2015-03-31 07:48

Integrated light creates new view of textiles

Doctoral student Barbara Jansen blends movement, light, time and sound into textiles to present us with a new picture of what textile can be. By integrating optical fibres and LEDs, her research is opening up completely new future areas of use for textiles.

Barbara Jansen is a doctoral student at the Swedish School of Textiles, University of Borås, in Smart Textiles. She is from Germany but it was actually through her contact with Sweden that she began experimenting with adding light to textiles.

"I took a break from my textile design studies in Berlin by doing a one-year exchange at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm. During that year, I was very aware of the changes in light here; it was so dark all winter and then so light all summer. That gave me the idea of trying to add light to textiles".

Barbara Jansen

She began to go to trade fairs and to businesses to find out what kinds of material could shine in textiles. Then she did masses of tests with different materials and techniques. First of all, there were bits of woven cloth with solar cells, which would make the threads in the weave shine in bright light, and then after some time, she found fibre optic threads that could be controlled and made to shine in different ways and colours. She discovered that light could disappear completely in fluffy materials while it could be reinforced in smooth, reflective materials like e.g. paper or metal wire.

The fibre optics can be connected to different types of light sources, thereby creating different effects.

"This is something that needs to be further investigated and developed," says Barbara Jansen. "I hope to be able to open people's eyes to what textiles can be; they can be something different from what you first imagine. Everyone is affected by light and I would like to create textiles that will move and shine and display them in public places, so everyone can experience them."

Exhibition at Textilmuseet

Textilmuseet in Borås has been hosting an exhibition (17 Feb - 29 March 2015)where many of Barbara's test samples and prototypes are included. In the dark room, some of the textiles shine brightly, with either white or coloured light. There are also models of textile shells, knitted hives that could hold several people if made in full size.

"I think the possibility of using textile and light as a part of light therapy is very interesting," Barbara says. "I want to develop techniques and methods generally, thereby perhaps inspiring other textile designers to do the same."

She explains that her goal is to turn textiles into something more than just textiles, e.g. put the elements of nature into textile form, like getting a surface of water into the cloth, or the movement of the wind, or a slow-moving cloud.

"There is a method that a company called Parans has developed, where reflectors are used to lead real daylight into fibre optics. By using that method, one could create textiles that glow with real daylight in places where there actually isn't any daylight. Very exciting!"

Creating variable light in textiles

Barbara Jansen has devoted a lot of time to programming movements and other changes in the fibre optics in textiles. One example is shown at Textilmuseet, the Sinus 64 + blue tapestry, where glowing stripes of blue, green and red move in correlation to the specially composed music that is being played in the room.

"I designed that together with designer and composer Jan Carleklev," she says. "Now that we know how to do the programming in order to make it work, it can be further developed and used to create variable light in textiles linked to different types of information: weather, statistics or something else. Even though I have been working with light and textiles for ten years, it feels like I've just started. There is still so much more to investigate and develop!"


The thesis: Composing over time, temporal patterns – in Textile Design
By: doctoral student Barbara Jansen
At: University of Borås, Swedish School of Textiles, in Smart Textiles
Supervisor: Professor Clemens Thornquist, Swedish School of Textiles
Dissertation: 17 March, 10.00, Textilmuseet, Skaraborgsvägen 3A, Borås