OurOwnsKIN - The project

The story - OurOwnsKIN is a project which explores human foot skin to rethink how we design for future manufactured 3D printed and grown shoes.

Historically footwear design construction has evolved from the manipulation of the material leather - the skin of another animal. Manufacturing machines have advanced to automise how we hand manipulate this cloth.

As new materials such as polymers were introduced the residue of leather constructions has influenced new footwear design constructions.

We are now, however, into new territories where 3D print can construct features so fine that the boundary between materials structure and design construction begins to blur.

The OurOwnsKIN project questions if it is now useful to rethink what underpins our references when designing footwear. Asking the question ‘If we designed footwear for the first time today, using all materials and technologies available, whose skin would we use as a reference for the starting point?

We see this approach as being beneficial as we move in to futures where we can grow materials such as leather.


Research has been undertaken to translate the grainlines of skin under tension into a computation framework. From here, springy cells, called auxetics, were placed into this framework to address how the material and design construction can provide fine variations in fit.

The result - The mono material mesh encapsulating the entire foot. This research only scratches the surface of the potential to customize the structure for bespoke performance applications.


The research community at Ravensbourne bravely funded the initial medical desk research and the translation of this research into computation. MV works program (funded by Knowledge Transfer Network, Innovate UK and the Arts Council) funded prototyping and early computation development. Innovate UK has funded further technical development and research into how to best model a sustainable design consultancy which translates materials of the body into material and design constructions.

The team

Our consultancy is entitled the same name as the project, OurOwnsKIN. Co-Directors of the consultancy are artist Rhian Solomon, whose practice explores the body as a meeting point for collaborative practices between medical specialist and designers, and footwear/ 3D concept development designer Liz Ciokajlo whose focus is on materials, emerging processes and design construction. Designer Manolis Papastavrou was a leading consultant on computation and design on the project. Tom Mallinson of Digits2Wigits 3D CAD specialist and designer Jason Taylor contributed to design development while working on computation files during Innovate UK funding.