The “fab” in Fab City originally comes from “fabrication” and Fablabs. These labs, initially constructed around technology and tools of local fabrication, are also being applied to other fields with intriguing results. The Fabricademy, founded by Anastasia Pistofidou (who’s also co-founder of Fablab Textiles and research leader at IAAC, Fab Lab Barcelona) is a shining example of applying fabrication technologies alongside the principles and ideals of transparency, open-source access and sharing knowledge, and influencing older practices of craftsmanship.
In a two-part interview with Makery (part one, part two), Pistofidou explains this intersection of fabrication, textiles, biomaterials, research, and craftsmanship as it relates to the Fabricademy, but also with the once-a-year one-week bootcamp. Held in June at Fablab Onl’Fait in Geneva, the latest bootcamp brought together people from the Netherlands, Brazil, Italy, Spain, and the US.
For one week, some 30 people participated in workshops on biomaterials, textile crafting, leather moulding, 3D creation, parametric design, bacterial dyes and soft robotics. An intensive insight into the existing tools and teachings within the educational philosophy of DIWO, DIY, distributive education and open source tools.
Born five years ago, the Fabricademy program weaves together biomaterials, wearable textile research, and people interested in “extending the topics of the Fablab network not only to engineering or coding but also to arts and craft skills, design and soft fabrication.”
Although there are a lot of specific techniques, technologies, and methods discussed or hinted at in the interviews, one of the most interesting and telling aspects is the idea of rekindling and helping to keep alive the crafts heritage.
There is a lot of knowledge in the crafts heritage, and it is urgent not to lose it. With technology, you can redefine the aesthetics and processes, making artisanship alluring and interesting again. If technology is ubiquitous (at least in the Western world), then craftsmanship is in an emergency.
Another aspect of enabled fabrication, which is often harder to properly grasp, is the transformation from user to maker. The idea that instructions open to discovering your own way of doing things. Participants have to let go of just being a user.
I think most people still have this mentality of “I use something, I am a user”. A user needs things to work in the first approach. But this is not the mentality here, we want to promote the DIY/DIWO aspect. They really need to understand the material, feel the material, and learn while working with the material. You need to “make the recipe yours” to obtain results. [Ed.: Do It Yourself (DIY) and Do It With Others (DIWO).]
The output is very diverse. Rather than teaching a final skill, Fabricademy is more about a change of mindset and about empowerment, through the implication of digital fabrication for more distributive design challenges and sustainable innovation. This program is not to make you fit in a box, it is to make you create your own box! And this is different from the usual way of educational offers.
Using open-source digital fabrication tools such as 3D printers and CNC-Lasercutters, as well as bacterial dyes, they reinvented the old crafts of textile material production to tackle sustainability, personal fabrication, new esthetics and practices.
In the second part of the interview, Pistofidou mentions a vital aspect of fabrication, which the movement has been addressing for some years, and which was part of her initial questions early in the textile projects, “where does the material come from?”
We work with this mindset of empowering people to make everything from scratch, with open accessibility on sharing knowledge with open codes and open source tools in a sustainable way. It was a logical consequence to think about where you source your materials from, what trash you produce when prototyping, and how to optimize the system.”
Thus the inclusion of various methods in textiles, recycling, upcycling, biomimetic processes, growing materials, and bioengineering.
One last thing of interest I’d like to note, which seems like a useful insight to replicate with other programs; participants in Fabricademy are 95% women and 5% men. Instead of just being (perhaps) a bit disappointed at another skewed demographic, Pistofidou reminds us that the program is part of the entire Maker, Fablab and network user community, and thus contributes to gender equality in art, science, and technology.
Image: A wide range of naturally dyed hand-spun wool, project research by TextileLab Amsterdam Waag and Shemakes Wool Mondays. © Maya Minder