softislab pilot

Pilot for a shared textile laboratory

In August 2021, our team built a temporary, small-scale textile laboratory in Kalasatama Art Studio Building, Helsinki. This project was a first-stage pilot that provided us valuable data and experiential knowledge of establishing a similar and a permanent space in the future.

The one-month pilot (31.7 – 28.8.2021) had a theme SOFT IS RADICAL which featured programme of courses and workshops related to soft electronics, natural dyes and sensorial design. Our exhibition opening day presented an online stream with a key-note speaker and a panel discussion. Through our open call, we selected four artists to a short-term residency.  

Our guests and contributors included Judith Eszter Kárpáti and Esteban de la Torre (EJTECH), Varvara Guljajeva (Varvara & Mar Studio), Julia Valle, Ida Urmas (Seams Helsinki), Eevi Rutanen, Matilda Palmu, Havina Jäntti, Jérémy Gaudibert, Kiko Chen, Sofia Guridi, You-Chia Chen, Välitila, and Seripaja. Our open call jury guests were Kustaa Saksi, Noora Yau and Eevi Rutanen. 

The pilot was funded by CreaDemo grant from The Promotion Centre for Audiovisual Culture – AVEK.

Partners included Asko, Orneule, Zegna Baruffa Lane Borgosesia, Alpes Filati, Knokkon, Shieldex®, Kyrö Distillery, and Kolme Kaveria.  

Livestream Keynote:
EJTECH: ‘Being Metamaterial’ 20.8.2021

Formed by Judit Eszter Kárpáti and Esteban de la Torre, EJTECH
is an interdisciplinary artist duo working with hyperphysical interfaces, programmable matter, and augmented textiles as media to investigate sensorial and conceptual relationships between subject and object, aiming to rediscover networks of emerging structures and immanent causality within realist metamaterialism. Sound, space, light and time as material building blocks are paramount elements in their practice, analyzing the process of unfolding patterns between technology and the human body.

EJTECH has created commissioned art pieces for cultural institutions and commercial brands such as DIOR, Blade Runner 2049, Material ConneXion. They regularly hold workshops and lectures on new media art and creative technology internationally.

Photo courtesy of EJTECH

Livestream Panel discussion:
Soft Thinking: 'Textiles at Disciplinary Intersections’ 20.8.2021

Moderator: Dr Julia Valle Panelists: Dr Varvara Guljajeva (Varvara & Mar) Ida Urmas SEAMS Helsinki) Kiko Chen & Sofia Guridi (Softislab residency artist duo)

From the most basic woven structure, warp and weft collaborate for creating textiles. Maybe this vocation has lent textiles a natural ability to play an active role in collaborations. From fashion to technology, establishing relationships with other fields has always been intricate to textiles and provided the world with a series of innovative processes, materials, and products. But how does the field continue its path today? How do textiles and its thinking create better futures? From the perspective of relation-ships, in this discussion, we explore the topic through the voices of professionals that weave beyond textiles, creating new spaces for thinking with soft materials.

SOFT is Radical residency 2.-20.8.2022

In the open call targeted to all creators working with soft or soft-related materials, we asked people to dream big with us and tell us what the title sentence SOFT IS RADICAL sparks in them.

The aim of the Softislab short-term residency was to test how would the future textile lab’s working space function for professionals. The residency included the use of the studio space, its traditional textile -making tools, a curated collection of soft materials, and additional opportunities to utilize our partners' Välitila and Seripaja workshop spaces and machinery. Since the residency period was short-term, the emphasis was on creative thinking and process rather than finished projects.

The residency artists were selected anonymous by Softislab working group and the jury: Eevi Rutanen (an artist, creative technologist and educator) Noora Yau (designer and researcher) Kustaa Saksi (multidisciplinary artist and surface designer)

Residency artists 2021

You-Chia Chen: Dancing citizens

‘Soft is an ability to embrace, absorb, and reect the surrounding through its’ transformational body.’  

 The Dancing citizens is a project that integrates the geometrical study with printing and kirigami techniques to explore the transformational movement of soft materials from one form to another.  

To challenge the freeform movements of soft materials and the possibility of textile forming two opposite features come together on one surface— the soft skin and the stiff printed rib structure. The soft and hard characters support or against each other on one surface by layering, cutting, and shaping. As the result of the interplay of two opposite characters, the two-dimensional surfaces are reformed into interesting three-dimensional forms. 



Sofia Guridi & Kiko Chen: Yarns.txt

Fabrics and clothing are often associated with beauty, comfort, protection, and playfulness. But as a soft medium for personal and collective expression, textiles are also a powerful communication tool. YARNS.TXT explores the role of textiles in the context of rebellion, as a support to bypass physical and digital censorship under-gone by governments all around the world. 

Inspired by the work of Arpilleras, an embroidery technique used to hide messages during the Chilean dictatorship, and a mass internet anti-censorship movement across Chinese social media at the beginning of COVID, the presented pieces show different ways to encode and decode information hidden in textiles. 

Pleated structures, fading dyes, traditional weaving, AR and electronics are combined to create an interactive experience where the visitors are welcome to discover the messages through touch, view, and sound. 




Jérémy Gaudibert:
Jälsi ja käsi

I saved strips of mänty bark from a log house construction site and initiated serendipitous research in March 2020 when the pandemic started.

Material in hands, body in an outdoor space, house by the lake, slowly unfreezing.

As a designer, I figured I could make something out of it and after experimenting remotely with what could be done, I dived into the World Wide Web searching for ideas. I found the Otomi people in Mexico making paper-like cloth from beaten stripes of bark, the Bagandas in Uganda beating Mutuba tree bark into large panels sewn together, the colourful Hawaiian kapa, the lacebark invented by African slaves in Jamaica.

I found crafts and materials emerging in relation to their environment, quickly, with both practical and spiritual functions, support of expression and source of power.

A year later, with these newly found kinships and thanks to the Softislab residency, I decided to develop a hybrid craft, mixing the Finnish Pinus sylvestris inner bark – jälsi in Finnish- with weaving and knitting technologies.

This encounter explores particularly the translucent and shapingquality of the bark material.

*Cambium & Hand

Contact information:

Jérémy Gaudibert


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