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SILKNOW online meeting

On the  5th and  6h of May, the SILKNOW team held an online meeting to discuss the project’s advancements. This meeting was originally going to take place in Nice, France at EURECOM Headquarters but, due to COVID-19, we had to hold it online.  Confined but active, we used these two days to explain each Work Package advancements and the interdisciplinary work they require.

The connections between the Virtual Loom and the modelling of textual annotations were discussed, we also began to coordinate the integration of new classes and properties with the expertise of our colleagues from CNRS-Université Lumière-Lyon 2.  This led to a discussion on the coverage of our Knowledge Graph as we want to consider also these objects that explain how silk heritage has evolved over time.  Next, our Italian colleagues from UNIPA explained to us how they are going to evaluate all the SILKNOW tools.  Finally, we saw for the first time how the Search Engine will be… but we do not want to let the cat out of the box!

These were two fruitful days, we showed that even in quarantine our team remains strong and still from our homes, we keep weaving our past into the future.

Job offer: Research assistant (Digital Humanities)

Role

The successful candidate will be active in the planning and delivery of the research activity for this project so that the overall objectives are met. This will involve a variety of tasks: research, dissemination, preparation of reports and publications, planning and organization of events, day-to-day management, etc. Ordinary working languages will be English and Spanish. The candidate will commence work as soon as possible, after the selection process.

Deadline for registration of applications: 10 June 2020

Eligibility
  • Applicants must be graduates with a concentration on (preferably) Art History, or (alternatively) History, Humanities, Geography, Computer Science, or an equivalent degree in a Bachelor program.
  • No specific master’s degree is required, but advanced training (or demonstrable experience) in Digital Humanities and related disciplines will be highly appreciated.
  • Because of the administrative standing of this job offer, candidates with a completed PhD are ineligible. PhD students are welcome to apply, however.
  • Languages: candidates must be proficient in English (at least, a C1 or equivalent level) and have a working knowledge of Spanish. Additional European languages (especially, Italian and/or French) are a plus.
  • Applicants should provide proof of a background (or accredited experience) in all or some of the following areas: digital humanities, Linked Open Data, semantic web, data visualization, information management in museums and heritage collections, history of textiles, audience research, qualitative evaluation.
Submission
  • The offer has already been officially published in the “Diari Oficial de la Generalitat Valenciana” and www.uv.es/pasinvest (under submenu Investigador/a no doctor/a).
  • Applications must be presented at any registration desk in Universitat de València. Other legal registration procedures accepted by Spanish laws (including post offices) can be used, too. Outside Spain, submissions can also be made at Spanish consular offices or embassies.
  • Use as the first document the application form provided in the official call.
  • Attach a copy of your national identity document, and a photocopy of your university degree(s). In case of non-Spanish universities, please provide certification of its equivalence in the Spanish system.
  • Curriculum vitae. Any dossier of publications or similar supporting documents should be made available online, via a single link, when possible. At its discretion, the selection committee might require a candidate to provide additional proof of any item.
  • Motivation letter, approximately 500 words long.

If deemed necessary, an interview with the committee might be part of the selection process, be it online or face-to-face.

For informal enquiries about the position, please contact the project co-investigator Dr. Jorge Sebastián (jorge.sebastian@uv.es).

Given the special circumstances caused by the coronavirus crisis, do not hesitate to ask for help or guidance regarding any aspect of this job offer.

Further information (PDF)

SILKNOW’s Virtual Loom: enhancing creativity

Silk is way much more than just a couple of threads. It is the legacy, crafts, innovation, diplomacy and memory of Europe in just one piece. It unites tangible and intangible heritage in a history that can be traced in the past 2000 years. European silk heritage is linked to history, sociology and cultural production. These exchanges involved not only goods but people: artisans moving from one place to another, traders travelling throughout the routes, consumers adopting some fashions instead of others. Languages changed, too: the names for techniques and patterns were copied or translated between them, reflecting changes in society, technology…

For SILKNOW, silk is much more than textiles: it is the thread that brings ideas, creativity or life stories and collective narratives together. That´s why we are committed to protecting it by weaving the past into our future

In our Virtual Loom, creativity can be sparked: it allows artists and designers to upload their creations and see how they would be if they are woven or they can print them in 3D. But also, it permits to create new designs by applying the symmetry functionality, changing the location of the four points and adjusting the aspect ratio.

Virtual Loom website: https://silknow.eu/virtualLoom-v0.91b/

Check this video to know how Gemma Alpuente, a visual artist uses our VL

SILKNOW’s Virtual Loom: approaching your clients

European history is woven in silk. Few materials have had such economic, technical, functional, cultural and symbolic presence throughout our past and present. Common ideas about the Silk Road most often are limited to its ancient and Asian origins, ignoring the importance of its later European ramifications. There is, however, an increasing interest in the Western Silk Road, the network of production and market centres, spreading over various European countries.

Today, the textile industry has a huge global impact. According to EURATEX, EU clothing and textiles production is predominantly carried out by SMEs, directly employing 1.69 million people, 70% of whom are women, with more than half a million job openings anticipated in this sector until 2025. The Commission has recognized that Fashion Industries -textiles among them- are at the heart of the creative economy, generating huge economic wealth and preserving European identity, culture and values. Creative industries are faced with a digital transition that is shaking up traditional models, transforming value chains and calling for new business models.

SILKNOW, for textile creative industries, but also do-it-yourself fashion fans, offers the ability to reproduce historical textiles through 3D-printing. Thus it will offer a new technology that can be especially useful for customizing products such as small, prêt-à-porter items, not only costumes.

The Virtual Loom can be a very useful tool since it will allow you to visualize finished designs, without having to invest time and money. On the other hand, the VL allows users to change colours, yarns, weaves, techniques hence, traditional factories can experiment with new designs and materials such as 3D printing, opening to new markets.

Virtual Loom website: https://silknow.eu/virtualLoom-v0.91b/

Click here to check the full video

The Virtual Loom: and interdisciplinary work

The SILKNOW’s VL was not an easy task to perform, it took more than a year to make it available. It was only thanks to the interdisciplinary work that is characteristic of SILKNOW that it was feasible to create it. The definition and modelling of weaving were possible thanks to a tight collaboration among ICT and SSH partners of the SILKNOW consortium: from art historians to informatic engineers to craftsmen. Additional advice on the weaving techniques has been received by collaborating institutions, such as CDMT. Finally, UVEG has also performed an optical study on four silk pieces provided by GARIN, which were weaved with a Jacquard Loom following traditional designs.

Arabella León, a researcher from GARIN 1820 & Pablo Casanova, IT from UVEG explain to us their main challenges when dealing with the VL. 

  1. What were the main challenges as an art historian for its research and design?

As a textile conservator, the main challenge I found when developing the VL was to translate into “ICT words” textile terminology. To translate historical weaving techniques into software was challenging because it needed to be extremely accurate: to make an image looked like it was weaved was an easy task, however, to weave a textile with its original weaving techniques and weaves were complicated. Nevertheless, after much research and experiments, we achieved it. 

  1. For ICT, what were the main challenges for its design and implementation?

It was challenging to design a graphical user interface able to embed the techniques, weaves, type of yarns, etc while making the tool easy-to-use. For instance, integrated into the VL, we have an image analysis procedure, to automatically subtract the original design of the fabric or the technical drawing. This needs some actions from the user, but we have managed to keep it to the minimum requirements, so users only need to select the number of yarns. Then, the tool automatically discerns among different areas, for the user to select the colours and types of yarns. In that way, the image analysis procedure is hidden for the user, which only needs to focus on the visual appearance of the fabric virtual model.

What is the added value of the VL for silk conservation?

Accurate knowledge of the techniques is essential for conservation, with the VL this will be easily accessed. It is very useful to be able to see how a piece of fabric is woven without having to manipulate it since on many occasions this is impossible as their state of conservation is extremely fragile. On the other hand, museums do not have a standardized procedure to catalogue their assets. This is a problem because the heterogeneity of the records does not always provide enough information to be able to analyze a textile without accessing it. The VL will facilitate this research. 

Don’t miss the whole video here

Virtual Loom: documenting our memory

These past months we have been working on one of the main results of SILKNOW, the Virtual Loom. This groundbreaking Loom acts as a digital memory of silk heritage as it preserves historical weaving techniques which most of them are only known by artisans who have kept alive this ancestral know-how. It conserves and documents several weaving techniques thanks to its 3D visualization, which allows understanding the interlacement between wefts and warps by applying the necessary restrictions for each technique. Therefore, the VL shows those techniques as they are in real life. 

The SILKNOW’s Virtual Loom also enables traditional industries to reduce costs by letting them select colours and techniques with just a click, and it encourages designers to create fabrics from historical silk models. Besides, this tool allows the creation of new designs applied to sustainable and recycled materials in 3D printing.

What is a VL? We define a Virtual Loom (VL) as an application that can virtually loom fabrics, given an input image with their design. In the scope of the SILKNOW’s project, we are dealing with images of historical fabrics. This means we need to subtract the design form the images before the VL weaves it. The SILKNOW’s VL includes a module on image analysis, to automatically subtract the original design. Once the design is subtracted, and combining this information with a historical technique (e.g. damask, espolín, etc.), the VL can produce an interactive 3D representation of the fabric at the yarn level, that can also be exported for its 3D printing.

As part of the VL, we have integrated a variety of yarns that are needed to produce 3D models with different weaving techniques. We have focused our design in representing silk, cotton and metallic yarns, which were the most commonly used in the historical textiles that we are considering for SILKNOW (15th to 19th centuries). We also added a total of 39 weaves (tabby, twill, sating and their variations). As per the weaving techniques considered for the VL, these are damask and damassé, damassé with metallic weft, lampas, espolín (brocade) and espolín with damassé ground. For all techniques, users can also experiment by changing the colour of the yarns, increasing/decreasing the number of yarns, increasing/decreasing the number of zones (of the design), mirroring an image (with a “symmetry” function) to complete design, etc. The generated 3D models can be downloaded, as well as the design after the posterization of the image. Additionally, the VL allows users to upload any image. Therefore, they can upload their design to virtually weave it and produce a 3D model.

The definition and modelling of such techniques have been possible thanks to a tight collaboration among ICT and SSH partners of the SILKNOW consortium. Additional advice on the weaving techniques has been received by collaborating institutions, such as CDMT. UVEG has also performed an optical study on four silk pieces provided by GARIN, which were weaved with a Jacquard Loom following traditional designs. 

Were any VL before? Many applications produce 3D representations of textiles, to visualize them before they can be woven in a (non-virtual, but real) loom. In these applications, the input data is a computer-generated image with the design and the result is a fabric (design-to-3D-to-fabric). However, the SILKNOW’s Virtual Loom is quite different, as we depart from a piece of real fabric and the final product is its 3D representation (fabric-to-design-to-3D). In this sense, the SILKNOW’s Virtual Loom is unique.

How does it work?

  • An image is loaded in the Virtual Loom. It might have some perspective distortion.
  • The user interactively selects four points, corresponding to the corners of the area of interest. At this point, the image is rectified, so perspective distortion is corrected.
  • The user can change the aspect ratio of the image.
  • The image is processed to obtain different areas. To that end, we use the kmeans method from OpenCV: In the first place, the user selects the number of colours. Then, the Virtual Loom produces as a result is a posterized image. In the example, the resulting posterized image would contain four plain colours.
  • Black and white images are generated, discerning between the background and the pictorial part. Depending on the weaving method (this is selected by the user or provided with the image), different images are derived

Check out the whole explanation on our Video Tutorial

Covid-19 Statement

Stay Safe

In front of COVID-19 pandemic, the whole SILKNOW team wishes to express its solidarity with all those who have lost loved ones or have been directly affected. We also want to express our support and gratitude with all those who are on the front-line fighting to contain this outbreak.  
This pandemic is having dramatic consequences on our daily life, economy, health and personal relationships, but it is also showing the strength of humankind and our capacity to overcome any challenge if we remain united. It is giving rise to creativity, solidarity and courage. Cultural heritage is no stranger to these displays of emotion: balconies are filling up with music, plays are coming into our homes, museums are opening their collections from the safety of our coaches… proving once again that culture is a territory where we can all be united.
SILKNOW will continue working from our homes to ensure our safety and will endeavour to maintain our activities as best possible. Now, more than ever, we will keep weaving our past into the future.

SILKNOW’s technical meeting

SILKNOW held a technical meeting, in Ljubljana, on the 10 of February. The meeting was attended by our partners from Institut Jozef Stefan, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Universitaet Hannover, EURECOM, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, and Universita degli Studi di Palermo (remotely). 

The main topics discussed concerned technical work in progress involving multiple partners such as multimodal prediction, integration of predictions into the knowledge graph,  mappings between the thesaurus and the knowledge graph, and finally, validation scenarios for the technical tools. SilkNOW technical video presentations were recorded.

Special Issue “Silk Heritage in the Knowledge Society”

Silk was a major factor for progress in Europe, mostly along the Western Silk Road’s network of production and market centres. Silk trade also allowed for the exchange of ideas and innovations. Punched cards were first used in Jacquard silk looms, long before modern computers were even imagined. Today, too, fashion and high-end textile industries have a huge impact on the EU, reaching €525 billion in annual turnover. Nowadays, however, silk textiles have become a seriously endangered heritage. One reason lies in its very physical nature, more fragile than other, more conventional cultural assets (painting, architecture, sculpture, etc.). Although many European specialized institutions are in operation, they usually are small or medium in size, and lack resources to develop state-of-the-art digital resources. Additionally, intangible heritage such as the old weaving techniques is in danger of disappearing with the imminent closure of the very few companies that still make use of these ancient machines. Nonetheless, their holdings remain relevant for audiences that experience vivid, personal and social connections to this heritage, linked to so many life stories and collective narratives.

These heritage institutions have been producing large amounts of digital data: poorly tagged, variously formatted, in different languages, of random quality and usually inaccessible for the broader public. New methods and tools are required to automatically extract meaning (semantics) from these huge and heterogeneous digital databases (big data) and to establish connections among them in order to preserve this fragile cultural heritage (tangible: textiles; intangible: weaving techniques), allowing its re-use for the future generations. Additionally, new ways of access to these data are required to make them more meaningful for prospective end-users. ICT provides researchers with powerful tools in order to preserve, analyze and exploit digital information.

This Special Issue invites papers and reviews dealing with silk heritage, silk history, silk diplomatic relations, silk living heritage, silk design, silk heritage preservation strategies, data visualization, 3D fabrics, vocabularies, thesauri, metadata schemas, and ontologies, fashion and tradition within silk heritage, looms and the potential offered by the ICT in the textile heritage sector, and creative industries and innovation applied to silk heritage. Papers going beyond the state-of-the-art are encouraged. Case studies using modern analytical techniques and new methodological approaches which contribute to the domain of safeguard and textile heritage protection will be considered.

Click here for more information

SILKNOW, fashion and tradition

SILKNOW is a European project that unites humanities and technology to study, conserve and disseminate silk heritage in Europe between the 15th and 19th centuries and its projection in culture, arts, design and today’s fashion.
European history is woven in silk. Silk trade was a vehicle of economic, industrial and cultural development in Europe, transmitting designs, fabrics, fashions and, above all, knowledge and progress, all universally captured in just one piece. Since the 15th century, silk has been more than a social code of fashion and design; it has been a vehicle for bringing people, places and ideas together. Today silk is alive in the current culture, art and fashion that still are experimenting with this inheritance.