Luke Caines - Photographer
Robert Stephenson - Technical advisor
Day vs night... plain vs beautiful... vintage silhouette vs modern technology. The Firefly Project is an exploration into binaries and blurring the lines between them.
The firefly is a lovely little bug, relatively plain looking by day, but at night it lights up in a myriad of colours. I wanted to echo this in the costume by having a simple day dress designed with a vintage silhouette in mind. A full skirt sits over an organza petticoat and a hoop skirt.
The night then brings dazzling lights, which catapults it into the 21st Century and explores the trend of wearable technology. The lights are programmed to be reactive and move with the wearer. Imagine running through a field of fireflies and having them float up around you, creating a magical aura.
150 LED's, eight metres of fabric, ten metres of hooping wire, and countless metres of thread later, we have a finished costume. It's the first time I've made a hoop skirt and it went pretty well. If I made another one I would gather the sections rather than pleating them, as it didn't sit quite right.
The costume was a nice stash buster as I already had the brown fabric. The majority of it was self drafted but I always use the Foundations Revealed article on 'How to make your own corset' as I find it works well for me. Usually when making overbusts I have a princess seam, but this time I split it to shape around the bust better. I also got the chance to try out synthetic whalebone, which I have wanted to do for a while.
The most challenging part of this was that the connections between the wires and lights kept snapping as they weren't soldered particularly well by the supplier. This was fixed with heatshrink and hot glue, which are tools of the trade in electronics. They were programmed to twinkle and react with the wearer's movement using a BNO055 orientation sensor. We measured two things, the direction the wearer is moving, and their acceleration. This data is then used in two behaviours, one where the LED's all light up as you move around, and the other where only certain ones light up based on the direction in which you are moving. The first behaviour worked the best and looked better on camera, so we mainly used that one and we will continue to tweak the second one to make it better. There are also now infinite possibilities with this costume. We can change the colour of the lights, change the behaviours to pulse or move up and down the costume, we could even add different sensors so that the lights get redder as you get warmer or more frantic when people get closer. I'm only a learner programmer (I can make a light blink) so I enlisted James' help with this part.
There are one hundred LED's on the hoopskirt and fifty in the corset, and whilst they can make things a little bumpy, we lessened that effect by using two layers. We could experiment later with using a thin batting to see whether that helps, without fading the lights too much.
I would say, "Just do it!" It was really exciting to enter. If you are not sure then I would start small, but be warned that your ideas will get bigger!