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”


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.


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]

Exercise 2: Lush Knot Wraps and Sustainability

Lush is a manufacturer of fresh handmade cosmetics based in Poole, Dorset. They pride themselves on their policies of ethical buying and all their policies can be found here.

As part of their drive to avoid packaging, Lush offer a selection of ‘knot wraps‘ in which to wrap gifts and purchases. They have produced a webpage entitled ‘Why knot wrap?‘ outlining the reasons to purchase a knot wrap. The majority of the wraps are either vintage scarves, scarves made from 100% organic cotton sourced from India or fabric ones made from recycled bottles.

The webpage ‘10 reasons to knot wrap’ goes into more detail and explains that the scarves sourced from India are produced in collaboration with re wrap. The only scarves that I couldn’t discover much about were the ones produced in collaboration with SplashMaps. On the FAQ’s of the SplashMaps site, a question about the composition of the scarves can be seen below:

Screen Shot 2018-03-05 at 13.46.07

I emailed Lush the following email in an attempt to discover more information:

To whom it may concern,

I am doing some research into sustainable textiles. I wanted to spotlight your knot wraps and am aware that you use vintage scarves in addition to scarves made of recycled plastics.

I was trying to investigate the sustainability of your map knot wraps produced in collaboration with SplashMaps. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to discover what the composition of these scarves is. Could you clarify in any way? Alternatively, could you outline the methods Lush has employed to ensure that these maps comply with your ethical, environmental and sustainability policies?

I would be grateful for any information you can offer on this issue.

Yours sincerely

Nic Hopkins

Lush were quick to respond, letting me know that:

We’ve spoken to our buying team, and the SplashMaps were made of recycled PET from plastic bottles. 

I was able to confirm this when I went into one of their shops and found the following on their label:


On a personal note, this project has provoked me to consider the sustainability of silk used in my own work. I emailed my UK supplier and received a very prompt response explaining that the supplier has used the same factory for 15 years (who assures them that the factory does not use child labour). However the UK supplier has not been able to visit the factory personally as it is based in China. The difficulty with a global marketplace is that it becomes very challenging to ‘drop by’ and convince yourself that the standards we would like to be upheld, are being. I’m not certain what the solution is other than trying to source as much locally as possible.

Exercise 1: Sustainability

The processing and making of textiles is one of the most polluting industries in the world.

Sustainability is difficult to define simply. We need to consider 3 aspects:

  • economy
  • society
  • environment

According to the Chambers dictionary:

sustainable adj 1 capable of being sustained. 2 said of economic development, population growth, renewable resources, etc: capable of being maintained at a set level. sustainability noun.

Continue reading “Exercise 1: Sustainability”

Exercise 3: Elevated Viewpoints

Derek Trillo’s The Cheshire Plain from Beeston Castle (2008) uses an elevated viewpoint to create an abstract landscape photograph. By choosing to remove the horizon and look down upon the landscape gives a map-like perspective to the image. In Trillo’s image, this effect is not complete as the trees remain vertical and their shadows can be seen rather than looking  like green blobs where only the leafy canopy is visible as they would appear to be if we were looking perpendicular to the plane ground. Had the image been taken from ground level, it would have been dominated by the trees and bushes visible and Trillo would not have been able to achieve the patchwork effect seen.

Similarly, Peter Mansell has chosen to use an elevated perspective across a city or town to achieve the effect of a general survey. There is a much greater sense of space compared to if the image had been taken from ground level where the view would have been obstructed by buildings, people and cars. The elevated view makes the city or town seem relatively serene compared to the bustle of busy streets.

Using elevated viewpoints appears to homogenise landscapes that can be very chaotic on a local level. There is usually an increased sense of space if the horizon is included in the view. It seems to me that within society, elevated viewpoints often have an association with the divine. My impression of Christianity is of a God that sits up high, looking down. Status can be conferred by seating position, for instance Judges usually sit higher than defendants and boxes at theatres were traditionally above the level of the stage.

I was able to see John Davies Agecroft Power Station, Salford (1983) at Towner Gallery in Eastbourne. It was one of the first images to catch my attention in the A Green & Pleasant Land Photography Exhibition (before I noticed it in the OCA coursework) as it was an impressively large print and the viewer was left feeling as though they were looking out onto the view. The row of stacks dominate the initial viewing and it is only when you look more closely at the foreground that you notice the cars and football match. Including these elements in the foreground allows Davies to show the scale of the Agecroft Power Station chimneys. The chimneys in this image overwhelm the landscape but the football game played in the shadow of the towers humanises the image. Where the image could be bleak and remote, the fact that there is a match right next to them shows that there are those who’s lives are overshadowed by the towers. The inclusion of the footballers also heightens the sense of scale as otherwise the only clear reference points for scale would be the trees and cars in the foreground. As they are so much closer to the camera, alone they will not act as good reference points.