This week, we learnt to print with thermochromic inks!
Developed in the 1970s, thermochromic inks have numerous applications and can be found in everyday items, art and design:
Silkscreen and squeegee
Light-coloured fabric to print on (A different type of ink is needed to print on dark fabrics)
Thermochromic pigment (powder form)
Acrylic medium and paint (optional)
Heat source e.g. hair dryer or iron
Mix the thermochromic pigment with the medium. Caution: wear masks while doing this as inhaling the fine powder can be harmful!
Mix well to achieve a paint-like consistency.
The printing process is similar to the basic silkscreen printing process. Put some ink along the top of the silk screen.
Drag the squeegee downwards, applying pressure evenly. Move the squeegee up and down several times to ensure even coverage.
When I initially printed them, the inks were very bright and saturated. Strangely, when I brought my prints home later that day, I discovered that the colours (especially the blue) had faded substantially to a light pastel blue. I suspect this may be due to the type of fabric I used.
I printed another sample with yellow thermochromic pigment mixed with green acrylic paint. When heat is applied, the yellow disappears, leaving a cooler and darker shade of green.
‘The Original Wearable-Tech’
I like how fabrics with thermochromic ink are highly interactive. We can consider them to be the predecessor of wearable technology which is becoming increasingly popular. Instead of including electrical components such as LEDs and temperature sensors which add to the bulk of the clothing, fabric printed with thermochromic inks are lightweight and create a more seamless interaction. They are playful and can create surprising effects, reacting to human touch as well as the environment.
Touchy is a wearable interactive art device by Eric Siu, a new media artist from Hong Kong. It is a helmet-like device which resembles a camera and covers the user’s eyes, blocking their vision. When the user is touched by another person, the shutters will open and close, allowing the user to see for an instant. When the user maintains contact with someone for 10 seconds, the built-in camera in Touchy will take a snapshot of that instant, capturing the result of this togetherness.
Touchy touches on concepts such as physical communication, memories, social interactions and the ironic ‘un-socialness’ of social media. It also aims to combat problems like social anxiety and isolation (hikikomori), ramifications of our modern world.
The camera metaphor is pronounced as the device resembles a camera in terms of shape, colour and material. It also has shutters and a LCD screen at the back. Its helmet like shape with a pair of shutters at the eye area also has clear affordances of how it should be worn.
What is striking about this device is that the user and the device become one; so much so that they become another device altogether, a ‘human-camera’. The user no longer interacts directly with the device and instead becomes an extension of the machine. The interactivity occurs when this ‘humera’ interacts with other people. This interactive art device can also function as part of social interaction experiments and performance art pieces.
Wearable tech often serves the user and has practical, tangible benefits such as monitoring and providing information. However, Touchy actually impairs the user by limiting their vision in order to seek out ‘softer’ aspects of human interaction.
Song Wig is an ingenious and playful piece of wearable tech by Japanese creative lab PARTY. This interactive device offers a new way of sharing music. The user experience has a large social element, as the users interact with the device as well as with one another.
One main user wears the device and shares music with physical proximity. It works similar to wireless headphones and syncs with devices via bluetooth. In terms of interactivity, it has limited user input and feedback. However, the metaphor and the resultant interaction that it generates between people makes up for this. It’s simple yet the affordances are easily identifiable. It also encourages physical interactivity between users.