OCA preloader logo
Kinetic textiles - The Open College of the Arts
To find out more details about the transfer to The Open University see A New Chapter for OCA.
Explore #WeAreOCA
Skip Navigation
Kinetic textiles thumb

Kinetic textiles



Learn to pronounce


  1. relating to or resulting from motion.
    • (of a work of art) depending on movement for its effect.

One of the reasons I chose to study textiles was that I love the tactility and movement of fabrics and I wanted to discover ways of making my own materials that engaged the viewer or handler into touching, stroking or draping and gain joy from them the same way I did.

Whilst the majority of textile-based work involves a degree of drape, movement or surface interest; some designers choose to focus solely on the movement of a piece- the kinetic nature of the material they have created. I have chosen to share with you four practitioners who have created work that explore the kinetic values of their chosen materials.

Hannah Starkey is a UK based maker specialising in knitted textiles. I chose her work because I really like how the fabrics have been constructed; allowing for colours and patterns to be revealed through stretching. Her work encourages us to want to manipulate the fabrics with our hands, and I admire this element of interaction also.

Rhiannon Wakefield is a fairly recent graduate from the RCA and I was immediately grabbed by the striking visual aesthetic of her (I believe, now patented) geometric fabrics. The simplicity of the sharp cut lines with the vibrant colour details, for me, work so well to engage a viewer into wanting to drape, handle and see just how the fabric can change by the smallest of movements. Wakefield says, “My work revolves around a fascination with the way that graphics and colour react on the body with movement. I’m interested in camouflage, disruptive patterns and visual trickery. I’ve explored this through a series of live experiments using light, paint and textiles on the body in combination with experimental photography”.[i]

Barkow Leibinger is an architectural practice based in Berlin and New York, but I wanted to draw your attention to their piece, Kinetic Wall (2014) as I think it is a fascinating use of a stretchy fabric and motion. (I have attached a link to a video at the end of this post of the wall in action! It’s actually very relaxing to watch!) The wall explores the concept of moving architecture using textile-based plains of synthetic fabric, almost making the wall ‘breathe’. Up close, I like how the structure of the fabric contorts and allows it to become more sheer, and that you feel it could rip at any moment. It is spatially very dynamic I find it a very interesting combination of textile and motion; and I can really appreciate the fine lines between textile design, architecture and product design investigations.

Elisa Strozyk has long been a designer I have greatly admired; I remember using some of her work as contextual research when I undertook a jewellery module as part of my textiles MA: I was blown away by the blurring of hard and soft materials, how the material changed so much through handling and how the light changed the piece depending on how small or large the motion from the handler. It is a common instinct to perceive wood as a very hard material, rigid and often used in a context where we seek strength and solid construction. Part of the reason I adore Strozyk’s work is that she’s found a very innovative way for wood to become flexible, tactile and soft. Challenging material boundaries is something I am very interested in myself, and I always find it exciting to see new discoveries, either by practitioners or students!

If you take just one thing from this collection of makers, I hope that it might make you look at your own materials in terms of how they handle; do they drape? Do they make you want to touch them? Do they change when held? What kind of surface interest do they have? Do they feel rough, smooth, warm? Not all your samples will have these elements but it’s good practice to really analyse what we make and find those wonderful elements that may not be obvious at first glance (or feel!).

Kinetic Wall: https://vimeo.com/97429450 (Please watch with sound if possible, it’s really very soothing!)

[i] https://www.rca.ac.uk/students/rhiannon-wakefield/

Voiced by Amazon Polly

Posted by author: Faye Hall
Share this post:

6 thoughts on “Kinetic textiles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to blog listings