Towards the Uncanny Object
: Creating Interactive Craft with Smart Materials

  • Katharina Bianca Vones

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    The increasing prevalence of digital fabrication technologies and the emergence of a novel materiality in contemporary craft practice have created the need to redefine the critical context of digital jewellery and wearable futures. Previous research in this area, such as that presented by Sarah Kettley (2007a) and Jayne Wallace (2007), has provided the foundations for further enquiry but has not been advanced significantly since its inception. The artistic research presented in this thesis focuses on how smart materials and microelectronic components could be used to create synergetic digital jewellery objects and wearable futures that reflect changes in the body of their wearer and their environment through dynamic responses. Laying the foundations for a theory of Interactive Craft through evaluating different aspects of creative practice that relate to responsive objects with a close relationship to the human body is at the centre of this enquiry. Through identifying four distinct categories of wearable object, the Taxonomy of the Wearable Object is formulated and clearly delineates the current existing conceptual, technological and material perspectives that govern the relationships between different types of wearable objects. A particular focus is placed on exploring the concept of Digital Enchantment and how it could be utilised to progress towards developing the Uncanny Object that appears to possess biological characteristics and apparent agency, yet is a fully artificial construct.

    The potential for the practical application of a design methodology guided by playful engagement with novel materials, microelectronics and digital fabrication technologies is analysed, taking into account Ingold’s concept of the textility of making (Ingold, 2011). Through exploring the notion of the Polymorphic Practitioner in the context of Alchemical Practice, a model for experiential knowledge generation through engaging in cross-disciplinary collaboration is developed. This is supported by a qualitative survey of European materials libraries, including accounts of site visits that evaluate the usefulness of materials libraries for creative practitioners invested in novel materiality as well as visually documenting a selection of the visited libraries’ most intriguing material holdings. Utilising a scientific testing protocol, a practical body of work that centres on conducting extensive experiments with smart materials is developed, with a particular focus on testing the compatibility and colour outcomes of chromic pigments in silicone. The resulting chromic silicone samples are collated, together with sourced smart materials, in a customised materials library. Investigational prototypes and the Microjewels collection of digital jewellery and wearable futures that responds to external and bodily stimuli whilst engaging the wearer through playful interaction are presented as another outcome of this body of research.
    Date of Award2017
    Original languageEnglish
    SponsorsArts & Humanities Research Council & Leng Charitable Trust
    SupervisorSandra Wilson (Supervisor), Chris Lim (Supervisor) & Polly Duplock (Supervisor)


    • Smart materials
    • Design
    • Craft
    • Interaction design
    • Practice-led research
    • Practice-led
    • HCI
    • Jewellery
    • Design research
    • Applied arts
    • Interactive craft

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