Fashion Collaboration — Custom Color and Construction

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Innovative design meets DIY in the collaborative fashion designs of Berber Soepboer & Michiel Schuurman. These garments incorporate customization in both surface and form with their two (very wearable) A-line dresses.

The Colour-In Dress features black and white circle motifs in a variety of patterns. You play the textile designer — or at least the colorist — by coloring in the dress with markers.

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The Replacement Dress is constructed using buttons instead of seams. This lets you piece together the dress with different fabric panels. There are three patterns, all of which appear to be digitally printed.

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Centerview: Catherine Hammerton

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Digitally printed silks with collages of English roses, vintage stamps, detailed moths, and ink splots; DIY wall decorations of embossed flourishes; laser-cut and digitally embroidered leather upholstery. This is the work of Catherine Hammerton.

The ‘05 graduate from the Royal College of Art’s textile program was the recent recipient of an innovation grant from Central Saint Martins. (The other amazing art school in London.) With the award and in partnership with a top British manufacturer, Summer 2009 will see the launch of her digitally printed wallpapers.

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I recently interviewed Catherine about her love of fabric and technology, her current work in mass-customization, and her thoughts on the future of the field of textiles.

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Wallpaper On Demand

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Two companies are combining the rise of customization with the return of wallpaper. As the interior design catalogs will tell you, wallpaper has made a come back in the past few years. With more and more people wanting to individualize their homes, wallpaper can be the perfect way to achieve a one-of-a-kind living space.

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‘Individual wallpaper publishing’ company Berlintapete carries an array of large-scale, photorealistic mural prints, repeat patterns, and of course you can submit your own. The imagery is pretty impressive, and it’s worth a look around the gallery just for inspiration. Most of these I see as being best for commercial interiors, but some would be great as single-wall statements in the home.

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Printed with CMYK pigment powders on cellulose-based fleece wallpaper, the final product is light-fast, flame resistant, and does not expand from moisture. Prices range from around 25 €/m2 to 43 €/m2 .

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In parternship with Berlintapete is the Italian based Jannelli e Volpi. Their WonD service lets you upload your own image and order custom wallpaper starting at 20 €/m2. They also have lots of ready images to choose from including the winners from the 2008 WonD Design Contest featured below.

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Centerview: Spoonflower

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I’ve been writing a lot about digital textile printing, but you may be wondering where and how you can get your own designs printed. And I’m here to tell you. Spoonflower is a no-minimum, unlimited color digital printing start-up for custom, on-demand fabric. I interviewed company founder Stephen Fraser to tell you all about it.

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So where did the name Spoonflower come from?

Spoonflower is the common name of an endangered wildflower native to North Carolina. The White arrow arum, or Spoonflower, grows along the edges of swamps and bogs. My wife Kim and I ran across the name when we were looking for plants that would survive in a rain garden we were building in the backyard of our house. When the idea came along to build a web site to serve the crafting community, Spoonflower just seemed to fit.

Where did this idea come from and how long did it take to actualize it?

Spoonflower was originally my wife’s idea. Kim has always been a crafty sort, but over the past few years she’s also become an avid sewist. A little over a year ago I was a marketing consultant helping Internet start-ups, and I knew nothing at all about textiles. One night Kim asked me if I had ever heard of a company that would let her print her own fabric. My immediate response was that there probably was a company like that, but I expected that she would need to order hundreds of yards at a minimum.

As a conceptual problem — Can an industrial production process be put at the service of an individual’s creativity? — her question about fabric rang a bell for me. I used to be the marketing guy for a company called Lulu.com that solved the same problem for people who wanted to publish a book. By marrying the Web with digital printing technology, Lulu made it possible for an individual to publish a single copy of a single book for less than $10.It turns out that you can also print fabric digitally. Putting that technology together with the Web seemed like such a good idea that I was able to convince my former boss, Gart Davis, to join me as my business partner shortly after he stepped down as Lulu’s president last year.

It took us about six weeks to put together a very rough beta site that went live around the beginning of June 2008. Based on buzz among craft bloggers, the number of people on the waiting list grew into the thousands. We ended up opening registration to one and all in October and at this point Spoonflower has around 20,000 registered users. We’re still working on getting all the features of the site in place, most importantly a marketplace for designs and a broader choice of fabrics for printing.
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Center for Advanced Textiles

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Established at the Glasgow School of Art in 2000, the Center for Advanced Textiles is an advanced studio and research center for digital textile design and printing. CAT allows for commercial and academic partnerships between the GSA postgraduate researchers and companies, institutions, and individuals in a range of fields. The goal is to explore the potential of digital textile printing and its applications to art, to fashion, interior design, photography and science.

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There are several projects listed at the site that explain the concept and execution of the work along with photos of the finished pieces. Questions like:

What is unique about the craft-minded approach as we integrate new digital tools?

What factors are preventing the textile industry from engaging with digital technology in the same way as other media industries have?

How do craft objects communicate our relationships with the world?

are investigated through scientific and creative research, studio experimentation and site-specific installations. CAT also seeks possibilites such as alternative inks for fabric besides commercially available dyes, potential for topographic and 3D printing onto cloth and the benefits of such applications.

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There’s even been a project based on the mass-customization of textiles which profiles ‘Digikids: Creating Customised Children’s Clothing’.

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The Aureate Timorous Beasties

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Pattern maximalism hits the substrates from the Timorous Beasties studio.  For nearly twenty years Alistair McAuley and Paul Simmons have been designing subversive graphics in the guise of tradition for off the shelf fabrics and wallpapers as well as bespoke commissions and collaborative projects. The latest news on these guys? Just last week at the studio the 250th birthday of Scottish poet Robert Burns (who provided the name of the studio in his poem ‘To a Mouse’) was “celebrated with whisky, haggis, poetry and song.”

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T.B. had another party last fall with partners Nobody & Co for the launch of their Scroll Table. The powder coated steel table has a handle which rotates the ‘tablecloth’ underneath the glass. There’s a version with patterns printed by hand and another with digitally printed fabrics such as the gradated ‘Russian Damask’ featured above.
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Centerview: Haile McCollum of Fontaine Maury

I’ve always loved paper products and frequently send letters and cards to friends and family, but the Holidays are really the raison d’être of stationery. So for the month of December, I’ll be focusing on all the things Ponoko loves: mass customization, consumer creation and laser-cutting as they relate to paper.
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One stationery company that I’ve personally had the good fortune to freelance for on occasion is Fontaine Maury. Since the spring of 2003, Haile McCollum has been designing modern, personalized graphics for everything from notepads and rubber stamps to melamine plates and canvas wall decor under the brand Fontaine Maury.

The company is soon moving into wallpaper and fabric. Patterns can be customized with silhouettes of the client’s choice. One such silhouette damask featuring Haile’s own profile along with her family is featured in the January issue of Country Living.

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With her growing business and a new baby, Haile has been pretty busy. So I thought, what better time for an interview! Below, Haile talks about her love of customization, digital fabric printing, and demonstrates how to correct someone’s spelling with tact.

Me: First of all, congratulations on the baby! Give us the details: name, weight, size, hair color!

HM: William Banks McCollum, little brother of Parker. 8 pounds 3 ounces, September 10, 2007! 15 months old and a QT pie. Hair… maybe red!

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Me: When and why did you decide to start a stationary company?

HM: First of all, its Stationery- ery. -ary is when you are standing still and trust me, Fontaine Maury is not standing still. So my big picture is not stationery, but personalized. I moved back to the South after a just turned 30/snowboarding stint in Jackson, Wyoming. Got to our little town, Thomasville, and needed something to DO, not being married or having kids yet, I had lots of free time and not so many opportunities that I could really dig into. I almost bought a sewing machine to do digital embroidery. I love the idea that technology would allow me to sew what I can draw. But the machine was $16,000.  I already had a printer and a computer. So I started a personalized stationery company. I also had some stationery experience and only one 4-H sewing class under my belt, and that was in 1979.

Me: How has living in the South influenced your work and company?

HM: I think that living here I am somewhat out of the inner, super fickle design loop. Which is good in a way. I might be over stimulated if I lived in Brooklyn. Dunno.

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above: live oaks line the streets of Thomasville
Me: You attended school in the south as well?

HM: Yes, Vanderbilt University, BS in Human Development (one part organizational psychology, one part mojo, one part managing people in small groups). Savannah College of Art and Design, MFA Graphic Design- I actually wrote my thesis on the correlation between the industrial revolution and the technological revolution and how once artists and craftsmen eventually master the machine born from the revolution, amazing things happen. Think the arts and crafts movement as a reaction to the industrial revolution. But until the artists get a hold of the machines, and the “hand done” (does not have to be literally hand done) element into the work produced, the work is less than stellar. Example- digital fabric printing. Until artists grasp what the printers do we’ll see some pretty shabby designs produced by the developers of the technology. Not artists, engineers and the like. Once the technology is more widely available and artists (creative types) grasp what can be done, it will be amazing! It’s the missing link.
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Me: Tell us your thoughts on customization. Why did you decide to offer this service? In what ways does offering custom products build your relationship with clients/buyers?

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Custom Fabric Printing from Spoonflower

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Spoonflower is a web-based digital textile printing service run out of an old sock mill in downtown Mebane, North Carolina. Indigo has mentioned them previously in relation to the very apt Wordle.

At the moment the site is in Beta and as such does not offer any facility as an online marketplace or shared repository, but they will do in the next phase. This from their FAQs:

“When we come out of beta, … you will be able to choose to make your designs available for purchase by others. This feature — which will make Spoonflower into a marketplace for independent fabric designers — will probably take some time to evolve and grow in complexity. But displaying your designs, as well as selling them, will ALWAYS be under your control.”

Looks like another good opportunity for makers, keep up with their progress on their blog, where the Spoonflower folk also post pictures of their beta users’ creations.
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Reduced Carbon Footprint Christmas

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We are all looking for ways to reduce our carbon footprint, what with hybrid cars, recycled toilet paper and e-mailed then laser sintered souvenirs to friends back home when on international holidays. With Christmas fast approaching, let’s not send gifts that have been designed in America, manufactured in China with materials from Australia, shipped back to New Zealand and then sent sent to Europe? Let’s reduce the global traffic and use local manufacturers to produce a ‘local’ product.
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As previously mentioned on the Ponoko Blog Spanish designer Hector Serrano has developed the Reduced Carbon Footprint Souvenirs so you can email your friends back home personalized souvenirs which they then materialize using a 3D Printer (stereolithography rapid prototyping). No transport or standard production methods are required so the object carbon footprint is reduced to the minimum.
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The project questions the way objects are manufactured and new technologies are applied to propose alternatives ways of reducing their impact on the environment. The project becomes specially relevant as the 3D printers are getting smaller and more affordable.
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For more from Hector check out his site, or the great interview on the Core77 Podcast.
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For more ideas on how you can reduce the carbon footprint of your xmas presents, check out The Ponoko Showroom, ZapFab, Shapeways, Fabjectory, Thinglab etc. etc. etc.

Or check out the Treehugger Xmas Carbon Footprint Post if you need more info..

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Memjet – Really really really fast printer

At the design office where I work you can almost guarantee that during the course of the day, two or three people at a time will be waiting for the printer to slowly churn out their print job. Sure it is a way to socialize, catch up on gossip and unite us all against the common enemy in the printer.

Silverbrook Research, based in Sydney Australia, may have developed THE print technology to end the print bottle neck, and get our designers back where they belong, the coffee machine. The Memjet printer technology (when released) will be 10 times faster than other technologies at the same price point.

The Memjet technology, which has been in development for more than 10 years, is backed by more than 1,400 U.S. patents; about 2,000 more are pending. The new technology prints full color images at 60 pages per minute (ppm), many times the inkjet industry standard. The technology, which will be a fraction of the price of high-speed color laser devices, will soon be available for OEMs targeting the home/office, photo-kiosk and label markets. A business-class, 60 ppm Memjet-based printer is expected to retail for under $300. The ink pricing is expected to lead the market and help eliminate the price penalty for printing color.

The Memjet technology is comprised of three highly integrated components: page-wide printheads, driver chips and ink.

The printhead consists of a continuous row of 1mm x 20mm silicon print chips connected end-to-end. Each chip contains 6,400 nozzles, equaling 32,000 nozzles in total for a 100mm  printhead and 70,400 nozzles for a typical lettersize/A4 printhead. The nozzle density is 17 times higher than the nozzle density the market leaders offer in their leading printhead designs, which contributes to the cost effectiveness of the new technology.

The ultra-compact, continuous color printhead stretches from one edge of the page to the other. Unlike traditional scanning inkjet printheads, the Memjet printhead does not move, reducing vibration, noise and mechanical complexity, while dramatically increasing performance.

The technology can print full-color, photo-quality images (4×6 or A6) at 30 ppm, full-color and black-and-white business communication (8.5×11 or A4) at 60 ppm, and draft mode at 90 ppm. In the label, tag and ticket market, this translates into 6 inches per second for full 1600×1600 color printing and 12 inches per second for 1600×800 color printing. This compares to industry standards of about 1 to 2 ppm for 4×6 photos, 10 to 15 ppm for cost-effective ìbusinessî color, and 30 ppm for draft mode. The technology also replaces similar-speed, 200 dpi label-printing technologies with a high-resolution color alternative.

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