Patricia Dyer

Research activity per year

Personal profile

Research interests

My research interests are rooted in material and process led design practice and the refined evolution of form through integrated function. Drawing on biomimetic and emergence design principles, craft skills and advanced materials, my research explores the use of textiles as a versatile hierarchical fibre based material and multi cloth structures. These properties offer designers the ability to integrate and place multiple functions (both practical and aesthetic) within a single material at the point of production. Like many biological structures, textiles have the potential to maximise performance while utilizing minimal resources.

This research is conducted under three clear areas which although connected, identify and explore different aspects of my research interest.

The first area progresses from my PhD thesis and explores the integration of active elements within woven structures to enable specific functions. With an emphasis on active shape memory textiles and the integration of wire form nitinol (nickel titanium, shape memory alloy) into multi-cloth woven textiles, this area explores dynamic control and shape transfer in flexible materials and offers the potential to generate unique properties in this bi-material composite. As a result, the stiffness and elastic behaviour of the textile can be controlled remotely, modifying the cloths surface and form. This gives further latitude for the textile designer to adapt a combination of functional and aesthetic properties with the potential for applications to include apparel, medical textiles, and engineering.

The second area focuses on the development of multi-cloth woven structures for use in ridged and transitional multi-ply composites for increased structural integrity as well as the manipulation of properties across a single material. The use of linen in these structures maximises performance while minimising the environmental impact and has the potential to be integrated into a wide range of applications as well as replacing other composites like Carbon fibre where the high levels of performance are not required. This area is also linked to my Jewellery practice which utilises textiles composites while exploring the flexibility and adaptation of rigid materials using joints and mechanisms.

The third area combines woven and dyeing techniques to focus on the aesthetics of simplicity and uncontrolled processes, allowing the resulting pieces to be a simple expression of material, process and function. Informed by traditional craft skills and the selection and placement of fibres and structures, pre-determined elements are integrated into a cloth before the application of finishing processes which reveal hidden or unpredictable qualities. Focusing on the underlying inspiration of traditional crafts instead of their resulting product, I look to place my work within a contemporary context, rather than it becoming a homage to that which has gone before.

Supervisory Interests

Patricia’s main supervisory interests cover a range of textiles, materials and practice-based research, with experience in design and craft-focused practice as well as supporting areas of material science. I have supervised three PhD students to completion and acted as an independent reader for Annual Progression Reviews.


Scholarly biography

My career in higher education started in 1997 as the Workshop Manager for the fashion and textiles department at the University of Brighton, which also included the delivery of textiles printing and dyeing to undergraduate students. As a result of working with students in this manner, my interest in material and process led design was galvanized and has subsequently strongly informed and influenced my teaching, research and personal practice.  With a growing interest in 3D design, the boundaries between compliant and non-compliant materials and the subsequent relationship between accessories and garments I undertook the MA Design by Independent project course at the University of Brighton. Graduating in 2000 with the title Articulation of rigid materials on the human form I produced a collection of contemporary necklaces using wood, Perspex and silver that explored fluid articulated forms as a means of facilitating the integration of adaptive clasping mechanisms.

Returning to textiles for my Doctorial study, I was awarded a PhD in 2010 with the thesis title Dynamic control of active textiles: The integration of Nickel-Titanium Shape Memory Alloys and the manipulation of woven structures. This explored the interfacial relationship between Nitinol wire and woven structures to facilitate and dynamically control the manipulation of surface, form and stiffness of textile structures. In 2009 whilst undertaking my PhD I became area leader for printed textiles at the University of Brighton and also started to lead the MDes Textiles course before writing and subsequently leading the Textiles MA.


Approach to teaching

I am currently the course leader of the MA and MDes Textiles courses and lead four of the modules including Creative and contextual enquiry, which is also a level seven option module. In addition, I teach into a number of modules on the BA (Hon) Textiles with Business studies course.

From the introduction of the MDes Textiles course and the subsequent writing and development of the Textiles MA, my focus has been to support students in understanding and articulating their practice within a wider research context.  The basic ethos of my teaching is to encourage students to challenge current discipline and material conventions, through research, a methodical approach to experimental practice and critical evaluation. Students are encouraged to push ideas to the point of failure, so they can understand the true limits of their ideas and practice. This method of working, often results in students gaining a deeper understanding of the materials and processes being explored and a strong sense of the core knowledge within the broader area of their practice and research interest. In addition, I promote a design focus that explores the fundamental and individual building blocks that inform the subsequent production or execution of a design or piece of work. This can as easily be applied to an Undergraduates understanding of textile design for a contemporary fashion market as a Master’s or Doctoral student exploring the development of advanced medical textiles.  Alongside my own research interests, my teaching draws heavily from the concepts of emergence by combining often disparate elements together to inform and contribute to a greater understanding or function. Drawing as readily from natural sources, science, traditional design and craft skills as contemporary design and textile technology I challenge students to understand the interrelated nature of their practice to a wider context and its potential application across disciplines.

While one to one tutorials are used at specific points, working in groups especially with students from different disciplines provides a broader learning environment whilst supporting the students in the development of their own critical perspective, voice and design identity. This can especially be seen in the creative and contextual enquiry module which draws in student from across different schools and requires them to gain insight from different disciplines, exploring and drawing on diverse sources to inform their own practice.

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, PhD - Dynamic control of active textiles: The integration of nickel- titanium shape memory alloys and the manipulation of woven structures. , University of Brighton

Jan 2004May 2010

Award Date: 24 May 2010

MA Design by Independent Project - Articulation of semi ridged materials on the Human form, University of Brighton

Sept 1998Sept 2000

Award Date: 18 Sept 2000

Bachelor, BA Hon’s Fashion Textile Design (With Business Studies. 4 year Sandwich) , University of Brighton

Sept 1991Jun 1995

Award Date: 24 Jul 1995

External positions

(2012) Validation panel member - MA Contemporary Crafts, Plymouth College of Art


  • NX Arts in general
  • Textile design
  • Advanced technical textiles
  • Shape memory textiles
  • Textile composites
  • Craft
  • Contemporary Jewellery


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