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Frocks from rocks

22 Awst 2007

A Cardiff University professor is harnessing the latest digital production technology and the microscopic wonders of nature to explore ways of producing unique new products.

Professor Richard Weston, Welsh School of Architecture, has launched weston naturally exclusive to create intensely-patterned pictures and fabrics, which could ultimately be produced as architectural materials, hangings or even carpets.

He is now sharing his discoveries and creations at a series of exhibitions beginning at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, Carmarthenshire (22 August - 16 September), when the garden’s gallery, in a converted stone building, will be transformed by silk hangings and prints on paper.

It then moves to the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea (16 November 2007 - 30 March 2008) with a comprehensive range of digitally manufactured materials, including printed and woven fabrics, dresses, rugs and tiles. The exhibition will also describe the formation of minerals and rocks; the capture of images; and the advanced manufacturing processes that can transform them into materials for use in architecture and design.

The series moves to Oxford University Museum of Natural History (1 March to 31 May 2008).

Each digitally produced material carries a unique image from greatly magnified rocks and minerals, producing stunning patterns, which are normally hidden from the naked eye.

"The images that emerge when we scan at high resolution are incredible," said Professor Weston. "Many look like works of art, and all have remained hidden for millennia - only revealed now thanks to digital technology."

He first uncovered the remarkable patterns while experimenting with minerals, obtained for academic research, and a home scanner. "I immediately realised the potential, and moving to more sophisticated scanning has uncovered some breathtaking images."

Professor Weston is now exploring how these patterns could be used in high quality bespoke products. Already, fashion students have produced experimental dresses, dubbed ‘frocks from rocks’. Other possibilities include upholstery or hangings; architectural materials, such as tiles and glass; carpets and rugs, as well as pictures on canvas.

"As an architect I am used to working for individual clients, and I am sure this individuality will become increasingly accessible and affordable in other areas of design," said Professor Weston.

In theory, digital technology could make exclusive products more affordable, with design costs reduced by the use of natural ‘designs’, and the customer able to exercise their own creativity in determining which image - or part of an image - will be used. By making to order, the process also eliminates waste.

weston naturally exclusive images and designs can be viewed online from 3 September at