Interactive mixed reality workshops for practically trained students
Paulina Martina took part in Fabricademy 2020/2021 at Waag's TextileLab and FabLab. During the half a year course, participants learn state of the art tools and knowledge on digital fabrication, textile and fashion. They also get to set up their own work, project or business model. Earlier, we spoke with Fabricademy participant Sara Alvarez.
Hey Paulina! Where are you from and what have you been doing before Fabricademy?
I’m from Aruba and have been living in Europe for ten years now. I received my education in Denmark, Sweden and Canada. Recently, graduated as a fashion designer and I’m currently studying interaction design at the Haagse Hogeschool. To support this educational switch, I’ve also joined Fabricademy at Waag.
Why did you want to take part in Fabricademy?
I would like to be an educator myself. Therefore, I would like to lay down a good basis. During my studies, it occurred to me that sustainable techniques in textile and materials are introduced quite lately. This leaves very little time to actually create something with these techniques. In my opinion, we should take action way sooner. And so I came up with the idea of setting up my own lab.
The problem I want to address is this: the way the design sector is working, isn’t along the same lines as what is needed for the world. It’s simply not profitable for design companies to change their behaviour accordingly. I graduated in 2017 and still, companies haven’t truly embraced sustainability.
But isn’t sustainability already a trending topic in the design and fashion sectors?
What we see is mainly greenwashing. Take H&M: their impact isn’t fundamentally changing if they set up a sustainable fashion line next to the already existing line. The latter will still create overproduction. Companies aren’t truly changing how, where and how often they produce. They are in no sense sustainable - also if one notices the enormous wage gap that exists between designers and factory workers.
What kind of project did you set up during Fabricademy?
It’s called Hearth Design Lab. At Hearth Design Lab, you can follow workshops as a senior secondary vocational education student (Dutch: MBO student), where you learn a new set of skills during a series of sessions. We focus on creating an own mindset, like why do you do what you do and in which way?
Does the name ‘Hearth’ have any special meaning?
Hearth is a merger between heart and earth. During my travels, I was inspired by the why in which people can feel connected with each other, even though they are far away from home and they know they have to leave travelling friends behind. For another project that was called Hearth as well, I created a map on clothing, with lines between the places I’ve been. That shows the sense of connectedness.
How did you come up with this idea?
There aren’t that many educational courses such as Fabricademy, at senior secondary vocational levels (MBO and HBO in the Netherlands). I’m talking about students that want to gain knowledge on sustainability and innovation within material research and textiles. As a consequence, the entry level for studies and workshops such as Fabricademy is pretty high. Especially, where fashion and design are linked to science.
I wanted to change that. When students have followed the workshops at Hearth Design Lab, they are afterwards able to follow for example Fabricademy if they’d like to. Apart from that, these workshops form a nice addition to regular studies, where specific tools - for example creating bioplastics - are introduced pretty late.
What does the programme look like, if you apply for Hearth Design Lab?
At Hearth Design Lab, you learn how to create interactive fashion. My workshops combine the physical with the digital. Think of a piece of clothing that you can physically wear, but that also has a digital component. For example, I once created a piece of clothing and if you wanted to see an extra digital dimension, you could scan the garment with your phone. This enabled one to watch video interviews that I took with women in Amsterdam. In this way, the digital adds an extra dimension to the garment.
The good part of it is that it’s optional: it’s also possible to simply wear the peace of clothing without scanning it. I didn’t want the extra dimension to be experienced as a hindrance, but if you want to dive into a deeper layer of meaning than that’s possible.
The course is thematically divided. Think for example of material development, digital dyeing and material design. The presentation of material design can for example be a digital gallery that allows you to “walk” through it. This form of interaction is a possibility, but if you don’t want to, you don’t have to in order to watch the works. It’s up to the user to decide what kind of interaction they want with the work.
What are your next steps for this project?
I want to create a clear concept for the Hearth Design Lab and continue developing it further, and then I’m planning to pitch it as an addition to Fabricademy. As I said, the workshops are meant for MBO educational levels. As an educator it is my goal to make Fabricademy and Fablab accessible for MBO students, by giving them the knowledge and tools that allows them to handle the current programmes in the future.
Where you familiar with the tools and knowledge that were addressed at Fabricademy?
I’ve learned how to use open source and how this is a way of collaborating with others. Also, I’ve learned the importance of documenting the creative making process. Rendering and 3D techniques have furthermore been very important tools for me to create cohesion between the physical and the digital.
Find out more about Fabricademy 2021/2022
You can also make something natural in a digital way. That’s something that I’ve learned from the academie. I think that blurring the lines between the natural and digital is a great gap in the market. However, I do think it’s important to learn how to balance between the digital and physical. We shouldn’t go fully digital, because then you’ll miss the physical. The way we touch, see or smell a material will keep on being an important part of the experience. That sensory experience is linked to the feeling that you get with a material, like cozy, or sexy. We will keep on needing it.