Undecided SD3 Project Evaluation
The Self Directive module (SD3) began in mid-January with a “write your own brief” though the starting point given was “what is your area of interest?” and it was expressed, that it is important to demonstrate a meaningful connection between the investigation and the final outcome. We were given three key words for this module, “process”, “investigation” and “innovation” and the statement that “whatever you do and however, you do it, you must tell your story”. It was a welcome brief to research a topic that had personal relevance. I remember, the tutor saying, when will you ever get this opportunity to spend 3 months on a subject area, of your choice again. I was encouraged, to aim my research focus towards a worthwhile area of interest.
At an, early stage I decided that my final outcome would be textile based because of my longstanding interest in textiles. The justification for working with textiles is that I personally feel that I am more creative when working with this medium. As a third year student I am anticipating the transition to employment. These are difficult and worrying times for employment, even if we know what we want to do. Unfortunately, I have never really known what I wanted to do as a career. It is important to me to have a vision of where I would like to be, with an idea of what I want to do. When I decided to take a career change from management to studying a design-focused degree, I was at a point were I really craved a new direction and a link into the creative industry. Looking back at my career choices, I realised having dyslexia had featured large in my uncertainty of career direction. Although I had considered several career paths, I was put off by lack of confidence in my reading and writing skills.
Thanks to the guidance from my tutors, my interest in textiles was focused on quilt making. In part, this was because my attention was drawn to the impressive example of the ‘Worlds AID Quilts’ created in 1987. This opened my mind to the possibility that a quilt could tell a hidden story. Traditionally, patchwork quilts allowed individuals to tell their own story in panels and when combined with others, can tell a wider narrative. Quilts were often used to mark a significant transition in life, such as birth, marriage, death or emigration. Through the medium of a quilt, I wanted to explore the idea that if someone doesn’t know what they want to do as a career, what does it say about them. Is lack of a career direction a universal anxiety? So, I decided to recruit interested people to contribute individual panels to a quilt, using the theme of their career pattern.
The project developed immediately after having feedback from the tutors, following the presentation of my second position statement. I was deliberating about my project with a work colleague because I had concerns if I could achieve this task successfully. I had concerns that I might not be able to enlist enough interested people, or that their contributions might not be suitable. To my surprise this particular colleague spontaneously offered to take part and that encouraged me to approach others. A few people I approached declined, because they didn’t have enough spare time to take part. In spite of this, the majority of people I contacted were really intrigued by the topic and were excited to do something creative. Another colleague agreed to take part and also recommend a personal friend, whom she felt would really enjoy contributing to a quilting project. Ultimately, I successfully managed to enlist 18 people to participate in creating a patchwork quilt around the thought-provoking topic of career paths. It is not an easy task to complete, to create a visual representation of your career pattern and how you feel about the direction your career path. The process was not without its difficulties: along the way I “lost” three recruits, so in the end including myself, I had 16 people, to contribute to my final outcome.
The outcome of creating a quilt made up of 16 panels, 15 of which were out of my control was very daunting. I was concerned by how the individual panels would look because I approached friends and colleagues, who had never stitched before. Not only was the subject matter a challenge, the method in which, to express this topic was also a challenge. I believed it was important for me to have more control of the overall look, of the final quilt. It became clear to me that it was possible, by way of the colours selected and the size and colour of the individual panel. When selecting the colours, I did not want to pick the colours at random, without any consideration for the overall theme of the project. I decided to research what different colours represent, learning that colours can have different interpretation in different cultures. After my research, I selected 9 preferred embroidery colours, which were, black, white, grey, purple, two different shades of amethyst, green, again a light forest green and a darker tone, indigo blue and a saffron yellow.
Black represents protected, barrier, fears, the unknown, a colour to hide behind, it however, can be an elegant colour. White conveys pure, new direction in life, wiping the slate clean, and a blank canvas, a new beginning. Grey is classed as a motionless colour, relief from a chaotic world, neutral, impartial & indecisive, it is a professional and classic colour. Purple relates to imagination, future, fulfillment, it expands our awareness, it calming & keeps us grounded. Green can communicate balance, growth, rebirth, well being, relates to ambition & is a positive colour. Blue is an idealistic colour, honest, loyal, self-expression, knowledge, reliable, wisdom; it is associated with being a masculine colour. Yellow is an uplifting colour, cheerful, fun, confidence, creativity & is the most highly visible of all colours.
When preparing the quilting packages to present to people, I first asked which colours people wanted from the 9 colours, that I had selected. This was an interesting first insight into everyone’s initial thoughts around their career pattern. People informed me that, it did help to understand the meaning behind each colour before they picked their embroidery threads. For example, June only wanted black and white, Martin requested, black, grey and saffron yellow and Hana selected black, white, light amethyst and saffron yellow. Once I was aware of everyone’s colours I was then able to create the pack for each individual. I purchased brown bags from a retail wholesale store because I liked the idea off handing out a little ‘goodie bag’ to everyone and it allowed me to be more organised with the progress. Each individual pack included the following: one piece of 100% cotton ivory fabric, with an A4 template outlined, the colours each person selected, one sewing needle and the brief for the project, including guidelines and a reminder of what each colour conveys and what different shapes represent. I managed to enlist a friend of a friend, to take part however; she was not based in Manchester. I posted out her quilting pack to Wales, with a prepaid return envelope. Fortunately many people involved, were on the social media ‘Facebook’ and I decide to create a ‘Quilting’ group page. The page was created to offer any support people may need throughout, including a reminder of the brief, the colours, some inspiration and if anyone had any questions. For an example, Helen posted she would require a hoop and from that post I provided 4 people with hoops.
I handed out the quilting pack to 14 of the individuals by 15th April, providing them with a 2-week deadline, requesting them finish by 2nd May. Although I enlisted one person later on, it was fortunate that our project was provided an extension and this individual managed to still have 2 week to complete the panel. This was good news, for many of the individuals taking part in the quilting project because some people needed an extra week or two to finish off their panel. I made reference, that I felt like I was performing an ‘Anneka Rice’ challenge. One when I was handing the pack out to people, running all over Manchester City Centre, with packs in my hand and then when I was collecting all the pack back from everyone.
I was very pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm and constructive efforts made by the contributors. This was not an easy task to complete in the time available, nevertheless, the individual panels showed that they had given the subject careful consideration. They also found the subject stimulating and provoked their own particular response to my brief.
All of the responses were striking and not only did everyone create a panel each, I requested them to write a small inscription, about what their piece represents to them. It helped my understanding having other people’s interpretation of their panel. My interpretation of the panel by Daniel Cousin, featured a man carrying the large “Rubik’s Cube” shape on his back, while labouring towards an uncertain future, represented by a question mark. Without the benefit of his written explanation, I interpreted the cube as a burden symbolising his anxiety about his future. The only option for him is to keep moving forward, despite the internal conflict he feels. If he knew the answer to that ‘question mark’ would it lift that weight of pressure and reassure him, that he is heading in the right direction? After reading Daniel’s explanation of his piece, I can appreciate his situation and I found it touching how honest and sincere he felt he could be. I have known Daniel for about 6 years within a professional relationship and would consider him an acquaintance. I really admire his honest and appreciate he felt he could express his doubts about his future to me, while also being generous with his time, by taking part in my project.
I had to consider the best way to structure the quilt, once I received everyone’s panels back. I made this task of designing the structure of the quilt time consuming because I was being too precious about it. What I have learnt while studying my degree is that I do not work well under personal pressure. What I am referring to is that expectation I believe people will have towards my final piece. There is always a pressure to reach a level of respect from your tutors, regarding your design outcomes. Nonetheless, I have enlisted 15 people to this project all of whom, are looking forward to seeing the finished quilt. I have never made a quilt before, I can hand stitch and make abstract stitching patterns. But ask me to make an item of clothing or a precise piece that, entails measuring and that pressure to be accurate and seamless, is not enjoyable. I organized the quilt, to show 6 horizontal panels at the top, 4 vertical panels in the centre and another 6 horizontal panels on the bottom. The arrangement of the panels, were based, on how detailed or simplistic the panel were and which, panels worked better closer together. I attempted many different layouts before finally decided on which structure worked best together. I was very fortunate to be able to use one of the industrial sewing machines in the fashion department. Again, because I was to nervous about making a mistake, and anxious, it took far longer than planned to sew all the panels together using the industrial machine. I was acting to conscious about making a mistake, looking back now; I would have allowed myself more time to practice and more time to work with the industrial sewing machine. It was a shame on my part, that I didn’t start working in the fashion department earlier. It was a constructive environment to work in, the space made it easier to layout the fabric and everyone working in there, were so welcoming. The main setback to the SD3 project was the time I granted myself to sew and hand stitch the quilt. Even under the time limitations I allowed myself, I still managed to enjoy the process of stitching the whole quilt together.
How could I have developed the quilt project if I had realised, it potential earlier? I would not have been able to manage any more participants on this project. I could have contacted more people from an array of different career sectors. I perhaps could have only, asked people who were concerned about their future career. Nonetheless, it presents a better overview to have approached a diverse group of individuals, who are all at different stages in their career paths.
On reflection it is interesting to note, that we now live in a digital age of communication, we communicate to each other by way of text messages, emails and social media. When looking for a career, we now need to think in a more digital way and present our professional identity online, by way of blogs, networking platforms and online portfolios. It is very rare for a mixed of different people from different backgrounds to communicate to each now by way of stitching. Along side the final quilt made up of 16 panels, I created a hand made book of all the individual description of their design piece. I decided to write all the descriptions by hand because I didn’t want the communication about the quilt, to have a digital approach.
As I am reviewing this project and thinking back over what I have done and what I would have liked to done differently. I am proud that I have managed to succeed, in the challenge of organising 15 people to take part in a quilt making project. I generally find, that after a project comes to an end, I can to a certain degree feel disappointed with the final outcome. Nevertheless, I am pleased with the finish quilt. I am very grateful for the effort that people have contributed, to designing and creating their panels whilst taking into consideration the theme of the project so thoroughly.
Although all the panels of the quilt are different, they also have something in common. They all reveal that they are in a process of transition and that the journey we go on, to realise our career path is a universal dilemma.