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Soft Systems

Emma Harriet Wright

Emma’s initial impetus to study at RCA was motivated by the seeming lack of mindfulness on sustainability within the textile industry. Whether that be in materials, systems or the industry's general approach to design.

Inspired by this, Emma decided to set out on a path to research and refine her personal practice. Not necessarily basing this around sustainability alone, but an amalgamation of skills and innovative applications. Now positioning herself as a sustainable communicator and innovator within textiles and material design.

Emma’s background is originally within print and textile design, having 7+ year’s experience within the luxury fashion industry before studying at the RCA. Emma designed and managed textile collections for Versace couture and mainline collections, as well as for Peter Pilotto, Ralph & Russo and many other brands throughout the UK and Europe. It was these years of industry experience that gave Emma the drive to explore alternative design systems for a healthier practice towards the planet.


2021 Achievements: 

·      CHI 2021 Workshop: Speculating on Bio Design within the Home. 

·      American Tapestry Alliance: Emerging Designer Award 2021 

·      Textile Society Award: Highly Commended 2021 

·      Innovation RCA Start Up support: Launchpad February 2021 

REIMAGINE // Home Grown

For Emma there has always been a fascination for the blurred boundaries of nature and technology. Two opposite ends of the spectrum, yet vital for everyday living in 2021. Reimagining textiles as a tool to develop alternative products within technology and speculative thinking on how we can interact, and care, with our everyday environments.  

Inspired by the lack of awareness for the afterlife of technology, Emma has steered towards exploring alternative materials and traditional craft techniques within design, using ambient technology as a visual language to uncover the relationship between these objects and the user. 

The communication of healthier practices towards the environment is vital within all aspects of Emma’s work. Highlighting the importance of knowing where our materials come from, how we use them and what happens to them afterwards. Approaching concepts with a multi-skilled approach and collaborating across a variety of fields. 

Emma positions herself as a sustainable communicator and innovator within textiles across product design fields. Continuing the development of the story and accessible information for designers to create more insightful and empathetic depictions that co-design with the environment and its season. Can we do this through a more active form of care, one that revolves around the everyday objects that we work with and use, respecting our materials, and developing habits to form a balanced cohabitation? 


Home Grown is a bio-based collection of objects created as alternative tools to interact with our digital products. Inspired by the lack of mindfulness regarding the sourcing and recycling of materials for technology, Home Grown has been sourced from local materials from the UK & Ireland and created using traditional craft techniques. It uses ambient technology as a visual language to uncover the relationship between these objects and the user, exploring how levels of care towards these within our daily interactions, can create a deeper understanding and longevity within the everyday object.  

This work explores local conductive and bio-based materials that could create speculative alternatives for the current multinational ingredient list within technologies today, replacing the metal components and interfaces whilst reducing the material, and the making process, to a localised area. 

Generating stories and thoughts on mindfulness towards the everyday objects in our home, not treating the object as ‘us and them’ but a cohabiting together. Bringing mindfulness into our daily interactions with the environment.  

Essentially Home Grown is not about generating a ‘Hero’ solution or idea to save the planet, but stimulating alternative materials, methods and stories of interaction to create more mindful approaches towards the everyday object. 


Seaweed, carbon and wool.

Although this object may not be a speculative alternative for a traditional home object, this story creates an awareness of how many objects provide selfless acts of care to the end user. 

This blanket is mindful of user interaction with it. If placed on a chair it detects movement with pressure sensors, sending a gentle reminder if the user has not moved, or changed position in a while, which is needed within many stationary working positions.  

Although this blanket does not require much fuss, it does require a medium level of humidity within the room. It sends a gentle reminder to raise humidity levels when they are low, giving it a gentle spritz when needed. 

This blanket is designed to remind us to respect the objects we use around us by providing a more active form of care for the objects needs, even if this doesn’t directly relate to ours.


Seaweed, carbon and wool


27cm wide by 80cm length

This touchpad is part of a series of objects that incorporated this bio-based technology with tapestry weaving techniques, to create a series of stories about mindfulness and co-designing with the environment.  

Using seasonal performance within the biomaterials to initiate ideas around co-designing with nature and its seasons, moves away from universal design practises, and applies concepts that orientate around a community’s local materials with traditional making techniques. 

This touchpad enjoys resting but also enjoys user interaction. It can withstand long hours of use, however there is still a limit. If the user has been continuously at work with no breaks, the touchpad becomes unsettled and in need of a break, sending a reminder to the user when the limit has been breached.  

This object creates a gentle reminder to be more mindful of the objects and space around you, and how you interact with them, without taking advantage. The care relationship is reciprocal, with the touchpads need for a break reflecting the needs of the user.  



Seaweed, carbon and wool


26cm width by 53cm length

This light switch questions the multinational ingredient in many of today’s technological products using locally sourced naturally conductive materials, reducing the extensive ingredient list to a select few, as well as replacing the exhaustive mining of metals with natural circular material streams.  

This is also the perfect example of an everyday object that goes unnoticed but plays a key role within our homes. This light switch enjoys people's company and interactions, but if it is switched on for a period of time without anyone present, it will become upset as it has been forgotten about.  

The light switch will send a signal to alert the user that it has been left unnoticed and wasting energy, creating a reminder that we must always be aware of the everyday habits that have the potential to manage our energy consumption. 


Seaweed, carbon and wool


15cm width by 15cm length

A key development was the visual language and what this would look like between the user and the object?

Sound interactions required extra components such as a speaker. Whilst a written language seemed sterile compared to creating a visual language that would change colour and movement over time.

When it came to creating these material conversations between the object and the user, Emma tried to capture the movement of the sea developed from her research and mark making. With the materials emotional ‘states’ changing and developing as the user interacted with the object over time.



Garthenor Organic

Henry Royce Institute