Plush, knitted lights in multiple colors with a hand squeezing them.
Courtesy Michelle Rinow

These Knitted Kinetic Lights Take Playtime Seriously

The interactive lights in Michelle Rinow’s Transforming Touch series change shape when handled.
By Tom Morris
November 7, 2020
2 minute read

“Many people think play is just for children,” says London-based designer Michelle Rinow. “But it’s necessary through all stages of life.” This sentiment is what led the Royal College of Art graduate, who earned a master’s degree in textiles earlier this year, to develop Transforming Touch, a series of knitted lights that encourage users of every age to engage in a bout of old-fashioned fun. Rinow cleverly employed tricky weaving techniques and vibrant colors to entice curious fingers onto the lighting’s tactile surfaces. Made out of cotton and silk industrial yarn, touch sensors, and LED lights, the objects transform and respond when handled: Squeeze, stroke, or poke the rim of a wall-mounted fixture to turn it on and activate its rubber center, which inflates and deflates like a beating heart, or pull apart an accordion-like table lamp to reveal hidden hues between its folds.

While the project came about when Rinow was still in school (she wrote her dissertation on how play can help with the increased stresses, demands, and fast pace of daily life), it’s become even more pertinent to her during the pandemic. How does she imagine her design might evolve? “Thinking about people’s increasing struggles with mental health and feelings of isolation, the lamps’ technology could go a step further and assist in connecting us,” she says, noting that the fixtures could be wired to act as a communication tool. “So if your loved one in a different city interacts with their light, it [would trigger] a response in the light in your home.” In other words, her kinetic creations offer more than just illumination—they reimagine how we interface with everyday household items, and with each other.