Being the chronic wanderer that I am, I have come across a few wonderfully original and inquisitive projects which made me ponder over the directions the contemporary designers tend to follow. I have already told you a few words about craft, probably the most used word in the design community in the last year. But, judging by the array of projects seen at various design weeks I attended, craft seems to be no longer enough. The cherry on the design scene now is mixing innovations of digital technology with craft techniques.
Nadja-Anne Rickets is the founder of Beatwoven, a project I came upon at Salone del Mobile in Milan in 2013. She weaves musical beats into complex textile patterns. Travelling the globe as a professional dancer made her realize the omnipresence and importance of music as a universal language. Afterwards, the idea of visualizing music as graphic patterns came quite naturally while studying textile design at Central Saint Martins, since she was already acquainted with this synesthetic type of experience.
Although the project started in 2008, the brand itself was properly launched during London Design Festival in September 2015, all this time being spent on research and development of concept, product, software and legal issues. The project escalated and she began collaborating with music producers in order to design software that “granulates” sound into pixelated patterns. Then the newly developed patterns are used to create incredibly beautiful silk textiles, with a design reminiscent of sound waves. Rickets says one of the biggest challenge she had to confront was related to music right legalities, a process that stretched over two years. But from a design lover point of view, it seems it`s been well worth the effort. The textiles were a huge success, her best seller being the visual translation of the famous Beatles song, Lucy in the sky with diamonds. Her next collection will be focusing on jazz music and might include visual translations of pieces by the likes of Dizzie Gillespie, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and Dave Brubeck. Jazz and design lovers, unite!
Another project that dazzled me and, from what I have noticed, stirred a lot of discussions, was Constructing Connectivity, which brings to the public`s attention an interesting humanist approach to textile making. Jessica Smarsch, the initiator of the project, held a thought-provoking presentation last year in Eindhoven, during Dutch Design Week and I happened to be one of the lucky attendants.
“Rather than return to craft through handiwork, I wanted to explore ways to reintegrate mind-body connectivity into our incredibly sophisticated, industrially mechanised processes”
Jessica Smarsch for Dezeen
Smarsch, who translates muscle movements into textured garments, said the project is an attempt to reconsider the production process by developing a system based on genuine demand, rather than “mindless consumption”. Another aspect she seemed to be preoccupied with was the re-introduction of craftsmanship, as seen with the eyes of a designer who is up to date with the struggles and issues of the contemporary society. She lamented the extinction of the meditative side of the textile production process, which used to involve conscious decision-making and a sort of creative engagement. All these were lost in the industrial process, causing a disconnection between the creator and the consumer. To create the relief patterns for her collection, Smarsch recorded the participants` movements through an attached wireless armband which relayed the data through an Arduino circuit board. Then, through a specially created software, the movements were visualized as a series of graphic patterns. After being perfected, the patterns could be downloaded as a set of instructions for a loom. Smarsch confessed that the whole process posed numerous technical challenges but in the end, she was happy that she managed to reiterate the mind-body connectivity through rhythm and repetition, two elements that play a key role both in music and textile making.