Studying for Part 5 has been a different experience from the other parts of the course: even if for several years now I have been dealing with fabrics and fibres in multiple ways – from stitching and manipulating them in experimental samples with multi-media techniques to learning rigorous pattern making, cutting and sewing – this has been the first time that I have approached textiles as materials/media having specific qualities that make them suitable for use in a high number of functional, design or art contexts.
In this regard and considering the very wide scope of the subject I have found very useful and stimulating the organization of Part 5 in four main viewpoints centred around the course themes of time and place. This has greatly helped me to connect the study of textiles to the other 4 parts of the course – contemporary art, creative reading, visual communications and photography: if at the beginning these disciplines seemed to me rather vaguely linked, they appear now all neatly and satisfyingly ‘stitched together’ – if I may use a textile metaphor. And having seen how the themes of time and place have been successfully ‘weaved’ through all parts of the course, I have now an idea of how I could decline and explore a theme in different disciplines, contexts and media.
The section on the life cycle of textiles and sustainability (Project 1) has opened up new perspectives for me. Like many, I am already used to collect old garments and fabrics for recycling or upcycling in new projects but I had never thought of doing so in the wider frame of well-defined practices to adopt during all the design/making stages as proposed by the Textiles Environment Design (TED) on their website. And this is certainly something that I shall try to implement in all crafts – textiles – but also jewellery and ceramics, two activities that I practice and that present many sustainability issues, from potentially toxic chemicals to waste of energy resources.
In Project 2 (revival of craft and the hand-made) I find particularly inspiring the distinction made between the workmanship of risk centred on the individual and the workmanship of certainty centred on the industrial design/production. I think that this type of approach can really offer a useful conceptual tool to designers, makers and artists in their experiences and dealings with materials and methods, especially if combined with the development of a personal narrative as further mentioned by Project 2.
Another very helpful instrument is the set of qualities outlined in Project 3 to analyse the various contexts in which textiles are employed in the environment. The same qualities can also be profitably considered during designing and making so as to work with enhanced focus and awareness in one’s own practice.
Finally Project 4 shifts attention from the use of textiles in the environment to the intimate relation that textiles have with the human body and while it concentrates research and exercises mainly on fashion, the function of ‘enveloping the body’ could also be explored in art by taking advantage of the visual/tactile characteristics of textiles and of their draping/handling/protective qualities.