In an era of increasingly available digital resources, many artists and creative people find themselves at an interesting crossroads between traditional craft processes and newer digital technologies. Today, we observe an emerging generation of creative practitioners from fine arts, crafts, and design backgrounds working with digital technologies and new materials that are redefining the conventions of technology and design education in our digital culture. In recent years, some of these practitioners have been working very actively in the maker movement that emphasize the democratization of access to tools and DIY technology for social change, design, and innovation. Also, they have been helping to advance innovative educational methodologies by defining how to include Art in STEM fields. Specially, some people with the goal for attracting new audiences who otherwise would have not get attracted to the science and technology.
E-Textiles and Wearables Tutorials, Books & Resources
My name is Paola Guimerans and I am part of this emerging generation. My background is in fine arts and design and I hold a Postgraduate Certificate in Education. I am passionate about teaching and making artwork created with new media technologies. In 2008, I move to NY to Parsons School of Design to attain an MFA in Design and Technology. At that time, in the context of my own artistic practice, I started to investigate new models of teaching and learned programming and electronics that includes the realization of soft circuits techniques. As a consequence, I began to make DIY paper circuits and e-textile projects that mix fabrics or cardboard with microcontrollers, sensors, and electrical components to create new and interactive projects or wearable designs. This situation caused cause me to get involved in the emerging field of the soft circuits. Unlike traditional circuits on rigid circuit boards, soft circuits are flexible and are ideal for building into soft mediums like fabric or paper. Thus, soft circuit techniques links with the world of e-textiles and wearable technology.
At that point, living in the states I started to get involved in the cultural debate about education across design, art, crafts, technology, and creativity and I join the STEM to STEAM movement. Furthermore, as a creative practitioner working in the field of digital and analog realm that support the use of open source technologies, I joined the growing tech-influenced DIY community that has come to be identified as the maker movement . Also, I began to investigate how the maker culture impacts educational change and to approach educational theoretical studies related to e-textiles field focus on the constructivist approach to education from Yasmin Kafai and Kylie Peppler. Thus, I researched the work of pioneers in the e-textile and the wearable field, such as Margaret Orth, Joanna Berzowska and Leah Buechley creator of Lilypad Arduino that is a tool that allows designers to create e-textiles using sewing, quilting, crocheting, knitting and other techniques.
Traditional circuit instruction Soft circuit instruction
In 2010, I started to work with Dr. Sabine Seymour at Parsons School of Design for the Fashion Technology Lab. Also, I participated in a series of e-textiles and smart materials workshops leds by Hannah Perner-Wilson at the High- low tech group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At that University, I met the engineer Jie Qi and I was inspired by with her projects that integrate electronics and programming with decorative design and handicrafts. At that point, I had the opportunity to start to design and to teach interdisciplinary workshops for students of the Parsons School of Design community. Thus, I started to work as a lead mentor in an afterschool program at Quest to Learn school of Institute of Play, NY. My role was to adding an “A” for art and design to the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics curriculum. This school was as one of the firsts study case example of the STEM to STEAM movement.
As a result of all these educational experiences, I began to realize that this creative way to approach rapid prototyping, crafting, computation and circuitry acts as a potential catalyst to accelerate learning and expose the students to a new conceive to prototype and interact with electronic and digital devices. Thus, I have come to conclude that soft circuits are a great learning tool for teaching and attracting non-technical students in the creation of technology. Specially, as already having been defended pioneers such as Leah Bunchley and Benjamin Mako Hill, these are good for the inclusion of minority audiences.
At that time, I started to observe how the STEM to STEAM and maker movement have been bringing in a short period of time the openess of DIY techniques, novel conductive and smart materials and the new design of open source digital tools (such as Makey makey, Bare touch, Flora Arduino,…) linked to the creation of e-textiles, wearables or paper circuits. Thus, I observe how the maker movement has grown at a rapid pace over the past few years makerspaces -also called hackerspaces, hackspaces, and fablabs – were adopted by schools and Universities as a collaborative spaces where people gather to get creative with DIY projects, invent new ones, and share ideas related to this fields.
Imag: Short Circuit program at Q2L / Class Soft Circuits at Parsons School of Design
In 2012, I decided to be back to Madrid to earn my Ph.D. Consequently, in the contexts of my own artistic practices and researcher, I launched the Creative Soft Circuits project with the goal to run introductory e-textiles, wearable and paper circuits workshops in Spain. My aims was to bringing non-technical audiences, new approaches to learning circuits and electronics that offer a greater emphasis on design and artistic expression. Since then, I have designed and taught more than 40 collaborative workshops for non-technical audiences focused on creative engagement with electronics in which participants learn soft circuits and catering to a variety of age groups. I have taught at informal learning environments such as citizen labs, science museums, Maker Faires, Fab Labs, etc.
Imag: Creative Soft Circuits Workshops
In 2017, I obtained my Ph.D. title with the thesis “Technology as a creative material: E-textiles and its derivations in the field of the visual arts” at the University Complutense of Madrid. My studies, in which I include some of the workshops observations, examines how the improvements that have taken place in the field of e-textiles provide new opportunities for research and learning in the visual arts, with the use of digital technologies and electronics. After I finish my Ph.D. and I realized the lack of information and resources written in Spanish language I decided to end the project Creative Soft Circuits and I launched Open Electronic Arts, an online resource platform designed to offer designers, artists, students and teachers of all educational levels this creative approach and new way to learn electronics and programming. Thus, I founded Aula STEAM an education-focuse startup.
Since then, I have been focussing on my profession to implement integrated STEAM in K-12 and University programs. My actual goal is to contribute to design and teach practices that build equity education by developing contextual curriculum and STEAM activities linked to the e-textiles and wearable fields in where the subjects are coordinated to support each other under a formal educational structure of how science, technology, engineering, mathematics and the broad spectrum of the arts all relate to each another in reality. Specially, with the aim to promote computational thinking and to help minorities, such as girls and women that generally are underrepresented in technology-related jobs to get interested in the computer science and engineering fields.