Friday, 18 December 2009

Baudrillard and Time

"The measuring of time produces anxiety when it serves to assign us to social tasks, but makes us feel safe when it substantializes time and cuts it into slices like an object of consumption."
p23, The System of Objects, Baudrillard

Monday, 7 December 2009

The Craftsman - Richard Sennett

I have been reading The Craftsman by Richard Sennett.  It has given me a lot of food for thought so far.  Some questions that is has raised in my mind are as follows:
By enforcing design practice within ones work, does one lose the skill needed to be a craftsperson, and does that matter - is it the job of the designer to design and then to pass the work to the appropriate craftsperson for making?  Is it possible to be a good designer and a skilled craftsperson.
Is design inherent in being a good craftsperson - does creating well made and beautiful objects automatically mean they are designed well?
Do objects need to be well made or is it more about appropriateness?
Sennett says "ethical behaviour was implicated in his technical work" (speaking about the craftsman, p64) and later "craft names a more anonymous, collective and continued practice" (p66).  I believe he means truth about materials & skill levels and quality/qualities of result by ethical behaviour, and the anonymous, collective behaviour is the shared studio or skills set passed between craftsperson and apprentice or interested learner. 
To link this in to some of my thoughts about Slow Design -
I believe that technical skill is gained through enduring practice, practice takes time and thus time should be allowed for this.
Practice toward skill can and should be consolidated by repetition and revisitation, where appropriate.
Advice from  and discourse with others is key to advancing ones skills in any field.

More thoughts to come...

Monday, 2 November 2009

Animal Ethics in Textiles, Fashion and Craft

Last week I went to a talk at the V&A on Fashion and ethics. When the conversation turned to leather an audience member voiced the question "How can fashion ever truly consider itself to be ethical when death is involved", to which one of the speakers answered that she was vegetarian and her company do not use leather. Unfortunately the discussion never went any further down that road but it did get me thinking.

As a committed longterm vegan, and in working with textiles a lot of questions come to me. For example; as a vegan I do not wear leather shoes. However most vegan shoes are made of a synthetic leather, which is made from a plastic. This is great in some ways - waterproof, smart looking etc, but dreadful in others - not biodegradable, not breathable, and this is asides from finding them made in a fair trade and ethical manner, as well as hopefully being durable and comfortable! So one question I often ask myself is 'leather vs pleather, which is more ethical'.

Similarly I do not work with wool, silk and other animal byproducts, I prefer not to use synthetics as I am not keen on their feel a lot of the time, but when I want the shimmer of silk or the warmth of wool I cannot always find a suitable cellulose fabric. I try not to mix material types as they are easier to reuse if they are not mixed but this is not always possible. And with a seeming prevelence of poly-cotton mixes at the moment maybe the future is mixed.

Questions about animal byproducts crop up all the time, glue, paint, brushes all have their own debates but when you then couple them with environmental ethics it becomes all the more complicated. Some find it ethically easiest to work digitally but I am a physical person, I am a maker. I am yet to marry my different ethical concerns with a suitably appropriate answer for an animal free, environmentally sound answer for most of them.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Lost and Found

These are all bits of clothing that I have seen lying about in the street. there are many more but I haven't put all the pictures up!

Friday, 18 September 2009

Textile Recycling

I went to Chris Carey's textile recycling plant this week to see what it's like as a source for recycled fabric, it was great! They have a warehouse that you can (having booked an appointment previously) go to and search through the fabrics, select what you want and pay per piece for it. I would have some photos but my camera ran out of battery. They have a huge range of cloth, from clothing and household bits like old curtains to fabric on rolls. It was very inspiring as everything that is there has a destination.

Friday, 28 August 2009

One man...

Unus homo cunctando rem servavit


One man, by hesitating, saved the republic.

Friday, 21 August 2009

More Morris

"So long as the system of competition in the production and exchange of the means of life goes on, the degradation of the arts will go on; and if that system is to last for ever, then art is doomed, and will surely die; that is to say, civilization will die." -William Morris.

Food for thought.

William Morris House

I went to William Morris House today and enjoyed it greatly. Located in Walthamstow, NE London it is the house which Morris moved to as a boy with his mother and siblings after his fathers death. the exhibition is a chronological journey through his life - work, politics and relationships. It also has some beautiful Arts and Crafts furniture and paintings by Frank Brangwyn. Coming up in October is a Thomas Wardle textile exhibition.

I feel the Arts and Crafts movement was the first vocaliser of the need for Slow design, or at least slowness, I also think the tenet of having beautiful, meaningful things for functional purposes was very important ("Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful" - William Morris) and is something we could think more about now. The ability to think through purchases and our wants to decipher what they really are appears to have left us.

Looking at Baudrillard's work has left me thinking this: We have lost the ability to think clearly about the Functional Value (its actual purpose), Exchange Value (how much it costs) and even, to an extent, the Symbolic Value (what it means to us emotionally, and what it means to us in relation to another item) and left us only with the Sign Value (status value) of our purchases and lifestyles. There is a certain amount of emotion involved with status, but it is of a different sort to traditional symbolism in my opinion. We buy so fast it leaves us we no time to become involved with what we own, and we are busy keeping up with the trends, fashions adverts, upgrades and latest releases that newness becomes the imperative. Designers follow this same path to keep and and indeed create this newness, thus dismissing the need to think, engage and involve ourselves with what we make in order to keep on schedule and in doing so we create a vicious circle of unloved designs becoming unloved purchases, replaced quickly with new unloved purchases made from unloved designs.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Slowness by Kundera

I have been reading Slowness by Milan Kundera. Page34 says "Meanwhile, a person who wants to forget a disagreeable incident he has just lived through starts unconciously to speed up his pace, as if he were trying to distance himself from a thing still too close to him in time" which led me to ask - when did we get so disgusted by that which we have just created so as to need to vacate its presence so fast?

To quote William Morris; "...looking backwards to the time when history first began, we note that the progress of that victory [over nature in terms of living how we want] has been far swifter and more startling within the last two hundred years than ever before. Surely, therefore, we moderns ought to be in all ways vastly better off than any who have gone before us. Surely we ought, one and all of us, to be wealthy, to be well furnished with the good things which our victory over nature has won for us." He goes on to ask "who will dare deny that the great mass of civilised men are poor?" (both p10, Useful Work Versus Useless Toil)

Morris considers that people are poor when they suffer from a lack of quality in their life - it is not a monetary poorness that he speaks of. Similarly Kundera speaks of those moments when we move faster to escape things we wish to forget, to look at this from a consumer perspective you could say that with every upgrade, every new toy, every cheap piece of clothing bought on a whim is a sign of a poor quality of life and a wish to forget this by moving on from the last hasty purchase as fast as we possibly can on to the newest, latest distraction. From a design perspective this is a sad state - we, as designers, perpetuate this swiftness, this lack of quality with every piece of design brought out with the wrong kind of care behind it. When we care only to make something for the money or to beat a competitor we bring the bad qualities of design to life, where as well thought out design, - design meant to improve not only the manufacturers bank balance or the market share of the company but also the quality of life of the consumer and the use of products previously owned - well thought out design improves everything for everyone by not attempting to obliterate past memories or move us to throw 'away' the old in favour of the new (let us remember that there is no actual 'away', it is exists only as out of sight(Braungart, McDonough)), it exists to improve the quality of our time and enjoyment, to make fond memories of that which you own and form emotional attachments with your belongs, thus prolong their lives and again negating the need to move on and run away so fast.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Useful work?

I have also been reading Useful Work Versus Useless Toil by William Morris and he makes the point ' is waste of time to try to express in words due contempt of the productions of the much-praised cheapness of our epoch. It must be enough to say that this cheapness is necessary to the system of exploiting on which modern manufacture rests. In other words, our society includes a great mass of slaves, who must be fed, clothed, housed and amused as slaves, and that their daily necessity compels them to make the slave-wares whose use is the perpetuation of their slavery.' (Morris, 1888/2008, UK)

Although this was written a long time ago it bears much relevance now - we work to earn money to consume, often while we work we produce items to be consumed or do that which oils the wheel of consumerism.
So the question remains - is this a habit which can be broken, and indeed do we want to break it? In my opinion it seems we do not want to wholly change our habits in consumerism thus we should change our design habits to lessen the impact of our day to day lives. Maybe taking on another of Morris' points would help - '... worthy work carries with it the hope of pleasure in rest, the hope of the pleasure in our using what it makes, and the hope of pleasure in our daily creative skill. All other work but this is worthess; it is slaves' work - mere toiling to live, that we may live to toil.'