Stymphalian Birds

Stymphalian Birds – human-eating pets of Artemis in Greek Mythology – are said to have metallic feathers. Using their feathers as arrows, they have a beauty that is both attractive and dangerous.

Stymphalian Birds is an art installation of textiles and feathers, exploring the aesthetics and the societal impacts of a hybrid textile at the crossroads of electronics and haute couture. The textiles combine traditional handcrafts with digital technologies, chemical processes and elements created by nature. These four different approaches seamlessly connect traditional featherwork and materials science. The resulting textiles provide a rich multi-sensory experience: complex haptic interactions with feathers and textiles are sonified to become amplified electronic soundscapes. They combine featherwork practised in the early 19th century and traditional Lunéville embroidery with state of the art fabrication methods which make the feathers electrically conductive and interactive.

Textiles occupy our personal life whilst our environment is more and more permeated by electronic technology every day. Electronics are starting to be incorporated into the textiles which accompany our lives as well. The combination of electronic circuits and in-situ polymerization to give electrical conductivity to a feather will now permit it to detect touch and respond to it by sonic feedback. Each feather is a flexible sensor designed by nature and each feather tip appears as a suspended electrode above the textile. When an external body approaches, these newly created biometric sensors will be the first in contact, this is the biomimicry of filoplumes which fulfill the role of sensory receptors on birds.

Stymphalian Birds invites us to reconsider interactions of living beings with their environment, introducing the periphery of the body as an interface. The project explores the ability of cyber organisms to be sentient beings communicating across boundaries.

The rooster tail feathers were stripped to both mimic filoplumes and for the aerial and playfulness of the resulting shape.
The feathers were polymerized with pyrrole.
Feathers during the polymerization in a becher.
The feathers were prepared using dyeing methods, traditional featherwork and polymerization.
This process make them electrically conductive.
The feathers are connected using the standard electronic method of wire wrapping using a hand wrapping tool and a very thin insulated wire.
The connected feathers are laid out according to the circuit and the wires are chain stitched following the French embroidery Lunéville technique.
Each wire is then wrapped and soldered to a MPR121 capacitive touch controller board. The touch controller is read by an Arduino Nano microcontroller which controls a DFPlayer Mini MP3 module.
These progressive steps in electronic and textile design enable the creation of a standalone system in which the feathers are sensors which react to touch by emitting sounds. Users can interact with multiple feathers at the same time to create a melody.
Stymphalian Birds
Dress made of Stymphalian textile.