Friday, 30 January 2009

The Man Who Cycled the World

Last night I went to see Mark Beaumont give a talk about his adventures on cycling around the world. This amazing trip took Mark a mere 194days and 17hours to complete (his personal target was 195 days so he understood his capabilities and must have had great determination in fulfilling his goal).

I found him to be very inspirational indeed, he new what he wanted to achieve and made it happen, from planning and sponsorship to getting the right media coverage. He raised a lot of money for several charities along with breaking the world record by over 80 days.

It was just so good to see someone who has worked extremely hard to achieve their goals, this brings me onto a lecture I had went to earlier in the day given by Amanda Game who works with Innovative Craft. She talked about her struggles with her gallery through the last recession in the 1990's and feels if you work hard and are committed to your end goal you can achieve it. She said that craft is 'a tangible thing with human beings behind that thing', and that we have to value and evaluate our craft and skill set. I think that by doing this combined with hard work we can achieve something brilliant within our field.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Smart Materials

I have been reading a book all about Smart Materials this morning, which I ordered with some photochromic and thermochromic materials... I am very excited to test these out to see what sorts of interesting combinations I can come up with.

Photochromic Pigments which react to UV light and change colour accordingly should be very interesting as will give the impression that an image simply appears when you step out into the sunlight. It can be mixed with any acrylic media so the possibilities for this product are very vast.

Thermochromic Materials such as smart colour pigments change colour at specific temperatures. They are based on liquid crystal technology (at certain temps the liquid crystals re-orientate which results in an apparent change of colour). The liquid crystal itself is micro-encapsulated (the tiny particles are surrounded by a coating) and billions of these capsules (10microns in diameter) can be mixed with a suitable carrier (most acrylic media) to create printing inks for fabrics.

At room temperature the pigment appears coloured but at 27oC it disappears. The colour possibilities are endless as it can be mixed with any acrylic paint to make any colour and when it heats up to over 27oC the smart colour pigment will become transparent leaving a different colour underneath. (see example above)

Glow-in-the-dark pigments are phosphorecent pigments that absorb and store energy from natural or artificial night to be expelled as a glowing image at night when their is a limited or no light supply.
It comes in a powdered form which can be mixed with an acrylic medium to form a water resistant seal around the particles. If it does not have this barrier the pigment will degrade when exposed to moisture.
Its effectiveness depends on the thickness of the print and how much is used in conjunction with the acrylic paint.
The possibilities: you can 'charge' up your garments print all day so it will 'glow' all night-an alternate image will appear at night when the glow-in-the-dark pigment takes over from the photochromic pigment.

I think that using all these different pigments in conjunction will give a single garment multiple looks see post on One t-shirt many looks...?

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Context and Cohesion

Context and Cohesion, or the scary part of the course as I have come to view it. It is not because I don't like reading or writing, I do, but I worry that while I may have something to say, the point of it seems to get lost under the pages of pointless words I seem to use to get to the heart of what I want to say.

This module is to help us find our own style of writing that can be and hopefully lend itself to being academic, journalistic and reflective.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

The Good Consumer...Really...?

This short video entitled 'The Good Consumer' embodies our everyday life and consumption habits scary as it is. I felt really uncomfortable watching this video with the eerie narrators voice telling me to consume, consume, consume. It suggests we are lemming like creatures following the trends and obeying the gospel of the 'Brand', which of course is nonsense...isn't it? The sad fact is and the reason why i was squirming in my seat while watching this was that it is true, sad but undeniably correct. I am really working hard to educate myself on why branding and fashion trends are so important to us, hopefully by understanding it, it will be easier to come up with solutions to fill the empty voids within us that forces us to over consume in the hope we will feel satisfactorily nourished, which of course never works... so its back to the shops for more.

See Bonfire of the Brands for more information on this subject.

Totes for Transition Town Tayport

I have been designing tote bags for a Transition Town in Tayport, an off shoot of Transition Scotland. An initiative moving towards a more sustainable future.

Campaigners hope that the tote bags will help reduce the number of plastic bags being used and thrown away as they can be hazardous to wildlife or just go into landfill. This is a cause I feel very passionate about so am glad to be a part of it.

Below is a mock up of how the bag might look:)

My prints in Penny Lane

Here is some design work I have been working on during the masters for fun as I love to draw and print:)

One t-shirt many looks...?

Developing on from yesterdays cultural probe exercise and in conjunction with how to bring many looks to one garment by the use of print, I am eagerly awaiting an order of UV fluid, theocratic pigment, glow in the dark pigment and photochromic pigment so I can do some test pieces. If these are successful I could use them as cultural probes to gain peoples reactions and feelings on chameleon like clothing that responds to the wearers surroundings.
How would a garment if printed with various reactive inks in different patterns across the surface area evolve throughout the day and how would the wearer react to this?

Above is just a quick sketch explaining how the print would change and 'grow' over the course of the day as the wearer went through different heating and lighting conditions.

Would this method of printing connect the wearer to thei clothes...?

Monday, 26 January 2009

Jayne Wallace-Cultural Probes

This morning we received a lecture by Dr Jane Wallace who is a contemporary jeweler working now with assimilating digital technology into her work. She currently works with Culture Lab in Newcastle.

Jayne talked to us about the cultural probes she used within her practice and gave us a really good insight into how to adapt and develop our own probes. I loved the rosettes she gave to people with first prize printed on them. She asked people to say what they would want to win first prize at. Although she later gave people a pack with second prize rosettes, I liked this even better as I feel it gives the user the chance to reveal their dreams and wishes in a more realistic setting. They might omit to mention something of great importance to them as they recognise they could never be at the top of the game, but they dream of making a positive contribution and to enjoy whatever task it is even though they no full well that it is impossible to be no1.

Whilst speaking to Jayne about my project we came up with a few cultural probe ideas. I like the idea of having a washing line set up with items of clothes attached. People can come along and choose a piece of clothing and along with this item will be given a pack of customising tools and a disposable camera and a way of recording their thoughts and feelings while interacting and wearing the item. This will either be a lining which the user could write on or perhaps a small roll of paper hidden in a pocket or attached to a label. I want to find out why people become attached to an item of clothing and why sometimes they do treat them as disposable. Is it the cost, the material, the design, the fact its a one off etc. When the week is over the user will return the garment to the washing line with their camera, their 'storey' of their attachment to it and how they have changed it and photos of how they wore it and when and the feelings that the whole experience conjured. It will also be interesting to find out if they are willing to part with the item easily or if they have grown attached to it and why they feel that is.

Friday, 23 January 2009

My first meeting with Polly

So Ive just had my first session with my new study advisor Polly Duplock. She has really helped me to focus my project and has told me about two exhibitions that I really want to go and see.

Hussein Chalayan's exhibition at the Design Museum in London. I think this will give me good insight into whats going on with fashion at the moment and where I could possibly fit into the equation.

And Donna Wilson's Escape to the Woods exhibition at the Lighthose in Glasgow. This should help me to focus on the human side of my project, Polly made the good point that it is all very well being passionate about something that has moral integrity but whatever I produce has to have a human face. Its needs to be able to speak to people and make them want to connect with it and feel that it is special and loved, if not, it might turn out to be a futile episode of gathering research and samples. I fully understand this as I received one of Donna Wilson's make your own monster kit's for Christmas and sat sewing him together on boxing day, I have yet to give him a face as want to get it just right. This is because even though unfinished I have formed an attachment and bond to this little pile of randomly stitched together swatches of fabric. I think that Donna's exhibition will reinforce to me the great need for a narrative and a storey behind an object, that an attachment for said object grows as it ages and changes. Some of my favorite possessions are the old slightly faded and worn ones. My nephews most prized possession is his bunny, (well its actually a dog, but he gets very cross when the reality is suggested) even after all the Christmas presents he received (which as you can imagine were countless) he still holds 'bunny' in higher regard than them all, despite the fact 'bunny' is faded, drawn on and lost half of his stuffing so now appears rather limp, none of this matters in fact this is probably the reason he is no1, goes everywhere with Lewis and is loved by him like part of the family. The point that I am trying to get to is that for us to care and value an object we need to feel that it is special and even if others deem it as ugly, it is beautiful and dear to us in every way.

Throughout my project I need to remember this point so I can come up with ideas that not only help ease the impact the fast fashion market has on the world but also makes people care and connect with them.

As well as visiting exhibitions I also want to meet with Helen Storey (Wonderland-'dissolving dress', below), J.R Campbell and Random International in the hope they will be able to help me understand more about the technologies I want to work with and inspire me to develop on my ideas further.

I also intend to start creating some test pieces which will help me understand the limitations of technologies available to me and how I can adapt then to suit my needs.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Communicating Culture through Making

I just went to my first Space and Place talk, a series of lunch time lectures about Communicating Culture through Making. It was given by Dr Thomas Hawson who recently completed a practice-led PhD on Contemporary Craft in Iceland.

Tom is a furniture maker interested in sustainable cultural craft and practices. He gave a refreshing insight into how he works and how the lifestyles of the people he met while in Iceland were very rich, not necessarily in the monetary sense but in actual living and knowledge. They lead a very subsistence life style, and understand how things work, which I feel give them good problem solving capabilities, so can be more self sufficient and sustainable. This notion seems almost alien in our current climate although very inspirational.

Their knowledge and heritage was reinforced by Tom's project. He encouraged the makers and crafts people he worked with to document and reflect on their practices by video, audio and imagery. Uploading them so they could be shared and discussed. Something they had never done before and were reluctant to try even though the technology was readily available to them. Perhaps they felt as though these outlets were not in keeping with traditional practices or that their was little reward for this type of documentation. However Tom uncovered that this type of working brought about great benefits. It gave these practitioners good experiences of collaboration work, physical communication and reflection. They learned how to express themselves as crafts people in their own right and found they were getting credit and positive feedback for their work, no longer did they feel second fiddle to designers. Hopefully this will mean the boundaries between craft based and pure design based subjects can be broken down and skills can be interchangeable and no one deemed better than another. A more fluid level of working can be achieved instead of hierarchical. Because the feedback he got from them was so positive and the fact they felt that these were really useful tools, reinforced to me Jonathan's points from yesterday about reflective writing and the importance of doing so. It will hopefully help me grow and learn more about myself, my craft and how to communicate my ideas with others as well as being able to understand their comments and adapt them to help with my own practice and vice versa.

Another point Tom made was that in our very British society today we tend to remove all of the 'risk' elements from children's upbringing. He showed us a group of seven year old whittling with little axes. This would never happen here as people feel the risks out weigh the benefits. If all choice and considered risk is taken out of our decision making capabilities we will not have a good perception of hazard awareness which is worrying and potentially dangerous. People could fatally injure themselves as they do not realise the risks of certain tasks hold for themselves and others. ie crossing a road/driving to fast.
I worked in a nature nursery of sorts for a year and I feel very strongly that children should be given the chance to learn things for themselves and to be able to manage their own hazard awareness, I think the Whistlebrae Nature Kindergarten near Braco in Perth (where a colleague of mine went to work) is a fantastic institute for learning, the children are outside in all weathers learning about nature and the world instead of being placed in a brightly coloured room surrounded by plastic toys(chemical leaching that may occur from these mass produced products I feel are more hazardous, than letting the children saw a piece of wood). The Brao kids sit around camp fires and have a good understanding that it would be dangerous to get too close. They are actively learning from first hand experience.

Reflective writing

So what is reflective writing? After a lecture yesterday by Jonathan Baldwin the water is slightly less muddy. Instead of sitting down and forcing ourselves to write a fantastic piece that would win the Pulitzer. We must not think about and consider every word, we must instead simply write, start anywhere about anything and as the words spill out we will eventually have something worthwhile. Or at least an accurate account of our thoughts for that day which could spark off other thoughts and ideas. So we must write these thoughts down so as they do not disappear into the ether.

I had stopped writing my ramblings over the Christmas vacation and became increasingly stuck for ideas or paths I should follow. I was back in class for a matter of hours and the ideas started to flow again. I feel this is because we were set the task of explaining our projects to Christine who will be taking us for our mindful design practice module. Even though I normally clam up and fear presentations, the challenge of putting together and telling the storey of my research(something that I am very passionate about, summed up in one minute with the aid of a few images), i found did not fill me with the usual fear and dread. Perhaps It was not the most coherent and descriptive talk I have ever given but on watching it back in the afternoon(our attempts were videoed for this purpose) I learned that actually I could do it and perhaps the massive amounts of worry stress and preparation I normally put into a talk is not always the right way to tackle public speaking. The information I need to get across is in my head I no it is their even though sometimes I find it hard to access, but with the help of a few visual aids and tangible props, public speaking can become for me in this instance more manageable.

I guess everyone is nervous or worried about how they come across and if they will be able to deliver their points clearly and interestingly giving the audience something profound or at least memorable to take away. I think the art of public speaking, as with the art of writing will come in time and I will find my own style. Johnathan says if you feel you cant wright, wright more not less, this way you will feel more comfortable with it and it will not become this big issue. The pink elephant in the corner can be dispelled with a little practice and self belief.
I myself find writing as difficult as public speaking but for different reasons, when I wright I do not no when to stop and when I speak I do not no where to start.