Kristine Upesleja

Our Library Profile series follows the work of our incredible library staff around the world. Today, we’re catching up with Kristine Upesleja, Manager of Textiles & Materials at FIDM in Los Angeles.

MCX: How did you become interested in materials?

Kristine Upesleja: My interest for materials and surfaces originates from my former work as a costume designer for opera and theater in Europe. I’ve always been fascinated by the many possibilities and applications in the design world. Over the years, I learned about changes in the industry and the impact that new, innovative materials have on the space that surrounds us.

MCX: How did the materials library at FIDM come to be?

KU: I had not heard of Material ConneXion until an article about their library caught my attention. I went to New York to see it up close. The moment I walked in I knew: FIDM needs to have this!

After my return to Los Angeles, I met with the President of FIDM, Tonian Hohberg. She was delighted to hear about this opportunity for FIDM students. Six months later, we installed the first 100 tableaux in a newly created Textiles & Design Research Room at our Los Angeles campus.

MCX: Why do you believe it is valuable to teach your students about materials?

KU: Materials surround us. We live and have always lived in a material world. Everything we see and hold takes shape, thanks to materials. A new generation of materials changes the design world! Scientist/inventors have grown materials from bacteria and tea, or we print our clothes on a 3-D printer. We embed conductive yarns into a shirt, or we make clothing out of coffee grounds and milk.

This is what the new generation of designers needs to know:

A completely new approach and expertise is required. Job descriptions such as Materials Alchemist, Synthetic Biologist or Design Futurist are here and necessary to move forward. Designers are exploring the findings of electronics, software and bioengineering. Collaborations with other industries are inevitable. I’d like all students to know we’re enjoying a major materials revolution, which offers opportunities now, in the future and in global markets.

MCX: Describe your job in 3 sentences or less.

KU: My daily work life consists of being on a great ‘hunt’ for the latest information on cutting edge developments in the industry. I’m a researcher, educator and connector. I established the innovative materials collection at FIDM, and once a year I curate an innovative materials conference/exhibit that also travels to all four FIDM campus locations.

MCX: What is your favorite material and why?

KU: Right now, I’m fascinated by a material called ‘Rumen Leather’ that I found in the Material ConneXion library. It was created by designer Mandy den Elzen, who also transforms algae fibers into containers and vases. Den Elzen’s main objective is the material itself, its specific characteristics and how its natural form is perfectly integrated with its function. Another intriguing material is the stainless steel fabric by ThermalTech. It collects sun energy to keep you warm and can be used as inner lining for outerwear. Both materials can be found in the MCX database.

MCX: What are you most excited about for 2016 in the world of materials and the MCX library at FIDM?

KU: The concept of reusing and repurposing waste materials to design products is completely fascinating. I am curious to follow the developments in 3-D printing and how to apply it to textiles. The possible dream come true of printing a seamless garment from natural fibers is really exciting.

The evolution of conductive yarns that are embedded into garments is compelling to watch. So many possibilities lie ahead of us to make life easier!

The MCX Library at FIDM is a tremendous asset to our college. It adds enormous value to the learning processes of our students who happen to have access to the world’s biggest materials library. It opens new realms, makes them think outside the box and challenges their thinking. I am always excited to witness FIDM student assignments that revolve around the MCX resources.