Layers of blue

Creative explorations with wood-based materials and dyer's Woad



design and concept: Anna van der Lei and Anna-Mari Leppisaari

all-cellulose composite: professor Tatiana Budtova & PhD student Chen Feng, Aalto University School of Chemical Engineering

Dyer’s Woad: professor Kirsi Niinimäki and team at Aalto University School of Arts Design and Architecture


year: 2019

material: cellulose

photo credits: Eeva Suorlahti


This project shows collaboration where two designers used existing scientific research on biobased materials and colours as the starting point for their artistic exploration. Knit samples and hard blocks of 100% cellulose dyed with natural dyes. Blue is the rarest colour in the nature, and in Finland a crop named dyer’s Woad yields non-toxic blue, which could potentially replace industrially used chemical colours and reduce the water pollution caused by the textile industry.


Some of the knits are treated with green ionic solvent, and in these partly dissolved cellulosic textile fibres are ‘glued’ together. These socalled all-cellulose composite materials are fully biobased and biodegradable, with no compatibilizer and no extra chemicals. By varying processing conditions material properties can be varied from soft and flexible to strong and rigid, from hydrophilic to hydrophobic. All-cellulose composites are eco-friendly, new functional materials with strong mechanical properties, for example to replace some plastics.