Monthly Archives: May 2013

Kasaï velvet

Raffia Pile Cloth

Raffia Pile Cloth, Central Africa, 1940-1950 (source)


Raffia Pile Cloth, Central Africa, 1900-1930, (source)

Raffia Pile Cloth

Raffia Pile Cloth, Central Africa, c 1950 (source)

Rafia Pile Cloth

Rafia Pile Cloth, Central Africa, early 20th century (source)

Raffia, cut-pile embroidery

Rafia Pile Cloth, Central Africa, early 20th century (source)

I’m a big fan of ethnic crafts and textiles. Whenever I travel, I always seek out local art offerings at the markets and souvenir shops. There is so much variety in different regions and sub-cultures that it’s an endless source of inspiration. A couple years ago I discovered the Textile Museum of Canada here in Toronto. It’s a tiny gem of a museum that usually gets overlooked next to ROM and the AGO, but it’s actually my favourite place to indulge in cultural voyeurism without getting on a plane.

Last fall I went to their exhibit called Natural Resources, which showcased handmade artifacts from around the world using traditional techniques and natural materials. Amidst the many beautiful pieces, I was most struck by raffia cloth panels made by the Shoowa tribe of the Kuba people. Known as Kasaï velvet (Velours du Kasaï), these panels are intricately woven using raffia palm fibers, which are then clipped to create a tufted surface. The most striking thing about them though are the geometric designs — irregular, spontaneous, abrupt — they completely defy the respect for symmetry and balance found in many traditional crafts. With my generative art brain I automatically imagined as though they were put through some kind of glitch algorithm. In my experience, a manually random design is not easy to create and I commend Shoowa for doing it so well without any software!

See more examples here, here and here.

Too bad that this book is out of print but even a used copy might still be more affordable than an original panel.


The Evolution of WURM UI

WURM is a generative mobile app that I first released at the end of 2010. Unwittingly, it has become an on-going pet project that I still keep tinkering with. Part of the reason is that I keep learning the iOS platform. When I started making the app I knew almost nothing about Objective-c or developing in the OSX environment. In hindsight, it actually seems a miracle that I even got it on the App Store given how little I truly understood about what I was doing. Coding on blind faith was more like it. But it was fun and now, over two years later, I feel pretty comfortable around the iOS. 

The other part of it became the UI. The touch interface was such a novel and exciting canvas that my inner designer couldn’t get enough of it. Still can’t. If I had to guess, the UI probably takes up the biggest chunk of my process because, unlike coding, there’s not a lot of logic to it. It’s very organic and I usually have to “see it to feel it”. That often takes many iterations, and even when I do settle on something, I’m never 100% sure of it. But I ship anyway, knowing that things will inevitably change in the next update. It’s the process itself that I seem to get hooked on. The truth might be there somewhere..

Here’s WURM design timeline to date (iPad version not shown).

Version 1.0: First official version, designed using mostly default controls.

WRM-UI-1_0a   WRM-UI-1_0b


Version 1.4: Custom-designed controls; new shuffle button; also purchased my first iPad, which led to a universal UI adaptable in all orientations.

WRM-UI-1.4a   WRM-UI-1.4b


Version 1.7: By this point I designed a bigger dashboard for the iPad but the look of UI elements remained the same, so I continued refining.

WRM-UI-1.7a   WRM-UI-1.7b


Version 2.0: I had new ideas for the app, which required a significant change in the programming logic, which in turn, forced a new UI overhaul.

WRM-UI-2.0a   WRM-UI-2.0b


Version 2.1: I’m the biggest user of my app and by this point I craved something fresh; decided to try a lighter and simplified look.

WRM-UI-2.1a   WRM-UI-2.1b


Geometry Daily

tumblr_m9w5rm8Vwu1r9nwnbo1_500 tumblr_manybxSDVr1r9nwnbo1_500 tumblr_metwlm7hS61r9nwnbo1_500  tumblr_mlz7n6IAiz1r9nwnbo1_500tumblr_meymvrQrWE1r9nwnbo1_500tumblr_mhpolrnRTk1r9nwnbo1_500

Recently I came across a minimalist tumblog Geometry Daily by German graphic designer Tilman. Tilman started the project during a year-long paternity leave as way to keep his creative muscles flexing while fulfilling dad duties. Thanks to his commitment and consistency, a seemingly humble side project has grown to be wildly successful and inspired lots of creatives around the web.

I’m happy to join their ranks as his style and philosophy certainly sing down my alley. I’ve been a fan of geometrics since grade 5 geometry class, long before I considered them design elements. And the fascination persists to this day. If someone were to ask me why, I might as well point them to Tilman’s words:

I find endless beauty just in the way geometry works. It feels like geometry has only a small set of rules, yet these create so much complexity that we will never be able to see even a small fraction of what is possible.

True words. It’s the complexity hidden in simplicity that’s very compelling. Especially the Zen kind of simplicity that Tilman seems to channel in his sketches. I almost want to think of them as visual haiku or something.

If you like the work and want to get some geometric Zen on your walls, consider buying a silkscreen or a digital print.