Parfileuse at the Dairy Center

Drizzling, or parfilage, is an 18th century term for the act of unravelling metallic threads, such as lace, embroidery or tassels. These metallic embellishments were made out of a metal thread wound around a silk core. Because they were using pure metal, all of that ornamentation is conductive—meaning it has the ability to conduct electricity. This makes these historic materials very similar to the materials we use today to create soft circuits, and sensors for smart textiles and wearable technology.

A “parfileuse” is a woman who enjoys unwinding wire by wire. Parfilage was a favorite pastime of ladies. It showed off how deft they were with their hands. Ladies would also do it as an act of recycling. They could remove the embellishment from an old dress as a way to reuse the dress, or the embellishment. It was also a way to make money. Ladies would take apart old embellishment to pay for materials for a new dress, or typical living expenses.

For this performance at the Dairy Center, I created an 18th century style garment, embroidered with a 4 channel oscillator. For the performance, I took apart the circuit with a seam ripper and snips in order to perform the circuit.