Smart Textiles Research Lab
The notion of what constitutes ‘material' for an artist or designer is constantly shifting insofar as any creative person is likely to continuously explore and exploit ‘new' materials. For a long time, the novelty of artists and designers using new materials was in their using some material that has been around for a while but not conventionally used to make art or designs. And often, artists and designers not using some of these materials earlier had to do with a variety of reasons including conventions of making and appropriate materials, lack of access to these materials either for safety, security or financial reasons, and sometimes, simply because they did not know that these materials existed. In the light of this, the challenge for art and design schools will continue to be how best to identify, introduce and adopt new materials to studio practice. One way of approaching this challenge is to be vigilant to the potential of many more materials than those that seem immediately obvious for use by artists and designers; i.e., that we need to get beyond what becomes identified by and made available through art stores or materials libraries.
Artists and designers have been pioneers in the use of new materials and they would and should continue to do this. Art and design schools need to find innovative ways to make a larger range of materials available to artists and designers and to develop curricular and pedagogical strategies to explore and exploit such materials. One interesting program at MICA is the Smart Textiles Research Lab that engages an interdisciplinary team of students in experimenting with smart textiles and fibers.