[ISEA2011] Paper: Gail Joy Kenning – Calculating the curvature of crocheted petals: A post media exploration of domestic craft-based textile patterns


Digital media and new technologies are ascribed a seminal role in the increase of DIY culture, the production of user-generated media content, and user-led participatory practices. There is also a noticeable increase in domestic craft-based DIY activities such as sewing, knitting, crochet, and weaving. Mass media including television programs, books, and magazines encourage and promote such activities by providing ‘how to’ articles, templates and patterns, and instructions for ‘personalised’ craft projects.

However, rather than promoting creative exploration, many pre-designed DIY craft and ‘how to’ projects are artefacts of commodification designed to increase audience numbers, sell materials or prefabricated parts for self-assembly, and emerge from a culture of copying and remaking. Such projects equate creativity with the customisation or individualisation of ‘pre-scribed’ forms. In such instances, creativity is located with the object and is measured by the extent to which it is a customisation of that from which it is modelled. Creativity is not acknowledged as being part of the process, that is, the craft activity itself.

Importantly, social media has become a platform for the dissemination of information regarding experimental projects, encouraging creative exploration and promoting alternative (and activist) approaches to, locations for, and ways of participating and engaging in craft-based textile activities. Many of these projects stand in contrast to the standardised, homogeneous craft projects of mainstream media.

This paper explores the growing interest in extending the possibilities for craft-based textile activities, and argues that there is a need for dedicated software tools for craft-based textile practitioners to effectively explore and interrogate textile processes. It reports findings from an experimental art project to produce software as tools for creativity in craft-based textile activities. This project advocates a rethinking of craft-based textiles beyond ‘fixed media’ and embraces the non-media specific nature of craft-based textiles which have historically operated as text, in diagrammatic form, as threads, and more recently as pixels and bio-materials. The project engages with craft-based textile activities through visual and spatial patterns, mathematics, instructional text and computer code.

  • Dr. Gail Joy Kenning is a UK-born practice-based arts researcher. She has worked with visualising data and information in industry, and in her art-practice and research. She creates programmed animations and data visualisations. Kenning is currently working on a number of research projects including an exploration of the relationship between craft-based textile activities, meditative games, digital media and code. She is also researching, in collaboration into how artists and scientists can work together to visualise scientific data in ways that appeal to both the intellect and the senses.

Full text (PDF) p. 1347-1352