Anastasia Pistofidou, co-founder of Fabricademy: “If technology is ubiquitous, then craftsmanship is an emergency” (1/2)
Published 1 July 2022 by Maya Minder
On June 6-11, Fabricademy Bootcamp was held at the Fablab Onl’Fait in Geneva. Since 2017, this program combines research on the topics of biodesign and e-textiles within the Fablab movement, creating distributive education that tackles inspiration and ideations on how to revive ancient crafts with new technologies. First part of an interview with its co-founder, Anastasia Pistofidou.
For one week, some 30 people participated in workshops on biomaterials, textile crafting, leather moulding, 3D creation, parametric design, bacterial dyes and soft robotics. An intensive insight into the existing tools and teachings within the educational philosophy of DIWO, DIY, distributive education and open source tools.
Makery met the FabTextiles research lab founder Anastasia Pistofidou, one of the initiators of the Fabricademy and its Bootcamp. We talked about openly accessible material archives and recipes, biomaterials and made-to-measure education.
Makery: Hi Anastasia, we are sitting here at the Bootcamp in the Fablab On l’Fait where you are teaching a one-week Bootcamp on digital fabrication and textile research. As one of the initiators of the Fabricademy, can you introduce yourself?
Anastasia Pistofidou: I am an architect by training, and a core team member of IAAC – FAB LAB Barcelona since 2011. In 2012 I initiated research about textiles within the Fablab world that led to many different practices of networks, sharing the value of open culture and open access within the premises of Fablab. All of this research and practices were documented rigorously and disseminated through online documentation, publications and teachings. Within the topic of Biomaterials and wearable textile research, it became a movement of people sharing similar interests. we started the implementation of textile labs with different people being interested in extending the topics of the Fablab network not only to engineering or coding but also to arts and craft skills, design and soft fabrication.
Tell us more about the Fabricademy Bootcamp?
Bootcamp is for everyone who cannot attend the full 6-month program of hybrid teaching online and onsite, who is curious to learn the techniques and skills, for networking and for those who want to become instructors or set up a node at their lab. It is a moment where we can meet once a year in a condensed week to learn many topics of the program. It always happens in different cities around the world, and it is made possible with funds and programs that can support the participants and education program to enlarge. It is a one time annual event and before we did it in Barcelona, Milano, Iceland and Paris. Next year we are thinking of going to Amman, Jordan
We had one hundred applications from labs that want to do the program, but not everyone can offer the program: you have to adjust to the inventory of the Fablab tools; you need to have some requested expertise in-house, also the world is not used to receiving continuous education in labs. The program is innovative: it combines a digital application approach with crafting your own material and using biofabrication or biodesign techniques. This was something completely new for the Fablab world, and it became a global reference of open access knowledge for biodesign and biofabrication. I think that most people contact Fabricademy for this reason, but we provide many other skills as well, for example e-textiles, open-source circular fashion, computational desig and many others.
Why is craft important to you?
I really enjoy the combination of the crafts and the digital. We should be in cooperation and collaboration between humans and technology, and we should create a dialogue. There is a lot of knowledge in the crafts heritage, and it is urgent not to lose it. With technology, you can redefine the aesthetics and processes, making artisanship alluring and interesting again. If technology is ubiquitous (at least in the Western world), then craftsmanship is in emergency. Today we learned about the leather moulding technique with parametric pattern coding. This is about rescuing heritage and old crafts through digital aesthetics and new technologies. Personally, I am not a supporter of the new trend of the metaverse, because I think we still need to train our hands, to have haptics and tactile, to develop fine motor skills, to design tangible interactions. I sometimes encounter people who have not used a hammer in their life, and this is a danger that people will become completely dependent and powerless.
If one starts working on the topics of biomaterials, the first contact is through your homepage FabTextiles and the Fabricademy class archive. All recipes are open-source, it really became a reference around the globe and now has a huge archive…
There are also these two open publications I made before Fabricademy: “The Secrets of Bioplastics” and “Bioplastic cookbook”. They paved the way leading to the format of how we work and share. We do small publications and everyone can share these recipes. It is like sharing cooking recipes: everyone can apply them how they want, one never follows the recipes solely by the book. It is giving you guidelines rather than finished products. It calls you to experiment and notto be passive. Many people contact us for these recipes: “It did not work, what can I do, etc.” And I think most people still have this mentality of “I use something, I am a user”. A user needs things to work in the first approach. But this is not the mentality here, we want to promote the DIY/DIWO aspect. They really need to understand the material, feel the material, and learn while working with the material. You need to “make the recipe yours” to obtain results.
How do the people who participated at Fabricademy perceive this form of teaching? What are the essentials of distributed education?
We have now 185 alumni, and we are launching the sixth year of the program this September in more than 15 locations, that we call Nodes. It is a project driven by personal will and vision, and it requires a lot of effort. It happens simultaneously in different cities on an online teaching model with local experts at your local Fablab or Makerspace. The system itself is self-feeding the needs, there is this slow growth of the textile labs implementation and expertise. Those who finalize the program can also become instructors to bring the skills to their local cities and people. The topic of digital fabrication is still niche, therefore we engage with each participant and we create lots of opportunities that we send out each week in our newsletter.
The output is very diverse. Rather than teaching a final skill, Fabricademy is more about a change of mindset and about empowerment, through the implication of digital fabrication for more distributive design challenges and sustainable innovation. This program is not to make you fit in a box, it is to make you create your own box! And this is different from the usual way of educational offers.
Education has no age, so the program is open to participants from 18-65 years old. We also do not say “students”, but “participants”. The methodology of Fabricademy is a self-driven learning process after DIY models and gradual release of responsibility. We often say to the alumni: “Your final project is not your final project; it is the beginning of your professional path”. This education system is simultaneously a research process and a learning path. That is why we offer the program in this flexible format – we think that education should be made to measure. It is very versatile, it is flexible and custom-made adapted to your needs.
Fabricademy’s 6th edition starts in mid-September in many locations worldwide, and is currently offering 50% scholarships to attend the program at the Icelandic Textile Research Center.
Part 2 of this interview to be published next week.