Three Contemporary Craft Makers to Explore 'the Internet of Things'

Wednesday 16 January 2013

A Music Memory Box for people with dementia, a flying lampshade that communicates feeling, and coins that trigger invaluable experiences: these are all part of Watershed's new Craft + Technology Residencies at Autonomatic, a research group based within Falmouth University's Academy for Innovation & Research (AIR).

Networked technologies embedded in real things are beginning to make new kinds of service and experience possible. The UK Government is currently investing heavily in this area of work, often referred to as the Internet of Things - supporting technology driven research that investigates how 'physical things' such as buildings, vehicles, objects and clothing with built in sensors and computer networks can communicate with users and with each other. However little opportunity has been given to makers to influence and invent the objects and interactions that will animate this arena. This development programme embeds UK makers at the forefront of this research, supporting the creation of radical new products, and the injection of new thinking into science and technology industries.

The Craft + Technology Residencies, funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and supported by the Crafts Council, bring together makers Heidi Hinder, Chloe Meineck and Patrick Laing, with technologists at Autonomatic in Falmouth, Pervasive Media Studio in Bristol and i-DAT in Plymouth, to explore how new technologies embedded in objects (the Internet of Things) can enable remarkable interactions.

Imagine a music box that invites dementia sufferers to hold familiar objects, which activate songs and magically stir inaccessible memories. Chloe Meineck's Music Memory Box does just that, but what if it could do even more? Setting out to develop this extraordinary project, Chloe will investigate the potential of communal experiences for care homes, which could even break out of the box to pervade the everyday.

At first Patrick Laing's Flying Skirt Light Shade hangs in a limp felt form from the ceiling, until is switched on, where upon it begins to rotate and the skirt opens out, silently spinning like a dancer's. Whilst spinning its shape can be manipulated by touch, just like a thrown clay pot on a wheel, but does it have potential to become a playful public experience? Could smart, networked Skirts in transient spaces like airports or hotels, enable new forms of interaction?

Alongside sex and war, money is a constant in human history. But the object of money is fast becoming immaterial. Coins, cash and credit cards are arguably obsolete as digital representations of currency replace the physical objects. Yet trading relies on trust. So how do we trust what we cannot tangibly experience, what we can no longer touch, see, smell or hear? Beyond the financial, Heidi Hinder will playfully question ideas of value and re-imagine the designed object of money, exploring what could happen if beautifully crafted ‘coins' could trigger truly invaluable and enriching points of exchange.

Clare Reddington, Director of Pervasive Media Studio at Watershed, says "Watershed's Craft + Technology Residencies enable contemporary makers to rethink the potential of the Internet of Things, create remarkable new products and new business opportunities. We're delighted to support Heidi, Chloe and Patrick, and look forward to experiencing the work they develop".

Beatrice Mayfield, Maker Development Manager at the Crafts Council, says "The Craft + Technology Residencies provide an opportunity for makers to collaborate with other industries. We look forward to how the makers and technologists will bring their unique skills to the production of a physical prototype and the impact this can have on each others' practices for maximum effect".

Supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, delivered in collaboration with the Crafts Council, and hosted by i-DAT within Plymouth University, the Autonomatic research group at University College Falmouth, and Bristol's internationally renowned Pervasive Media Studio; Watershed's Craft + Technology Residencies is a new development programme that enables makers to work with technologists on cutting edge projects.

Craft + Technology Residencies will commence on 7 January 2013. Makers will receive research, development and production support for their projects. Residencies will last for three months, beginning with a public talk on 11 January 2013, and will culminate in a showcase event at Watershed on 28 March 2013.

For the latest information please visit: watershed.co.uk/ished

For more information on Craft + Technology Residencies please contact Catrin John:

Tel: 0117 9275108
Email: catrin.john@watershed.co.uk

About the makers

Chloe Meineck graduated from 3D Design at Brighton University in 2012, and has since exhibited at Brighton Maker Faire, New Designers, 100% Design and Tent London as part of London Design Week. Her work has also featured on Wired UK. Chloe is passionate about sustainability initiatives and promoting multidisciplinary practice. She considers herself a designer grounded by the production of thought provoking objects, backed up with vigorous research about current issues that intrigue her. Her work is always created for the public to enjoy.

Patrick Laing'srecent practice has focussed on the exploration of material potential for narrative, often participative purposes. The result of this approach and acquired skills is a broad scale of work from jewellery, to furniture and lighting, patented industrial product, store and exhibition design. Customers can be individuals, or international brands such as Adidas. Patrick's BA degree at the University of Brighton's 3D Design materials course goes some way to explain his holistic attitude.

Heidi Hinder is an artist maker. She draws on her degree studies in Literature, and Jewellery & Silversmithing, in order to tell thought-provoking stories through beautifully crafted objects. Heidi was recently selected for a year's scholarship in the design and creation of contemporary coins and art medals. This unique opportunity included a short residency at the Royal Mint where, despite the company's 1100 year traditional history, Heidi had the first opportunity to fully incorporate new technologies into her practice. Keen to build on this experience, Heidi has since dedicated her practice to exploring the symbiosis between hand-making techniques and technology innovation.

About the partners

Watershed and Pervasive Media Studio: Watershed is a cross-artform venue and producer, sharing, developing and showcasing exemplary cultural ideas and talent. Through curation of people, ideas and spaces, we enable artistic visions and creative collaborations to flourish and produce work that cuts across film, music, theatre, design, visual and applied art, and the creative and technology sectors. The Pervasive Media Studio is Watershed's city centre research lab that brings together a network of over 100 artists, technologists and academics to explore the future of mobile and wireless media. Run in partnership with the University of the West of England's Digital Cultures Research Centre and the University of Bristol, the studio has a great workspace, an open ethos and a can-do attitude.

The Crafts Council's goal is to make the UK the best place to make, see, collect and learn about contemporary craft. We aim to build a strong economy and infrastructure for contemporary craft; to increase and diversify its audience; and champion high quality contemporary craft practice nationally and internationally. These residencies form part of our Portfolio scheme, supporting and providing opportunities for makers to explore craft practice through collaboration with other sectors or industries.

i-DAT is a lab for creative research, experimentation and innovation across the fields of digital Art, Science and Technology, generating social, economic and cultural benefit. Located within the Faculty of Arts, Plymouth University, it has since 1998 been delivering a programme of activities pushing the boundaries of digital arts / creative media practice, instigating playful opportunities for research, production and collaboration and making technological innovations accessible to artistic talent and to audiences.

Autonomatic is a research group based within Falmouth University's Academy for Innovation & Research (AIR), exploring the use of digital manufacturing technologies in the creative process of designing and making three-dimensional objects. They are design practitioners with skills and experience in designing in ceramics, glass, plaster, and textiles amongst other mediums. As creative researchers they have a basic urge to invent new ways of making things that reflect, exploit and develop the communication capability of digital data, exploring bespoke, and individualistic production in a variety of material and cultural forms.

The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation aims to improve the quality of life throughout the UK by funding the charitable activities of organisations that have the ideas and ability to achieve change for the better. The primary interests of the Foundation are the arts, education and learning, the environment and social change.