Luciferins Material Explorations

Interactive System for Luciferins – Conductive Fibers

The idea behind the functionality of the piece, is that once a viewer comes near one strip of fiber and stays briefly, the fiber will wake up with shape and color (projection mapping) in that location.

This could be achieved in a variety of ways. One being computer vision with established zones. The other is by making each fiber strip a sensor. The former is cleaner with fewer repair sites. Yet, I was curious as to the latter, as I delver deeper into fibers and constructions made with fibers.

Conductive fibers are much more readily available on the market than previously. Which is super exciting. One can find all kinds of threads and fabrics online now. Hannah Perner-Wilson and Mika Satomi form the art collective Kobakant. They have fabulous work (such as the Crying Dress) and have put together a wonderful resource with tutorial and information on all things related to soft materials and circuits. Do check them out (and consider supporting them and their work).

It’s quite easily to make capacitance sensors with conductive materials and a microcontroller. Arduino has a good library for it. Of course, there’s always the Makey Makey board and other capacitive sensors coming on the market every day. I’ve been more inclined to the DIY as a method of greater understanding and craft. What’s fun about the Arduino library, is the ability to “tune” the circuit’s sensitivity through circuity and massage it with code.

So, I set off to create my own conductive yarns. SparkFun was selling conductive stainless steel fibers. I nabbed a few to experiment with before they weren’t offering them anymore.

These could be incorporated to the fiber strips, either internally, externally, or interwoven. This was my first soiree into spinning fibers. I long for an Ashford Country Spinner 2, but I settled for a drop spinner and a blending board.

Spinning the fibers was fun, but challenging with regard to balancing fiber composition and weight. More practice is definitely needed to refine it a bit more. I’m not aiming for a super refined thread. Regardless, I’m curious as to how this will knit or crochet.

I did a quick knit of a mesh and attached it to the outside of a fiber knit tube. It tested and registered with the microcontroller, so that’s awesome. More thought needs to be given to the composition, integration of the fibers and the feasibility, all related to visual language of the work and considering time.