– Priyanka Gaitonde “Nano Cookbook” –
This series of interviews is based the Test_Lab “Clothing without Cloth” which took place at V2_ Institute for the Unstable Media in Rotterdam, May 2011 and featured: Emily Crane (UK), Carole Collet (UK), Christien Meinderstsma (NL), Grado Zero Espace (IT), Pauline van Dongen (NL) and Freedom Of Creation (NL).
Carole Collet is Course Director MA Textile Futures, Reader and Deputy Director Textile Futures Research Centre at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, University of the Arts in London, England. She has been a visionary in the field of future forward textiles and creates cutting edge research which tests the limits of what we may soon experience as everyday pliable material substrates. With a keen eye for science, speculative design, innovation and environmental engagement Carole took us through some of the design research presently being developed at Textiles Futures for the Test_Lab “Clothing without Cloth”.
What is your background?
I am originally trained as a textile designer but I also studied economics and fine art. I grew up in a village in Burgundy and spent my time between a flower shop and a greenhouse where my parents worked the idea of ‘growing things’ which still has a great influence on my work today.
I chose textiles because of its inherent capability to tell people stories, and to materialize cultures.
What led to your interest in textiles?
Actually I was interested in textiles, products, architecture and photography. In the end I chose textiles because of its inherent capability to tell people stories, and to materialize cultures. I think of myself as a creative explorer and an ecologist, more than a textile designer.
You are Course Director MA Textile Futures, Reader and Deputy Director Textile Futures Research Centre, Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. Tell us what is unique about the programme.
We hope to nurture imaginative, resourceful designers who have the potential to shift existing design boundaries and re-shape how we live. The course ethos is to approach textile design as a form of industrial design but with a focus on the language and codes inherent to textiles. By exploring key contextual questions to interrogate, critique and propose new design concepts, we invite our designers to engage fully with the challenges of designing for the 21st century. Our curriculum is based around an evolving set of research questions based on five key themes: Smart, Invisible, Sustainable, Ethical and Poetic.
Please describe the studios at Textile Futures – where are you located, how many designers/technologists work with you, and how are the textiles developed?
We are just about to move to a brand new campus and the Textile Futures studio will be a hub to discuss and develop ideas. We integrate academic, commercial and industrial experience into the course curriculum to provide a dynamic and professional learning environment. A two year programme, we combine short and long projects in the first year, all driven by research and innovative approaches to textiles. In the second year, students frame their own research questions to develop their final Master Project.
The core team is made up of Course Director Carole Collet, Senior Lecturer and Course Coordinator Kate Goldsworthy and Senior Lecturer and First Year Tutor Caroline Till. Philippa Wagner and Ruiari Glynn are key members of our extended team, along with a dynamic and ever-changing list of visiting lecturers from all round the world.
Sometimes risking to fail a project is a more valid in-depth experience that playing safe to get it right.
How does the environment at Textile Futures influence what the students design and make (i.e. access to technology/ specialists)?
We are rather unusual in our approach and we spend the first few months helping our students to “unlearn” conventions and to introduce a sense of being on a quest, a thirst for experimental work and risk taking. Sometimes risking to fail a project is a more valid in-depth experience that playing safe to get it right. So we try and instill a sense of adventure and play by introducing students to experimental design work. We start by taking our students camping in October in the UK. Students are given a limited range of materials and they have to build their tents and survive the night. That’s one way to learn about the consequences of bad design, if they don’t engineer the tent correctly, they won’t sleep very much. I suppose in the end you could say we are very “hands-on”, we don’t teach by preaching theory, but by curating experiences and deep learning models.
Can you describe some of the textiles research you are personally involved in such as 3D lace and those related to food cultures?
I am currently working on several projects:
“Design for Future Climate: Adapting Building” is looking at harnessing nanotechnology to combat climate change – using a multi-disciplinary approach to design effective adaptation solutions for the built environment”.
This project is funded by the Technology Strategy Board and is using our new home at Kings Cross as a case study for adaptation. According to CIBSE weather prediction, we could see a rise of up to 9C by 2080 in London. Hotter summers will have a dramatic impact on our built environment and we are exploring how a design-science iterative methodology can lead to new proposals to adapt our building to cope with high temperature and preserve a level of comfort. The project will be completed in September 2011 and poses the following questions:
– How can we use nanotechnology to block infra red heat but enhance visible daylight quality?
– How can nanotechnology increase the thermal mass capacity of the building?
– What will be the consequences of hotter summers in terms of culture change, user behaviour and learning environment?
– “Design for Future Climate: Adapting Building”
The team consists of: Paul Williams, Richard Wardle, Patrick Bellew, Meredith Davey, Sanam Ghaffari, Emiliano Bilotti, Carole Collet and Monica Hundal with contribution from a selection of our MA Textile Futures and MA Industrial Design students to produce the design work: Francisco Perez Alcantara, Nan Liu, Natsai Audrey Chieza, Ann-Kristin Abel, Marie Bachoc.
“The Resilients” project by the European Culture Programme is a collaborative project led by FoAm, with partners: Nadine, Project Atol, Time’s Up, Performing Pictures and Central Saint Martins College.
As part of “The Resilients” project team, I will coordinate the “The Edible Craft” case study in collaboration with FoAm, Bart Vandeput and the MA Textile Futures Course at CSM. The design team will explore the table landscape as a medium to communicate principles of resilience and interdependency. The design components will include food, textiles, tableware & dye sensitized solar cells, all produced with locally sourced ingredients.
The project has 2 complementary goals:
– to explore how food generates both calorifc (Joules) & electrical energy (Watts) & how this parallel can be taken into account when evaluating ecosystems.
– to learn from traditional crafts, biology, biomimicry & food science to design environmentally resilient cultural experiences.
– “The Resilients”
The starting point are plants with properties suitable for making food, textiles & solar cells (e.g berries). Local ethno-culinary traditions, biological & ecological context of the chosen plant is studied and a scenario for an “edible” dining environment is designed. The experiment should be transferrable to different localities in Europe. The project starts in June 2011 and will last for 2 years. “Bio Lace: An Exploration of the Potential of Synthetic Biology for Future Textiles”
I am currently developing a speculative design-led research project that investigates the intersection of synthetic biology and textile design to propose future fabrication processes for textile products and textile architecture. The project is designed to probe the potential of a biological manufacturing future by exploring the cellular programming of morphogenesis in plant systems. “Bio Lace” aims at translating synthetic biology into accessible design scenarios to expose and understand the societal implications of new emerging living technologies derived from scientific research. The “Bio Lace” project poses the following questions:
Can synthetic biology become a potential sustainable technology for future textile manufacturing? Can we programme and code cellular growth in plants so as to embed morphology into material systems? Will crafting molecules become a new way to produce textiles?
What kinds of materials and technologies are used or integrated into your designs?
That depends on the nature of the project, each of my projects tends to be conceptually led, and the materials and technologies chosen according to the research question.
How much do the materials and technologies used in the designs influence the aesthetics? Or do the aesthetics dictate the technologies and materials, and how?
This is very much an iterative process between the intention of the project, the materials’ inherent characteristics and the chosen technologies.
What are the challenges for you as a designer working with innovative materials and technology?
Sometimes the challenge is cost and the time it takes to source the funding, sometimes it is simply that I am referring to technologies which do not exist yet. Then I have to develop a tool kit to communicate potential design products of the future.
It’s the creative interaction between the hand, the technology and the concept that matters to me.
What do you think the technology brings to the craft and role of textile design?
Anything from knitting needles to laser cutter or an arduino board is a technology. Again, it is the creative interaction between the hand, the technology and the concept that matters to me.
Sustainability is an important issue for all material innovations, how is Textiles Futures addressing this issue?
Sustainability is core to our curriculum and we approach it at different levels, from short term solutions to much more long term issues. Students are actually assessed on how they locate their projects within a sustainable future.
How do you see the research from Textiles Futures impacting on major industrial textiles production in countries such as India and other third (or second) world countries?
A lot of our students come from these countries and return there to try and implement what they have learnt with us. For instance this year we have a few Chinese students who joined our course because they are concerned about the impact of their textile industry onto their environment and they are keen to learn how designers can challenge and influence their industries in terms of ecological thinking.
TEXTILE FUTURES SHOWCASE
Could you describe the student researchers’ works that you showcased at the V2_ Test_Lab “Clothing without Cloth” event and what is materially unique in each one?
Here is an abstract written by each designer:
The aim of the project is to visualise the Biological Atelier of the future, focusing on the potential of biotechnology to bring about new specialist craft skills and manufacturing processes for the production of luxury and bespoke biological textiles.
– A. Congdon
Amy Congdon: Biological Atelier: What role will textile design play in the creation of biological products of the future?
Biological Atelier is a critical design project that seeks to explore the relationship we have with our bodies and the fusion of our bodies with those of other species. The project looks to explore one of the most provocative collections of materials that have started to become available for manipulation. Looking at new production set ups and craft forms that bring biological materials into mainstream consumption, in turn creating new specialists with skills that draw from both the scientific and the design sectors.
In the field of biotechnology different textile techniques and structures are used because of their ability to mimic natural structures found within the human body. One particularly successful technique is digital embroidery, with completely embroidered fabrics having been used in medical implants for some time. Alongside these techniques, developments in 3D printing mean it is now possible to print with more than materials such as plastic, ceramics or food. This technology allows cells to be printed onto textile scaffolds creating living three-dimensional structures. Yet with all new technology there is invariably the question of what other things could it be used to create? Could this new technology facilitate the production of completely bespoke biological products and markets for the future?
The aim of the project is to visualise the Biological Atelier of the future, focusing on the potential of biotechnology to bring about new specialist craft skills and manufacturing processes for the production of luxury and bespoke biological textiles. Through designing and envisioning these new materials, as well as producing the embroidery scaffolds onto which cell lines could be grown, the project will look at a new role for embroidery and textile design in our biological future.
I am really driven by exploring some of the ethical arguments: like the commodification of the human body in a future scenario where new bio-economies emerge and render our bodies as future farms.
– N. A. Chieza
Natsai Audrey Chieza: Design Fictions: Posthumanity in the age of synthetics: How can the textile discipline critically engage the public with emerging biotechnologies and the life sciences?
An earlier project of mine entitled “Connections in Faraday” explored themes of haptic communication through semi-living keepsakes. “Design Fictions”, my current project, is a continuation of this project and has been inspired by the realization that, while biotechnology and the life sciences will have a profound impact on design and manufacture, the pivotal role of the designer will therefore be to make sense of the ethical, political, economic and perhaps evolutionary ramifications of how we appropriate life. I am really driven by exploring some of the ethical arguments: like the commodification of the human body in a future scenario where new bio-economies emerge and render our bodies as future farms. What would the body look like, and in turn what might society look like? Visualising these future based scenarios is at the heart of what I do, and I am looking to push my material vocabulary to express some of the fascinating ideas my research has led me to.
The project is an attempt to engage the public with human bio-futures through critical design. Here, design is a tool to make conceptual future narratives (based in 2050/75) come alive as a provocation for debate. Design is also a means to desensitize public perception over life sciences and how they will sit in tandem with their own lives. Finally, the projects aims to show how design as well as art, literature, language and philosophy all have a stake in the shaping of society as we enter the biotechnological revolution.
The Digicrafted Series uses traditional textiles craft techniques to introduce a new visual language that challenges the digital aesthetic of current RM surfaces.
– L. Martinez
Rapid Manufacturing (RM) technologies are revolutionising traditional manufacturing since they allow for the creation of complex shapes that would be impractical or impossible to produce with traditional manufacturing processes. Consequently most of the work being done with RM techniques is inspired by these new structural possibilities, resulting in a uniform aesthetic.
The aim of this project is to explore the yet undefined space where traditional textiles and RM technologies are combined; using traditional textiles craft techniques to introduce a new visual language that challenges the digital aesthetic of current RM surfaces. RM technologies for textiles still need to develop and overcome current limitations, but until these technologies are fully refined, traditional textile design will help define a new visual language for future RM textiles.
With advances in nanoscale self-assembly it would be possible to materialize our very thoughts and infuse them with a technological soul.
– P. Gaitonde
Priyanka Gaitonde: Nano Fiction
Nanotechnology with its ability to transform and control matter at the atomic scale appears to be one such discovery of science. It is a synthesis of biology, robotics, electronics, information technology and psychology that affects almost every area of human activity like medicine, food, clothing, defence, national security, environmental clean-up, energy generation, electronics, computing and construction, creating millions of complex possibilities.
With advances in nanoscale self-assembly it would be possible to materialize our very thoughts and infuse them with a technological soul. Fleeting emotions transformed into matter changing from one form to another, manifestations of peoples real or perceived needs. Our control over invisible nano-scale elements would lead to exponential changes in the final product which would in turn create a whole new ecosystem. “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke, “Profiles of The Future”, 1961 (Clarke’s third law). Through this science communication project my aim is to critically explore and generate an interest in this emerging technology. Food is something indispensable that everybody connects with and something that we depend on for our very survival. It is extremely intimate because that is what makes us.
Therefore I am using food as a metaphor to communicate my nano-fictions. By keeping links to real research and projecting it as applications of the future I am also trying to inform about the science behind it, finding a synthesis between science and magic by both demystifying and fantasizing.
You’ve mentioned your students lecturing to Microsoft and other important technology innovators – what role does some of the speculative textile design coming out of Textile Futures play in the advancements of main-stream technology?
Students did not lecture to Microsoft but worked on a project with Microsoft last year. The winners presented their work in Seattle at the Microsoft Design Expo in July 2010.
Why is it so important to foster the discipline of innovative textiles in mainstream industries today?
Our industry is one of the most polluting, so there is a lot to do to inspire new practices and to inspire change.
What kinds of material textile innovations are we going to see in the future?
I believe the next big step is when biology and nanotechnology will collide and start to create truly intelligent living systems and materials.
V2_ TEST_LAB “CLOTHING WITHOUT CLOTH”
You were an external MA supervisor of Emily Crane “Micro-Nutrient Couture” and there seem to be a lot of speculative foods-based textiles research coming from England. Is it because of the historical role the UK has played in textiles? Or is this kind of hybrid textiles approach happening elsewhere?
Creative food has reached popular culture in the UK, and there are numerous TV shows and media coverage for “foodies”. So I think it naturally impacts on the creative industry. Personally, I am interested in food as a design material in relation to its geo-political implications in terms of sustainable futures.
Christien Meindertsma in her “One Sheep Sweater” is using local “textiles” – what are the local natural resources in the UK that we will see further being harnessed? Is Textiles Futures collaborating with sourcing materials from UK farms, for example?
We are very keen to work with UK and European textile mills. Some of our students work directly with local manufacturers for their final Masters Projects. We also had students directly working with women cooperatives in Pakistan and Nigeria to help local textiles there to reach a more mainstream market place.
Grado Zero Espace excels in finding a form and use for scientific research. How do you perceive the overlaps between industry and science and how can they be consolidated for better design purposes?
I think that type of R&D is crucial for the future of the design industry, and not just in the textile sector.
How do you envision using 3D printing technologies such as those used by Pauline van Dongen with Freedom Of Creation and what it might bring to the forms and materials you are working with?
I am very keen to explore further the idea of 3D printed paper and other ephemeral biodegradable materials such as food.
London, June 2011