Research point 1.3

This research point requires me to research 3 practitioners noted in the course materials and 3 of my own choosing with regards to new developments or processes within the textile industry.

I have been researching 3 differing exercises/research points simultaneously due to unexpected personal circumstances and this has thrown up great variation in lines of enquiries or unexpected results due to using a variety of combinations of words in search engines that may or may not have been related to each exercise/point.   I made a conscious decision to research firstly the 3 practitioners of my own choosing as often I have felt constricted by those mentioned in the course material in that there is already information as starting points whereby researching effectively blindly can create further unexpected finds that I may not have considered otherwise.

Hunter Douglas is a multinational Dutch company who are known primarily for making window blinds or coverings but also architectural products.  In 2018 this company received 3 major industry awards for the development of the world’s very first sun screen fabric made from ocean plastic waste – GreenScreen Sea-Tex (Trademarked – TM).  The GreenScreen Sea-Tex (TM) yarns are directly made from plastic waste collected by an international group who organise and manage clean up events for beaches around the world – Waterkeeper Alliance.  The yarn consists of almost 100% of this plastic waste which is one of the worlds most urgent environmental concerns due to the sheer volume that is in our oceans around the world.

Research tells me that the resulting fabric has been awarded the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 label as well as GREENGUARD protection – the former is an industry independent organisation that is concerned with consistent testing of all textile products from their raw states to finished products during processing and the latter concentrates on protecting human health due to the products having low chemical emissions and consequentially the air in the environment in which the products are used is improved.  Both of these certifications demonstrates that this is a company who is committed to both sustainable and responsible manufacturing methods.

What is of great interest is that this particular fabric helps both human health and the health of our oceans – sun screen fabric for whether domestic or commercial buildings has been desperately needed for many years but instead of just developing this using new man-made or natural materials the company is recycling plastic waste and thereby contributing to reducing it within our seas – it may be a small step when seen individually but it could also inspire other companies to look to manufacturer further innovative, sustainable and obviously environmentally friendly recycled plastic fabrics.

Issey Miyake. Spring Summer 2015. 3D Stretch Seam

Issey Miyake is a fashion house I am aware of but have not really researched or looked at in any detail but it seems this designer’s work has been very much technology-driven  for many years and includes explorations into pleating and folding techniques including the origami of his homeland.  In recent years he has developed a Three Dimensional Stretch Seam fabric which contracts into rigid structures when exposed to steam.  The resulting fabrics have been extensively tested, as you would expect, as the garments need to be able to withstand the wear and cleaning of every day normal life.

Research into this technique tells me that computer software is used to calculate the composition of the polyester or cotton weaves which will then react to the steam with paper prototypes being made to test the concepts before the fabric is actually woven.  The resulting garments designed by Yoshiyuki Miyamae for the Spring Summer 2015 collection are highly textural and fluid but with an organic fresh vibe.

I have discovered a concept video for the stretch seam concept which can be seen below:

My research revealed that this is a technology that has the potential to be used within other industries such as architecture, interior design or I question whether even the automotive industry – the concept and fabric could have a potential range of product uses over many sectors and no doubt further developmental possibilities.

From a study point of view I confess I would seriously love to get my hands on this fabric as I am interested or intrigued by fabric manipulation but attempts at fabric origami using an iron and spray starch or medium/firm vilene have been almost total disasters!  This for me is  one of the most exciting fabric developments within the fashion industry due to the almost incalculable variations in which it could be used but the fact that this technology could be considered within other sectors is also incredibly interesting and something to watch or to research again at later date.

When looking for a third practitioner I initially wanted to fall back on a favourite textile designer whose work involves developing and creating light emitting fabrics which are then used to create interactive 3 dimensional sculptures – Malin Bobeck.   However I have studied her work in previous modules and hence wanted to find an alternative designer whose work also involves optical fibres and came across the work of Sarah Taylor who as it turned out is also one of the practitioners mentioned in the course material (I purposefully avoided focused reading beforehand).

Sarah Taylor. Light emitting woven fabric

Ms Taylor’s specialism has been in light-emitting woven textiles and through a residency at Heriot-Watt University she was able to collaborate with a Danish designer by the name of Tom Rossau.  This collaboration led to the development of fibre optic paper yarn.   The woven fabric was developed with the intention of being used to create bulb-less lampshade prototypes and was just a part of ongoing research and development body of work that seeks to exploit optical fibre technology – the aim is ultimately to create light-emitting textiles which could again be used in a variety of sectors.

It would be easy to draw comparisons between Ms Taylor’s work and that of Malin Bobek but my research leans towards being indicative of Ms Taylor’s focus being working more towards potential product uses as opposed to the art or sculptural focus of Ms Bobeck.  However, I have no doubt of the potential uses of fibre optic woven fabrics in a huge variety of differing products for use within a wide range of sectors particularly if combined with other e-textile innovations – as an example the fashion designer Hussein Chalayan who I have researched in Research Point 1.4 has been at the forefront of the exploration of using light  or digital technology in his collections.

Fibre optic fabrics are still very much in their infancy in terms of the of years that they have been around and it will be interesting to see how they are developed in terms of processes, products and in which sectors over the coming years. If or when my personal practice financially allows  the use of fibre optics it is something that I would like to explore and integrate into my work in the future but currently in terms of study purposes it is something to remain purely for research or personal interest purposes due to financial constrictions.

Rachel Goldie. Thermochronic fabric. 2015

Continuing with the practitioners suggested in the course material the work of Rachel Louise Goldie really struck me due to her investigations into how we can create “effective representations of identity” (Arts Thread s.d.).  Ms Goldie is a textile designer who has embraced working with both sustainable and smart textiles throughout her studies through this research into self expression and this has resulted in the development of heat reactive textile designs (‘thermochronic’ fabrics).

I found it immensely difficult to discover more information on Ms Goldie, since around 2014, in order to further the information in the course material and this has proved incredibly frustrating. What I have discovered is her research or discovery of the connections between varying emotional states and how our bodies react in differing areas – this discovery creates a potential to make further innovative fabrics and designs which are emotionally sensitive and in turn this will again create further possibilities for personal self-expression or how we choose to represent ourselves to the outside world.

Researching on Pinterest for evidence or new leads of Ms Goldie’s work into this innovative fabric I discovered a link to a Hungarian designer by the name of Judit Eszter Kapati who has developed  a fabric, in collaboration with Estaban de la Torre (forming the studio EJTech), of a similar nature to Ms Goldie but which reacts to environmental changes instead.

Judit Eszter Karpati & Estaban de la Torre. Chromosonic fabric. 2014

Ms Karpati’s work consists of fashion and interactive textiles using experimental surface design and crossing boundaries with engineering and programming due to the inclusion of a variety of electrical devices.  Ms Karpati herself states in 2014 that her focus is on… “dynamically changing surfaces, structures, integrating interactive technologies into textiles.  In my works I’m looking for new ways of interaction between human and textile”.  Through the above mentioned collaboration with Estaban de la Torre they developed a ‘soft sound practice’  that worked to explore and combine sound with textiles in order to create multi-sensory experiences for a wearer or spectator.

As with Ms Goldie’s work I have discovered the following video which demonstrates the concept and how the fabric actually works:

The actual textiles themselves include a microcontroller (arduino), printed circuit boards (PCBs), power supplies and the nichrome wires which are woven directly into the fabric which is then printed with thermochromatic dyes.  Patterns on the fabrics are created either through sound files or by the heat created by environmental changes or the pressure of human touch and as a result there is a blurring of the boundaries of digital art and textile art which to me brings me  back to a question asked much earlier in my studies which concerns whether something is craft or art but in this case this must encompass design too.  The actual chromosonic fabrics, which can be seen in this video,  invite spectators to interact and consider the changing patterns with the textile having huge potential to create interactive wearable garments that, as with Ms Goldie’s thermochromatic fabrics, can become expressions of personal identity.

What I do find of interest is the collaborations that will inevitably result between textile designers and electronic experts from differing sectors as both of these types of fabric develop further and eventually potentially reach not just the fashion sector but others too such as the automotive or interior sectors.

The final practitioner mentioned in the course material is Frances Geesin whose work primarily involves thermoplastic fabrics and fibres which are primarily sourced from industry – these fabrics or fibres usually have conductive properties and are often upcycled textiles which reduces the environmental impact including that of landfill.

I confess to not knowing much about thermoplastic fabrics or fibres and had to look up the definition in order to understand that they are primarily synthetic fibres that become pliable when heated to certain temperatures and then become solid again when cool – the process can be repeated many times and this therefore creates innumerable possibilities for use.

Frances Geesin. Body Forms. 2011

Francis Geesin combines these thermoplastics with electroplating in order to explore a variety of concepts or metaphors some of which include issues or narratives she wants to address.  This textile artist often works in collaborations with people from industries such as science, Nanotechnology or engineering in order to create new opportunities for creativity and explore unexpected concepts – as I discovered in the simultaneously researched  Research point 1.4 this combining of differing sectors to work on investigative projects can produce unexpected innovative designs or outcomes.  Frances Geesin herself  states that ‘by adapting industrial material and processes we can enrich our visual and tactile world’ (Geesin, 2019) and this is something that is of great interest to me as I am considering exploring the use of Tyvek within this assignment (Exercise 1.5).

The course material suggests including any ideas I may have in relation to my own making in both written and drawn form within this research point but I feel the drawing aspect may be more prudently used within Exercise 1.5 as I reflect back on these practitioners and explore any aspects of their work that I may be able to use or be influenced by.  However, as I reflect on this point as a whole I realised that I have found the subject of new textiles incredibly absorbing and of huge interest – I had felt my focus was biased towards more traditional materials but now I find myself being intrigued by new and future ones or at least those which are financially viable at this time.

The textile industry as a whole is developing through both individual research and collaborations high-tech fibres and fabrics that are used across a vast range of sectors including as the course material states, from aerospace projects to architectural to clothing which comfort newborn babies or products within our own homes – this development can only increase and diversify yet further as technology and research advances at the fast pace of our modern societies.

As an end note I have realised I have come across thermoplastics on a personal level – radiotherapy masks for head and neck cancers it seems are made of this material and hence I understand one of its medical uses which for me furthers my understanding of this particular material.

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