What happened in November?

A brief summary of the events in November. While last month was more about renovating the space, moving our stuff and planning how to start, this month has been full of discussions and prototyping and the preparations leading up to our tailor shop ACTUALLY opening.

To-Do List

We are basically, practically, almost, finally, all moved in and set up and working. We have:
– Internet
– Newly wired very minimalist electricity system (the old was too DIY)
– Fixed windows
– Fixed shutters (although one just broke again)

We still need:
– To get and install good lighting
– To build/get more furniture & infrastructure for the “shop” space (sink plumbing, kitchen counters, shelves, mannequins, picture frames, blackboard paint…)
– To find a new WordPress theme for our website that is mobile phone compatible
– To post more regularly to our social media chanels (Diasporaa & Twitter)
– To get in the habit of making videos

Shop Encounters

Our shop windows have some little bits of e-textile sensors and materials in them, and quite few people passing by pause and taking their time to examine what they see to understand what this space is. At the moment it does not look like a shop, more like an atelier/studio where two people are working with textiles and technology.

Here are some stories of our first encounters with people who came in:
>> http://www.kobakant.at/KOBA/shop-encounters-1/
Shop display

3-Day Bike Light Jacket Workshop in Linz

Mid month we left for Linz/Austria where we taught a 3-day workshop. We trained the students to be e-textile tailors and they then worked in teams to make bike light jackets for locals. You can read all about it here:
>> http://www.kobakant.at/KOBA/workshop-tailoring-bike-light-jackets/

Opening Collection

Up until the middle of November we were still debating if we even need/want an Opening Collection, and if yes, what should the items in the collection be. We finally came up with a collection of these three opening concepts:
Poetry in Motion (PIM)
Extrasensory Listening (EXL)
Fantechnical (FAN)

But where to start? How to come up with examples that showcase the opening collection concepts? Easy. We started with ourselves. Mika wants to listen to EMF when she bikes through the city, and Hannah wants a KOBA uniform so that our tools are always at hand. Taking this approach of making this for ourselves (and people we know), we’re now currently realizing these five implementations:
PIM: “ohne mich” jacket >> http://www.kobakant.at/KOBA/prototyping-ohne-mich/
PIM: “Just Make!” Jacket
EXL: EMF Jacket >> http://www.kobakant.at/KOBA/emf-jacket/
EXL: “Tools at Hand” KOBA Uniform >> http://www.kobakant.at/KOBA/koba-uniform/
FAN: Discolele Costume

The very first prototypes we made used fiber optics to put poetry on our bodies. “ohne mich” means “without me” in german and the words are triggered by tilting back and forth. This items demonstrates a super simple circuit with just a coin-cell battery, LEDs, optic fibers and a beaded tilt sensor. And we want to offer this as something you would add to an exiting clothing/textile item.
>> http://www.kobakant.at/KOBA/prototyping-ohne-mich/
ohne mich

We are both most excited about the idea of adding extra senses to our bodies to experience the world differently. And so the next prototypes we started making were of the Extrasensory collection item.

We were intrigued by the works of friends who had been exploring listening to Electro-Magnetic Fields (EMF) through e-textile antennae.

Claire Williams’s e-textile antennae:
Electronic Textiles

Afroditi Psarra’s Divergence and Fractal Antennae works:

Mika started experimenting with two different circuits for amplifying EMF signals that were introduced in a workshop titled Sensing EMFs through textiles at the E-Textile Summercamp 2016.

This is what it sounds like:

For some days Mika biked back and forth to work wearing the latter of these circuits, with a 10x30cm piece of conductive copper fabric as an antennae and an additional audio amplifier. Seeing her set off on her bike with this new sense for experience the world made me want to try this too.

>> http://www.kobakant.at/KOBA/emf-jacket/
EMF amplification circuit
jacket toile test jacket toile test

But instead of listening to EMF, I decided to listen to my tool use. This idea came beacuse the last years I’ve been building myself a Wearable Studio Practice – a collection of workwear and travel items that allow me to wear and carry my tools with me wherever I go. I wanted to take this concept to the extreme and have a uniform for working in the KOBA that would track my tool use and visualize or sonify this data. I like the idea that I can make sound, noise, music while making commissions.
>> http://www.kobakant.at/KOBA/koba-uniform/
making noise uniform
KOBA uniform


As we are getting to work, we are developing new designs and techniques and documenting these in our DIY E-Textile and Wearable Technology database:
>> http://howtogetwhatyouwant.at/

Circuits on buttons for stability.
>> http://www.kobakant.at/DIY/?p=7092

Snap breakouts for prototyping and iterating.
>> http://www.kobakant.at/DIY/?p=7042
Snap breakout

Penholder sensor for KOBA Uniform:

Magnetic Pin Sensor for KOBA Uniform:

Sustainability, sustainability, sustainability….

What do we mean when we use this word? And what do we mean when we say:
“Environmental sustainability, economic sustainability, social sustainability….”
Ever since applying for the WEARsustain funding we’ve been trying to further define these terms as they apply to our tailor shop project, but whenever we come back to discussing sustainability, we perceive this gap between what we talk and what we’re actually doing every day coming to the studio to make technology stuff. I think this gap-feeling comes because the things we are making are really props for a fictional story. Even the real commissions we make for real customers will be props for this story because they come from a make-believe shop that can not exist in the world as it is. The goal of these props is to make a change in how unsustainable our current production and consumption of resources through technology (electronics and clothing/fashion) is. But the way these props achieve that change does have to be through being “sustainable” themselves. Rather they are opportunities to talk about sustainability. For example we could make in incredibly unsustainable (waste materials, energy….) example just to trigger/provoke discussion.

In any case, we’ve decided to narrow our sustainability goals down to focusing on “longevity”, and written about this here:
>> http://www.kobakant.at/KOBA/thoughts-on-robustness/

And here are some more posts that we wrote about sustainability this month:
>> http://www.kobakant.at/KOBA/nutrition-facts/
>> http://www.kobakant.at/KOBA/environmental-sustainability/
>> http://www.kobakant.at/KOBA/sustainability-pillars/

Our Critics

We are working with Anne Prahl and Frank Becker (our WEARsustain Main Mentor) on topics of social, economic and environmental sustainability. We are planning to ask both of them if they would play the roles of our critics, writing regular public critiques of our project that we can post to this website. These critiques will not be part of the fictional/fairytale pillar of our story (see The Three Pillars of the Project bellow), but rather our chance to step out of this speculation to the discussion pillar in order to reflect on our work.

Nutrition Facts

the Nutrition Facts that we are collecting on the materials we use in our practice, will on the one hand provide us with relevant information (sensitivity to UV, chemical… number of wash cycles…) that will allow us to make more durable designs, but it will also become information that we can pass on to the customer (transparency).
We have an intern (Junshen Wu) starting to work with us in December one day a week, who will collect the Nutrition Fact information. We will provide him with a framework for this collection. Our current plan is to start by giving him a list of the materials we use. Then he finds as much information as possible, and starts to organize this in a spreadsheet. We go over a first sample of this information early on to start creating the framework/matrix and lenses. Then the data collection continues. Ultimately this information will be visually prepared so that is easy to read and useful to us and others working in e-textiles. It will also become part of the open source information that accompany each item we make in the shop.

The Three Pillars of the Project

We see our project as having three pillars: discussion/reflection – fairytale/fiction – technology/R&D
> We use technology as a prop for the storytelling of our fairytale.
> We use the fairytale as a testing ground to speculate about alternative reality in which technology is tailormade.
> We host discussion sessions to reflect and critique our project in terms of being more diverse, more democratic, more sustainable (socially, economically, environmental-longevity).


Mid-term Review

For our WEARsustain funding we had our mid-term review write-up due this month. This was a rather tedious process because we’ve been writing so much, that having to pull this writing together into a single document with no photos or videos is just extra work. For our future monthly reports would like to use these monthly summaries on our blog plus a video of us explaining things to the camera as our report.


Together with two friends Emma and Laura, we’re planning to organize a discussion series titled “Shoptalk” where we invite people into our shop to reflect and discuss on relevant topics such as local, urban, small-scale production, the cost of labor, the skill and joy of craftsmanship…

To help fund these events we are planning to apply for this funding:
>> https://www.berlin.de/sen/kulteu/aktuelles/pressemitteilungen/2017/pressemitteilung.638833.php

CTM Vorspiel

As part of the CTM Vorspiel music/technology festival, we are going to host an evening of e-textile performances and an artist talk.


We have not made any progress on making a sign for our shop, but we’ve started thinking about what we can write on the outside to prepare people for what they are entering into.
You can read more wordings here:
>> http://www.kobakant.at/KOBA/were-funded-by-your-tax-money/

Welcome Junshen Wu

Starting in December we will have the help of an intern, Junshen Wu. He is a textile design student in Berlin and will be helping us collect the contents of our e-textile material “Nutrition Facts”. We will ask Junshen to write a post to introduce himself soon.


And finally, yes, we decided on when and how to open!
When: Thursday December 14th at 19:00
Address: Görlitzer Strasse 72, 10997 Berlin, Kreuzberg
– Introductory presentation by KOBAKANT about KOBA
– Presentation of the example items in our Opening Collection
– Wine and cheese

Our opening times will PROBABLY be:
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday: 11:00 – 19:00
Saturday: 11:00 – 15:00

Please join us. In general, if you want to be updated about what is happening in our shop, you can follow us on twitter or diaspora, or sign up for our HOW TO GET WHAT YOU WANT NEWSLETTER.


As we count down the days to the opening I think the whole thing will become more and more real. Very soon we will not be making our own art projects, or examples for ourselves, but things for people we don’t know.
I wonder what it will be like, where we will be with our thoughts about this project, once we are in the flow of taking orders and making things.

Something I’ve started thinking about, even though we have not taken a single order yet, is what will happen to the items we make over time. Over years and years. How long will these items stay in people’s closet? How long will this story last?

To get some sense of what we would like to happen, here are some notes from an exercise in Backcasting Customer Experience:
>> http://www.kobakant.at/KOBA/backcasting-customer-experience/