Discover transmission through textile: an experiment with modern technology and traditional storytelling textiles   

Leona Wang

Design & Creative Technologies, School of Future Environments, Auckland University of Technology 


Heritage arts and crafts are vital to a nation as they are an artistic form of its cultural connotations, and a reflection of it’s historical development. They are visual communication tools to present and sustain the cultural characteristics and artistic traditions of a particular region. They were closely associated with daily life before the digital age. Creating everyday necessities by hand was the norm prior to industrialisation. Using clothing as an example, from hand weaving, natural fabric dyeing to decorative techniques such as embroidery, batik and pleating, these now endangered heritage crafts were valuable skills passed down through families and local artisans over generations.  


Although the consciousness of retaining heritage crafts has been enhanced among the general public in recent years, governments are also working on mutually beneficial options to develop policies in an effort to create economic interests by utilising these intangible heritages rationally. The great impact that industrialisation and globalisation brought to traditional handicrafts has been immeasurable. The rapid development of new technologies further accelerated the demise of heritage crafts. In this digital era, more of the younger generation spend their days in front of a computer screen or using smart phones, the excitement and sense of satisfaction in taking time to create has accordingly diminished in importance. The well-organised industrial unit with efficient and advanced machinery changed the consumer’s needs significantly and, as a consequence, hand made products have gradually lost their place in the market. This has forced some craftsmen to abandon their skills and move to other careers.  The skills that these craftsmen hold out also slowly fade away as there is rarely any successor who is interested in picking up the traditions. However, there are also a number of initiatives between high end fashion brands and traditional artisans underway to preserve and extend the handmade market by transforming the heritage into contemporary culture. 


This doctoral study is a practice-based project, and it will placing its focus on modern technology, and the endangered crafts and culture associated with minority ethnic groups. Weaving and embroidery will be the main techniques employed throughout this research.  This study will explore the structure of textiles and the possibility of weaving cultural patterns using conductive yarns through handloom and TC2 loom. It will also employ traditional embroidery skills and modern materials to develop a small collection of e-textiles which could achieve visual storytelling through an interactive experience or have the ability to transmit information or send signals to the audience. It is an exploration to find out what aspect and to what extent traditional craft could be transferred into contemporary textile. This research is also an attempt to find out how storytelling through textile could be applied in a modern context.  


Leona attained a Bachelor degree (Honours) in Fashion Design at AUT and stayed on to extend her knowledge with a Master of Art and Design (major in Product Design), and is now half way through her first year of PHD study. Traditional and ethnic cultures have always been the source of Leona’s creative inspiration. Her work explores the possibilities of integrating the traditional crafts and modern technologies. Her research aims to promote traditions to younger generations and also give greater meaning to the textile artifact through narrative and interaction.