TechStyles on display at Western Gallery
By Alexis Edgar
The unveiling of Coded Threads, an art exhibition featuring the integration of textiles and technology, was launched Thursday by art professors Seiko Purdue and Barbara Layne.
The objective for the exhibit is to highlight the creative techniques artists and designers implement, incorporating science and technology with textile design.
The exhibit was long-awaited by curator, Purdue. The professor of Fibers and Fabrics, in the art department at Western, spent a significant amount of time researching and collecting artists willing to participate.
“I worked on this exhibition for a long time, more than two years,” Purdue explained.
While conducting her research, Purdue contacted an innovator in textile design, professor Barbara Layne of the Milieux Institute for Arts, Culture and Technology at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec. Layne agreed to participate in the exhibit and spoke at its launch on Sept. 28.
Layne united the art and engineering departments at the Milieux Institute to create fabrics that host circuits and LED lights. These special textile features are controlled by control pads interweaved into the clothing design that transmit messages to the LED displays. The displays can then show whatever was drawn onto the clothing via the LED lights.
An example shown during the presentation was of the letter “c” being drawn onto the control pad in the garment with the wearer’s fingertip. The light display showed the letter “c” as drawn. Scrolling images of a dog chasing a ball, messages, and chevron zigzag designs have also been featured in the garment demonstrations.
Madelaine Stubblefield, a senior art history major, assisted in the creation of the catalog for the event. Stubblefield had not previously heard of the innovative approach to unifying art and technology, prior to assisting in writing the catalog, but agreed the concept sparked interest.
“I hadn’t heard of it before, so that in itself was intriguing. I don’t know. It’s different. It’s really cool cause you can do all of these different creative things,” Stubblefield said.
Layne employs coding specialists that create the programs for these designs, while the art students hand-weave the fabric on computer-assisted looms. Together, Layne and her research assistants worked to explore the boundaries of technology in fabric design.
Junior Max Seuberlich initially came to the exhibit’s launch for his art studio major but left with a deeper appreciation for the art.
“I find it to be a very fascinating mix…It was interesting to see how you actually have to know how to make fabrics and mix it in with electronics because I never really thought about that,” said Seuberlich.
Layne has since began working on tweaking her initial designs to challenge and provoke deeper curiosity among the textile and technology industries.
“Our next project was to stop with the garments and start making interactive environments,” Layne said.
Layne continued to explain that they are currently working to improve their designs that respond to mirrors which can display messages based on the proximity of the audience.
Although the concept of integrating technology and textile was foreign for some students, others were well aware of the growing presence of the innovation. Senior Molly Rayl, a former student of Professor Purdue’s, heard about this concept beforehand while in Purdue’s textiles class.
“I’ve seen fragments of it before, so it wasn’t super new to me, but some of the stuff Seiko had been showing us previously in classes had introduced me to some of it. It is pretty cool seeing a lot of the stuff here,” Rayl said.
The exhibit will be available for viewing in the Western Gallery until Dec. 8, during normal gallery hours. Other artists featured are: Lia Cook, Linda Hutchins, Robin Kang, Sheila Klein, Lauren Osmond, Maggie Orth, Devorah Sperber, Reiko Sudo, Laura Thapthimkuna, Suzi Webster, Carol D. Westfall, Anne Wilson and Margo Wolowiec.