In advance of TSA’s upcoming colloquium, (re)Imagining Futures: Shifting Methodologies, this Summer’s Lab Pitch Session offered an opportunity to share creative projects, brainstorm with peers, and weave together collective textile brilliance and scholarship! This month, we highlight two of these Lab attendees, beginning with Virginia Melnyk, a computational architectural designer and researcher with a passion for textiles and craft.
Textile Society of America (TSA): Virginia, what led you to pursue a career in textiles?
Virginia Melnyk (VM): I have always been working with sewing and making. As a kid, I took my first quilting class at age 8 and from that same age I took weaving classes for several years as a kid at the local art gallery workshop. I began integrating my sewing skills into my architectural designs as an architecture student. Later on, I expanded my own practice by doing large scale installation art pieces using sewing and fabric.
TSA: Could you share a work that holds a special significance for you and explain why it is particularly meaningful?
VM: I can’t think of a specific piece, but I was always inspired by Anni Albers work and her weavings. I loved the unique mixtures of colors and patterns.
TSA: Do you have any textile-related books or resources that you particularly recommend?
VM: I had learned so much from reading books including “The Prolific Knitting Machine” by Catherine Cartwright-Jones and I absolutely loved the graphics which are illustrated with bunnies and cats doing all the knitting. I also loved “The Subversive Stitch” by Rozsika Parker, looking at feminism and textile arts.
TSA: In your opinion, what are some of the most significant contributions that textiles have made to human history and culture?
VM: Knitting machines! Of course looms and other machines to make fabric existed for a long time but the industrial revolution was led by knitting machines. As well as the jacquard looms which made creating woven designs much faster and easier. These tools lead to computation and the possibilities for textiles production to not only be faster but to have more unique and specified designs.
TSA: How do you see the intersection of technology and textiles shaping the future of the field of textiles?
VM: My own research and designs are often engaging computational design for textiles as we can create more unique and specified patterning. These techniques are continually being developed and pushed as new tools and methods are developed.
TSA: Are there any lesser-known aspects of textile history that you believe deserve more attention or study?
VM: The intersection of textiles and activism. The relationship between craft, particularly knitting, has been utilized in feminist movements for its power in conveying political messages, challenging gender norms, fostering community, and promoting social change.
TSA: What projects are you currently working on or looking forward to?
VM: Currently I am working on collaborations with some knitting factories in North Carolina to produce some of my textile designs. This allows me to focus on the design and development, also to be able to research the material and the designs to make my works more tactical and more engaging. These pieces will be displayed at Virginia Tech at the end of my fellowship as part of an exhibition of my research here.
Virginia Ellyn Melnyk is a computational architectural designer and researcher with a passion for textiles and craft, specializing in material design, textiles, and deployable structures. She is currently pursuing a PhD in the DigitalFUTURES International PhD program at Tongji University, focusing on the development of soft and flexible structures that incorporate non-traditional material techniques with modern computational methods.
Virginia draws inspiration from her roots to work with traditional textile techniques and design processes. Using materials that can transform and stretch like knit, and emphasizing instability and movement as desired features of the design. She believes that the ability of structures to adapt and transform is essential for creating sustainable and innovative future architectural solutions.
The next Lab gathering is on Friday Oct. 6th at 9:30am PT/12:30pm ET/5:30pm BT via Zoom.
Do you want a chance to share your current research or studio project at the upcoming TSA colloquium, (re)Imagining Futures: Shifting Methodologies on October 30th? Attendees at the Lab gathering will co-lab-oratively jury and choose three five-minute presentations that align with the colloquium’s theme.
Presentations will be evaluated based on clarity, approaches to collaborative art making, and/or demonstration of research that is a catalyst for change in the textile community and helps reimagine an anti-racist, equitable, and accessible future for TSA