Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Can/should retail train makers?

If there's one thing that I believe will help the sustainability movement, it's the maker/urban craft movement. Many Makers and Crafters hold that if we get back to making stuff and understand how stuff is made, then that understanding will transform how we consume mass produced stuff. All kinds of stuff - mass produced food, GAP clothes made in sweat shops, cleaning products that change the sex of fish, suburban homes that make us drive all over town just to get to work - you name it. Mass produced stuff is every where and for the most part, it's awful trash that helps us trash the planet.

At present, the maker/craft movement is on the fringe of culture. Sure it's gaining momentum but will it ever grow big enough to change unsustainable behavior at large? I'm not sure. It might. OR we might look around for alternative, unlikely venues for strengthening the movement.

For a while now I've thought it would be smart for places like Walmart and other retail corps to install co-creation software and rapid prototyping in their stores. Kind of like how kodak has digital camera kiosks in drug stores. If big retail decides to go this route, I hope to see an upsurge of common folks making their own stuff, taking better care of their stuff, and shedding this tacky disposable attitude that is one of the sustainability movement's greatest challenges - "If my toaster breaks I'll just get another one at K-Mart."

The presentation above just dips our toes in to that water. But hopefully it helps you understand what co-creation looks, feels, smells like.

Friday, May 14, 2010

My hero and one of the most creative minds of our time

More co-creation with textiles

My colleagues and I are starting on a new project to bring down to Maker Faire NYC in the fall. We're not sure what it is yet, but we know that it involves the following elements: six word memoirs, knitting, rivers, conductive thread (for animation of some kind), text based costumes, and a 'take-away' for participants.

The co-creation part will come from attendees of Maker Faire - as we knit this river (with Andrea's super cool machine - see below), we'll ask passers-by to write their memoirs on ribbon. Then we'll weave collected memoirs into the river.

I love this stage in a project. When it just starts to take shape. Exciting.

Here's the machine we'll use to knit. This thing makes textiles FAST. Amazing.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Yesterday we had our 3rd annual Imagine RIT Innovation and Creativity festival with a record breaking 23,000 visitors to campus. Wow. The event was amazing and too much for me to report on in entirety. I do, however, want to give props to one little corner of the Innovation Center that caught my attention.

In a sea of hi-tech games and robots, I really appreciated three textile exhibits. One was put on by my students. Above is a picture of Lauren and Sarah with their concept called RocSmock. It's a retail concept in which they assume that digital textile technology lives in the retail space. This technology allows common folks to design and print their own patterns on fabric. But even more interesting than the technology itself is how Lauren and Sarah employed it. They propose that locally grown produce can live in the store for sale and consumption but also it can serve as inspiration for textile designs. When you can design your own clothes with inspiration from your local produce, you are likely to grow your values as you transfer them from one aspect of your (what you eat) life to another (what you wear). 

Just a stone's throw away from the RocSmock group was textile guru Andrea Handy. Andrea was generously teaching folks how to work this awesome knitting machine. I didn't get the full scoop on this, but I see Andrea later this week so more to come. Here's a pic. Andrea's on the right.

And finally I was just thrilled to see this young woman from the Young Entrepreneurs Academy displaying her quilted saddle blankets. I didn't catch her name, the one seated on the left, but I will and post a link soon. Just in case you know any riders in need of a super hip blanket.

As I said earlier, the entire festival was great and you can read more about it here. Just wanted to make sure that this sweet spot of textiles people got their moment in the spotlight.