The Virtual Textiles Research Group investigates and develops technology at the forefront of digital textile simulation.



RISD and the textiles department

In Textiles students experiment with new materials, technologies and techniques to design and create innovative fabric and fine art. Professors work closely with both graduate and undergraduate students to encourage the development of a personal vision and an understanding of larger artistic, social and cultural contexts.

Students work with high-end equipment used in the field such as computer-interfaced looms and electronic knitting machines to master advanced techniques and pursue in-depth investigations of structure, pattern and form. 

After RISD, Textiles alumni are prepared to energize the field by expressing their personal vision. Graduates go on to work as surface, pattern and fabric designers for large corporation or small studios, while others create knitwear collections, establish small production companies, produce performance pieces, create fine art, conduct scientific research, teach, curate, run galleries and more.

research at RISD, Funded by the NSF

Liisa Silander

Watching the Pixar movie Up! a few years ago, Associate Professor of Textiles Brooks Hagan MFA 02 TX first began noodling over a seemingly simple question. How do animators make make-believe fabric look so convincing? By the time Brave came out in 2012, he couldn’t stop thinking about it.

If the virtual textiles – “the tapestries, tartans, furs… even the hair, leather and metal” – in these films can look and behave so realistically on screen, why can’t Hagan and his students create equally accurate digital renderings of textiles? It’s a question he set out to answer four years ago – initially by searching for information about the technicalities involved and then by reaching out to scientists working at the forefront of verisimilitude in computational space.

Now that Hagan has become a principle investigator (PI) on a research project that just won a $1.2-million grant from the National Science Foundation, he’ll continue to probe for answers over the next four years, too. During the grant period – which officially began on September 1 and runs through 2020 – he will use the funding allocated to RISD by the NSF’s Cyber-Human Systems program to lead the Virtual Textiles Research Group, which will include selected graduate students who will support his work with the PI team – two computer scientists at Cornell and a scientist at Stanford with expertise in mechanics.