Textile thinking for sustainable materials

2014-09-30T13:59:28Z (GMT) by Faith Kane Rachel Philpott
A textile can be defined as a flexible material consisting of networks of interlacing natural or synthetic fibres. These networks are formed using various processes including weaving, knitting, crocheting, knotting or bonding. The applications of textiles are endless and as such their pervasive nature places them as a key component of material culture. 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; 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. In this paper we explore the nature of ‘textile thinking’, its origins in traditional craft approaches, the knowledge it generates and its potential for application within the context of sustainable materials design through presenting the development of a project called ‘Textile Thinking for Sustainable Materials’ (TTSM). The project brings together textile designers, product designers, materials scientists, chemists and engineers to establish creative dialogues, with particular focus on an interactive networking event that was held at Loughborough University in May 2012. The project aims to: establish a number of creative dialogues which 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; to capture and present emerging dialogues and concepts to create platforms for new research pathways; and to assess the application of ‘textile thinking’ within sustainable materials design as a means of advancing knowledge within this field. By working with textile practitioners the project draws on the pervasive nature of textiles to consider the possibilities of materials from: process perspectives, drawing on traditional textile production methods including weaving, knitting, printing and embroidery; aesthetic perspectives, drawing on decorative traditions; and functional perspectives, drawing on perceptions of use.