Textiles encompass aspects of design, art, craft and technology indicating that textile practitioners, in this context those who design and make textiles, possess ‘both a personal and collective tacit understanding of a specific blend of knowledge’ (Igoe 2010).
Until recently this knowledge or way of thinking – ‘textile thinking’ – has remained largely unarticulated. However such thinking has the capacity to originate new materials and material systems, as well as to express and enhance the potential sensory pleasure of existing materials (Igoe 2012 and Spuybroek 2005). The unique intelligence of textile thinking and the material culture it informs is often overlooked due to the tacit nature of the knowledge involved, which is often stored in the hands of the practitioner or embodied in the resulting textile artifacts.
The Textile Thinking for Sustainable Materials (TTSM) project investigates ways in which ‘textile thinking’ might inform the development of new sustainable materials for design-led functions, alternative use of materials technologies in design, and novel application of existing sustainable materials within design contexts. The project focuses on exploring textiles, encompassing textile materials, processes and modes of conceptualisation, as a site for interdisciplinary innovation in relation to sustainable design. The TTSM project is supported by Loughborough University’s Bridging the Gaps scheme, which is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council UK (EPSRC). To date, the project has brought together textile designers and materials scientists with input from product designers, chemists and engineers to establish a number of creative dialogues via an interactive networking event that was held at Loughborough University in May 2012.
In summary the project aims to articulate, explore and apply the notion of ‘textile thinking’ within the area of sustainable materials design. The objectives of the project are to:
- establish a number of creative dialogues through forming of a new network within which to explore: the development of new sustainable materials for design-led functions; alternative use of materials technologies towards design; and new applications of existing sustainable materials within design contexts;
- capture and present emerging dialogues and concepts to create platforms for new research pathways; and
- consider the application of ‘textile thinking’ within sustainable materials design as a means of advancing knowledge within this field.
The project draws on the pervasive nature of textiles to consider the possibilities of materials from: process perspectives, drawing on traditional textile production methods; aesthetic perspectives; and functional perspectives, drawing on perceptions of use. It was hoped that a multi-disciplinary approach would surpass that which could be achieved through artistic or scientific approaches used in isolation.
Through the event activities we aimed to capture and present emerging dialogues and concepts within these areas to create platforms for new research pathways. In doing so, to begin to consider the application of ‘textile thinking’ within sustainable materials design. Ultimately, to establish new multi-disciplinary and collaborative research projects.
Igoe. E., 2010. The Tacit Turn. DUCK Journal for Research in Textiles and Textile Design, Volume 1. Loughborough University http://www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/sota/research/Duck_NEW_2010/volume1.htm, Nov 2011.
Spuybroek, L. 2005. The Structure of Vagueness. Textile: the Journal of Cloth and Culture, 3(1), pp.6-19.