Fiber Optic Tapestry

Inspired by the Jacquard Loom, the first computer to use punch cards, artists Nora Ligorano and Marshall Reese are looking to “marry traditional hand-woven crafts with information technologies” with their new project: Fiber Optic Tapestry.

The tapestry is set to be a nine panel work of art, woven by fiber optic threads (instead of traditional woolen threads) connected to RGB LEDs.  These LEDs are in turn connected to a computer which can control their outputs to create a wonderful array of patterns and colours.

An extremely inspirational and modern take on the conventional loom.  A further digital twist on this project sees the connected computer scouring the web, in particular Twitter, for any content mentioning Josef Alber’s Homage to the Square providing a stream real time data visualisation.

“The element of the hand is a critical factor through all stages of this project: from weaving on a loom, to the way the electronics are integrated with the fiber optic threads”

Traditionally, past tapestries have been used to depict a story or an event, creating heroes, myths and legends.  This project is really not too different.  Threaded fiber optic information streaming data across the tapestry as light, visualising internet-based narration for a particular topic.


Patterns being tested.

The duo are still a tad shy of their target fundraising on Kickstarter to secure costs for materials, so if you like the look of their proposal, and the somewhat scaled down, prototype above then get your wallet out and back the project.

Once funding has been achieved and the artefact is complete it will be displayed at the International TECHstyle Art Biennial (ITAB) at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles.  Now, I’ll be honest, the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles isn’t somewhere on my to do list, but if this is the sort of project it is going to exhibit it definitely seems worth a look!


Close up detail of the fiber optic weave.

It’s speculative projects and ideas such as these coming to fruition that is real evidence of ever-improving technologies.  We used to make tapestries out of threads or strands of wool, and now we are creating them out of light, in real time, and using global data that someone hundreds of miles away could have well just tweeted!

This could well be the stepping stone to creating not just woven patterns, but really precise images.  Take each of those panels and shrink them down to represent, oh say, a pixel.  Thousands of pixels side by side and you would have a pretty detailed image, with the ability to change on demand.  Change the colour, the shape, or even the subject represented on it.  Very exciting.

Gary Hartley

Gary Hartley is The Floating Frog. A seasoned freelance web designer with skills in UI/UX, CRO design, WordPress, branding, PSD-HTML conversions and more. Got a project you need to start or take to the next level? Please, get in touch!