how the bio-based material studies started….

To think I never would have painted if my legs had been just a little longer!”

And if I had not moved to Austria, I would never have felt the strong need… no, the imperious need to express myself creatively. Who am I without words?

This question took me to a training in Expressive Arts (Art-Therapy) and at the end of the year I discovered that my interest for Art is stronger than for Therapy because anyway the border between the two does not exist, it is just a place with different doors and in my opinion the Art entrance is way more fun.

On this path of expression I found Botanical Print and began to print with flowers and leaves and explore home chemical reactions. Discovering this fascinating world has been very important for my scanner personality because I can jump from one technique to another without leaving the dimension of colors, flowers, leaves and home lab that I love so much.

Eco-print goes hand in hand with natural dyeing and of course I took the first opportunity I had to travel to Mexico after the pandemic to go to Oaxaca and learn all I could about natural dyes for wool and cotton with grana cochinilla, indigo, muitle, pericon, huizache, walnut and onion peel … besides bursting with mole and laughter.

Upon returning to Vienna with all this wonderful knowledge I became curious about textiles and intrigued by the book – The Fabric of Civilization by Virginia Postrel – I decided to look for options to buy fabrics that had all the qualities of organic, fair trade, sustainable, locally sourced, etc. and I felt that something was not making sense.

That feeling led me to Edith Medina; Mexican Biologist and Artist who has a bio-materials studio in Mexico City and shares her knowledge in different courses. I became fascinated with the world of possibilities organic waste offers to create 100% home compostable bio-plastic and bio-leather and began to experiment first with the formulas I learned and then to develop my own formulas by mixing what I found in my kitchen and asking myself what characteristics certain ingredients would bring to the materials. Would you like to join me in this journey?

Vienna Werksalon Co-Making Space

Atelier Portrait

by Barbara Windisch – 2023

Born_ 1981 in Chihuahua, Mexico
Makes- biotextiles from organic waste
Goal_ to develope 100% home compostable biomaterials & find applications
Drive_ Love for nature, boundless curiosity and sharing of knowledge
Wishes for her business_ curious partners in fashion, jewelry, and design, apple subproducts and scoby suppliers, grants
What she likes from Werksalon_ creativity, inspiration & support from colleagues
In Werksalon since_ 2018

What does a woman do when, at 34, she suddenly has no words left? She embarks on: Revolutionary bio-material development. (A love story)

Arriving in Austria in 2015 without speaking a word of German, Sandra’s initial speechlessness becomes a source of creativity. She draws new ways of expression and business ideas from it. Today, the -Wahlwienerin- (Viennese by choice) has made the German language her own. She is in the middle of founding a company and developing cradle-to-cradle biomaterials.

From Mexico to Seewalchen to Linz, and almost back again.

In Guadalajara, Mexico, Sandra, trained as an interior designer, runed a business for vintage furniture & fashion. -It’s all much easier to set up in Mexico!– It’s 2015, and a certain Stefan from Seewalchen appears. Change of life plan and off to the Salzkammergut. There, Sandra experiences a veritable culture shock: Super beautiful area. But: -no language, no contacts, no job opportunities. Without words, it’s very exhausting to find myself again. In a new home. Who am I if I can’t describe it? And how do I show it to others?So on to Linz in hopes of finding more, and especially finding herself. No luck. At this point, Sandra has internally closed the door on Austria. But, without living in the capital, Vienna? Would be embarrassing in front of the relatives. So, they quit the apartment and Stefan’s job in Linz and set up new tents in Vienna. Hesitation is not the couple’s modus operandi.

Vienna is different. Art ist Therapy.

And it was great in the capital. Right from the start. We’re writing the year 2018. Green! Open! Intercultural! An immediate home feeling, describes Sandra our city. Shortly thereafter, she stands in the werksalon, which she had already spotted online from Linz and found it cool. And indeed, it is. The studio workspace is then occupied. The longing for creativity is unstoppable. At the career expo, Sandra discovers an Art Therapy training for herself and becomes a Creative Trainer. Looking back now, she says with a laugh, -These seminars healed me. I knew again who I am and that I want to make creativity my profession. Addendum: And that I won’t become a therapist

Time for experimenting! (Others called it lockdown)

Then comes the pandemic. And for Sandra, that means a lot of time. Time to complete online courses from international artists. Focus: Botanical Prints. Time to experiment, to collect. And to indulge her extreme curiosity. The couple’s kitchen is full of plants and leaves. Can I eat that or are you working with it?- a frequently heard sentence. As soon as traveling becomes possible again, Sandra researches in Mexico. Natural wool dyeing methods in Oaxaca, which have been used for generations for tapestries and clothing there. In Mexico City, Edith Medina inspires and teaches, a biologist and artist, on biomaterials and biomode. This fusion of ecological approach with art feels absolutely right for meNature has been immensely important for Sandra since childhood on the family farm with apples, apricots, roses, corn, and beans. All my best memories are outside!

The stuff revolutionary dreams are made of: Biomass.

Back in Vienna, Sandra’s experiments reach a new level. Now it’s about nothing less than the revolution of textile materials towards absolute sustainability. About finding a fabric that is 100% environmentally friendly, easy to process, and can be composted at home after its useful life. Emphasis on: at home. As a nature lover, I want leather like textiles that are environmentally friendly. From the beginning to their absolute end – on my compost heap. That doesn’t exist yet. Because a textile label „compostable“ always means „industrially compostable“ in itself. Thus, in an industrial plant with high temperatures, humidity and corresponding distances.

Sandra works with gelatin, bacterial cellulose, agar-agar, and above all organic waste. She applies learned formulas and develops her own. Bit by bit, she gains a sense of the properties of leaves, algae, and resources formerly known as biomass. Her educational focuses on natural sciences in highschool and Business at the UACH University in Mexico help. But Sandra’s most important resources are – alongside organic waste: A huge heart for nature combined with equally huge curiosity: What’s the next step? What else can be done with it?

Wanted: Questions and cooperation.

I still don’t know all the properties that biomaterials can achieve. To accomplish that, I need challenges. Concrete questions! So that I can go in search of answers. The more openly product developers, artists, and designers work with new material and the more they emphasize sustainable transparency: What happens at the end of the product’s life cycle – is it biodegradable? How is it biodegradable? the better and faster Sandra – and others – can develop the best fabrics and materials of the future. Like the product designer who is working with Sandra on a backpack. Or the technical institution currently researching whether Sandra’s material is suitable for laser cutting. Sandra is open to everything. Also to sharing. She partly offers her recipes as open source, shares her knowledge in workshops and wants to show how easy it is to make biotextiles from organic waste yourself.

Safe Space werksalon

My tribe! calls Sandra her Werksalon community. Curious like me, creative and supportive. Entrepreneurship to touch has a quasi-therapeutic effect on her. At the neighboring table, unfiltered, inspiring, and motivating. The developer in the founding process feels strengthened. Being a self-employed entrepreneur is also possible for me, I think then. They’ve already done it. They do it every day! Like studio colleague Özlem Turan, with whom Sandra now tests and develops self-produced, biotextile material. On texture, flexibility, color, and processability. And the other Werksalon colleagues from diverse fields? …They diligently collect banana peels and apple cores for the upcoming textile revolution.