Exercise 1: Straub’s Moquette Textile

What function is Straub’s textile serving here other than providing something hardwearing to sit on?

The main visual communication function that Straub’s textile fulfils is Identity Design but to a lesser extent there is also an element of Information contained within these fabrics. Continue reading “Exercise 1: Straub’s Moquette Textile”

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Research: Wrapped Trees

Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s Surrounded Islands (1980-83) surrounded 11 islands in Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami with 6.5 million square feet of bright pink floating woven polypropylene fabric to cover the water. I found their determination and method of self funding fascinating and an interesting dimension to their work.

In 2018, this work possibly has a very different connotation than it did in 1983. There is much in the news about the levels of pollution of our waters. At the time, much of the rubbish on the islands was collected up and disposed of in preparation for this work however it would be an interesting project to turn the waste from waters into a fabric (if this was possible) or perhaps have a fabric that has the same mass as the rubbish collected as a stark visual image of the pollution we cannot see beneath the surface.

The OCA course book analysis of Surrounding Islands is as follows:

ART or DESIGN

TEMPORARY or PERMANENT

LARGE SCALE or SMALL SCALE

TRANSFORMING and/or DEFINING and/or FORMING

IMMERSIVE and/or DISTANT

PATTERN and/or COLOUR and/or REPETITION and/or SHAPE

I would also say that the colour (pink) is a dominant feature of this artwork and there is a strong element of repetition in the fact that there are eleven islands surrounded rather than just one. The bright pink does have a transformative effect on the landscape in that it draws the viewers attention to the islands where normally they may go unnoticed.

Wrapped Trees

ART or DESIGN

TEMPORARY or PERMANENT

LARGE SCALE or SMALL SCALE

TRANSFORMING and/or DEFINING and/or FORMING

IMMERSIVE and/or DISTANT

PATTERN and/or COLOUR and/or REPETITION and/or SHAPE

The 178 trees that make up this piece were between 2 and 25m tall and 1 and 14.5m wide which is still relatively large scale for a textile work. The work transforms the trees into abstract shapes which are defined in combination with the fabric, branch structure, ropes and the wind. Wrapped Trees is designed to be seen from a distance (to appreciate the structural shapes formed) but also to be experienced up close as the woven polyester fabric used was translucent allowing viewers to see shadows from the branch structures beneath. The fabric is used in Japan to protect trees from frost but it was used in Germany which translates a visual experience across the globe.

The fragile nature of the textile used means that this work would be temporary no matter what structure was underlying. Although the trees create the frame, the visual structure, colour and shape is defined by the textile covering.

Research: Mister Finch

Mister Finch is a textile artist who uses scraps of fabric to creative fairy tale creatures. He is inspired by nature and British Folklore and includes recycled materials in the majority of his pieces. Mister Finch says:

It’s a joy to hunt for things for my work…the lost, found and forgotten all have places in what I make.
Most of my pieces use recycled materials, not only as an ethical statement, but I believe they add more authenticity and charm.
A story sewn in, woven in.
Velvet curtains from an old hotel, a threadbare wedding dress and a vintage apron become birds and beasts, looking for new owners and adventures to have.
Storytelling creatures for people who are also a little lost, found and forgotten… Continue reading “Research: Mister Finch”

Exercise 1: The art of craft

Justin McGuirk’s articleThe art of craft: the rise of the designer-maker discusses the move towards designers including and participating in craft processes.

I believe that there is a demand for handmade objects however I am not sure how large that demand is. There will always be a niche for unusual or bespoke products aimed at the super rich but I am more interested in the demand for handmade products within the general public.

Reading McGuirk’s article which mentions designers creating craft hairdryers etc, these objects have the feel of novelty items or a gimmick. Personally, I think that there is possibly a greater appetite for objects handmade locally as an alternative to mass produced items freighted half way around the world.

I do believe that people like to own objects which are high quality but also are individual. With so many products mass produced with everyone ending up with identical experiences, people start to crave the unique. I think McGuirk makes a valid point about poorer countries moving toward mass production to lift their citizens out of poverty. Ultimately, I believe that a balance will have to be reached. Many basic products will be mass produced so that they are affordable and everyone has a decent living standard. Consumers will then have the choice of purchasing a smaller selection of unique or handmade products which allow them to express their individuality.

There is certainly a romanticised nostalgia when discussing hand made products, a focus on the idea of each individual product being lovingly crafted. However the reality is that most people expect a basic level of quality for a minimal price point which is something that is impossible without mass production or the exploitation of others. What will be interesting in the future will be seeing how the improving living standards in countries that mass produce many of our goods will affect consumers buying patterns once the costs are similar to those should those goods be produced locally.

I believe that the only way for makers to sell products that are hand made is to emphasise their luxury value. If the maker cannot compete on price with mass produced goods, the additional cost must be seen to reflect some other value added. Whether the focus becomes on the individuality of the products or better quality or ethical values is a choice of the designer and a marketing exercise.

There are a multitude of mass produced products that are good quality and have a long life cycle. After all, I don’t think anyone would want to individually cast the nuts and bolts for washing machines. I believe that mass production and hand making products could both be ethical, the question is about the appropriateness of each process to the final product. A hand made product is not necessarily inherently more ethical for example products created using child labour or workers making things by hand for poor wages is no more ethical than a factory.

The first handmade product that I purchased was bought when I was 16. I was given money for my birthday and decided that I wanted to buy myself a ring. The one I bought can be seen below. I was drawn to it as it was unusual compared to most other rings found in jewellers. Made by Gavan Riley in New Zealand it features Arun lilies which make up the band. I still wear this ring (hence why it probably needs a good clean!) and it was probably one of the first objects that started my fascination with hand making objects myself. Part of the decision making process for me was purchasing jewellery which would not irritate my skin so the fact that this ring was made in silver was a key deciding factor (at 16 I couldn’t afford more expensive metals such as platinum). The fact that I still wear this ring shows that the design and emotional attachment I have to it has meant that it has stood the test of time.

The other rings that wear everyday are also handmade by a lovely woman called Zomile. These rings are made in silver and are decorative however fulfil an important function. They are actually splints to protect my joints from bending backwards when I type or write. I decided to invest in these as the NHS provided splints are the ubiquitous ugly beige plastic which screams “medical product”. The designer of Zomile ring splints uses them herself to mitigate the effects of her own condition. For me, this first hand understanding of the medical needs as well as the desire to have aids that reflect your personality created a sense of community or bond with the designer-maker.

Bibliography

The art of craft: the rise of the designer-maker 1/8/2011 The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2011/aug/01/rise-designer-maker-craftsman-handmade

[All links accessed on 21/3/18]

Research: Slow Design

Craft – to me this means the process of creating a product. It conjures the idea of taking  skills learnt and refined over time to produce a creation by hand or using relatively basic tools as opposed to mass production.

According to Carolyn F. Strauss and Alastair Fuad-Luke, the guiding principles of Slow Design:

  1. REVEAL – Slow Design reveals experiences in everyday life that are often missed or forgotten, including the materials and processes that can be easily overlooked in an artefact’s existence or creation.
  2. EXPAND – Slow Design considers the real and potential “expressions” of artefacts and environments beyond their perceived functionalities, physical attributes and lifespans.
  3. REFLECT – Slow Design artefacts/environments/experiences induce contemplation and what slowLab has coined ‘reflective consumption’
  4. ENGAGE – Slow Design processes are open-source and collaborative, relying on sharing, co-operation and transparency of information so that designs may continue to evolve into the future.
  5. PARTICIPATE – Slow Design encourages users to become active participants in the design process, embracing ideas of conviviality and exchange to foster social accountability and enhanced communities.
  6. EVOLVE – Slow Design recognises that richer experiences can emerge from the dynamic maturation of artefacts, environments and systems over time. Looking beyond the needs and circumstances of the present day, slow designs are (behavioural) change agents.

I would like to think that this approach to design and making could have a positive impact on our consumption of products as the focus is on quality and the artisan’s skill. However, I cannot help but think that in the end cost will be the overriding factor when the majority of people purchase products. I am not sure that it is naive to believe that people will be willing to pay more for products that they know the history of once the price differential becomes large. Perhaps I am being skeptical however in the main people have a greater desire to find a bargain which would explain the rise of cheaper shops (such as those where everything costs the same) and a race to the bottom on price amongst supermarket chains.

I would like to say that I would be willing to spend more on a product created with these principles in mind however being on a tight budget means that price is a dominant factor on my purchases. On the other hand, the objects that I have the strongest affinity with are those about which I know the production history or maker. In a world full of homogenised products made by faceless corporations, it is refreshing to buy products that can be traced back to a single person.

References

http://www.tedresearch.net/media/files/Slow_Design.pdf

http://www.slowlab.net

Strauss, C. and Fuad-Luke, A. The Slow Design Principles: A new interrogative and reflexive tool for design research and practice https://static1.squarespace.com/static/52dfe66be4b0cad36168429a/t/53499733e4b09ac51176571d/1397331763401/CtC_SlowDesignPrinciples.pdf

[All links accessed 21/3/18]