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These Post-Apocalyptic Looms Were Made From E-Waste

Weaving, in the end times.
Image: Kati Hyyppä

The world is on the verge of an e-waste crisis. Millions of used electronics sit in landfills or get shipped to countries such as Africa for disposal. The heavy metals, rare earth minerals, and various other hazardous waste contained therein don’t go away easily. Latvia, a former USSR country, is one of those places teeming with e-waste.

As first spotted by Hackaday, artists Kati Hyyppä and Emma Wood recently traveled to Azipute, Latvia to take part in SERDE—an interdisciplinary art collective—where they found a clever use for the country’s e-waste problem. Build looms. Latvia is a country known for its looms and weaving culture, and Wood and Hyyppä used that as inspiration to spin the e-waste around them into something useful. “We combined our forces to make loom prototypes out of the mechanical and electronic parts of discarded devices,” Hyyppä wrote on her website.

The pair built two prototypes, a “Happy Time” loom built from a rotary telephone and a Speak & Spell style baby’s toy, and an “Apocaloom.” Hyyppä documented the construction and use of the “Happy Time” loom on her personal website. “Although looms have become hi-tech through industrialisation and accelerating mass production, the basic design of these useful machines that also inspired programming have remained largely the same,” she wrote. “Our aim was to explore these principles in the context of electro-waste by building loom prototypes.”

The functional little “Happy Time” loom plays a children’s song when the receiver is lifted, a common action during weaving. It’s a tiny loom, just a prototype, and Hyyppä uses it to weave a piece of discarded plastic into scarf. For the project, all the weaving materials was discarded plastic and other bits of garbage.

“So far we’ve managed to use only a fraction of the little electro-wasteland that we created at SERDE,” she said. “There is plenty more waiting out there for post-apocalyptic tinkerers to explore!”