Design Daily: Glitch Textiles by Phillip Stearns
Textile designer Phillip Stearns was on track for a career in engineering when he veered into the uncharted waters of electronics, sound imaging and design. Fast-forward to his MFA at the California Institute of the Arts and some experimentation with rewired cameras, and the result is Glitch, a collection of woven art that Stearns generates from short-circuited cameras.
The cotton throws originate when Stearns hacks a digital camera, removing the screws and pulling off the back of the device. Once the camera is opened up, he can see that the lens is often in direct line with CCD or CMOS sensors—where the signals for images are produced based on light. “If I can short-circuit the sensor or the pins on the sensor (using wires), I can disrupt how the image taken will be read off of the chip, or how the electronics will respond to light signals,” says Stearns. “It’s like treating camera film before I expose it—I’m not corrupting a finished jpeg, I’m corrupting the electronic signals before they’re converted to a jpeg.”
The result is a highly colorful, pixelated mess. Stearns then sends the glitched image to consumer mills known as picture weavers, or places that transform classically cheesy family reunion pictures or pet photos into blankets. (At the beginning of this project, which he started in late 2011, the mills were convinced they had the wrong images and kept asking for new ones, but Stearns has brought them on board with his artful designs.)
The Glitch project has gained momentum: a recent sale on Fab.com and a successful Kickstarter campaign are allowing Stearns to experiment more deeply with the execution of his designs, which would involve more integrated software and industrial knitting equipment. He’d also like to explore more tactile diversity. That means “customized palettes, higher thread counts, finer yarn, various gauges of yarn and multilayered binding patterns,” says Stearns.
While he's reaching out to brick-and-mortar boutiques, you can find Glitch textiles on Stearns’ website for now. They come as machine-knit blankets or limited-edition jacquard tapestries and start at $200.