Call for PhD Applications

The Unstable Design Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder is currently looking to hire a funded PhD student who would be interested in the ongoing development and advancement of computational design tools to support (smart) textiles production. The position is being created specifically to address the goals outlined in this grant and would largely focus on the development of AdaCAD

The ideal candidate should be passionate about textile craft, electronics, open-source community development, and collaborating with artists. Experience working in weaving, web-based software applications, and/or contributing to open-source programming projects is helpful, but not required. Nevertheless, the candidate must be interested in learning about and developing skills as a programmer and weaver.

The lab is associated with several PhD programs at CU Boulder and applicants to this position must submit their application through one of the programs listed below:   

We hope to find candidates that are eager to grow and contribute as a member of both the lab, as well as their selected academic unit. As a lab, we value critical thinking and making that question relationships between design and society, tools and equity in computing, and placing equal value in art, craft, and engineering. 

If you are interested in this opportunity, we encourage you to reach out to us via email, as that will help us get familiar with your name and look for it in the applications list. Interested applicants should contact the lab via email ( with any links or information that would help us to get to know you better. Please include a short note about which program you might want to apply through and what, in particular, you find interesting about this opportunity. This email is NOT your application, just a way for us to get to know you better so we can look out for your application if/when it comes in.


Why do people get PhD’s, what good are they?

Great question! – PhD’s are one of many career paths and are better/worse suited to get you where you want to go, depending on your ambitions. PhD programs also vary from program to program, so what I write here is not universal to all PhDs programs — but specific to the programs we work within. PhD’s though this program emphasize preparation for careers in research (as well as teaching, but typically with a higher emphasis on research than teaching preparation). They are set up to prepare students to pursue a set of questions or ideas that capture their imagination and are guided to produce work that contributes knowledge to a given community. The program is designed to be completed in four years, but most people tend to complete their PhD in 4-6 years. That community, and kind of work, depend on the program that you apply through (see below). People who get PhD’s often times pursue an academic career and a higher-ed institution, or research-based company.

What does it mean to apply into a lab vs. a program?

In our university structure, the “lab” you work in is often related to the person who serves as your primary advisor (in this case, that would be Laura Devendorf). Yet, some students who work in my lab are not primarily advised by me, and people I advise can choose to participate in other labs. When you apply to a PhD program, it is often recommended to specify who, of the research faculty, you would want to advise you and you may want to list a few names if you see resonance between your interests and what faculty do. In our programs, that advisor (with guidance from broader groups) is responsible for cultivating your research practice, making sure you progressing adequately, and, most importantly, with paying for your tuition, stipend, and fees. When selecting an advisor, its useful to consider both professional and interpersonal dynamics–is this a person who you want to learn from and that shares or aligns with your values as a human. When an advisor is looking for a student, they are usually trying to match students to projects where they need support (and have money to pay), as well as how their interests and potentials complement the direction and other members of the lab.

What is the difference between the three programs?

The Unstable Design Lab, the physical space and resources, are housed within the ATLAS Institute, which is an academic program focused on interdisciplinary collaboration. Thus, every professor working in the ATLAS Institute has affiliations with other campus departments and has the ability to serve as the primary advisor to PhD students. As a tip, when writing you application, be sure to focus on arguing your interest in the program you are applying to first, and your interest in the lab as a secondary comment. This is because you will be part of the program as much as you will be part of the lab.

ATLAS Institute
The ATLAS program, which is part of the College of Engineering and Applied Science, is designed for students whose expertise does not fall into a traditional discipline. The program emphasizes “creative technology and design” and most of the students in the program follow an engineering-style PhD, creating research prototypes and products and publishing them in academic research venues. Students in this program develop their own curriculum from across the campus offerings.

Please review the ATLAS Institute website for a broader understanding of the program and requirements and to get a sense of the work underway by students and faculty.

Information Science
The Dept. of Information Science, which is part of the College of Communication, Media, and Information, is designed for students interested in the intersection of technology and society. The program is more structured than ATLAS and introduces all students to a common set of methods for qualitative and quantitative analysis, and over time, invites them to develop and publish original research products.

Please review the website Department of Information Science for a broader understanding of the program and requirements and to get a sense of the work underway by students and faculty.

Intermedia Art, Writing and Performance
The Dept. of Intermedia Art, Writing and Performance, which is part of the College of Communication, Media, and Information, and is a practice-led PhD program that prioritizes the production and dissemination of creative work.

Please review the website Intermedia Arts Writing and Performance Program for a broader understanding of the program and requirements and to get a sense of the work underway by students and faculty.

How will my application be reviewed?

The primary question that I think application processes focus upon is (1) whether the program you apply towards can adequately help you meet your goals and (2) whether your goals align with the particular interests and funding options for a given faculty member.

The process beings with an interested student submitting an application to the program that most suits them, and listing their interest in working with a lab or particular advisor within their statement of intent. When reviewing the applications, each program will make collective decisions on the fit of the student to their program. Adding the name of a potential advisor to your statement of intent often means that the person you name will have a say in determining if you are accepted. Emailing us ahead of time to let us know who you are and what you are interested in allows us to recognize your name as the applications come in.

How do PhD Students Make a Living?

Students in a PhD program are given funding letters that explicitly outline the stipend (pay) they will receive on a monthly basis. This typically covers only 9 months our of a year, but there are opportunities for summer funds based on programs and in the form of paid research internships. Sometimes this funding is tied to work as a Teaching Assistant (e.g. running class sections and grading work) or as a Research Assistant (e.g. performing work on a funded project). The stipend varies by program and is not luxurious, especially by Boulder standards, but can provide relief on monthly expenses. Some students supplement income with grants, side projects and or more lucrative summer research internships. For the most honest perspectives on funding, I would encourage students to reach out to existing PhD students in their program of interest. This topic is also covered in detail at orientation events for accepted students.

Do I have to enroll in one of the programs to be part of the lab?

Currently, yes, though we will continue to host our experimental weaving residency for those interested in temporary visits and/or affiliations.

Upcoming Talks and Panels

With the conference season moving online, and several academic organizations turning a critical eye on their own biases and legacies, its been heartening to see change in structure and topics being presented within computing disciplines. Laura Devendorf, director of the lab, will be speaking at two upcoming events:

From Oct 9-11:
FabLearn 2020: Making as Resistance and Resilience
Fab Learn “bring[s] together key influencers and thought-leaders from around the world in education, policy-making, academia, design, research, and maker communities to learn, present, and discuss digital fabrication in education, the maker culture, hands-on learning, and instructional tools”
Registration is affordable and/or free for qualifying groups:

From Oct 24-30:
ACADIA 2020: Distributed Proximities
Distributed Proximities aims to explore the complex contours of the moment by privileging operative modalities and their (re)organizational logics…Distributed Proximities invites contributions of recent and emerging work in computational design innovation and culture. “
Registration is free for students:

A Fabric that Remembers


As a next phase in ongoing explorations of sensing textiles, We have created this exhibition piece of a fabric that remembers where and how it was pressed. The fabric is currently on display at Accenture Labs in San Francisco and uses both the fabric and tablet to visualize touch in realtime. My personal constraint that guided the work was to get as much of the circuitry as possible embedded into the fabric. Thus, for the e-textiles nerds out there, you might be happy to know that all of the wiring for the resistive sensing and voltage dividing is embedded into the fabric by way of using different resistance yarns. I have included all of the swatches I made in preparation for the final design for reference. A full description can be found at my lab webpage, Special thanks to Sasha De Koninck for introducing me to the wonderful world of 2-pic weave structures, and stocking the lab with every conductive material I could have ever wanted and to Shanel Wu and Emma Goodwill for their masterful work programming the ESP board to collect, store, and communicate to the visualization server in realtime.


  • Instructions to be Posted Shortly






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Design Memoirs

Design Memoirs explore design as a mode of telling personal stories about how something feels, felt or may be felt differently in the future. It consists of a very personal collaboration between Laura Devendorf, Kristina Anderson, and Aisling Kelliher. Specifically, we started the project as an attempt to understand the limits of design–what does it mean to design if it’s not about making something “better” or “easier.” Specifically, we thought back on our experiences as mothers and tried to develop methods to investigate that experience through design. In this way, we try to make “memoirs” with objects that tell of our felt experiences and that bring out practices of witnessing and honoring instead of resolving.


MAKING DESIGN MEMOIRS: UNDERSTANDING AND HONORING DIFFICULT EXPERIENCES Laura Devendorf, Kristina Andersen, Aisling Kelliher April 2020 Best Paper Honorable Mention

Soft Object – A New Course to be Offered in Fall 2020

Laura Devendorf and Sasha de Koninck are designing a new course to be offered in Fall 2020, Soft Object. The course will cultivate a community of material researchers seeking to make soft things that expand how we think of interactivity. While starting with soft circuits, the class will support material investigations with novel techniques for textile structure, growth, computation and decomposition. Students will learn about different soft material structures, properties, and possibilities. As a course, we will develop, refine, and publish novel techniques for smart/functional fabrics in the form of a physical and open source digital “swatch book.” Students we will think about the history and future of textile and soft-object making, while conducting their own material investigations.

We are designing the course to run mostly virtually. If you are a CU grad student or undergraduate student, please join us. If you are an interested global community member, please get in touch with us via as we may look to develop a forum for public engagement and critique.

ATLS 4519/5519: Soft Objects
Monday/Wednesday 3:00-4:40
ATLAS 113 – Blow Things Up Lab

Official Listings: ATLS 4519 //ATLS 5519

Unstable Design Lab at (the event formally scheduled that is CHI 2020)

Back in the days when the world was pandemic free, we used to attend conferences where we would get to share our work with our research community. This year was going to be especially fun/valuable as we had four full papers to present, two best paper honorable mention awards, one workshop and a first time presentation by Jolie and Shanel. Sadly, the conference has been canceled and so no presentations will be given. Instead I’ll write a kind of editorial summary of the work we submitted below. Stay posted for more detailed summaries of each project.

Unfabricate: Designing Smart Textiles for Disassembly

Shanel Wu, Laura Devendorf.
click here to read the paper
Shanel is an expert knitter who we are converting to a weaver. They spent a year thinking about how we might apply some techniques for re-harvesting knits to woven fabrics. Specifically, we were envisioning an eco-system where parts from e-textiles could be harvested and re-used. This included developing new weave structures to maximize yarn yields, are shape woven, and that are held together with a “key” thread that when removed, make it easier to pull the constituent yarns apart. They even made a little tool that adds onto AdaCAD – our smart textile design software, that can help designing these drafts.

What HCI Can Learn from ASMR: Becoming Enchanted with the Mundane

Jolie Klefeker, libi streigl, Laura Devendorf.
click here to read the paper

Jolie took up a fascination with ASMR media a while back and we started doing a series of investigations around what it would look like to translate ASMR into the design of interactive products. This led to studies, interviews, and some kits and ended up in an exploration of augmenting daily interactions using binaural audio. We all started developing custom ASMR wearables using Teensy microcontrollers and wearing them around. Jolie made a coat the highlights the sound of mundane objects and Laura made a cloak to facilitate recording and screaming with the sound of motors. Many many more details in the paper 🙂

Craftspeople as Technical Collaborators: Lessons Learned through an Experimental Weaving Residency.
Laura Devendorf, Katya Arquilla, Sandra Wirtanen, Allison Anderson, Steven Frost.
Best Paper Honorable Mention!!!
click here to read the full paper
This paper takes a strong and perhaps critical position to talk about the role of craftspeople in technical research. Basically, craftspeople should be included at the early stages of research (not just brought in later to bring aesthetics to the work).  It describes the structure and reflections from our experimental weaving residency, including how our own conceptions of craftspeople were too narrow prior to our experience.

Making Design Memoirs: Understanding and Honoring Difficult Experiences

Laura Devendorf, Kristina Andersen, Aisling Kelliher.
Best Paper Honorable Mention!!!
click here to read the full paper

This paper describes a very personal collaboration between the co-authors. Specifically, we started the project as an attempt to understand the limits of design–what does it mean to design if its not about making something “better” or “easier.” Specifically, we thought back on our experiences as mothers and tried to develop methods to investigate that experience through design. In this way, we try to make “memoirs” with objects that tell of our felt experiences and that bring out practices of witnessing and honoring instead of resolving.


Digital Crafts-Machine-Ship

Some friends and I recently collaborated on a written piece devoted to the topic of crafts-machine-ship, which is our rethinking the relevance and meaning of “craft” within the field of human-computer interaction. Led by Kristina Anderson, a good friend and fellow TC2-tamer, the piece brings together from design, philosophy, textiles, and electronic music to express how we want more from our machines. In doing so, we consider the wisdom of luddites, describe a craft machine as swimming, and playfully interject the word “sammunsurium” which is an amazing and untranslatable Danish word that I have come to learn means something of a beautiful mess. you can read it here:


2019 Residency Catalog Released

A residency catalog outlining our collaboration with Sandra Wirtanen is now available as a PDF and eBook. The 32 page catalog describes the methods and outcomes developed during the residency as well reflections on what aspects of the structure were mutually beneficial for the artist and research lab. While the findings are under review for publication, this “DIY” catalog offers a more aesthetic glimpse into our art/engineering collaboration. We are printing an initial run of 100 catalogs. If you are a part of an organization that would like to have some, please let us know. Unfortunately, we are not able to ship single copies to individuals and would encourage you to download the PDF or eBook.


Some Teaser Images from our Experimental Weaving Residency

While we go through the process of formally documenting and writing up our findings from this year’s experimental weaving residency (sponsored by a Materials-Based Research Grant from the Center for Craft), we thought we’d share a few images of the projects and prototypes that emerged. Above: a series of explorations of elastic weave structures and memory foam stuffed pockets used to maintain skin contact of woven electrodes.

Continue reading Some Teaser Images from our Experimental Weaving Residency

Designing for Interactive Fascination

This Summer, Laura was invited to give one of the keynotes in the HCI area at the Symposium for Computational Fabrication. The talk summarizes my ongoing interest in design imagination as it is cultivated through a practice of integrating theory and practice. It then focuses in on smart textiles as a place where this work can be explored in both poetic and productive capacities.

View all Keynotes and videos from the conference here

HCI Amusements

In May, Laura presented some new research at the annual conference on human computer interaction (CHI) describing what the field of Human-Computer Interaction might learn from the artist network known as Fluxus. The work was a collaborative project between Laura, Kristina Andersen, Daniela Rosner, Ron Wakkary and James Pierce. The conference talks were not recorded, but you can view the transcript of our presentation below or read the paper here:

Continue reading HCI Amusements

Overshot Weave Generator

I was in love with the fabric below and wanted to weave a similar pattern for myself. I didn’t have the tie up, but I did have the photo of the fabric, so I reverse engineered it. I found it really difficult to design the overall patterning of the stripes and tie ups at the same time so I wrote a processing script to allow me to more playfully make patterns with my keyboard, and have those generate my tie up. I released the code on GitHub so others could do the same.

Workshop: Weaving Climate Datascapes with Tali Weinberg

Artist Tali Weinberg will lead fifteen graduate students in a workshop materializing climate data in the form of woven tapestries. Participants will use basic weaving skills to produce tapestries by hand, experiment with ways to engage data while weaving, and reflect on the unique valences of weaving for engaging with and archiving climate data.  Participants will also use the Lab’s computer-controlled TC2 loom to create a collaborative tapestry representing climate data as well as personal recollections.
The NEST sponsored workshop will take place in the Unstable Design Lab at the ATLAS Institute and will guide participants through translating data into woven structures using hand and computer-controlled looms. Priority registration will be given to CU students and the public is encouraged to engage Tali’s existing Woven Datascapes at the CU Art Museum’s Documenting Change exhibition.
No prior weaving experience is required and all materials will be provided to participants.
What: Weaving Climate Datascapes
When: April 11-12, 10am – 5pm. 
Where: Unstable Design Lab, ATLAS 207
Here is some documentation of what we made!

Designing Machines for Human-Wind Collaboration

An exploration into new mechanisms for jacquard weaving, as well as an ongoing interest in asking how non-human materials or forces can be engaged as collaborators resulted in the prototype of the wind loom—a modified tapestry loom that with every 4th warp connected to a sail that moves the warp position in and out. The fabrication of the loom was led by Jen Mah and Rachel Bork, who iterated between several prototypes for laser-cut heddle/hooks that can be attached to the yarn, arms are connected to umbrellas that can move when the wind blows, easily attachable and detachable components to support easy travel, and so on. The prototyping process was complex and frustrating, as the summer in which we prototyped was not very windy and it was hard to test in its specific working conditions we imagined for the loom. Local weaver, and friend, Julie Rodriguez, took the prototype out for a test and captured the photo above. Her approach was to wait for a gust, and then weave into the wind-produced shed with alternating colors that she chose.
Continue reading Designing Machines for Human-Wind Collaboration

Experimental Weaving Residency – 2019 Call for Entries

We are pleased to announce the creation of an experimental weaving residency to be held during 6-weeks in the summer of 2019 at the Unstable Design Lab thanks to the generous support from the Center for Craft, Creativity and Design‘s “Material-Based Research Grant.” Fiber artists with an interest or established record in engaging computation in their practice are encouraged to apply.

During the 6-week residency, the practice-based researcher-in-residence (RiR) will be invited to collaborate with university researchers and local partners to conceptualize and develop textiles that engage technology in their design, production, or concept. This includes data-driven or generative design of textiles, textiles with embedded functionality, or textiles that embody critical perspectives of technology and society. In addition to producing their own concepts, the researcher-in-residence will be invited to participate in the ongoing research of the organizers and researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder more broadly.

The researcher-in-residence will be expected to spend at least 20-hours working in the lab and actively engaging with the organizers and other researchers who share the lab space. They will participate in an exit-interview that reflects on the residency and their experience in order to generate insights about how artist/research residencies can be productively structured in the future. We will encourage the resident to engage with the Boulder and Denver communities more broadly through hosting workshops and talks about their practice.

Stipend, Facilities, and Housing

The researcher will be housed with local hosts, will have a dedicated working space within the Unstable Design Lab, access to the resources and equipment of the organizers, and will receive a stipend of $3750 as well as $1000 to support for travel to and from the residency.

The Unstable Design Lab is an interdisciplinary research lab located within the ATLAS Institute at the University of Colorado, Boulder. approximately 650 square feet, divided between a workshop used primarily for prototyping and development and two offices (one for Devendorf and the other shared between PhD students and the researcher-in-residence). The lab is equipped with weaving equipment including a 3W TC2 Jacquard Loom (current set for weaving at 30 epi), an 8-shaft Schacht Baby Wolf Loom, electronics stations, workshop sink, and a library of smart textiles prototype materials and equipment. The resident will have priority access to the TC2 as well as other materials and equipment in the space.

In addition to the unstable design lab, the researcher-in-residence will also have access to the TBD Lab and Bioastronautics lab. The TBD lab a fabrication lab devoted to supporting research by ATLAS faculty and students. Located a few feet down the hall from the Unstable Design Lab, this lab will provide the resident with access to an Epilog M2 Fusion 40” laser cutter, 3D printers, soldering irons, sewing machines, and many additional prototyping tools and materials for electronics and enclosures. The Bioastronautics Laboratories (led by co-organizer Allison Anderson), which has test facilities to experimentally investigate designed garment and sensor systems. They have an industrial sewing machine (Brother z8550a) for spacesuit garment development and prototyping. A custom-built glovebox can be used to test spacesuit arm components and spacesuit lower body components. The chamber is pulled to vacuum to achieve a pressure differential of the ultimate suit pressure (i.e. 4.3 PSI), allowing pressurized space suit garment testing to be conducted while the subject wearing the suit is outside the chamber at atmospheric pressure. We also have equipment to manufacture and test elastomers for wearable applications.


We encourage both US and international artists to apply to this residency. You must be 18 or older and be willing to spend the entire 6-week residency in Boulder, Colorado.

Application Process

Interested applicants are encouraged to submit an artist statement, CV, website, examples of work, and statement of collaboration by January 31, 2019 (at 11:59 pm in the submitters local time). All applications should be submitted through this form:

After the deadline, the organizers and board will review the applications in terms of the criteria addressed above and the potential for engagement with collaborators in the Boulder and Denver areas. We will hold interviews with short-listed candidates late-February and make a final selection March 15, 2019. The exact dates for the residency are negotiable with the organizers but should take place between late June and mid-August. Please direct any questions to


We are hosting this residency to serve two primary goals.

  1. to create a space where artists and researchers can mutually benefit form sharing knowledge and ideas.
  2. to use this residency as a model to inform future practices of engaging artists within programs of academic research.

In regards to the first goal, we seek to build a mutually beneficial environment where the participating researcher-in-residence can both learn from and contribute to our ongoing research in wearable technology and textiles with embedded circuitry. The organizers will work with our local connections, inside and outside the university, to assist the resident in exploring new concepts and advancing their career.

In regards to the second goal, we intend to use this residency to inspire additional programs within technological development and engineering programs that engage artists in meaningful and mutually beneficial ways. We feel that too often artists and craftspeople are overlooked in processes of technological development, though their work is equally as challenging and impactful. We want to create a form of “evidence” and best practices for a fruitful collaboration in the hopes to inspire similar programs across technology and engineering programs. Thus, we hope to document, record, and publicize our experience (good or bad) to inform others of what is possible or what should be avoided in an honest and reflective manner.


Laura Devendorf is a design researcher who studies how technology shapes our relationships to the worlds in which we live. Much of this research has focused on the development of alternative digital fabrication technologies that make space for the creative agency of physical materials. Her recent work focuses on smart textiles—a project that interweaves the production of computational design and fabrication tools, reflection on gendered forms of labor, and visions for how wearable technology could shape relationships between humans and nonhuman “lives.” She is an assistant professor at the ATLAS Institute as well as the Department of Information Science.

Steven Frost is an artist who tells the stories of hidden histories through objects and performances. He sources archival materials to help audiences engage with and remember forgotten narratives. He research focusses on queer narratives in pop culture and community development in DIY community spaces. Frost hosts the Colorado Sewing Rebellion. This free monthly performance and workshop is designed to encourage the public to mend and construct their own clothing. Frost is also an active studio artist with a record of national and international exhibitions. He holds a BFA from the New York State College of Ceramics and Design at Alfred University and received his MFA in Fiber and Material Studies from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2011.

Allison Anderson  investigates issues in aerospace biomedical engineering and human physiology in extreme environments. Her focus is to develop technologies to measure and mitigate the body’s adaptations to extreme environments, which also has direct implications for patient populations here on Earth. She is currently developing wearable sensing systems to assess comfort and biomechanics in the spacesuit.  Her interests in weaving and fiber arts include direct integration of electronics into custom built fabrics and advanced concepts spacesuits using woven elastics

Advisory Board

Arielle Hein is an artist, technologist, and educator whose work explores the imaginative use of emerging technologies and spans the fields of human-computer interaction, interaction design and art. Drawing on an interdisciplinary background and a research-based creative practice, Arielle explores the intricate relationships between technology and our human experience. As an educator, Arielle is passionate about empowering students through the exploration of interactive systems and the use of digital tools. Arielle earned her Master’s degree from NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) in 2015 and is currently working as an Instructor in the ATLAS Institute and Technology, Arts and Media (TAM) program in the College of Engineering & Applied Sciences at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Arielle is also the Coordinator for ITP Camp at NYU.

Christy Matson is an artist based in Los Angeles, CA, whose hybrid woven/painted works engage hand-weaving as a lens by which to view history, abstraction and physicality. Challenging the tradition of hand-woven textiles as functionally objective objects, she creates artifacts that equally privilege the surface and the structure in the creation of her work.  Recent exhibitions include the Long Beach Museum of Art, Craft and Folk Art Museum Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Arts Houston, The Milwaukee Art Museum, The Knoxville Museum of Art and the Asheville Museum of Art. Matson’s work is in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago and Smithsonian Museum of American Art’s Renwick Gallery as well as numerous private collections. She received her BFA from the University of Washington and her MFA from the California College of the Arts. In 2012 she was appointed Associate Professor of Fiber and Material Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Matson has been working with the Jacquard loom since 2002.

Erin Espelie is a filmmaker, writer, researcher, and editor, whose science-based experimental and poetic documentaries have shown at the New York Film Festival, the International Film Festival Rotterdam, the Natural History Museum in London, CPH:DOX, the Copernicus Science Center in Warsaw, the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and more. She has degrees in molecular biology from Cornell University and the experimental and documentary arts from Duke University. She currently serves as Editor in Chief of Natural History magazine, and works at the University of Colorado Boulder as an assistant professor in Film Studies & Critical Media Practices and co-director of NEST (Nature, Environment, Science & Technology) Studio for the Arts.

Janet Hollingsworth is a structural engineer, woodworker, and maker educator. She co-founded BLDG 61, the all-ages makerspace at the Boulder Public Library in 2016. As a creative technologist, she curates and facilitates maker programs at BLDG 61 including: woodworking, laser cutting, machining, sewing, 3D printing, electronics, digital fabrication, screen printing, book binding, and more. She has also developed special apprenticeship programs for underrepresented youth and individuals experiencing homelessness.

Joel Swanson is an artist and writer who explores the relationship between language and technology. His work playfully subverts the technologies, materials, and underlying structures of language to reveal its idiosyncrasies and inconsistencies. His work ranges from interactive installations to public sculptures that playfully and powerfully question words and their meanings. Swanson teaches courses on typography, creative coding, and media theory at the ATLAS Institute at the University of Colorado Boulder. He received his Masters of Fine Art at the University of California, San Diego with a focus in Computing and the Arts.

Rebecca Vaughan received her MFA from Carnegie Mellon University and BFA cum laude in Sculpture at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Ms. Vaughan has fifteen years of teaching at the college level and mentoring emerging artists, having served as the former Chair of Fine Arts and Head of Sculpture at the Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design. She also worked as the Program Director of the Art Students League of Denver and held a residency as a Resource Artist at Redline Denver from 2011-2013. Previously she worked as the project manager for Ann Hamilton’s 2008 Circles of O performance, and assisted in other projects in Dialog: City, a city-wide arts event for the Democratic National Convention in Denver. She served as an Artist-Teacher for the Vermont College of Fine Art and was a visiting instructor at Bowling Green State University, OH.


We are delighted to announce that we have selected Sandra Wirtanen as our practice-based researcher in residence for 2019. Our application review took longer than expected with a strong response of 200 applicants. Our first cut culled the list from 200 or 23 applicants, which were sent to our full board for review. Based on the board review, we made a selection of four finalists that included Sandra Wirtanen, Etta Sandry, Laura Splan,  and WeaveThing (Kate O’Brien and Heather MacKenzie). We interviewed each finalist before making our final selection. We want to thank everyone for your interest and support for this residency. We are working on plans to continue the residency in the future and feel free to send an email to if you would like to stay posted on our progress.

Sponsors and Affiliations:


Weaving a Smart Textile

We used a GoPro to capture each step in the process of weaving a smart textile and compiled roughly 6 weeks of work into this video. We show the two tapestries that emerged from this weave, one that didn’t work so well and the other that did (see force fabric post below). in both cases, we were attempting to weave structures that could be used to sense force and tigger color changes in response.

How to Weave a Sensing and Color Changing Fabric

This is a first prototype of a vision of a force-fabric. When integrated into a garment, this textile could capture and replay how your body made contact with other bodies in the world. Those bodies may be human, created through the experiences of hugs or holding children, but they may also be of nonhuman forces – heavy winds or couches pressed upon ones back. The concept is to think of ways technology can make us aware of how we are physically supporting and supported by other objects and environmental forces. It sees garments as a interesting surfaces of intersection between self and other.


We created this first textile by double weaving sections of color changing yarn (resistive heating wire painted with a mixture of thermochromic pigments that change at different temperatures) on the front face and then integrating conductive pads on the back or under layer of the fabric. We used a tapestry technique to integrate a second piece of conductive yarn along a segment of the warp above the touchpad such that when it is pressed it completes the circuit. The double weaving structure makes the connective “guts” invisible from the front. Thus, the textile does not invite you to touch and poke it (how would you know where to touch), it simply captures a “picture” of the different press regions.

Laura Devendorf wove the fabric on an Schacht 8-shaft Baby Wolf loom, warped at 20 ends per inch

Continue reading How to Weave a Sensing and Color Changing Fabric


Not so much news, but a post documenting our research group and collaborators at a summer BBQ welcoming our practice based researchers in residence: Gaspard and Milica. We’re all working hard on some new research projects and taking time to watch the world cup and take silly photos (which also happen to be best viewed in VR). We’re hoping to a have a few new projects going public by the end of summer so stay posted.

Unstable Design Lab to Host Practice-Based Research Residency in Summer 2019 with Support from the Center for Craft Creativity and Design

We’re happy to annouce that we (Laura Devendorf, Steven Frost, in collaboration with Allison Anderson) have won a Materials-Based Research Grant from the Center for Craft Creativity and Design. The funds will support an artist participating on our research in smart textiles during the Summer of 2019. The artist will be based in the Unstable Design Lab and will participate in our ongoing research in smart textiles. The goal is for the experience to produce innovative research that combines weaving and “smart” materials while also providing insights on how academic research labs might meaningfully engage and support artists on their teams. Stay posted for updates and application details. We expect to publish a call for applications later this year. You can read more about the award here:

Speculative Robotics Workshop: May 16 @ BMoCA

We’re hosting a workshop in conjunction with MediaLive and Boulder Startup Week at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art on Wednesday, May 16 from 6:30-8:30 to bring caregivers and technologists together to imagine what exoskeletons for caregiving might look like. We’re looking to juxtapose ideas of self-realization and military power with the feminized labor of caregiving, particularly as it relates to young children. If we were to imagine what exoskeletons for caregivers might look like, how might it open up new ways of talking about, designing for, and recognizing the everyday struggles of caring for others.   The workshop is open to the public and you can register here.


The Unstable Design Lab is getting a TC2 Digital Jacquard Loom

In the Fall of 2017, we coordinated a workshop exploring the future of smart textiles – what new forms of computation and support are needed for these systems and how do we foster production collaborations between artists and engineers? A semester later, Laura Devendorf and Allison Anderson (Aerospace) teamed up to apply for a seed grant from the Multi-Functional Materials research group at CU Boulder to support the purchase of a TC2 digital jacquard loom. The seed grant was awarded and the loom will arrive mid-summer. The first projects in the pipeline include custom fitting textiles, distributed force sensing, and explorations in “un”-weaving. We look forward to community wide collaborations and (hopefully) hosting a summer art residency who will broaden perspectives on our work.

String Figuring

string figure sensor in action

The string figure sensor is a concept or early prototype for a string-based sensor that can know something of its own shape. We created a proof of concept by knitting conductive thread and wool around a wire core, resulting in a semi-rigid loop that feels similar to a pipe cleaner in one’s hands. When someone plays with the loop, the crosses and knots created in it result in measurable changes in resistance. We take resistance measurements at five points along the length of the loop to create a resistance “signature” that correlates to various shapes or figures created with the string.


Devendorf Awarded NSF-CRII Grant to Develop Smart Textiles Design Tools

The National Science Foundation has awarded Devendorf roughly $175K to develop new software for designing smart textiles. Smart textiles combine traditional processes of weaving or knitting with new materials that interface with digital technologies. The project will focus on weaving specifically, and proposes the development of a tool that bridges textile design with circuit design. Textiles and technology have a long and interwoven (pun intended) history. Through close collaborations with artists and engineers, we will develop the software to provide new functionality and outcomes while also imagining new modes of collaboration with machines (e.g. what new forms of engagement emerge with the fabrication of soft objects as opposed to rigid objects) and sustainable practices (e.g. in what ways might we un-weave to save on material waste). The funds will be used to support PhD students on this research and to equip the Unstable Design Lab with weaving equipment.

Design for Collaborative Survival: An Inquiry into Human-Fungi Relationships to Appear at CHI 2018

Collaborative survival is a term coined by anthropologist Anna Tsing to describe how our (human) ability to persist as a species is deeply entangled with and dependent upon the health of a multitude of other species. We (Jen Liu, Daragh Byrne, and Laura Devendorf) wrote a paper that explores how this term inspires design. Specifically, Jen Liu reflects on collaborative survival within the context of designing tools for mushroom foraging. Photo Credit: Jen Liu. More Information:

Devendorf to Co-organize a Workshop on Fluxus Inspired Prototyping

The goal of this one-day workshop is to open space for disruptive techniques and strategies to be used in the making, prototyping, and conceptualizations of the artifacts and systems developed and imagined within human-computer interaction (HCI). Specifically, this workshop draws on strategies from art, speculative design, and activism, as we aim to productively “trouble” the design processes behind HCI. We frame these explorations as “disruptive improvisations” — tactics artists and designers use to make the familiar strange or creatively problematize in order to foster new insights. The workshop invites participants to inquire through making and take up key themes as starting points to develop disruptive improvisations for design. These include modesty, scarcity, uselessness, no-technology, and failure. The workshop will produce a zine workbook or pamphlet to be distributed during the conference to bring visibility to the role these tactics of making in a creative design practices.More information:

Reflecting on the Weaving Disciplines Workshop

In an effort to foster more productive collaborations between artists and engineers,  Laura Devendorf and Daniela Rosner convened a workshop titled “Weaving Disciplines: Fostering Productive Collaborations between Artists and Engineers” at the ATLAS Institute on Oct 8, 2017. We had a very special guest, Pamela Liou, who came from New York to talk about her explorations creating a desktop digital jacquard loom and other adventures in textile experimentation.  Attendees were associated with Art, Aerospace Engineering, and Computer Science at CU Boulder; SparkFun Electronics; The Boulder Public Library; and the Schacht Spindle Company. The event was sponsored by the ATLAS Institute and Research and Innovation Office at CU Boulder. Topics for discussion included the state of the art in spacesuit design, ideas for addressable, self-healing, and temperature regulating fabrics, smart textiles community events, collaborating with ghosts, and the pleasure of working side-by-side when weaving with others.