Angela Sheehan ’07 Brings Fashion to Life with Technology
Consider—or rather, reconsider—the dress. A discreet motor has been installed in the waistband, allowing the wearer to change the dress’s length via a thread attached to the hem. Suddenly, shifting from the boardroom to the bar isn’t so cumbersome.
Or how about track jackets embedded with LED lights: fashion statement and safety feature all in one.
Welcome to Angela Sheehan’s world—one part runway, one part RAM.
Only a few years since graduating from Bennington, Sheehan has begun to establish herself as an up-and-comer in the do-it-yourself technology community. In November 2009, she launched Soft Circuit Saturdays, a blog that documents her forays into the field and showcases tutorials for projects she crafts herself. One such tutorial featured a musical greeting card repurposed into a “singing” sock puppet.
Soft Circuit Saturdays has generated a tremendous response and has placed Sheehan squarely in the middle of this once-niche community turned mainstream phenomenon. At the Mini Maker Faire in Boston—hosted by do-it-yourself magazine MAKE as part of the Cambridge Science Festival—she shared her projects to a captivated audience.
“Don’t hold yourself back if you’re intimidated by a field,” Sheehan says of her unusual path. “Just do what you love and it will happen for you. That’s the Bennington philosophy.”
Sheehan discovered her passion through digital arts faculty member Robert Ransick’s class “Physical Computing.” Rather than limiting themselves to the standard keyboard-and-screen interaction, the students explored the uses of computers and technology in unconventional objects, such as clothing and stuffed animals. “That class was really the spark,” she says.
For Sheehan’s senior project, she collaborated with costume designer Rebecca Grabman ’08. Initially intrigued by the idea of inserting a motor into a roller skate, which would power the motor when rolled, they went on to develop a series of wearable computing projects. Their outfits culminated in a fashion show called REACTIVEfashion.
After exploring the interaction of technology with fashion, Sheehan, who just received an Editor’s Choice ribbon from the World Maker Faire in New York, has begun to set her sights on toys.
"The connecting thread between these media is that I’m curious about how things work,” she says. “I want to learn new things all the time, whether it’s new technology or new techniques. It’s hard to say where that’s going to take me, but the process of exploring and sharing with the larger DIY community is the most rewarding part of the journey.”
One thing that is certain, however, is Sheehan’s desire to continue re-imagining technology and craft. “There is definitely a trend right now of hacking apart electronics that you have on hand and repurposing them. People are becoming more interested in building their own customized collection of technology. There is a resurgence in the idea of the tinkerer.”