Crafting with Technology- Collaborations

Textile Talk presented by Surface Design Association

Zoom Webinar 7th July 2021, 7pm

How does the collaboration between hand and machine contribute to the potential of crafts? What does it mean to make the digital tangible? Sponsored by Surface Design Association, this webinar introduced textile artists and designers who use technology and digital tools to investigate modes of communication, materiality, and traditional craft techniques. Dr. Nithikul Nimkulrat from Toronto, Ontario discussed the transformation of analogue forms into digital using a range of techniques, including 3D scanning, CAD, Virtual Reality (VR), 3D printing, and slip casting. Olivia Valentine from Des Moines, Iowa discussed her long-term collaboration with composer and sound artist Paula Matthusen “between systems and grounds” – now in its second incarnation utilising a customised AVL Compudobby loom and a variety of web-streaming platforms. Lee Jones from Ottawa, Ontario discussed how with e-textiles (electronic textiles) the focus can be shifted on how individuals can be makers and designers of their own technologies. The event was moderated by Khadija Aziz from Toronto, Ontario, whose process-based practice bridges the gaps between textile-making techniques and digital technologies to generate unexpected outcomes through translation, chance, and distortion. https://www.surfacedesign.org/events-exhibits/events/textile-talks/

Clockwise, from upper left: Collaboration: Olivia Valentine & Paula Matthusen; Lee Jones, punch sketching & wearable ideation; and work by Dr. Nithikul Nimkulrat

Nithikul Nimkulrat is a textile artist, designer, researcher, and educator originally from Bangkok, Thailand. Nithikul was educated as an industrial designer (BID) with knowledge of architectural design at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. Having worked as a designer in the textile industry in Thailand for three years, she relocated to Helsinki to pursue studies at Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture where she earned a Master of Arts in textile art and design in 2002 and a Doctor of Arts in design in 2009. After that, Nithikul worked at Aalto University as a postdoctoral researcher (2010), Loughborough University as a Lecturer in Textiles (2011–2013), and Estonian Academy of Arts in Tallinn, Estonia as a Professor in Textile Design and Head of Department of Textile Design (2013–2018). During her sabbatical year, Nithikul was based at Emily Carr University of Art & Design in Vancouver, Canada, as a designer-in-residence in Autumn 2017, and in Spring 2018, she had a research stay funded by German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) at Weißensee Academy of Art in Berlin. Since December 2018, she has been appointed as Tenured Associate Professor in Material Art & Design (MAAD) at OCAD University in Toronto, Canada.

In her work, Nithikul interweaves creative and research practices. This interweaving has proven to be applicable to art and design education. Her research interest is rooted in her textile practice, lying across conceptual issues in art and design, especially the role of creative practice in academic research and the immateriality of physical materials in creative processes. Having situated her work at the intersection of art and design and the academic and art worlds, her creative artefacts have received awards and have been exhibited internationally, while her research has been published in peer-reviewed publications and presented in international conferences.

Dr. Nithikul Nimkulrat (2017) 3D PRINTED CUP In process, media: wood composite dimensions: 7.5cm x 9.4cm x 6.5cm

Hand Crafting through Digital Means- Dr. Nithikul Nimkulrat https://www.nithikul.com/about.html

This project examined her collaborative practice with a digital craft practitioner  which developed through her design residency at Emily Carr University of Art & Design. The main  aim was to illuminate ways in which craft making and hand-crafted objects can be translated using 3D modelling technology and addresses the following questions:

• What forms of knowing and meaning making are evolving through collaborative practice? How does this inform research creation?

• What does it mean to manipulate material in Computer Aided Design (CAD) through Virtual Reality (VR)? What are the explicit implications of doing so and how does this inform analogue material practice and experimentation?

Dr. Nithikul Nimkulrat (2017) 3D PRINTED CUPS media: wood composite / copper composite / biodegradable thermoplastic dimensions: 7.5cm x 9.4cm x 6.5cm

Originating from a hand-knotted object – a replica of The Coffee Cup in her installation Paper World (2007) saw the development of the transformation of this analogue form into digital form using a range of techniques, including 3D scanning, CAD, Virtual Reality (VR), 3D printing, and slip casting. These activities acted as both a survey of digital fabrication capabilities and a way of exploring new thinking mechanisms offered by this emerging form of practice. The project sought to broaden our understanding of the maker’s role within the capabilities and limitations of digital interface and fabrication. This whole research process and relationship with materiality has helped to stimulate her own ideas for future research at post graduate level. https://www.nithikul.com/creative-work.html   

Dr. Nithikul Nimkulrat (2017) 3D PRINTED MULTI-SECTIONAL LOOSE KNOTS, media: biodegradable thermoplastic dimensions: 18.5cm x 10cm x 2cm
Lee Jones (2021) TEXTILE TALK: Crafting with Technology, presented by Surface Design Association

Punch-Sketching E-textiles- Lee Jones

Exploring Punch Needle as a Technique for Sustainable, Accessible, and Iterative Physical Prototyping with E-textiles https://dl.acm.org/doi/fullHtml/10.1145/3430524.3440640

Lee Jones, Creative Interactions Lab Carleton University, Canada, lee.jones@carleton.ca

Miriam Sturdee, Lancaster University, United Kingdom, m.sturdee@lancaster.ac.uk

Sara Nabil, Queen’s University, Canada, sara.nabil@queensu.ca 

Audrey Girouard, Carleton University, Canada, audrey.girouard@carleton.ca

Lee Jones (2021) TEXTILE TALK: Crafting with Technology, presented by Surface Design Association

Tangible toolkits enabled individuals to explore concepts through combining components together and taking them apart. The strength and limitation of many e-textile toolkits is that threads hold them in place, and once put together they need destructive methods to take them apart. Lee Jones proposed Punch-Sketching e-textiles, a drawing technique that uses a punch needle to iteratively prototype soft circuits. The benefits of this approach is sustainability and reusability where users can easily pull out circuits without damaging the materials or creating waste, while also testing out concepts using the actual threads that will be used in the final prototype. To validate their technique, they ran three studies comparing sewing and punching e-textiles through: 1) Understanding the process with two fibre artists; 2) Exploring the potential with four beginner users; and 3) Utilising their methods further with 10 occupational therapists. Insights from these three studies included when and how to use each method, toolkit recommendations, considerations for iterative physical prototyping, sustainability, and accessibility.

Makerspace prototyping tools, though useful for iteratively exploring and tinkering, are also known for producing large amounts of waste. This is compounded in the field of e-textiles, which produces waste through both short textile lifecycles (such as fast fashion) and consumable electronic hardware components. In response, researchers in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) were increasingly exploring and emphasising the importance of sustainable use of materials and how this waste can be repurposed. Sustainable interaction design explores how we can design with sustainability in mind from the beginning by considering what we will do with an object when it is no longer needed.

Lee Jones (2021) TEXTILE TALK: Crafting with Technology, presented by Surface Design Association

One way to do this is to design objects so that their materials can be easily reused to make new things, as is the case with constructive assemblies. Constructive assemblies are tangible user interfaces made of modular components that can be put together, taken apart, and reassembled. This ability to try out concepts and reuse components in a hands-on way makes constructive assemblies particularly useful for education and rapid prototyping. Most constructive assemblies are inspired by tangible blocks and connect through reusable components. In contrast, e-textile constructive assemblies, called e-textile toolkits in the research, have a tension between the ability to reuse components and the ability for creative expression. More creative and expressive toolkits use sewn conductive threads and produce waste through the use of consumable materials, whereas block-inspired toolkits with reusable components allow individuals to try out concepts and take them apart but are less expressive.

Through research there was the aim to address this tension between expressivity and reuse in e-textile toolkits by proposing Punch-Sketching e-textiles, a punch-needle toolkit that enables individuals to reuse e-textile threads. The motivation for this research project was based on the first-author’s experience as an e-textile educator running workshops with beginners, including instructing over 100 participants last year. The focus of the research was to investigate how would Punch-Sketching affect the process and experience of prototyping e-textiles compared to sewing e-textiles with a sewing needle? What are the impacts and benefits of the Punch-Sketching in terms of the reuse of materials, sustainability, accessibility, and inclusive design?

Lee Jones (2021) TEXTILE TALK: Crafting with Technology, presented by Surface Design Association

Although the position of the Punch-Sketching e-textiles technique in the creation of functional circuitry was central, there also lies the potential to bridge the gap between function and aesthetics. The functionality of the sewn line might also serve a dual purpose to be both circuitry and representational – the art being of and in itself the link. Stitching as a notion also means to bring things together and bind them, and makerspaces bring people together in mutual interests, and educate. The sketching technique is one method of creating e-textile prototypes, but its nature means that it may have possibilities to extend the reach of workshops and educational spaces by making and learning in easier ways. The ability to adapt existing analogue tools to be part of the creation of physical, digital prototypes and artworks means that traditional crafting techniques will persist and have a life in the on-going digital world. In this way, this technique is as much part of preserving heritage as striving for innovation.

Between systems and grounds, ongoing since 2016. Olivia Valentine & Paula Matthusen

Project Website at https://betweensystemsandgrounds.com/

Olivia Valentine is an interdisciplinary visual artist working in textile construction, installation, drawing, and photography, and in collaborations with composers, architects, and designers. She is the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship for Installation Art in Turkey (2012-13), The Founding President’s Award from the Textile Society of America (2014), and the Brandford/Elliott Award for Excellence in Fibre Arts (2012). Olivia received her MFA from the School of the Arts Institute of Chicago and her BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design.

Olivia Valentine (2021) TEXTILE TALK: Crafting with Technology, presented by Surface Design Association

Between systems and grounds is an ongoing collaboration between composer Paula Matthusen and visual artist Olivia Valentine, drawing on a mutually developed practice combining textile construction and electronics in real-time. The project began in 2016, with a live performance in Budapest. The system has since evolved through residencies at The Hambidge Centre and ACRE, where the durational aspects of the system were developed, as well as its embrace of site-specificity. The project grows with each iteration and performance, integrating field recordings, radio signals, feedback, and a system of cues that all contribute to the slowly growing textile. The textile lives and grows in handmade foamcore furniture, that acts as a work surface, sculpture, and music box that slowly plays back accumulated recordings triggered by the textile. As the project continues, all of the systems will continue to grow and change in response. https://betweensystemsandgrounds.com/about

Olivia Valentine (2021) TEXTILE TALK: Crafting with Technology, presented by Surface Design Association
Olivia Valentine (2021) TEXTILE TALK: Crafting with Technology, presented by Surface Design Association
Olivia Valentine (2021) TEXTILE TALK: Crafting with Technology, presented by Surface Design Association https://betweensystemsandgrounds.com/
Olivia Valentine (2021) TEXTILE TALK: Crafting with Technology, presented by Surface Design Association
Olivia Valentine (2021) TEXTILE TALK: Crafting with Technology, presented by Surface Design Association
Olivia Valentine (2021) TEXTILE TALK: Crafting with Technology, presented by Surface Design Association
Olivia Valentine (2021) TEXTILE TALK: Crafting with Technology, presented by Surface Design Association
Olivia Valentine (2021) TEXTILE TALK: Crafting with Technology, presented by Surface Design Association
Sheboygan, WI, 2019 Between systems and grounds, ongoing since 2016 in collaboration with Paula Matthusen Project Website at https://betweensystemsandgrounds.com/

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