Posted on Tue, April 5th, 2022
Since the late nineteenth century metallised textiles created by electricity and chemistry have been impersonating and combining with precious metal in finishes, treatments and embellishment. During the early twentieth century, innovation in the metallisation of aluminium could be seen through the process of bonding and coating. Indeed, amongst the traditional craft techniques used to imbue exquisite garments, ceremonial dress and treasured artefacts with gold, silver and copper, sits the transformative electro-chemical science of making.
In this article I will discuss the historical development, techniques and renewed interest in processing associated with electrodeposition and textiles. It first charts ancient metallurgical work on materials, created by chemical reaction. It then explores nineteenth century innovation in electrochemistry and electro metallurgy that led to the earliest rare examples of electrodeposition on cloth, thread and yarn used in transport, jewellery and dress. It will then move onto how renewed interest in the magic of electrodeposition has begun to transform the creation of bespoke metal textiles; eclectically and aesthetically driven by seminal contemporary practice-based research and thought-provoking work in laboratory-based textiles.
It considers the artistry, control and scientific underpinning needed and gives examples of unconventional processing led by a small group of ground-breaking studio textile designers in the United Kingdom (UK), Belgium and Hong Kong. I will pose the question: is interdisciplinary exploration at the forefront of twenty-first century textile design? As such the article reviews the interplay between chemistry and design; the interface between historic and contemporary techniques analysing how the potential glimpsed in past patents by inventors and methodologies from artisan manufacturing and the metal finishing industry can be drawn upon to create forward thinking designs and materials in fashion and textiles.