PDF Report: Applique Documentation
Appliqué was created with three goals in mind: engaging people with textiles, seamlessly intersecting textiles with electronics, and exploring relational connections visually and tactilely. Textiles are a hands-on medium that engages people in all kinds of textures and colors. Through that, I wanted to bring a tactile element to art and have the viewers experiencing art through touch as well as sight. I set out to do this by understanding what makes fabrics interesting and learning why people wanted to touch certain ones. With that information, I could make informed decisions based on what people like to interact with. Expanding on that goal, I incorporated electronics to give room for more interaction and put two opposite things together. Hiding electronics can make for an engaging piece because there is a mystery in how they are working. That is an effect I wanted to have in my project. As well as that, I think that it is interesting to put electronics inside textiles, it is a unique intersection that people don’t expect. Finally, Appliqué sought to explore the relational connections people form in a community. I wanted to evoke questions of how people were connected, and what connected them. These questions would be explored through the interaction and design of the project. The installation nature of Appliqué would create a space where people can experience something together and form a new connection. I focused on these goals to present a unique work where there can be interaction with technology and common fabrics to enhance a tactile experience and provoke deeper meaning.
The first place I drew inspiration from was tactile books. A group of students at CU has done extensive research and workshops on making books for the visually impaired. In studying their work, I learned about the importance of textures and using different mediums to engage people. This was the precedent that got me thinking about creating tactile art. It helped me to think about how to create something that is meant to be touched and how to make physically ingesting objects. Motivated by this, I conducted a survey on what type of fabrics people like to touch. From that I learned that people tend to gravitate towards smooth or soft fabrics, textures are important in choosing tactile things. Another thing I learned what that color also affected what fabrics people liked. Doing a little research on color theory, I found that and some emotions are tied to certain colors. For example, warm colors are linked to happy and joyful emotions, while cooler colors are correlated with feelings like relaxation and sadness. Considering that information I selected a smooth grey to be the base for all my patches and accented them with a bright yellow pattern. I didn’t want the color of the patches to distract from the tactile actions of placing them in the frame, but I also wanted a pop of joy and color.
The use of motors in my project was inspired by the use of motors in boxes by Zimoun. He takes DC motors and puts them in boxes or arranges them with pompoms to create visually interesting works that are constantly moving. I loved his simple yet effective use of these electronics. Looking at his work, I learned about the versatile use of motors and that they can create a different feel through subtle movements and give an engaging element to the pieces. This helped me to capitalize on the simplicity of motors in my project but create an enchanting interaction. Another work that informed my project was Fabio Antinori’s contour piece. This is a series of large fabric pieces, which hang in a museum. Sections are painted with a conductive material. The conductive sections are capacitive and when touched give off reactive sounds, bringing the textile to life. I loved the interactivity of this work and how it was displayed. It inspired me to pursue a hanging piece displayed as art that was meant to be touched. Finally, the aesthetic of Applique was inspired by geometric quilts and tapestries. I wanted to capture the look and feel of a classic quilt. The weight of quilts create a lovely texture and are comforting to handle, a feeling I wanted to express in the patches.
Within all these precedents that I drew upon, Applique falls under the area of art installations. It is created to hang on a wall and be shown in public, causing viewers to want to interact and to explore. It lives in an intersecting space of tactile interactive art and physical computing. While it can be touched and changed it still hangs static on the wall, shown as art.
Fabricated through sewing, soldering, and creative solutions, I built the installation over a few months. During the summer I worked in the Unstable Design lab and developed a plan for how to create a large textile piece with electronics embedded. Through prototyping and planning, I discovered that a modular design would be the most efficient way to incorporate electronics into a large textile piece. The design I employed to build this used twenty-four, square quilted patches that all fit into a thirty-six by twenty-four-inch frame. Each patch has a vibration motor that receives power from the frame. Planning out all the circuitry and wiring for the frame was one of the hardest parts. I needed half of the frame to be connected to ground and twenty-four individual sections connected to Arduino pins. While the circuit is very simple, the wiring ended up being pretty complicated. It is organized so that each patch will touch a ground section or pin section. The pin sections are connected in an opposite mirror image. This was because I did not have enough pins on the Arduino to control twenty-four sections, so I am controlling half. I then wired them through modular muse boards, made by Jiffer Harriman, which are MOSFETs, resistors, and capacitors circuits, designed to drive and power motors. These boards then wire out to ground and the Arduino pins (figure 2).
The frame is the part that powers and controls all the motors. First, it was designed so there were sections of hardware cloth with four Arduino pin sections, then a ground section then two rows of four pins then another ground and four pins (figure 3). However, this method failed in user testing, because people did not know where to put the patches for them to close the circuit and work. After that learning experience and upon a suggestion from my mentor, I modified the design. All the hardware cloth sections went into a canvas and I connected it through with wire and metal studs (figure 4). Through this, I was able to create sections with squares where the patches needed to be placed and it was much easier for people to get the patches working. It also hid more of the electronics and what was going on in the circuit. Inside the final version, there is hardware cloth cut into sections placed in the canvas. I then poked the metal studs through and bent and soldered them to the hardware cloth. Each section has a wire running to its respective pin or ground along the frame. The frame has two sources of power, a battery pack which powers the Arduino and a 9-volt wall plugin that powers the motors. All the wires and electronics are tucked up neatly into the frame for a sleek look, with only one cord coming off the project.
The patches were easier to plan and create. After picking my fabric and settling on a design to include electronics, I cut out and quilted all the front pieces. Before sewing them together I put the conductive tape and electronics onto the back pieces. I used small vibration motors which only need to be connected to power and ground to work. The polarity of the connection does not affect the function which made the interaction easier. This way the patches could go on any orientation. In each patch, I put the motor in the middle and wired each side to opposite corners. They were then taped to a piece of conductive tape that wrapped around to the outside of the patch. After the motor was in place I sewed the patches together and I put magnets in all four corners. The magnets functioned as the attachment method to the frame and made a secure connection while holding them on.
The final piece of the project was the code. I create a program that tells sections of the frame to turn on and off in a pattern, after a few minutes of the same pattern the program changes pattern. The application of the square on the frame does not affect the pattern but enables it to be heard. When the project was finished it was installed in the Atlas lobby. I wanted it where people would walk past it and interact with it. It was hung on a white wall by itself with a small sign explaining the interaction and goals and a box holding the patches.
Appliqué is an interactive art installation, exploring relational connections through textiles and technology. My goals with this project were to engage people with textiles, seamlessly intersect textiles with electronics, and explore relational connections visually and tactilely. The full piece is comprised of two parts, a two-foot by three-foot frame and twenty-four quilted patches. The frame is the brain and power, housing the electronics. When one of the patches is placed inside the frame it closes the circuit and the concealed motor receives instructions of when to turn on. When multiple patches are placed in the frame, patterns and connections are formed. Visual patterns are created by connecting the yellow stitching on the patches. The beads also add a visualization of the vibration of the motor, wiggling when the motor buzzes. The motors give an auditory addition to the project. Each buzz has a different frequency and happens at a different time, creating patterns that change with the number of patches on the frame. This is one of my favorite results of interacting with Applique. The tactile element of the project is accomplished with the motors and the texture of the patches. The soft buzzing encourages people to touch and is a surprise when the vibration kicks in. The thicker fabric of quilting provides weight to the patches and helps to disguise the motor. In addition to engaging users through patterns, the yellow stitching and vibration motors aid people to explore the relational connections between people. Investigating how people form connections and questioning thoughts about relational connections. In addition to building Appliqué, I displayed it in the Atlas lobby. I gathered footage and watched how people interacted and spoke to people about my project. During that installation, many people interacted with my project. They were intrigued and, through Appliqué I was able to inspire thoughts about connection, engage people in tactile work and captivate them with hidden electronics.
Moving forward, I would like to expand on my project to make it more interactive with itself. I would love for the frame to be able to sense when and where the patches are placed and for them to interact with each other. This would be done through more microcontrollers, sensors and additional code. It is an attainable addition and would increase the experience and capabilities of the project. If my project were to leave the setting of the capstone class, I think that it has potential as a museum installation. It would be great for a children’s museum as a fun textile interaction. I think it also could be turned into a learning platform or an interactive puzzle. I see an application in teaching kids about forming relational connections or learning about the connection of circuits through Appliqué. It has many versatile applications, it could even go as far as a modular musical platform where sounds are played when patches are placed. The tactile platform is really easy and inviting and would be perfect for many implantations. Realistically, Appliqué will be a project I am proud of and bolster my portfolio, I hope to find a personal use for it perhaps as art in my house. However, looking beyond Appliqué, I would love to create more tactile work centered around interacting with fabric. The hands-on nature is an aspect I love and bringing these soft textiles into the world of harsh electronics is something I want to explore more.
Appliqué was shown in the Atlas lobby. During the exhibit, I was able to get photos and videos of people interacting with my project. I loved to see how people interacted and reacted to my project and overall the exhibit went well. The first person to interact with my project was not sure what to do and where to place the patches inside the frame. I found that later that if I left a few of the patches on the frame, people had no questions about where to place the patches. The interaction viewers had with the project was great. They were placing patches and surprised when they vibrated. This caused them to touch it more. Different people had different interactions, some were focused on the shape the patches made inside the frame, others were determined to match up the yellow stitching, and somewhere enthralled by the motors and curious as to how it all worked. People liked trying to follow the pattern of the buzzing and movement of the beads Through the installation, I did not have many random people walking up to it and interacting, which was disappointing. I think part of that was due to where it was hanging, as it was behind tables. It would have been more welcoming to interact with if it were hung in a hallway, closer to foot traffic. However, through the installation, I saw how people were excited to touch my project and curious about the concealed electronics. Talking with people I knew that I encouraged thoughts about relational connections and created a unique experience.
“Contours.” Peter Krige. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Dec. 2019.
Harriman, Jiffer. “Modular Muse.” Modular Muse. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Dec. 2019.
“Tactile Picture Books Project – Build a Better Book.” ATLAS Institute. N.p., 17 Aug. 2019. Web. 07 Dec. 2019.
“Zimoun, [KE] 3.” Bitforms Gallery ” 1 Prepared Dc-motor, Cardboard Boxes 60x20x20cm. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Dec. 2019.