Melanie Olde – Cell System

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  • HGA Award for Outstanding Works of Fiber Art: Handwoven Ribbon, publication and certificate of achievement

Through my ongoing exploration of cellular structures, this work reflects on simulations of microscopic complex natural systems through the lens of the coded, rapidly evolving technological zeitgeist.

Conceptually, within the work, I question the increasing societal tension and opportunities for artificial mimicry of the natural world. Weaving is an ultimate metaphor for complexity within life systems: the small individual elements and rules acting cumulatively upon the whole, resulting in emergent behaviour. I aim to innovate within cloth to find a place between natural living cloth and human-made technological constructions.
As a handwoven 3-dimensional fabric, my work delves into the dichotomy of a complex system of threads creating simplified geometric cellular shapes. I use a multilayering structure to lift the cloth into the third dimension and use this versatility to develop patterns in the cloth depth as well as the fabric surface. The reversal in the multilayering structure creates the wave pattern and the abstract, curving “cells”.

I employ two metals in this piece, referencing the artificial machine mimicking the living cell system. The materials are ridged, and their polished surfaces render them slippery. So, while I have caught the metal threads within the woven encoding, they move against each other in disorderly, organic, emergent, natural and unprogrammable behaviour. The tessellating cells themselves move organically, reminding the viewer that synthesised complex natural forms can occur from a set of instructions.

By exploring cellular geometries and functions, I aim to inspire viewers to consider how technology can reflect upon and mimic the complex beauty of the natural world.


Multi-layering handweaving technique

Dimensions: 17.5″H x 8.5″W x 1″


0.5mm stainless steel rope; 0.2mm copper wire


24 shaft AVL compu-dobby

  • Melanie Olde