Due: Tues. Jan 25, class time


Anima – the latin root of both animation and animal – originally was used to describe ideas such as breath, soul, spirit or vital force. In this first assignment we will experiment with breath-controlled pneumatic hinges to animate cloth.

The central question of this course is how to create novel and expressive movement with kinetic mechanisms and fabric/fiber. Textiles have the fluid ability to take on many forms and actions. Many fabric and fibers acquire the form of other items, think of how: your body gives clothing form, poles give a tent form, wind gives a flag or windsock form. Textiles are also active and easily animated, think of how: a fan blows a table cloth, a bean bag adapts when sat on, a curtain opens and closes as its cord is drawn. In other words, fabric, yarns, and other fiber media are made to move and change.

For this exercise, we would like you to create three simple pneumatic mechanisms which animate three fabrics. Each sample should activate cloth or fiber in a unique way. You will learn in class how to heat-seal plastic into pneumatic mechanisms and simple processes for how to integrate fabric/fiber with the mechanisms. Your assignment is to discover some of the essential problems and possibilities of activating cloth using pneumatic mechanisms – and what expressive and dynamic qualities we can give to the cloth and fiber.

Some questions to consider:

  • What kind of character does the textile have? Can you reveal that further through movement?
  • How can you change the cloth to activate it more or differently? (cutting into strips, attaching to dowels, making holes, etc.)
  • How will you secure the hinge on a rigid item (a wall, table, body, etc) to give the hinge leverage?
  • What is a surprising movement you have found?
  • What’s the widest movement your mechanism can make the textile can do?
  • What is the tempo and pace of the movement? Is this the quick breath of a mouse or a slow inhale of an elephant?


  • Upload a post with the following:
    • brief videos showing the movement of your three samples
    • supporting images as needed to explain the structure
    • a few sentences about your approach and experience in the post.
  • Bring your three mechanisms to class.


Below are the criteria we will be using to assess your assignment. The points for this assignment will be distributed amongst these criteria:

  1. Experimentation and invention: The maker has tried multiple different ideas, processes, and fabrics to find novel movements. The maker worked with a process of trial and error to learn about the media and its possibilities. The maker moved beyond their first experiments and found movements they could not have predicted at the beginning of their efforts. The maker stayed flexible and open to the discoveries offered by the media along the way.
  2. Tenacity: The maker stayed with the process and created multiple iterations, learning from their efforts along the way.
  3. Appropriate Craft: The maker did enough craft to make the experiments interesting, dynamic, and working. The maker’s priority was on creating inventive movement rather than a highly refined object. The maker used care in making the experiments but did not get mired in perfectionism.
  4. Clear documentation. The maker’s online documentation clearly communicates their project. The maker followed these tips when photographing/videoing their work: Removed distracting items from the background; made sure the camera is in focus and the lens is clean; used a tripod or other support to stabilize the camera; for video the camera was held in the landscape (horizontal) format; the project was well lit and without distracting shadows.