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Subway goddess. Celtic knot bra, skirt has Celtic knots on side and plastic subway grating triangles on front and back panels.
FF: Tell me about this installation project you’re working on with a sculptor.

Aly Wolff-Mills: Well, her name is Eve Andrée Laramée, and she is an installation artist, and she’s working on a project for MIT that’s really writing the history of the computer. And instead of starting with World War Two and the technology that came out of warfare, she’s looking all the way back to Jacquard and his punch card loom. And basically taking the idea of textiles as the beginning of computers, and working with that concept.

1810 model Jacquard loom

And so part of what she did with our project is design a tapestry fabric that incorporates a lot of the elements of the time period, which is around the Napoleonic empire, as well as other bits of technology that were going on at the time.

Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David

And it’s the most amazing textile. It’s got a portrait of Ada Lovelace on it. It’s got a portrait of Jacquard with a jacket that has wooden zeros over it. It’s got spiders and ants and a guillotine, two different kinds of computer tips, and a phrenology head. It’s got the mechanical clockwork duck on it -- it’s fantastic.

And so she’s using that fabric, which she had made at a textile mill, and had some enormous amount of yardage made of this fabric. And she’s taking all of this fabric and has designed a Napoleonic empire style period room which is going to have large draperies and wall paneling. And the draperies are made out of the tapestry that she wove, and also she’s having furniture upholstered in that tapestry fabric.

FF: And this is at MIT?

Aly Wolff-Mills: Uh huh. It’s going to be at MIT. And then that’s sort of the base of the design of the room, but then the rest of the room is going to be filled with objects that relate to the early automatons and all of that. It’s absolutely incredible.

Celtic princess. Corset is hand-painted silk and antique braid. Skirt border depicts images from the Lindisfarne Gospel.

FF: What part do you play in this?

Aly Wolff-Mills: I’ve been designing and actually fabricating the tapestry, hangings for the walls, that are basically curtains with lambrequin swags, tails, the whole works. Lots of fringe, crosses, deep swags everywhere.

FF: And now you mentioned Ada Lovelace? Tell the readers who she was.

Aly Wolff-Mills: She’s considered the original computer programmer. She worked on Charles Babbage’s computation machine, and learned how to program it, and make it do things that he himself couldn’t even figure out how to do. So she was very impressive. She’s actually Ada Lovelace Byron. She’s Lord Byron’s only legitimate child.

Ada.gif (22482 bytes)
Babbage.jpg (23094 bytes)
Ada Lovelace Charles Babbage
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Lord Byron

FF: Is that right!

Aly Wolff-Mills: She had some sort of friend, I don’t remember who it was, who was also a mathematician and studied with that person and became a mathematician herself. So -- certainly an incredible person.

FF: You never even hear about the women who were involved in the early days of this. And around what time was she doing this work?

Aly Wolff-Mills: Let’s see; that would have been pretty much a little bit later than Jacquard’s invention I think. So it would have been probably maybe 1820's.

FF: Wow, interesting period.

Aly Wolff-Mills: Certainly much, much earlier than anything that, you know, is the official recorded history.

FF: Right, right. And the installation goes up at MIT when?

Aly Wolff-Mills: In April.