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These striking blankets visualize the COVID-19 genome

Textile artist Phillip Stearns wrote custom software to turn the SARS-Cov-2 genome into glitchy patterns that adorn $249 cotton throws. They’re as beautiful as they are nightmarish.

These striking blankets visualize the COVID-19 genome

Stay-at-home orders across the country are meant to protect people from contracting COVID-19. But it has an additional consequence: It puts victims of domestic violence at an even greater risk.

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Artist and designer Phillip Stearns has released a new collection of “glitch” textiles—digitally designed textiles with a pattern that appears to have glitched—in support of organizations against domestic violence. The blankets are $249 with a 53″ x 71″dimension.

There couldn’t be a better time to help support organizations against domestic violence. Cases across the globe are surging. The UN reported an increase in domestic violence cases, help line calls, and requests for help across the globe, citing stats that range from a 25% increase in emergency calls for domestic violence in Argentina to a 97% increase in calls to Respect, a national domestic violence charity in the U.K. (and a whopping 581% increase in visits to the organization’s website). There have been increases across the United States, too, from New York to Chicago to Los Angeles.

The new SARS-CoV-2 collection features 16 distinct made-to-order jacquard throws. Each one has a weave pattern that comes from the SARS-Cov-2 genome. “The simplest analogy is paint-by-numbers,” Stearns explains over email. “When grouped into threes, there are 64 possible combinations of A, T, C, and G, the nucleotides that encode genetic information in DNA. These groups of threes are assigned numbers, like AAA=0, AAT=1, AAC=2, and so on. Color palettes are generated by using these numbers to select 64 colors from the complete palette of colors that can be woven.”

Stearns wrote custom software to design the collection based on the genome, which reads the sequence in triplets (groups of three, ie., AAA) and converts that into a pixel or a line depending on the motif. Stearns allows for some surprises in the weave too, leading to that distinctive “glitch” look, by adjusting or randomizing parts of the color palette after it’s been sorted by hue, brightness, and saturation. The glitchiness is a hopeful motif, too, showing that the virus can be disrupted with a vaccine.

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If you’re interested in purchasing a SARS-CoV-2 blanket in support of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, visit the Glitch Textiles website. There are also links to donate to organizations against domestic violence directly. Glitch Textiles Woven Throws are made of 100% cotton grown and processed in the U.S., on jacquard looms in North Carolina. Delivery takes about two to three weeks.

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About the author

Lilly Smith is an associate editor of Co.Design. She was previously the editor of Design Observer, and a contributing writer to AIGA Eye on Design.

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