“I’ve been thinking about the human body being a tool and it being the first tool we learn how to use,” says Aqeel Malcolm, A/D/O Workspace member and conceptual textile designer. In particular his work mines the intersection of digital and manual - shading into each other in the art of weaving. “In handloom weaving there’s a marriage between the body, hand, and machine."

Malcolm received his BFA in Fiber with a concentration in Experimental Fashion from Maryland Institute College of Art. He was also selected as the first Van Lier Fellow at the Museum of Arts and Design. As Weaving Specialist at the Fashion Institute of Technology, he has pursued projects exploring the intersectionality of his identity as a queer, Caribbean-American man. A question he asks at the center of his work is, “what constitutes masculinity and how is it affecting the men of today?” Past work has incorporated body hair into weavings, demonstrating the fragility of the notion of a clearly delineated point where clothing ends and the body starts.

“Looms, specifically the jacquard loom, are known as the first computers,” he says. "With their correlation between punch-card programming, binary code, and pixels. Jacquard fabrics, then, might be among the earliest digital art."

In the A/D/O Workspace, Malcolm has assisted in teaching fellow members to use the AVL compu-dobby, a 24-harness computerized digital loom operated with Weavepoint software. But his tutorials usually insist on several steps leading up to this level: learning hands-on first with simple tapestry looms made with the laser cutter, and more advanced lessons on the Leclerc table loom.

“Engineers have been able to completely automate the process and develop ways to improve the production of fabric and also produce complex woven designs,” Malcolm says. “This is great but this also mystifies the production of textiles. Working between craft and the digital space has allowed me to cultivate a deeper appreciation for hand-crafted textiles.” Now, with his demonstrations in the Workspace, he has been able to convey this appreciation and explore ways to use the loom alongside other tools (like the laser cutter) and in collaboration with other members working in graphics or object design.

In coming months, Malcolm will exhibit such an interdisciplinary project, combining visual and verbal allusions. “I’m fascinated by traditional West African design motifs and woven textiles—mud cloth, kente, and kuba cloth. Currently, I’m collaborating with a poet, developing a project that combines spoken word poetry, textiles, and fashion.”

The Workspace at A/D/O is a collaborative laboratory for developing new design solutions with cutting edge technology. Learn more and apply for membership.