Joanna Berzowska
June 2011
Electronic Textiles and Reactive Garments

Course Description
This five-day workshop introduces participants to the idea of electronic textiles and to the principles of soft-circuit design through hands-on demos and experimentation. Each participant or team will build a pressure-sensitive squeezable "soft switch" and create an interactive textile structure (either sculptural or wearable) with stitched pressure sensors and beaded light-emitting components.
Over the five days, each participant or team will brainstorm ideas for reactive surfaces, using existing project ideas that they will bring into the studio. Each team will create an initial scenario for their project and design at least one “soft switch” within their model, which will trigger light-emitting diodes. Using fabric, beads, stuffing, and various textile construction techniques together with electronic components, participants will implement one of their ideas in full scale.
We will focus on the theory and application of "smart objects” and “soft computation".
Students will design and build simple interactive objects with embedded electronics, such as an illuminated coaster that responds to touch or a table that lights up when a plate of food is set upon it.
Technically, we will look at integration of electronics and new materials into traditional craft practices and design artifacts, with a particular (but not exclusive) emphasis on textiles. We will look at alternative materials that enable the construction of soft circuits to design and build simple interactive or "smart" artifacts. All students will learn some basics of electronics, as well as theory and history of (1) physical interaction design, (2) physical computing, (3) ubiquitous computing, (4) tangible media, and (5) wearable computing. Participants should have some skills in construction and production techniques (including sewing) as well as materials.
Conceptually, we will discuss electronics as a medium similar to wood or paper and will experiment with materials that can enable simple expressive computational forms. We will examine and reflect on the futuristic vision that design artifacts will be “smart”, will "think", and will "communicate" with one another. How will this enrich or change our lives? How much technology do we want in our physical world? How much embedded electronics can we digest before facing the environmental consequences?

Supply List
Participants should bring their computers but no additional supplies are needed.

Artist's Statement
Joanna Berzowska's XS Labs is a design research studio with a focus on innovation in the fields of electronic textiles and reactive garments: “second skins” that can enable computationally-mediated interactions with the environment and the individual. We are equally inspired by the technical and cultural history of how textiles have been made for generations (weaving, stitching, embroidery, knitting, beading, quilting) and by new and emerging materials with different electro-mechanical properties. This enables us to construct complex textile-based surfaces, substrates, and structures with "transitive" properties.

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