Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Textile Narratives & Conversions: Proceedings of the 10th Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, October 11–14, Toronto, Ontario


Copyright 2006 by the author.


The potential of the future for both science and design lies in a multidisciplinary approach. Disciplines are merging, boundaries are melting and “many […] technologies are not significant when looked at in isolation, but become of critical importance when coupled with other technologies.”


This paper offers a condensed case study of a cross-disciplinary practice led Ph.D. research “Skin Stories :: Charting and Mapping the Skin” which dealt with issues across the fields of design, art, textiles technology, electronics, biology, material science and psychology in an attempt to bridge the gap between aesthetics and technology. The artistic investigation examines skin as a naturally intelligent material on the premise that it can serve both as model and metaphor for creating innovative textile membranes, which look, behave or feel like a skin. Attention is focussed on the living skin “technology”, meaning its complex working mechanisms, and how these have been translated into a textiles vocabulary following the principles of biomimetic design. The paper examines a range of smart textile concepts for both the body and its various environments developed during this research project at the London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London (2000-2004).

The paper also addresses the current textile practice and research of the author which deals with issues surrounding human sensory perceptions (touch, smell, vision, hearing) and how our sensory experiences could be enhanced using smart design concepts. It has been proven that the environment has a huge impact on peoples’ behaviour, relationships, their physical and psychological wellbeing. The author is particularly interested in the emerging scientific notion - called “sensism” - of how “subtle multisensory cues drive our perceptions, behaviour, decisions and performance.” For example, visual images and olfactory messages influence peoples’ minds in subliminal, emotional, subconscious ways and this can be successfully used in new polysensual and therapeutic design concepts that support peoples‘ wellbeing and interactions.

Addressing this context the practice led inquiry reflects on current developments within materials research and technologies by considering their possible applications within design and arts to create new sensory environments that respond to peoples‘ needs and improve the quality of our lives. Identification is made of areas of applications where responsive, active and interactive textiles systems, adapted from the biological skin workings, could prove to be of some value. Albeit the preoccupation with the technological and biomedical aspects the author also was constantly interested in the poetic and social context of the epidermis, as from a designer‘s point of view it was important to capture the multi-layered nature of the skin.