The Herald on Sunday
The fabric of reality Have you heard the latest fashion? Ransformed of samples in screen printing
Stunning spectrograms of the sound of nature are now being transformed into textiles
THE sound of waves crashing on a beach in Pittenweem, branches shaking in Newtonmore in the Highlands and the clip-clop of horses’ hooves in Drumnadrochit – all everyday noises that help form the rich tapestry of life in Scotland.
Now those and other familiar noises, including some that we might love less than others, have been captured and visually recreated to be reproduced as fabric, on the loom, in knitwear and ceramics.
The sound-inspired designs, some of which emerge as sharp and spiky, others soft and gently flowing, have now been gathered in a free, online pattern book intended to provide inspiration for fabric makers, knitters, weavers and other artists.
The idea is a twist on traditional sources of inspiration for textile design, which for generations has tended to come from the colours, scenery and textures of the varied Scottish landscape.
However, among the sounds captured and transformed into spectrograms – visual representations of the spectrum of frequencies of a signal – are noises which some might find less than pleasing, such as the roar of an aeroplane overhead, and the incessant patter of raindrops on a tin roof.
The sound-based project is being carried out by Aural Textiles, funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh and led by Heriot-Watt University’s School of Textiles and Design.
It emerged from an initial collaboration between Dr George Jaramillo from Heriot-Watt’s School of Textiles and Design and Dr Lynne Hocking-Mennie, a former academic scientist who runs a handweaving studio in Aberdeen creating work inspired by data, including DNA sequences and genetic ancestry.
Dr George Jaramillo said:
“Participants have captured soundscapes, whether it’s bird calls and waves or the sound of machinery and aeroplanes overhead, in an attempt to better understand their local environment.
“Sounds are captured on smartphones and transformed into spectrograms. We can digitally manipulate it to reduce background noise and simplify the bioacoustic patterns so it can be read by others.
“A single spectrogram can lead to a huge variety of samples within and across textile disciplines, whether knitting, weaving or screen printing.”
Originally six practitioners from across Scotland worked on the project, capturing many different sounds in a range of both rural and urban settings.
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y appealing designs – such and relaxing hum of the g over boulders – turned subdued. esigners had to seek out tic noises, leading them untry in search of sounds d more vibrant and erns. he captured sounds were make patterns which could o textiles. However, the s project has now evolved project called Distributed and the patterns are being textile artists working in areas such as ceramics. The work created using the sound patterns will form a final exhibition to be held in spring next year.
Hocking-Mennie said: “We recruited five new creatives to collaborate with the original textile practitioners – two ceramicists, a furniture maker, a jewellery designer and a kiltmaker.
“The practitioners are now working together to create objects inspired by sounds that combine their different making skills. It has been fascinating to see and hear how the practitioners tacklknowledge-sharing during the co-creation of new work.”
She added: “One of the biggest insights has been a clear desire among the craft practitioners to have more space and time in their practice for innovation and experimentation.
“This project has given practitioners the opportunity to do just that, and to create hybrid ways of making within Scottish contemporary design that span disciplines and geography.”