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Cecilia Heffer


Cecilia Heffer is a design academic, practice-based researcher and textile designer at UTS who specialises in contemporary lace and textile innovation. She previously worked in leading textile studios in London and New York, and is now based in Sydney.

Her research specifically explores the integration of the handmade with emerging technologies. Her focus contemporary translations of lace as a vehicle for innovative textile design concepts.

At UTS, Cecilia is senior lecturer and coordinator of the textile design program for Fashion & Textiles. She supervises final year textile students for the fashion collections.

Cecilia was commissioned to design the lace curtains for NSW Government House and her work has been acquired by both public and private collections such as the MAAS – (Powerhouse Museum), the National Gallery of Victoria, The Centralne Muzeum, Lodz, Poland and the Tamworth and Wangaratta Regional Galleries. She has received a number of awards including research grants for the development of her work from the Visual Arts/Craft Board of the Australia Council of the Arts.

Cecilia is the guest curator for the 2nd Tamworth Textile Triennial, Group Exchange. The Triennial is a key national exhibition providing audiences with an overview of developments in contemporary Textile Art practice. The exhibition is touring nationally between 2014-2016.

Senior Lecturer, School of Design
GradDipTexDes (CSM), MDes (CSM)
+61 2 9514 8062


Bongers, A. & Heffer, C. 2015, 'Pattern Stations - Extending textile materials through tangible interaction', TEI 2015 - Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Tangible, Embedded, and Embodied Interaction, TEI 2015: 9th International Conference on Tangible, Embedded, and Embodied Interaction, Association for Computing Machinery, Inc, Stanford University, pp. 405-406.
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Pattern Stations is a collaborative project between textile designer and artist Cecilia Heffer and interface designer and interaction researcher Bert Bongers. The interactive installations create patterns, extending the textile patterns through sensors, cameras and computation. The tangible patterns installation is developed specifically for the TEI conference, and aims to give the audience an experience of manipulation of physical objects and materials.
Heffer, C. 2008, 'Integrating Textiles with Electronic Systems', Pervasive Expression:Workshop on Pervasive Visual, Auditory and Alternative Modality Information Display, Pervasive Expression Workshop, Pervasive, Sydney, Darling Harbour, pp. 1-3.
Pervasive display technology often experiments beyond the use of simple LCD or pixel-based displays, instead utilizing a wide set of alternative output technologies such as LED light arrays, e-textiles, electroluminescent wires, thermo-chromatic inks, shape-changing materials, inflatables, smell emitters, tangible feedback mechanisms or complex sound generators. Although recent advances in pervasive technology have advanced knowledge about sensor data interpretation, context recognition and their applications, still much more needs to be known about how information can be communicated back to the user in an expressive but pervasive way. The development, implementation and use of such technology inherently encounters important considerations, such as privacy, ethics, usability, control, comprehensibility, engagement and technical development, spanning a spectrum from informative representation to artistic experience.

Journal articles

Heffer, C. 2009, 'Integrating Textiles with Electronic Systems', fibre2fashion, vol. -, no. -, pp. 1-3.
Heffer, C. 2008, 'Government House Sydney', Artichoke, vol. 21, no. 21, pp. 84-87.
The completion of a ten year long program of redecoration of the State Rooms of Government House has united contemporary interior design.
Heffer, C. 2008, 'To Furnish a Future, Government House', Textile Fibre Forum, vol. 89, no. 89, pp. 24-25.
The refurbishment of the State Drawing rooms, Government House, NSW
Heffer, C. 2007, 'From high- tech textiles to magic furniture', Meet your makers, vol. Sydney Des, no. Sydney des, pp. 37-42.
From high- tech textiles to magic furniture our city's designers are finally making their mark. To celebrate Sydney Design 07, Robert Bevan meets some of our talents.
Heffer, C. 2006, 'Solvoid', Visual Communication, Screens and the Social Landcsape, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 251-255.

Non traditional outputs

Heffer, C. 2015, 'Lace Narratives', UTS ePress, Australia, pp. 1-84.
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OVER THE LAST DECADE the perception of lace as a decorative accoutrement has changed. Designers from across disciplines are now exploring lace structures and applying unconventional materials and approaches to traditional lace-making. This is evidenced by international lace exhibitions such as: Radical Lace & Subversive Knitting, Museum of Arts and Design, New York (2007); Lost in Lace, Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery, UK (2011-12); Love Lace, Powerhouse Museum Sydney (2011). These exhibitions bring together lacework by practitioners from diverse disciplines such as textiles, interaction design and architecture. Lace Narratives is an artist monograph that covers a ten-year contemporary lace-making practice. Projects presented include solo exhibitions, research grants and the To Furnish a Future commission to design the lace curtains for the State Rooms of Government House, Sydney. The aim of this publication is to open a dialogue around alternative ways in which we can present and disseminate practice-led research. To understand practice as research, it is important to first gain an understanding of the practitioner: the person and their process (Gray 2004). Throughout the writing I use personal reflections and auto ethnography to provide an insight into my experiences as a designer and to discover what can be revealed through studio process. It is written in the spirit of an open studio and responds to the question posed by Barrett and Bolt (2007):
Heffer, C. & Shepherd, R. 2015, 'Lace Narratives: A Monograph: 2005-2015', DAB DOCS, Sydney, pp. 1-80.
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Heffer, C., Dorst, K., Shepherd, R., Williamson, L., Carnie, B.W. & Trouton, L. 2007, 'Lace: contemporary textiles exhibition and new works', Lace: contemporary textiles exhibition and new works, DAB DOCS, Sydney, pp. 1-46.
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Heffer, C. 2007, 'Patterns, New Surface Design', Laurence King Publishing London Ltd, London.
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collection of contemporary surface patterns
Heffer, C., 'Integration - The Nature of Objects', Ivan Dougherty, Ivan Dougherty Gallery, College of Fine Arts, UNSW, College of Fine Arts, Magazine.
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Object Magazine 2006
Heffer, C., 'LAced (Recipient of a DAB Innovation Grant from the University of Technology)', University of Technology.
Recipient of a DAB Innovation Grant from the University of Technology To produce a publication showing textile research outcomes from a Solo exhibition LACED, Sheffer Gallery Sydney An exhibition of Contemporary Lace textiles funded by the Australia Council
Heffer, C., 'Sydney Esquisse, Datum UTS Group Show, Customs House, Sydney', Customs House, Sydney, Sydney Esquisse, Design week, Powerhouse Museum promotional material catalogue.
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Design Week, group Show at Customs house
Heffer, C., 'Lace', Contemporary Textiles, DAB DOCS, Sydney Morning Herald, Essential..
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Heffer, C., 'Shadow Traces', Momentum, 18th Tamworth Textile Biennial, Tamworth Regional Gallery, Tamworth.
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Heffer, C., 'Digital Lace', From Lausanne To Beijing, 5th International Fiberart Biennale Exhibition, China Architecture & Building Press, Tsinghua University, Beijing.
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Translation of contemporary Reticella Lace length into a direct digital print silk length, 8 meters long, 120cm wide. Presented as an installation piece at the 5th From Lausanne To Beijing, International Fiberart Biennale Exhibition,Tsinghua University, Beijing
Heffer, C., 'Reticella Series, Digital Lace series', LACED, -, Sheffer Gallery.
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The analysis of lace as an historical artefact was based on the Lace collection at the Powerhouse Museum Sydney, with a mentorship with lace historian, Rosemary Shepherd. The intention was to translate lace in a contemporary way, merging traditional practice with emerging new technologies. The project was funded by the Australian Visual Arts/Craft Board, under an Emerging Works Grant. Research outcomes were exhibited as a solo exhibition entitled LACED, shown at the Sheffer Gallery, Sydney 2006, and receiving significant reviews. LACED was presented at the Inform Symposium, Powerhouse Museum, 2006 and was part of various discussions surrounding issues of practice-based research. This exhibition is part of a series of ongoing research-by-design investigations into the possibilities of contemporary lace. New production techniques, the possibilities of digital imaging and non-traditional imagery are explored in the context of the unique open-work structure of lace. The motivation behind these projects is to bring the qualities of lace into the world of modern textiles, fashion, interior design and architecture. These investigations combine technical and aesthetic innovation. The significance of this research is that it redefines the complexity of traditional lace structures and looks at alternatives for future lace as an openwork surface. Through deconstructing the original meaning of lace, new lace structures have been explored that are outside the original lace constructions of weave, knit, and embroidery. Alternative processes of machine stitching onto a soluble base with laser cut silk fabric motifs were created. The work is unique: rather than replicating the lace, it arrives at a new creation of lace. It is significant in that it stands alone in its field and has more relevance to our age of production and technology.
Heffer, C., 'PODS', reSkin, the future of wearable Technology, Cecilia Heffer, Australian National University Gallery.
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Heffer, C., 'Hyperbolic Lace', Fashion Craft: Drawn Threads, Cecilia heffer, UTS Tower.
Hyperbolic Lace started as an investigation into geometric structural surfaces as a means to explore future lace possibilities. In October 2008 I was invited to be an artist in residency on the Masters Textiles Future Programme at Central Saint Martins, London. From this residency I discovered the work of Belgium Design group FoAM Lab who have conducted some very interesting workshops that explore hyperbolic geometries. The hyperbolic formula is based on the work of mathematician Daina Taimina, who in 1997 at Cornell University worked out how to make a physical model of hyperbolic space. This enables the participant to tactilely explore, the properties of this unique geometry. The collaboration with the Embroiderersâ Guild of NSW has followed this model. Embroiderers worked on single units which were then stitched into the hyperbolic form. Medical cellular structures, histopathology and spider webs were some the influences for their embroidery pieces.
Heffer, C., 'Reticella Lace', Wangaratta Contemporary Textile Award 2009, Wangaratta Exhibitions Gallery, Wangaratta, Victoria.
Heffer, C., 'Commissioned Textile Design for Government House, Sydney', Government House, Sydney, Historic Houses Trust, Government House, Sydney.
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Commissioned Textile Design for Government House, Sydney The project was part of the Historic Houses Trust To Furnish a Future Program, a five-year refurbishment plan to redesign the interior of Government House, Sydney, 2002-2007. I was commissioned to design a contemporary lace curtain for the State Rooms. Throughout a three-year interview period I presented new concepts and methodologies for the lace curtain â to a series of judging panels consisting of leading architects, historians, curators and design experts. This work is part of ongoing research-by-design investigation into the possibilities of contemporary lace. New production techniques, the possibilities of digital imagery and non-traditional imagery are explored in the context of the unique open-work structure of lace. The motivation behind these projects is to bring the qualities of lace into the world of modern textiles, fashion, interior design and architecture. These investigations combine technical and aesthetic innovation. The significance of this research is that it stands alone in its field and has created an original Australian lace innovation; one that is unique to our culture and times. It breaks away from the traditional European floral motif normally associated with lace design. It references botanical illustrations specific to NSW and, in particular, the work of the Scott sisters who left a plethora of botanical illustrations in the 1900s. The scale, composition and repeat of the design completely breaks away from the high decorative style associated with traditional lace design, giving it a uniquely Australian aesthetic of light, space and scale.
Heffer, C., 'Aerial Lace', Petite: Miniature Textiles, Cecilia Heffer, The workshop space at Wangaratta Exhibitions Gallery.
The Petite: Miniature Textiles exhibition served as a contemporary textile survey show that provided a valuable insight into current practices in Australia. Through a public call for exhibition, one hundred and nine artworks from ninety-five artists were selected for exhibition through a peer review process. The selected artworks included both traditional and contemporary approaches and demonstrated diverse textile techniques - from weaving to embroidery, surface embellishment to patchwork, dyeing, printing and use of alternative fibres. 'Aerial lace' is a contemporary lace work that explores a sense of 'place' through referencing aerial perspectives of the Australian landscape. It comprises a combination of photographic transfer images and rusted silk cloth, machine stitched to create a miniature lace landscape work. In this work lace acts a metaphor for understanding country, place and belonging. In this case, the 'aerial' view or flying is not only understood as providing an opportunity to look down and observe and reflect on the patterned landscape, but is also understood as an experience of being suspended in space between two cultures. Borrowing from the writer Murray Bail's novel Eucalyptus where a paddock is compared to a paragraph: 'A paragraph is not so different from a paddock - similar shape, similar function.', 'Aerial Lace' can be seen as a textile paragraph that represents a story of cultures and belonging through the form of landscape. The Petite exhibition generated an unprecedented level of interest for the Gallery, particularly from artists and textile audiences. A successful Textile Forum was held during the exhibition including a symposium and a diverse program of workshops.
Heffer, C., 'Chair Talk', Re-Loved: designer stories, Powerhouse Museum, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney.
Re-Loved - Designer Stories is a Powerhouse Museum exhibition that was part of Sydney Design Week 2010, 31st July-15th August. The larger theme of the Sydney Design Week was 'story telling as a human act'. Curator Jane Lateif selected eight Sydney designers from various disciplines and invited them to take a pre-loved and/or discarded chair with all its inherent meanings - functional, symbolic and historical - and 're-use' it as a vehicle with which to tell a story. The exhibition provided an opportunity for participating designers to question design conventions surrounding chair design and to use this as a platform to explore narrative. The designers represented architecture, graphic design, jewellery design, industrial design and in my case, textile design. As one of eight Australian designers chosen to showcase and represent Australian design during Sydney Design Week 2010, the exhibition demonstrated public recognition. The exhibition was extended for a month as a result of public interest. A review and article was written by design critic Ridhika Naidoo and published on the Powerhouse online design resource D*Hub.
Heffer, C., 'Lace', Inside Out, ArtTech, Object Gallery, Sydney; DMU Cube Gallery, Leicester; Righton Gallery, Manchester; The Poly, Falmouth.
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Inside Out is an international touring exhibition featuring forty-six miniature sculptures produced in resin using 3D printing technologies. Developments in virtual computer visualisation and integrated digital technologies are giving contemporary makers new insight and opportunities to create objects and forms which were previously impossible to produce or difficult to envisage. The exhibition is the result of collaboration between the Art Technology Coalition, the University of Technology Sydney and RMIT University in Australia along with De Montfort University, Manchester Metropolitan University and University College Falmouth incorporating Dartington College of Arts in the United Kingdom. The work Lace explores new ways of interpreting lace as an open work structure through the technology of rapid prototyping. In this instance, rapid prototyping enables the materiality of a piece of lace to be folded and rolled, allowing the lace to stand as a 3 dimensional object, to be viewed both from the inside and out. While embracing the physicality of new material, the piece references traditional techniques and explores interconnections between memory, pattern and technology. Encoded in the process is the tradition of a textile history that has continually responded to creative technologies that have evolve within each age. Inside Out was exhibited 5 June-25 July 2010 at Object gallery, the Australian Centre for Craft and Design and toured internationally. The exhibition drew attention due to its exploration of advanced technologies applied to design outcomes.
Heffer, C., 'Lace Narratives', Lace Narratives, -, Damien Minton Gallery Sydney.
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Lace Narratives was a new collection of over seventy textile works exhibited as a solo exhibition at the Damien Minton Gallery Sydney. It also included an artist event and floor talk. The aim of the work was to challenge traditional notions of textile narrative and lace making in order to innovate and create new contemporary lace designs and textile stories. The textile narrative in lace traditionally references the floral as its predominant motif. In the new work the narrative breaks away from traditional floral motifs. While still drawing from the past, it however interprets cultural memory through the concept of 'place' and enquires into the ways in which textiles serve as a story telling media. The work used both traditional and new textile technologies combining unconventional materials, techniques and imagery. Deconstructed old passports and birth certificates, for example, were reworked into new lace constructions, rusted nails were buried in cloth in order to imprint memory and photographic digital transfers were used in the creation of images. Sydney Design Week 2010, whose theme was story telling as a human act, featured the exhibition. The significance of this research has been acknowledged by the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne through its acquisition of a selection of work. The work has become part of the National Living Artist Trust Fund that houses a collection of over 350 Australian artists. It is the first textile collection to be acquired by NGV and will be exhibited and toured regularly.
Heffer, C. & Bongers, B., 'Interlace', LoveLace, Powerhouse Museum, Powerhouse Museum.
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Heffer, C., 'Group Exchange 2nd Textile Tamworth Triennial', Tamworth Regional Gallery.
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The Triennial explores the change and blurring of boundaries in Australian textile practice today. From 15 August to 20 September 2014, the Tamworth Regional Gallery features the work of 22 textile artists, selected by Guest Curator Cecilia Heffer. The Triennial is an incarnation of the Tamworth Fibre Textile Biennial, and continues its rigorous and stimulating contribution to Australias cultural calendar.
Heffer, C., 'Ebony Lace', The 7th International Fiber Art Biennale Exhibition, From Lausanne to Beijing, Nantong,, The 7th International Fiber Art Biennale, Nantong, China.
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Ebony Lace aims to push traditional boundaries in lace-making using unique construction and natural eucalyptus dye processes. Through a unique exploration of black dye, silk and thread the lace pays homage to traditional black laces commonly known as Chantilly Lace. It contributes to approaches in the Slow Design movement and has implications for sustainable design, reuse and upcycling. The work demonstrates potential solutions to fabric waste as future lace can be created using discarded textile off cuts for bespoke Interior and Fashion.
Heffer, C., 'Aerial Lace', Sensorialoop, 1st Tamworth Textile Triennial, Tamworth Regional Gallery, Tamworth Regional Gallery, toured nationally 2011-2013.
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Aerial Lace is a suite of fifteen textile works that explore memory, place and identity. The work reflects on the experience of migration and the process of cultural assimilation. It seeks to extend metaphorical and material translations of lace. The series was selected for Sensorial Loop, the 1st Tamworth Textile Triennial. The Triennial explores the change and blurring of boundaries in Australian textile practice today. From 24 September to 26 November 2011, the Tamworth Regional Gallery featured the work of 22 textile artists, selected by Guest Curator Patrick Snelling. The Triennial is an incarnation of the Tamworth Fibre Textile Biennial, and continues its rigorous and stimulating contribution to Australias cultural calendar.
Heffer, C., 'Birch', Five Bells: A Visual Ode to Sydney, Damien Minton, Damien Minton Gallery.
Birch is a one off lace work that was included amongst the works of thirty nine artists from all ages and art practices taking part in a unique exhibition at the Damien Minton Gallery, Sydney The exhibition titled Five Bells: A Visual Ode to Sydney was an initiative by gallery director Minton. Artists were invited to respond to the Kenneth Slessor poem Five Bells that lent itself to painter John Olsens masterpiece Five Bells now hanging in the Art Gallery of NSW. Authors, critics and performance artists took part in a series of talks and events during the run of Five Bells 4th-18th February 2012. The cultural significance of the work is reflected in the recognition the exhibition received and the caliber of artists involved. The inclusion of this work in such a prestigious exhibition reminds us that textiles and craft also reside and have a place in gallery spaces as powerfully and relevant as an art form as any other. Participation in the exhibition Five Bells: A Visual Ode to Sydney was by invitation only. The significant of this reflects that the work is valued as cultural capitol and is situated in a vibrant cultural art practice unique to Sydney.
Heffer, C., 'Drawn Threads', 14th Textile Tapestry Triennial, 14th International Tapestry Triennial, Lodz, Poland, Centralne Muzeum Wlokiennictwa, Lodz, Poland.
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Lace Installation designed for the 14th International Tapestry Triennial which is the oldest and one of the most prestigious International Textile Triennials in the world. Participation in the International Tapestry Triennial, Lodz, Poland is by invitation only. Through a controlled Programming Board the Museum invites National Cultural Consultants from each country to select three works. For the 2013 Triennial Valerie Kirk, Head of Textiles at the Australian National University Canberra, was asked to be Australias national consultant. I was invited along with artists Gabriella Hegyes and Treahna Hamm to represent Australia in this event. The exhibition showcased one hundred and twenty artists representing fifty countries. My research contribution to this field lies in the unique lace technique I have developed together with the integration of digital photographic imagery. The digital print has been embedded into the lace structure and demonstrates the potential to develop alternative ways to develop lace pattern. The integration of printed image into the lace making process is a new unique approach that has the potential to extend how lace design motifs are produced.
Heffer, C., 'Petite: Antique Lace', Petite Miniature Textiles Exhibition, Wangaratta Regional Gallery, Victoria, Wangaratta Regional Gallery, Victoria.
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Antique Lace is a series of three lace works that explore notions of the role of mending and reuse in textile history. The idea of making do and reconstituting existing textiles reflects on the Slow Design movement current in design practice. The works have been reconstructed from antique lace remnants in a unique machine stitching process. The suite was selected for the Petite Miniature Textiles Exhibition, Wangaratta Regional Gallery 16th June-22 July 2012. The exhibition is a biannual event and showcases the diversity of approach in textile artistry in Australian contemporary textile practice. Through a peer review process the work was selected for the Petite Miniature Textiles Exhibition, Wangaratta Regional Gallery. In recognition of the cultural and historical value of the work the Gallery has made an acquisition of the three works and they are now part of the Gallery collection. The significance of a gallery acquisition is important as it demonstrates that the work is valued and represented in a public Museum collection. It sits among other works in its field and has been chosen for its unique contribution to Australian textile practice.
Heffer, C., 'Wamberal', Wangaratta Contemporary Awards, Victoria, Wangaratta Regional Gallery, Victoria, Wangaratta Regional Gallery, Victoria and Damien Minton Gallery, Sydney.
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Wamberal is a lace installation that is part of an ongoing practice led enquiry into alternative ways to create contemporary lace. It was selected as a finalist in the Wangaratta Contemporary Textiles Awards, Victoria. The judging panel consisted of leading Australian curators and design academics. The exhibition has gained national recognition as a national textile survey show and is a biannual event in the textile calendar. It is linked to a catalogue, national symposium and artist talks. Key curators visit the event from major galleries such as the National Gallery of Victoria.
Heffer, C. & Bongers, A., 'Pattern Stations', Embracing Innovation Volume 4, ACT Craft Canberra, ACT Craft Canberra.
Pattern Stations is a collaboration between textile designer Cecilia Heffer and Associate Professor Bert Bongers. It seeks to extend our perception to lace pattern and textural space. New ways of generating pattern are explored through the interaction between analogue and digital technologies. It will be shown at Craft ACT, as part of Science Week
Heffer, C., 'Traceries', Bespoke: design for the people, Old Parliament House Canberra.
Heffer, C., 'Lace Geometries', Wangaratta Contemporary Textile Awards.
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Heffer, C., 'Eternity', Redfern Biennale, Redfern.
Installation floor piece, recycled material Dimensions approx 2.5 meters wide x 70cm height
Heffer, C., 'No Selfie', Damien Minton Salon Show.
Wall work approx 1.5 meters wide x 1meter height
Bongers, A.J. & Heffer, C., 'Tangible Interactive Lace - Pattern Station #2', Arts Exhibition of the 9th International Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction (TEI), Association for Computing Machinery, Inc, Stanford University, CA.
The piece presented a novel exploration of physical and tangible materials (fabric, driftwood, rocks) as part of an interactive installation. Furthermore it was an exploration in three-dimensional space, expanding the flat 2D nature of the standard video screen into a sculptural entity. The spatial element and the link with nature was effectuated through multiple projections, one of which was visible on a screen on the window, linking the inside space to the outside space.
Heffer, C., 'Rose Street', Petite: Miniature Textile Biennale, Wangaratta Regional Gallery.
Heffer, C., 'Wonder', Redfern Biennale, Redfern.