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May 29, 2020

Resources from 2020 Materials-Based Researchers

In celebration of ᏔᎷᏣ The Basket

We asked this year’s awardees to tell us how previous research informs their current studies and what they are excited about for the future.

Photo courtesy of

Left to right: "Response Patterns," Work Sample: Millington, Fitch, Zhang. // "Knit Structure Exploration, Short Row in Cashmere and Monofilament” Photo credit: Melissa Conroy. // “C O M P U T E R 1.0” - 2019 (MAD Museum) Photo by Kelly Vigil.

This year, the Center for Craft awarded three Materials-Based Research Grants in the amount of $10,000 each. The Materials-Based Research Grant encourages mutually-beneficial collaboration between craft and the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Exploring how material-specific knowledge, skill, and creativity can apply outside the field of fine art, the three projects selected this year all work to shape our world through the development of fiber technologies.

In their grant applications, each team provided sources of inspiration and research relevant to their projects. To share some of the fascinating groundwork associated with fiber technologies, we asked this year’s awardees to tell us how previous research informs their current studies and what they are excited about for the future.

What does the Center for Craft Materials-Based Research grant mean to you or for your research?

Travis Fitch, product design: "It is a very exciting opportunity to explore the intersection between our group of collaborators, Anette Millington and Yuchen Zhang. As we all have very different backgrounds and skill sets, we get to experiment with how these crafts pollinate with each other to produce something innovative. Specifically in my own work, which I often consider as a sort of digital craft, it is also validation of the role computer-aided design and fabrication can have as a tool in craft processes."

What resources would you recommend for someone new to your field who wants to learn more about your field?

Melissa Conroy, fiber science and apparel design: "A good place to start is on a hand operated machine, like a Silver Reed. I have a Passap Duomatic 80 machine that I use to explore knit structure before translating the discoveries that come up to knit programming. I would recommend using local resources. Is there a machine knitting guild near you? A yarn store that sells machines? If you buy a machine, make sure to put aside some time with the dealer for a tutorial on operating it. Knitting seems simple, and it is, but there are many variables involved (yarn, stitch size, tension settings, stitch combinations) that will yield wildly different results which is one of the things about the craft that gives it so much potential. An excellent book on hand machine knitting is Hand-Manipulated Stitches for Machine Knitters by Susan Guagliumi."

How does previous research inform your current studies?

Soft Monitor, digital textiles: We study stories from the past because we are curious. The context and history of use of a material inspires us. These resources give precedents to the current conversation around technology that include under-represented groups including, women, people of color, crafts people, etc. Their contributions to technological development of the species have been important but largely invisible or forgotten. For example in Kuchera’s The Weavers and Their Information Webs, the accounts of people across time and space who have used textiles to embed messages and code has inspired us to think about what are all of the possibilities for a screen to be.

What current advances or new research in your field are you most excited about and why?  

Anette Millington, fashion and material: Disciplines are becoming less defined and intersections across fields are increasingly valued. This is beyond exciting, creates new methodology for inquiry and increases recognition of practice-based knowledge.

What are you excited to read next and why?

Yuchen Zhang, Wearable Media: I am excited to read the publication Active Matter edited by Skylar Tibbits. This a great book that collects brilliant examples of projects that manifest the idea of "programmed matter".  It is also a great book for my research group to look into different fabrication methods and materials to experiments with.
Melissa Conroy: As someone who has always been interested in the connection of craft to women’s work, I look forward to reading The Subversive Stitch by Rozsika Parker.

What is a common misconception about your field that you'd like to correct?

Soft Monitor: Art, Design, Craft and Technology are all the same. They are not different.

Materials-Based Research explores how craft practice and mediums contribute to STEM research and vice versa. At the Center for Craft, we view craft as relevant and meaningful to a broad spectrum of disciplines. We invite “cross pollination” through collaborations, discussions, and sharing across subjects. Examples of materials-based research include:

  • Using craft-based research and process to solve an industrial, social, environmental or other problem in the present-day
  • Presenting a new understanding of the relationship between hand-made production and technology
  • Inventing or testing new materials
  • Developing applications for new materials
  • Other collaborative efforts between craft and STEM that offer fresh perspectives within the fields

To read about the Materials-Based Research Grant, please visit our webpage here.

To read about past recipients of the Materials-Based Research Grant, please visit our Grant Recipient Archive here.

Resources cited by the 2020 Materials-Based Research recipients in their grant applications:  


Showcasing ElectroDermis


Programmed matter has become the frontier of sensing technology. Instead of having a centralized computing “brain”, designers and scientists are creating materials that can sense and respond to a particular element of the environment. This premise is seen in the project list below:

Self Assembly Lab: Climate-Active Textiles

Chao Chen: Biomimetic Water Reaction Material

Fab Textiles: Thermochromic Research

Maggie Orth: 100 Electronic Art Years


Lea Albaugh, Scott Hudson, and Lining Yao. 2019. Digital Fabrication of Soft Actuated Objects by Machine Knitting. In Proceedings of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’19). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, Paper 184, 1–13. DOI: (Kao/Conroy)

Granberry, R., Eschen, K., Holschuh, B., & Abel, J. (2019). Functionally Graded Knitted Actuators with NiTi-Based Shape Memory Alloys for Topographically Self-Fitting Wearables. Advanced Materials Technologies, 4(11), [1900548]. (Kao/Conroy)


Chun, W. H. K. (November 01, 2004). On Software, or the Persistence of Visual Knowledge. Grey Room, 1, 18, 27-52.

Gleick, J. (2011). The information: A history, a theory, a flood. New York: Pantheon Books.

Kuchera, S. (May 01, 2018). The Weavers and Their Information Webs: Steganography in the Textile Arts. Ada: a Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology, 13.)

Gombrich, E. H. (1994). The sense of order: A study in the psychology of decorative art. London: Phaidon.