easy to anthropomorphize this.

“Before separation the rims of the two scars of both cells are believed to lie in contact, strengthening the bond between cells. When, however, the cytoplasmic connection is lost, the independent increase in volume of the daughter cell results in a stretching of its birth scar; the shearing action between the two scars then causes the mechanical connection to break.”

From “Some Aspects of Cell Division in Saccharomyces cerevisiae”. A. A. Barton 1949

AWRI Residency Week 2

Through some casual conversations with the staff at AWRI, and also through mining the library on site, I have found some new tangents to pursue outside the core sensory project. I was completely seduced by a book (the cover of a book) that categorises hundreds of yeast with images, descriptions, colours, and lists of the places they have been found. It turns out yeasts are hosted in the oddest places… and so I began documenting the yeasts that had some of the more poetic and absurd assortment of hosts. Here are just a few

Lodderomyces elongisporus has been found in:

Brewery in Denmark, soil in South Africa, fruit syrup in Germany, orange-syrup base for soft drink, concentrated orange juice and baby cream in the Netherlands, finger nail in Finland, concentrated orange juice in USA.

 Dipodacus ingens which has been found in:

Wine cellars, industrial waste.

Or the Debaryomyces etchellsii, found in:

Fermenting cucumbers and fruit fly in USA, tinned butter in India, faeces of human being in Brazil.


I am struck by how these yeasts are hosted by such varied sites of living and non-living, natural and processed bodies.

Yeasts don’t all reproduce the same, but there is a group of them (including the ones that assist in the creation of bread, wine, and beer) that produce a daughter cell as a bulbous bud growing off the side of its body – like a pregnant belly. When the daughter cell breaks off it retains a ‘birth scar’ (just as we have a belly-button). ‘bud scars’ on the other hand are present on the parent every time they then produce a daughter. I thought this was fascinating, and potentially quite unique, because I couldn’t think of an insect, animal or human that showed on it’s skin how many children it had given birth to.

“Bud scars, when viewed from the outside of the wall, show a circular brim, slightly raised above the cell surface. The brim surrounds a slightly sunken area, which shows a concentric pattern around a small central depression.”   

Pg 26, The Life of Yeasts. H.J. Phaff, M.W.Miller, E.M.Mrak 1966.

Thank you to Simon for sharing his knowledge on yeasts.


A picture in one of Simons books of yeast colonies


A work I made a few years ago printing with kipfler potatoes which reminded me so much of the images of yeast