An illuminated wedding dress and RFID teacups that can control videos are just two of Alison Lewis’s tech-infused DIY projects, which involve clothing, home accessories, and small electronics and can be found in her book and blog. In April, she hosted a hands-on “Fabric Hack” session for designers from the likes of Nike at the Smart Fabrics conference. But first, she spoke with FastCompany.com about the tech-craft movement.
Fast Company: What is it, exactly, that you do?
I just consider myself a creative innovator. I’m all about innovation in any way I can make it happen for people. I’m a design innovator, I’m definitely a blogger. People call me a megaphone for this movement, because I really believe it’s an opportunity for girls to get into technology in a very exciting way, using their hands.
I’ll take one of your questions from your Core Conversation at the South by Southwest Interactive festival: Why does it matter to our quality of life to have girls working with technology?
We do think a little bit differently than men. Of course there’s gray areas, but we tend to bring a lot of nice empathy to the table, thinking about others in a larger community. Unfortunately, I think that the education system is really failing us. Girls don’t feel like the have the choice of working with electronics or going into technology.
How did you discover the joys of techy crafting?
I found it very late in life; I didn’t start doing circuits till grad school. I visited Parsons, the New School for Design, and they had a class, “Art & Technology,” and people were making all these crazy things like baby outfits that vibrated for deaf children, or an inflatable suit that expanded and contracted to keep people away. They were a lot of fun, and people were really playing with technology in a way that was much more interesting than just being on a screen.
What are you working on now that has you excited?
I’m into this thing called the Lilypad–it’s a sewable microcontroller. It can test your temperature, read your body movements and your pH level, or have music play to how your body moves. You’re reacting with the space around you, or you can have multiple garments interacting with each other.