Designer Suzanne Tick has shown that design can be functional, sustainable, innovative, and aesthetically pleasing. For example, in a recent video made on the occasion of Earth Day, Tick wove interesting colorful textiles using foil balloons recovered from the beach, as well as wire hangers discarded by the dry cleaners. In creating this hanging lamp, she used her loom to transform otherwise undistinguishable industrial fiber optic yarn into a structure of woven light, with a striking result. Indeed, the Crossform lamp was included in the Cooper Hewitt’s Design Life Now: National Design Triennial 2006, which presented experimental projects, emerging ideas, major buildings, and new products and media.

Tick exemplifies the importance of committing to a process, and the transformative power that a process, such as weaving on a traditional loom, can have on ordinary materials. An experienced designer and weaver (she was Knoll Textiles’ creative director from 1997 to 2005 and is a studio Principal in New York City), Tick faced new challenges when deciding to experiment with fiber optic yarn.  In addition to being expensive, the yarn is inflexible, which made layering it into a two-dimensional textile following a standard warp and weft weaving structure difficult. Through persistence and experimentation, Tick succeeded in producing fiber optic textile panels that could be assembled into a cross shape. The result is a floating sculpture of light that is at once ethereal and haptic.

Catherine Powell is a graduate student in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies program offered jointly by the Parsons School of Design and the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum. She is a Fellow in the Product Design and Decorative Arts Department at the Museum.

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