Linen Lace Concrete - Back to Source to commercialise lab based findings from 'Woven Concrete'

Lead Research Organisation: University of Ulster
Department Name: Sch of Art & Design

Abstract

Trish Belford (PI) and Professor Ruth Morrow (Co I) a textile designer and architect have been working together for 9 years, bringing together the technologies of textiles and concrete, innovatively blending these two diverse materials to produce highly innovative surfaces. This follow on funded project aims to commercialise unresolved findings in the original AHRC practice led grant 'Woven Concrete' (AH/E006248/1) That lab based project aimed to create innovative concrete textile surfaces. The original findings of using linen as the most suitable base fabric to withstand the harsh alkaline properties of concrete will be brought to a conclusion with this collaboration with MYB textiles, Scotland. We will develop a range of woven linen lace concrete surfaces using knowledge gathered over the intervening years to generate large scale panels. Inspired by the initial grant Belford and Morrow continued their collaboration eventually developing patented products. Those developments were an extension of the thinking and learning from the original grant however they were carried out by different means, which ultimately proved to be time consuming and expensive to produce. These new methods of production with MYB will result in commercially viable and more sustainable methods of manufacturing a linen lace. Belford and Morrow in the intervening years have generated many world wide contacts, through promotion of the existing expensive technologies, also finding time to present and write about the process, reflecting on the cultural significance and tension of bringing two diverse cultures - concrete and textiles into one process. Marketing feedback has indicated that scale and a one stage process for making would place this product in a much stronger position. This has been unachievable due to limitations on current technology available.
This project application is therefore intended to:
a) Return again to the original findings of the earlier grant and with the knowledge and experience developed in the intervening years by using large scale textile manufacturing techniques to make commercially viable lace textiles for infusing with concrete, hence opening up new commercial opportunities . MYB currently weave lace with cotton yarns and a diversification to linen will be a response to recent client interest in linen.
b) Present the story of this collaboration in an imaginative way that engages the general public; specialist interest groups in traditional and innovative textiles; and the concrete industry.
The lab based research of 'woven concrete' identified linen as suitable to withstand the alkaline conditions of concrete, in the original grant the textile pattern was created by a post devore (burn out) print process to create lace-like textiles, this however was laborious, costly and uncontrollable, so in order to try and commercialise the embedded textile processes the researchers later created the lace structures by laser cutting on pre woven imported textiles. This is currently one of the three patented processes that went forward for commercialisation. However this is costly, energy inefficient and time consuming and we have now identified a need to find an alternative method for creating lace linen. A feasibility study funded by Ulster University research confirmed MYB as the most suitable Company to collaborate with, they have the technology and a forward thinking outlook, but are not yet weaving in linen lace. MYB, is a 115 year old textile company based in Scotland and the only remaining UK industrial producer of woven lace. They currently only weave lace effects with cotton but are willing to collaborate and alter loom settings and yarn in order to take part in this project. They view this as a valuable addition to their existing portfolio. The final pieces of work (large panels) will be exhibited in both Scotland and Northern Ireland, attracting audiences from both Textiles and Architecture

Planned Impact

The impact generated from this project will, on the first level, be through knowledge exchange between; the applicants and the community around QUB concrete labs, and more specifically with MYB and their design team. The project will stimulate new processes, new skills and potentially new clients for MYB. MYB aim the generate new sales platforms through the development of a new linen woven fabric that is not only suitable for embedding in concrete, but also as a stand alone linen fabric that could be incorporated in the MYB range. In this project we are asking MYB to weave with linen, to date they only weave with cotton. This diversification to linen is less expensive, with improved sustainability, as weather does not factor so much in the price fluctuation, a recent observation when purchasing cotton yarns. The flax plant is hardier, and therefore not so vulnerable to climate changes. The robustness of linen is one of the characteristics of this fibre that deems it a suitable yarn the use within concrete. MYB has had recent requests from the Russian market for a linen product, one reason being they do produce a lot of linen yarn but MYB are the only design and weave source of damask lace weaving. MYB would like to be able to offer a new innovative product to their existing market plus opening doors to a wider customer base e.g. architectural clients and building contractors. Impact will also occur through dissemination to the concrete, textile and architecture disciplines and related industries. Support and evidence of Impact will come from existing networks with BRE (Building Research Establishment) and The Concrete Society who to date have actively supported the work and development of the researchers, and are always keen to report new developments through their extensive networks both locally and globally. The work of Belford and Morrow has been previously been cited across a range of publications (in textiles, innovation, interiors and concrete) and also trade magazines and on line blogs. This project in its entirety will be disseminated through pre-existing networks, using tweets, blogs and Instagram to engage the public and research communities encouraging feedback and comments. Due to the researchers diverse range of networks (across textiles, construction and architecture) a wide-ranging view point will be available. Interest will be stimulated from a wide range of stakeholders, including the general public, who will not only be engaged in the Impact but the information gathered will be used to inform the researchers of further potential opportunities of development. The proposed activities outlined will take place in 5 stages, drawn up in consultation with MYB, each stage will generate its own Impact pathway, ranging from design development to concrete lab developments, these will be monitored and reported, informing the final stage of the project through dissemination of the work through different channels, commercial, industrial and academic. Both the PI and Co I have witnessed their collaborative work referenced in student portfolios across the UK, being referenced on Northern Irish A'Level Art and Design course work documentation, the work appeals to all levels of learning, we are particularly keen to influence the next generation.The final stage of the project will be two exhibitions; in Scotland and Northern Ireland, each supported by a public lecture to a range of communities from academic to commercial and textiles to concrete. The Impact generated from this project will be used not only as a powerful tool to promote the collaboration with MYB and academia, but to also bring new solutions to concrete and textile industries.

Publications

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Title Exhibition of the 3 creative artistic products created during the research : LINEN LACE CONCRETE exhibition Irish LInen Centre Lisburn Museum 
Description Exhibition: Irish LInen Centre Lisburn Museum October 2018 - December 2018 3 new products created as a result of the research into combining new woven designs from MYB textiles with concrete: 1. Twist - 40cm x 40cm tiles inspired by archives from the William Liddell Damask weaving Company 2. Dot - 10cm x 10cm tiles inspired by the traditional punchcard process used by MYB Textiles 3. Tide - Curved concrete tower, a challenging processing method adopted by 2 PhD students at Queen's University Belfast. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact Visitor numbers for the exhibition were much higher than the usual figures and therefore Impact was created for the Museum curatorial and educational departments, bringing new audiences to the museum. Visitors were attracted from a different audience to the usual Textile Archive visitors. The PhD students were challenged to consider new ways to work wit concrete which will impact on the development one of the PhD students 
URL https://www.linenbiennalenorthernireland.com/reform-linen-lace-concrete/
 
Description MYB Textiles in Scotland who were the weavers in this project are interested in taking the knowledge forward to develop a linen fabric for their business. The Company experienced unforeseen weaving problems during the process, these will need to be resolved, but this research has enabled the Company to envisage and plan for future linen weaving processes.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Economic

 
Description The LInen Bienalle 2018: LInen Lace Concrete 30 minute presentation 3rd October 2018: Island Arts Centre, Lisburn Northern Ireland 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited presentation as part of the first Northern Irish Linen Biennale; the audience was undergraduate students, textile practitioners and researchers. This was the first dissemination of the research and through the hybrid nature of the designs, using a local archive engaged textile and museum archivists from a different perspective. Following on from this I have been involved in an innovation voucher, sponsored by Invest NI to investigate new ways to finish linen for retail.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.linenbiennalenorthernireland.com/conference-programme-outline/
 
Description Invited by The Concrete Centre to present this new body of work at a DPD Seminar in London. LInen Lace Concrete: back to source was presented to a range of architects during a 30 min presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited by The Concrete Centre to give a 30 minute presentation on the research, held in London at Coin Street on 30th October 2018. The audience was a range of architects, designers and construction engineers. This research presented a method to bring Tactility into the built environment as a hybrid textile concrete product. There was follow up to show at Chelsea Flower show but this product currently sits as an internal product only.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.concretecentre.com/Training-Events/Events/Cafe-Concrete-2018.aspx
 
Description Textiles and Place Conference presentation: Manchester Metropolitian University: 14th April 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This paper will chart the progress of an AHRC follow on funding application which draws on the expertise between construction and weaving, underpinned by 10 years of research led by Patricia Belford (textiles) and Professor Ruth Morrow (architect). A major part of the initial research during the infant years was methodically developed through a mechanism of play and dissemination, while at the same time trying to answer an overarching research question: can a collaboration between an architect and a textile designer result in making hard surfaces soft? Subverting the perceived role of textiles as simply dressing within an interior space, to an integrated hybrid surface, where textiles and concrete form one unique tactile surface, equally delivering a new tactile material. In part these questions have been answered and this paper will discuss the benefits and pitfalls of working across very opposing disciplines. This will be illustrated in line with the current new work funded by the AHRC to collaborate with MYB textiles (Scotland) to investigate damask weaving of linen for embedded concrete surfaces. This is a one year stage by stage research project, working with the Queens University concrete lab, and weaving expertise within Ulster University. Each stage is designed and analysed merging divergent thinking across construction, textiles and industry. The final outcomes will be driven by 3D form work development and innovative methods to manufacturer a linen damask textile to work within a folded concrete surface. Collaborative relationships will be developed between the researchers and this long established Scottish weaving Company, supported by a final dissemination of the cultural story behind the collaboration and technology, this will be presented to both textile and construction communities. Each discipline bringing its own criteria for design, risk and expectations. The final hard soft concrete pieces will be folded and formed to compliment the woven linen damask pattern and process restrictions. Reactions to the work will vary depending on the audience and expectations of what it means to make hard surfaces soft.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.art.mmu.ac.uk/events/2018/textile-and-place/