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  Field Notes From
Dreamweavers



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On Assignment
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From Author

Cathy Newman



On Assignment

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From Photographer

Cary Wolinsky



In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Brian Strauss (top), and Shane Young


 

On Assignment On Assignment On Assignment
Dreamweavers

Field Notes From Author
Cathy Newman
Best Worst Quirkiest

Asha Peta Thompson is a weaver who worked for the Design for Life Centre at Brunel University in England, where she designed textile products for people with disabilities. While we were talking, a fly fell into the pitcher of milk on the table where we were drinking tea and struggled to stay afloat. Asha spotted it and gently fished it out. Tearing a small piece of napkin off, she carefully blotted it dry. "There! You'll be fine, dear," she clucked. It was a reminder that science has its limits; in the end, it is compassion that matters most.



The iron curtain of proprietary information and trade secrets was continually being lowered on photographer Cary Wolinsky and me. The business of high-tech textiles is competitive on a global scale, and no one wanted to show their hand. Understandable, but frustrating. "We're working on something absolutely fabulous," the head of research for a big company would say, "but we can't tell you what it is." The corporate version of a strip tease got tiresome.



Not all the innovations in the brave new world of high-tech fibers are qualities you can see. In Japan, a culture exquisitely attuned to aesthetic sensibility, researchers found that one of the off-putting things about synthetics no matter how expensive and finely made was their sound. "It feels like silk," consumers said, rubbing a luxurious synthetic between their fingers, "but it doesn't sound like it." So scientists at the Japanese textile company Toray Industries calibrated the sound-wave frequency of rustling silk, and created a synthetic that replicates the rustle when fingered. Not only does the fabric look like silk. It sounds like silk.





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