Airwear, by Daisy Imogen Buckle
Please find below the updates on Daisy’s research into materialising air quality data.
Happy to present some sketches and textiles experiments Daisy has undertaken to visualise air quality data through wearables.
Through textile manipulation techniques and processes, such as weave and stitch, Daisy plays with colour and shape to present data through a new medium to be worn.
Air quality is in our cities, but it is extremely hard to see with the naked eye, especially when you’re already in it. It is also hard to know what is what, as we are submerged in NO2, CO2, PM, and more at all times. Working on new ways to make the invisible visible, the designer is researching how to present this vast data into something one can see and touch every day.
Daisy has turned to lichens to read air quality, which are a plants’ way to give visual cues to passersby. Lichens are composites of fungus and algae, which the colours and species found will tell a thorough story on local air quality. In these photos, you can observe some Evernia Prunastri, Xanthoria, and Parmelia Saxatilis lichens, which show the air in this forest is clean!
There are 3 main types of lichen, foliose, fruticose and crustose. The areas with the best air quality will have lots of fruticose types which are epiphytes. They really thrive in healthy air – the fresher, the more you will find. Other lichens are pollution-tolerant, so they can survive with higher nitrate and sulphur levels, and so found in cities. Which you find will tell you what air has helped this specific species of lichen thrive.
If you see bleached lichens, this is a sure way to know the air is bad. If no lichens are found, that is quite bad news as well.
The photos up come from Daisy’s walk-in Whippendell, Watford. As this wood has had a number of ash dieback cases, so they needed to fell a lot of the ash trees. It is really sad, but it also gave Daisy a special opportunity to see these lichens from up close.
I have been exploring lichens more as they are good indicators of air quality even in the city and urban environments.
How can I visualise air quality data through weaving and use the lichens aesthetic to help develop this identity? How can I use colours and forms to envision a city's data and make it an engaging but informative experience for those who live there?
The above photos illustrate trials based on a photo from Watford to materialise this data.
The National Air Quality Standard for mean levels of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) in a given area are 40ug/m3 (40 micrograms per cubic meter of air).
The air in certain London boroughs frequently breaks this limit and means the residents and workers in that area are subject to dangerously high levels of NO2. However, it isn’t visible and so is not obvious- we cannot see the damage or danger immediately, and it takes charts like these generated by Friends of the Earth and londonair.org.uk to show us the levels in the areas we visit or work.
For example, black is very high, red is high and blue is low. Both organisations use colour schemes to represent the levels and I have been looking at how I could use colour in my woven collections. The colours would correspond to the NO2 levels of that month and I would use tactile yarns (linking back to the lichen) to show air quality too.
I have been developing my project into a more community-focused one. How can ordinary members of the public become activists? How can those who don't want to shout be heard? How can they be active members of the climate movement, demanding change and showing they care?
My project says through creativity and hands-on methods. I am developing a language which people can use to communicate the air quality in their community to generate a dialogue about the differences between areas and the problems with air quality we humans are facing.
Design your own, make your own, wear your own. DIY has been a way for people to connect to causes even with less money and materials access. Banners and pieces made for marches which were hand made and individually customised to make a person's voice heard and count. I started with scarves, but 2020 has shifted the focus to face coverings. This could become another valuable route. So this is also an angle I am exploring.
The first two photos represent tools Daisy has used in the past. The next three are previous workshops Daisy had organised.
I am generating a language and glossary which can be used by other people to translate the air quality data from their own cities into their own textiles. This is combining both the research and documentation I did on lichens with the data collected by researchers and scientists and made available to the public online.
For example, white colours and tones are going to be used to represent the areas with the poorest air quality because although you get white species of lichen, all lichen are bleached on sites which don’t give them the nutrients they need and become pale. Lichen in the areas with the best air quality are fruticose- tasselled and fringed- so if one lived in an area with very low air pollution, your scarf or facemask could be decorated with lots of fringing or use more tactile, fancy yarns.
Developing this all into the website I mentioned in my previous post will enable people to play with data whilst learning new skills and creating something practical for their own use and benefit. It’s working with the restrictions we have at the moment due to the pandemic whilst acknowledging a larger network of workshops which could be put on in the future to teach people in a more hands on and face to face manner.
Picture 1: Flat weaves or sewing techniques such as plain weave will represent areas with low-quality air.
Picture 2: Areas with high-quality air will use more tactile yarns and techniques like this honeycomb structure.
Picture 3: Colour will represent the exact air quality levels in a given area.