Here are a couple fun projects I worked on during the 2019 Shakerag Workshop “Blurring Boundaries: Electronics as Material Practice” (June 9-15, Sewanee, Tennessee) lead by German artist Hannah Perner-Wilson. I was gratefully able to attend the workshop thanks to an Artist Opportunity Grant from the Montgomery County Arts & Cultural District.
My brain was totally full by the end of the workshop! Weeks later I'm still digesting and processing the content. Hannah gave us a swatchbook to complete so we would have a chance to walk through different circuits and materials, at the same time have a reference for later--it's a wonderful resource!
We took a deep dive into electromagnetism and the essence of how speakers work. Using copper wire, magnets, conductive thread, an amp and/or sound source, leaves/paper for membrane, we made speakers out of some awesome things. I took this opportunity to revisit a leaf speaker I made previously and improve on it. I also played around with different types of leaves and deconstructing/sewing them together to make new shapes and designs. Magnolia leaves are superior so far. I'm looking forward to continuing the exploration with Ohio leaves...
I also used the material Velostat to create a type of leaf switch to momentarily activate a recorded sound. Velostat works best as a pressure sensitive sensor, but because it is conductive and by touch resembled the leaf membrane, I decided to sew it onto the leaf to make a switch. My first night on campus, I heard the loudest chorus of frogs in my life. I recorded it on my phone and used it as the sound that played back when the two leaves were squeezed together. This was a fun exercise and I'm hoping to expand on it later this year for a bigger project.
Here's a photo James Goedert took of the class--a crafty group of artists and techies from all over!
After hand-sewing the panel on the front of the dress, I attached the mic with normal black thread to keep it in place. Sewing the circuit between the Gemma board and mic was a little tricky. I used a fabric pencil to sketch in the traces on the garment, which helped me keep track of the traces between layers of fabric, back and front.
I really liked how the dress turned out! The stripe down the front was a perfect accent for the LEDs. PLUS my workshop had a winning bid!
My son helped me demonstrate the sound reactive mic with the LEDs!
I sketched out the circuit between the Gemma, LEDs, and microphone. I drew the circuit path for the LEDs and Gemma on the under panel using a fabic pencil and tacked down the LEDs with a small amount of normal thread. There was extra material at the ends that I folded it over to make a small pocket for the lipo battery.
After sewing on the LEDs, I tested the connections using a multimeter. I also added a small amount of clear nail polish to the end knots, as this particular conductive thread I'm using frays very easily.
The extra material at the end will also work as a sort of bridge for a few of my circuit paths that would otherwise cross. By using an embroidery stitch called couching, I can tack the trace of conductive thread to the top and bottom while letting the fabric work as an insulator.
Next step, attaching the LED panel to the dress so I can sew the circuit between the Gemma and mic.
The dress arrived and it's just perfect for this project. The material is a bit casual for a formal event, but hey it's Dayton. That's how we roll on the East Side.
I worked out the circuit--and I'm happy to report I can carry 10 LEDs on the two programmable pins on the Adafruit Gemma, using the 3.7v 500mAh Lipo battery. I'm going to bring an extra with me just in case I run out of juice through the event.
I'm placing the LED's under the front white stripe to soften the light. The stripe is on a panel that lifts up from the rest of the dress, so I'll use another piece of fabric to sew the LEDs onto, and then attach this piece to the stripe panel from underneath. I have it worked out in my head, but I'll also sketch it out to make sure I plan for the circuit to the mic and Gemma.
Next, I'll sketch out the dress and circuit design and start sewing the LEDs and Gemma in place.
Wright State's annual ArtsGala scholarship fundraiser is always a fantastic event. Lots of hard work by students and staff goes into making it a fun and successful evening. This year I'm donating an e-textile workshop to the silent auction, and I thought it would be fun to promote it by adding an interactive light element to my dress.
After some time searching for a funky yet easily modifiable dress, I found this on eShakti:
Hardware-wise, I was inspired by Adafruit's sound-reactive mask project (Next!). Here's a snapshot of the general schematic:
I'd like to put more than 5 LED's on one pin, so I'll be solving for the LED capacity of the Adafruit Gemma (which I haven't used much yet) running on a 3.7v 500mAh lipo (Lithium Ion Polymer) battery. This involves math, so I'll put this part off as long as possible.
So here is a photo of the very beginning of the project, first few components; Adafruit AGC Electret Mic Amp, Gemma with a 3D printed sewable case (Proto BuildBar), lipo battery, Lilypad LED's, and of course a breadboard! Next: prototyping the circuit.