Graduating in 2010 with First Class honours, Sara explored traditional, natural and digital surface design processes in her degree show collection 'For Garment's Sake'. Destructive or irreversible techniques such as rusting and laser cutting were used to consider the value placed on textile products.
During her time studying textile design Sara was also a finalist in the V&A Contemporary Quilts competition, with her submission 'Memory and Memorial'. This quilt playfully engaged craft and design students in a participatory workshop to co-create a paper patchwork quilt as a twist on traditional quilting characteristics such as storytelling and commemoration.
BDES HONS TEXTILE DESIGN
For Garment's Sake: Degree Show 2010
Inspired by atists such as Hussein Chalayan, Caroline Broadhead, Alison Watt and Tim Harding and scenes of redundant, neglected belongings that I had avidly photographed, I set out to create a collection of textiles that posed question to our attitude towards fabric and cloth in this current 'disposable' society.
“Fabrics are taken for granted: there are some exceptions, European tapestries during the Renaissance, for example, but mostly, fabrics have a mundane function, and are an intimate part of people’s lives. That led me to the precious aspects of clothing. Good clothes shouldn’t be stained, scorched or soiled; they need to be taken care of. The juxtaposition of preciousness and vulnerability.” (Tim Harding)
And so, my final year collection was a response to 'the juxtaposition between preciousness and vulnerability' of clothing and the treatment or mistreatment of garments within their intimate role. Beginning my research by photographing clusters of discarded objects in junkyards, recycling centres and charity shops, I found interest in the organic affection of metals – the damaging process of rusting and elemental wear and tear, and accidental collective compositions. C&A:C&D explores this vein of thought, concentrating in particular on the rusting process of fastenings, fixtures, tools and implements of construction embedded within a collection of vulnerable found garments and fabrics. Using industrial metals in the dyeing process and an assortment of found metal-based objects and fastenings, I hoped to illustrate the abuse and neglect of precious fabrics by showing the permanent (and for the most part, uncontrollable), blemishes made as a result of mistreatment. Exploration of other ‘abusive’ techniques led to more experimental techniques; burial, scorching and cutting by way of laser cutting fabrics in order to emulate the irreversible affection of rust and metal and expose weaker elements of the cloth.
Memory & Memorial Quilt: Making Memories as they Happen | V&A London Quilts Exhibition Brief 2009
This work was created in response to a brief set to third year Textile Design students at DJCAD by curator of the Quilts exhibition at V&A London (2010). We were challenged to reinterpret the method and practice of quilting. Creating a piece focused on collaboration and communication, I won the opportunity to create a workshop as part of V&A's Friday Night Late series. Unfortunately, due to funding issues, the workshop did not go ahead but the experience of planning and preparing the workshop fuelled my interest in human centred design as a conversation.
My writing on the work at the time:
At the outset, I cited the therapeutic nature of quilting to be the most interesting idea in relation to the craft; the creation of something as celebration or indeed as a mode of escapism from the day to day. The acts of stitching, embroidering, appliquéing, (regarded by many nowadays as lost skills), all collated in a visual interpretation of ones life in order to process the causes and effects of what was taking place around them, evoked in me a curiosity in how this could be related to myself today.
Putting the quilt in context of the bed I find it is a place to quietly reflect upon the day gone by and to contemplate what is yet to come. This in mind, I began to look upon the quilt as a diary in format – a vessel in which to store/vent thought, worry and opinion in a safe, intimate setting. I kept a dream diary in conjunction with my own personal diary to construct a personal landscape for my quilt between the seemingly nonsensical visuals in my dreams and the thoughts I consciously expressed in my everyday diary.
Through doing this I found that the self imposed limits upon what we feel we can share about ourselves can sometimes betray our want to communicate and reach out to others for support, relief and to ultimately create a connection. Through my research no diary I had come across (including my own) had been written with the intention of never being read by another; some are self-conscious; some controversial; some informative but ultimately all very aware of one day being critiqued. Research into the ways (and indeed why) people express themselves through diaries, led me to ‘PostSecret’, (‘an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard’). This method of ‘telling’ secrets, I found interesting as it allows the bearer to vent without feeling exposed; there is an element of control and a line as to how far the invitation into confidence extends.
I proposed then, to create a quilt that presented a visual language personal to me but did not permit others to impose upon my ‘hidden histories and untold stories’, allowing me to map out and process my thoughts to a degree that I found comfortable. I began by manipulating paintings I had done in response to dreams with particular resonance and layering these with extracts from my diary. While attractive, these samples lacked the ability to determine distance from certain elements of myself I did not want to put ‘on show’ and overall fell flat in my expectations for an active ongoing project. An element of censorship was needed; a format allowing me to hide or share the changing/recurrent themes I wished to express.
Looking again to the idea of ‘PostSecret’, I became interested in how to meet with my own secrets in relation to my quilt; literally pouring myself into the making of it. Experimenting with pockets, folds and unexpected hiding places led me to the final idea involving envelopes; ready made pockets able to hold, conceal or trap forever an idea, thought, worry or secret. Constructing the quilt from paper and envelopes seemed most pertinent upon considering my theme – paper is immediate and easy to manipulate. The idea of the more I ‘told’ my quilt, (and therefore the achievement of better psychological relief), resulting in a more padded, comfortable piece was also an appealing and rewarding notion.
Taking this idea further it seemed apt then, to design a quilt that was the correct design to protect or indeed divulge secrets amongst a group, could be shared.
Conducting three different experimental workshops, (all completely voluntary), allowed me to compile my ‘final’ quilt. The first two were silent; one inviting random students at Duncan of Jordanstone to open envelopes marked ‘Top Secret’ which were ‘posted’ around the college on benches, billboards and doors with the intention of highlighting curiosity in relation to personal boundaries. The other entailed asking my classmates to choose from an array of empty envelopes and allow the chosen envelope to travel with them over the course of a few days; the idea being to collect parts of their day inside the envelope - a visual diary of sorts. The third was a live workshop extending invitation to all members of the college, bidding them to share their secrets openly through the mediums of an A5 brown envelope, a standard black marker pen and various sized lettering stencils. This uniform mode of communication was chosen to highlight the fact that we are all affected by life, that we all feel vulnerable at some time or other, just that the circumstances and how we react vary. All of the information gathered from these workshops compiled with my own personal reactions to the stimulus resulted in a regimented flow of envelopes, (all marked by the owners but all ultimately anonymous), broken by tailing threads and jagged stitching. Red zips and buttons were added to some of the envelopes to signify varying levels of unwanted attention beyond the outer skin of the envelope. Those left unsealed are an invitation to others likeminded, allowing the contents to be explored and added to as seen fit. Sealed envelopes are to remain that way, the true secret to be hidden forever.