Published: May 13, 2019


Sandra Wirstanen working and two images depicting her weaving work

After reviewing more than 200 applications from around the globe, the Unstable Design Lab at CU Boulder's ATLAS Institute selected Sandra Wirtanen as its first researcher-in-residence for the 2019 Experimental Weaving Residency to Bridge Art and Engineering, which aims to promote collaboration between fiber-artists and CU Boulder scientists and engineers.

Wirtanen, who is based in Helsinki, Finland, says she's looking forward to engaging with other researchers at the Unstable Design Lab and across the CU Boulder campus.

"There aren't many places in the world where you can explore new interactive textile concepts at the intersection of art, science, technology and design," says Wirtanen, who already has experience embedding technology into the aesthetics and function of textiles. "Innovation is about collaboration and making unexpected connections. By sharing our knowledge and ideas, we can develop creative solutions for future materials."

The large number of applicants for the residency reflects a growing interest in the relationship between textiles and emerging technologies, says Laura Devendorf, the lab's director, who co-founded the initiative with Steven Frost, an independent artist and an instructor in CU Boulder's Department of Media Studies. 

With 200 applicants to review, the selection process was not easy. Devendorf and Frost first scored applicants on their weaving skills and aesthetics, and then on their experience working with nontraditional materials. The top-scoring 23 applications were then sent to a board of advisors for review, and from there four top finalists were chosen, based on their potential to benefit from the residency and the unique qualities they would bring to the Unstable Design Lab community. The four finalists were interviewed via teleconference by Devendorf, Allison Anderson, assistant professor in CU Boulder's Bioserve Space Technologies and Frost.

"Sandra's enthusiasm, her skill as a textile craftsperson and her unique experience with emerging technologies stood out as providing many potential pathways for the collaborations we envisioned," Devendorf says.

During the six-week residency, Wirtanen will collaborate with university researchers and local partners to conceptualize and develop textiles that engage technology in their design, production or concept, including data-driven or generative design of textiles, textiles with embedded functionality, and/or textiles that embody critical perspectives of technology and society. She will have a dedicated working space within the Unstable Design Lab, access to the resources and equipment of the organizers (including a TC2 digital jacquard loom) and a  
Photos by Eeva Suorlahti

stipend to offset travel and living expenses.

The residency is supported by a grant from the Center for Craft, Creativity, and Design, a non-profit organization based in Asheville, NC, dedicated to advancing the understanding of craft by encouraging and supporting research, critical dialogue, and professional development.


Laura Devendorf, Katya Arquilla, Sandra Wirtanen, Allison Anderson, and Steven Frost. 2020. Craftspeople as Technical Collaborators: Lessons Learned through an Experimental Weaving Residency. In Proceedings of the 2020 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’20). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 1–13. DOI: (Honolulu, Hawaii (virtual)–April 25-30, 2020) [Honorable Mention Award].