Rock Art: Data: Materials by Lucy Killoran

Lucy Killoran is a designer and researcher living in Glasgow. She has a BA from London College of Communication and an MFA from Edinburgh College of Art. 

Lucy’s MFA project used a period of archaeological fieldwork as subject matter to explore the transfer and re-materialisation of data through fabrication technologies. Her dissertation examined points of material crossover within the fields of art and archaeology.

She currently works on a variety of freelance and self-initiated research projects whilst also pursuing an Erasmus+ Traineeship in the 3D digitisation of cultural heritage.


I’m a designer interested in looking critically at materials, technology and interpretations of cultural heritage. I’ve just graduated from my MFA at Edinburgh College of Art where I was lucky enough to become involved with Scotland’s Rock Art Project—an experience which drove the direction of my research and my final project.

A machine-knitted piece from my graduate show.

My main studio practice at ECA was based in textiles, but I also elected to take a portion of my credits in the archaeology department at Edinburgh University. I became involved with Scotland’s Rock Art Project through this elective study, attending the ScRAP Kilmartin field school in the summer of 2018. This was between the first and second years of my MFA, and it helped to give a live application to my research.

One of the rock art panels which my project focused on: Glasvaar 7, or “the whale” as it was dubbed by my fieldwork team

‘Textiles’ usually sparks thoughts of fashion or soft furnishings, which is not inaccurate, but casts a fairly narrow net over what can be a much more diverse subject. My approach to textiles is more focused on the physical materials, matter or substances which make up the world around us, and the cultural meanings ascribed to them (which I suppose explains my interest in archaeology too!).

Glasvaar 7 in the process of being cleaned.

My MFA research led me to examine the use of digital technologies within cultural heritage; a fascinating area offering expanded opportunities for the dissemination and protection of cultural heritage, yet also presenting new issues such as the loss of ‘authenticity’ and tactility. I wanted to test these technological approaches for myself, combining them with my interest in materials and their meanings.

Using sight, touch (and of course, brightly coloured beads) to help locate motifs on a rock surface.

Using data gathered on the ScRAP field school in Kilmartin, my final project contrasted the results of the re-materialisation of this data through technologies including 3D printing, CNC routing (a computer controlled cutting drill head), and digital machine knitting.

The CNC at work, cutting a test section of a 3D model in wood.

Through these processes of fabrication, archaeological information is transferred into new materials. This conscious injection of information back into materials—a metaphorical reverse engineering of the archaeological process—aims to encourage new forms of engagement through unexpected material encounters.

A section of Glasvaar 7 being digitally prepared for the CNC

The two main outputs of my project were CNC routed models and machine knitted textile objects. The CNC models created objective material reproductions which transport the surfaces of rock art panels to more accessible, but alien, locations. Their scale is reduced, but details remain accurate.

The result of the previous image: a section of Glasvaar 7 re-materialised as a CNC routed model

The machine knitted objects distort the original data, but the sense of unfamiliar markings appearing in a familiar context mimics the experience of encountering rock art in the field—the carvings emerging from the rock surface as the eyes and hands learn to find them.

Another section of Glasvaar 7; this time the data was translated through hacked machine-knitting hardware.

I’m continuing to work on the ScRAP project today, and after supervising a team on this year’s Kilmartin field school I’m now carrying out an initial analysis of all of the 3D models created on the project so far. I feel privileged to be able to methodologically examine and consider these new digital manifestations of rock art panels. I’m also about to start a two month Erasmus Traineeship at the Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation, where I will be learning more about 3D digitisation of cultural heritage and digital fabrication outputs.

A rock art making session I facilitated at a community drop-in session in Faifley, home of the Cochno Stone.

I'm enormously grateful to Tertia and Maya for the opportunities which have come from being involved in this project, and I would also like to thank the Catherine Mackichan Trust, who generously awarded me funding assistance so I could attend the field school in 2018.

I’ll be showing a mini-exhibit of work from this project in the entrance of Historic Environment Scotland’s John Sinclair House, Edinburgh, from 26–29 August 2019. Please feel free to stop by, visit my website or follow me on Instagram if you’d like to find out more about my work.