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Creative Collaborations: Weaving the world's first "Fabrics of Sound"

Beatwoven logo

“The BeatWoven project has proven to be a fantastic example of collaboration between industry and academia,” says Dr Noam Shemtov of Queen Mary University.

BeatWoven involves a highly innovative business model, where music is essentially converted into textile patterns.

The company was founded by Nadia-Anne Ricketts, who says that she had always been aware of the mathematical connection between the architecture of music and the architecture of woven cloth.

“When I was weaving I used to feel like my loom was an instrument,” she says. “I used to think, 'Wouldn't it be interesting if I could weave musical notation and let that be the structure that creates the pattern'.”

But it wasn't until she went to study at Central St Martins that she managed to turn her awareness into a physical reality.

In 2009 Nadia got together with a software developer and a music producer to write a programme that converted sound into a geometric weaving pattern. This could then be used to make what she calls the world’s first “Fabrics of Sound”.

Textile with design based on the song 'A Kinda Magic' by Queen
GoldenDaze is a design based on the song 'A Kinda Magic' by Queen. Courtesy of Beatwoven.

But as any entrepreneur knows, taking a great idea and turning it into a great company can be a challenge.

This is particularly true for an idea as creatively avant garde as BeatWoven – and it wasn't long before Nadia-Anne hit a brick wall.

She realised that she had no idea where she stood legally when it came to gaining the rights to use music to make her fabrics and she could not access the necessary legal expertise to find out because of its prohibitive cost.

But Creativeworks London (CWL) was able to link Nadia-Anne with an expert help from Queen Mary University of London.

“From a legal perspective, such a model poses fascinating questions within the area of intellectual property law,” says Dr Shemtov, from Centre for Commercial Law Studies who specialises in complex intellectual property and copyright questions.

“For BeatWoven to move from the realm of an innovative concept to a viable business model, numerous legal issues needed to be tackled in a manner that commercial actors in the marketplace that seek to transact with BeatWoven would be convinced that BeatWoven’s business model is legally sound.”

This partnership between a textile designer and an intellectual property legal academic was to go on and have a positive impact for both parties. For his part Dr Shemtov says that he “found the engagement with an industry partner to be illuminating”.

Rather than addressing legal issues or conflicts in abstract, he had an opportunity to examine an actual business mode and look into a creative process while querying the designer about the various stages of the process and the essence of her contribution. This helped produce conclusions that impacted various facets of the business model.

From Nadia's perspective, Dr Shemtov's help and advice enabled her to overcome any potential legal obstacles and continue to grow her company, safe in the knowledge that she was not infringing any copyright laws.

“The opportunities this project will bring not only to BeatWoven but to the wider creative economy are endless,” says Nadia-Anne. BeatWoven has gone on to receive commissions from the Southbank Centre, the British Film Institute and London Philharmonic Orchestra.

Nadia-Anne was also selected by design critic and journalist Corinne Julius as one of “the names in British craft” as part of her curated platform for London Design Festival 2014.

She has worked with Harrods on an exclusive collection that associated her as one of their ‘Rising Stars’ and was featured as a Future Heritage project at Decorex International 2014 and at Future Artefacts 2015 and was accepted on to the Crafts Council HOTHOUSE 5 programme in 2015.

It is Nadia-Anne’s ambition to build on her success so far to create what she calls her ‘Mini-Mill’. This facility that will overcome what she describes as the “huge manufacturing issues caused by an aged and threatened UK weaving industry” and “bring digital weaving alongside 3D printing”.

“I want to keep the craft of weaving alive,” she says, “but use digital technology and merge the two together to create a whole new experience.”

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