Monday, 4 August 2014

Creative Prototyping the Future High Street Workshop

Well it's certainly been a while since my last post and a lot has happened. I'm now a Research Associate at Manchester Business School working on 'The Wonders of Zooniverse' project but more about that another time. I recently wrote a blogpost for another website and it got me thinking about my own blog again. I love looking back at the posts and keeping it as a multimedia diary of my work and interests so thought I would get back into it again. I'm not even sure if my post will be published so have decided to share it on here as well. I'd love to hear to your thoughts and opinions on the workshop so feel free to contact me.

Creative Prototyping the Future High Street Workshop

By Kate Holmes

The future of our high street is a topic that is very important to us. As a group of people who actively use, research, and champion local and creative businesses, we are all aware of the challenges currently being faced by the UK high street. Creative Prototyping the Future High Street was a workshop run in collaboration by The University of Salford, Manchester Business School and Liverpool John Moores (Gordon Fletcher, Marie Griffiths, Kate Holmes, Anita Greenhill and Rachel McLean). The aim of the workshop was to use innovative methods to bring together and promote discussion amongst key stakeholders about the future of the high street. The event took place on Monday 21st July at MediaCityUK, a fitting location with digital creativity, learning and leisure at its heart.

                                                    MediaCityUK, Salford

The workshop utilised Science Fiction Prototyping, a method used to explore the possible implications of future technologies along with Lego Serious Play, as an accessible and fun way to develop these ideas further. Participants were admittedly a little unsure at first, but with the help of our facilitator Tracy Ellis, soon became inspired and were enthusiastically working together to develop their ideas.

Findings from this workshop will be used to create reports to inform policy makers in order to have a real impact in some of the decisions made towards the future of the high street. This workshop demonstrates how the application of innovative methods can promote active discussion across sectors and bring together different parts of the community. 

Many thanks to the Future Cities Community Resilience Network and University of Leeds for funding this event, more information regarding this organisation can be found at

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Experimental stitching with sewable LEDs

For a long time now I've wanted to invest in my own stash of smart materials to make my own creative projects such as LilyPad Arduinos, LEDs, EL wire etc.... but as I'm still fighting for academic work it's not something I've been able to indulge myself fully within. However, a few kind people who I have been fortunate enough to work with donated a few bits and pieces so that I could have a play in my spare time.   

I created this spooky ghost using two blue sewable LEDs, conductive thread and sewable battery holder. It was really easy to make but I didn't know if it was going to work until I popped the battery in and saw it light up for the first time. It is a small project but the feeling of achievement when everything comes together is so rewarding it gives you the feeling of a little bit of mastery when so many things are beyond control. I'm not actually a massive fan of sewing as I find it a bit too fiddly but hopefully one day I'll be able to incorporate smart materials into some knitting/crochet projects for fun too.

FYI - The reason why this ghost has blue glowing eyes is a reference to the White Walkers in one of my favourite TV programs Game of Thrones and the blue goo in Casper the Friendly Ghost ice lollies around when I was a kid.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Protest Banners Workshops

The children of Breightmet wanderers FC junior team recently held a protest march to raise awareness against racism in football and we held a series of workshops to help them make banners to be used.

 Photo courtesy of Bolton at Home

The children worked with one of our community artists to make the banners and then sewable LEDs were added to make the banners even more eye catching.

Banner with yellow LEDs

This idea was based on a new wave of demonstrations that use light as a form of protest, representing awareness, understanding and progression. More information can be found here:

Example from Overpass Light Brigade

This project allowed us to use smart materials to represent ideas within a piece of art that serves a function as well as delivering a message, I'm very proud of everyone involved in this fantastic effort.

Photo from the day of the demonstration courtesy of Bolton at Home

Friday, 26 April 2013

Conductive Ink Workshop

I've been very behind with blogging about our fantastic craft and smart materials workshops due to job applications and interviews, and writing journal papers so I have quite a bit to catch up on. So I'm going to try and catch up on blogging over the next couple of days.

One of the workshops we ran was using conductive inks to create circuits on paper. We used the inks to draw connections between LEDs and batteries on the cover of cards.

Using conductive ink to paint circuits and connections is pretty magical however the ink can be very gooey and takes quite a long time to dry. Also it is not possible to test the connection until the ink is completely dry so although it is a fairly easy way to build interesting circuits within paper projects it does take a while to find out if your hard work has paid off.

Here is a small blue LED glowing on shiny green card

As it was a few days before Valentines day some people decided to experiment with the use of the ink and create Valentines cards. We also used pearlescent card to give a shimmering effect. I think if we had more time to experiment and design the cards we could have come up with some really interesting designs but instead we used this session to experiment with the ink to see how it works.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

If These Walls Could Talk Exhibition

Yesterday I visited the exhibition 'If These Walls Could Talk' in Breightmet, Bolton. This exhibition takes over an entire residential house in order to display pieces of art and celebrate women within the community.

The project was the idea of spoken word artist Louise Wallwein who collaborates with a number of artists, technicians and members of the community in order to give local women a voice.

 Dinning table

I personally found the exhibition to be intelligent, funny and moving featuring hidden surprises everywhere you looked.

We were involved as we introduced smart materials to be used within the project. Textile artist Jen Gilmore used these materials in the bedroom and did a stunning job by using EL wire to create glowing lettering in the bedding and sewable LEDs to create a curtain covered in twinkling stars. Our technician Garry programmed a LilyPad Arduino to create sequence for the LEDs. Members of the community painted poems on material using thermochromatic pigments and fabric paint, which were sewn into the beautiful duvet cover.

Another interesting part of the exhibition was the use of sensors and sound. A technician brought in by Louise created triggers within everyday objects that played recordings of spoken word performances from the local women, making this project a fully immersive and interactive experience.

 Triggers found in jewellery boxes, chairs and the microwave.

I had such a wonderful day exploring this amazing house, well done to all the very talented people involved. I only thought I would be there for about half an hour but ended up staying the whole day and joining in with their knitting group. Everyone is really friendly so don't be shy to pop down and have a look.

The exhibition closes on the 22nd March and more details can be found here

Friday, 8 February 2013

Website Workshop Writeup

Our research project and series of workshops we are running with Bolton at Home made the news section on the University of Bolton website:

Craft and Smart Materials Workshop

This week we (myself and Rachel McLean) hosted the first of our craft and smart materials workshop in Bolton. We were awarded funding from Bolton at Home to run these workshops within the area of Breightmet in Bolton which has been identified as a fragmented and deprived community. 

This workshop was held at Breightmet Community Church and the craft group is led by the wonderful Jen Gilmore who also runs Stitch Me Lane fabrics (and coincidentally was a participant within my PhD interviews).    

We brought in technician Garry from the Alternative Technology Centre in Hebden Bridge to introduce smart materials to the group and helped participants create their own soft circuits. He brought in a whole bag of tricks including conductive threads, sewable LED's and LilyPad Arduinos.

 Some of the materials we used on the day

(sorry for some of the blurry pics it was a very sunny outside and I took a couple of action shots)

We had an extremely fun and rewarding day which is hopefully a sign for good things to come. Here is one of the participants Caroline who worked a soft circuit LED into bird patterned fabric. She was so pleased with what she had created (as you can see in the picture) and I hope I get the opportunity to interview her next time.

We have a few more workshops already booked and more to come so watch this space to keep up to date with further developments.