Today as part of the Wear It project I chose to work with the words Suspend and Balance to develop an accessory for the body. I was initially inspired by Rowan Mersh's accessories made of jersey and toothpicks, but during my 30 ideas in 30 minute brainstorm I came up with the idea for a giant pair of sleeves that run the length of the wearer's body, suspending their arms in a hanging/droopy motion. In my initial brainstorm there was a weight in the middle of the torso pulling the sleeves down to help them sit better on the shoulders, however after deciding to work with tracing paper (to make the sleeves transparent, creating interesting shapes and shadows with the flesh underneath) I thought it would be best to not use the weight, and just have a strap across the back between the shoulders instead.
I began cutting the shape for the sleeves by layering up four sheets of tracing paper, and cutting them the length of my body (178cm.) After the sleeves had all been cut, I folded each of them individually (using one of the techniques I learnt from Paul Jackson's book Folding Techniques for Designers from Sheet to Form during Fashion and Textiles last week) and then sellotaped them into pairs at the seams (right sides together.) Sellotape was a good method of adhesion as it supported and reinforced the tracing paper at the points where it would bear most weight/pressure, but also was transparent so it didn't effect the translucency of the paper or the shadows created by the arms. After flipping them, I attached a strap to the back with sellotape, and they were ready. It was quite a simple process mainly due to the basic materials I was using, but I thought that the paper folding could easily be developed further to incorporate different kinds of pleats or folding patterns, or with different materials, such as organza. I tried ironing a sample when I got home and the pleats held really well because they were almost burnt into the fabric, so I thought this piece could easily be developed further on a larger scale with fabric.
Once the designing and making process was (relatively quickly) finished, I really enjoyed photographing the sleeves in an interesting setting. I chose the stairwell in CSM because the light was so good, and the stripes on the windows were evocative of the pleats on the sleeves. The silhouette of the accessory was highlighted especially well when photographed with the windows behind, and it was interesting to play around with different positions and ways of draping the sleeves around the stairwell.
Exploring silhouette with different lighting angles helped me understand how the translucency of the sleeves had become a crucial feature in their design, which was something I had only briefly considered when choosing the material of tracing paper to work with. This aspect of the photoshoot made me realise that I could easily develop the design further by manipulating sheer organza (as I did in a fabric tester this evening.) If I had more time and more fabric I would construct the sleeves again, this time out of organza so the folds could be burnt into it. I also thought I could change/develop the types of shadows created with the arms/sleeves by embroidering onto the organza, which would also alter the weight and drape -which might have more interesting (heavier?) results.
The behaviour of the sleeves when the wearer moved her arms also raised itself as an important part of the accessory, and again made me think of organza as the ideal fabric to start working with because it is so lightweight and will drag through the air, slowing down movement when the wearer flaps her arms. One setback of using organza as opposed to tracing paper however was the sound made whenever Zoe moved her arms, as the scrunching/crinkling/rustling sounds accompanying the movement almost elevated the sleeves into a kind of performance piece. I really liked how in the photographs the sleeves seemed to dwarf the body, and this also made me think about scale (as well as the performative aspect of the piece) and what the effects would be if I were to enlarge the sleeves even more.
Nu descendant un escalier No.2, by Marcel Duchamp 1912
The feedback my photographs got from Helmert was also really useful, as he said that these particular images reminded him of Marcel Duchamp's painting Nude Descending a Staircase No.2, which I felt linked well because of all the photos' linear qualities (the folds,the stairs, the window) and the way the sleeves placed an emphasis on the motion of the wearer, whilst simultaneously distorting these movements. I recorded a short film of her descending the bottom of the stairs, which I put on the moving image page as a demonstration of the relationship between the wearer's downward motion and the linear qualities of the sleeves as the interacted with this and the stairs.
I am unsure if the resultant outcome linked back very well to the initial idea of Balance, mainly due to the lightness and transparency of the tracing paper but also my earlier decision to not use a weight in the centre and simply opt for a single strap across the shoulder blades. I felt the outcome could be a conceptual departure from Suspend however, as the accessory suspended the wearer's arm movements in the air, and in the photographs (when hung over the stairs) the pleats on the sleeves seemed to suspend Zoe's downward motion.
Overall, today was a really enjoyable project which made me realise how important it is for my working process to focus on the body. I really like that there are limitations and setbacks created by the shapes and angles of the human form, and I think that it is an interesting site for problem solving as working within constraints often results in pushing yourself further, and achieving more interesting outcomes in the end.
During today's Use It project I developed ideas based on primary research, as well as secondary (the powerpoint presentation given to us on iconic chair designs over the past century.) After producing 10 quick observational sketches of people sitting on and using chairs and benches in spaces around the CSM site, I noticed that a majority of the people sat working (especially those who were working over skecthbooks and laptops) had incredibly bad posture, and I thought this was a problem that could easily be addressed in my design development. I wanted to make a chair that would ergonomically comfortable in order to increase the productivity of the user, as I also noticed people leaning back from their work to switch positions or stopping to stretch, and I thought these potentially time-wasting actions could be avoided if the chair was designed for maximum comfort whilst working.
After observing all these people hunched over, I also thought about how when doing embroidery or working at my desk it was uncomfortable to be constantly hunched a result of looking down, which then gave me the idea of attaching an adjustable work surface to the chair, which could be adjusted so the user could secure their sketchbook vertically in front of them, rather than at a downward angle that would cause neck/back ache. Keeping ergonomics and comfort in mind, I also thought it would be useful to incorporate a footrest that could fold out from underneath the chair, allowing the user to rest their legs fully when focusing on the work their hands were producing, enabling them to lean back and achieve better posture. I was also partially inspired by the spongy chair design by Bernotat and Co named the Knit-Net, which gave me the idea of using memory foam/padding to help improve the user's posture. From personal experience of back-ache when attempting embroidery (even when lying in bed or on the sofa,) I set about creating "The Ultimate Sewing Chair" for all creatives who sought out a comfortable workspace alternative to the desk arrangement.
After being given a basic sketch model of the Robin Day chair to develop, I first decided to develop the chair structurally by adding in the footrest and the support from underneath:
This was fairly easy enough, however in hindsight I am unsure if one leg would be enough to realistically support the leg weight of the user- perhaps it would be necessary to have three arranged in a triangle, or if it was one it would have to be much stronger and with a larger surface area at the bottom. I next added in wadding to show where the memory foam, which I thought also added a softer aesthetic quality to the chair (making it look more inviting and homely, rather than an uncomfortable work chair.)
After adding padding and structural developments for greater comfort, I then considered features to add in that would improve the usability of the chair, in order to maximise the potential of the person working in it. I first spent some time designing the work surface, which I realised would require straps to secure the sketchbook/piece of work on if there was the possibility of being positioned vertically, and so i thought that velcro would be the best possible solution (after briefly considering tie-straps, which I thought would be unreliable and arduous to repeatedly keep attaching your work to.) I also realised that some sort of storage compartment would be a necessity, as often when working artists tend to use multiple materials, and would need a draw/tray attached to the worktop that could store them when tilted both vertically and horizontally. I initially thought about a kind of pouch, but then decided that a slide out tray would be more secure, and so in my initial tester (see below) I constructed a little tray for storing pens/materials etc.
After designing features for the worktop, it also occurred to me that when working on close up pieces of embroidery (or most other kinds of drawing/design work) good lighting is an essential part of your working environment. For this reason I chose to add in an adjustable overhead lamp, that could be moved around to create the correct lighting (and could be raised/lowered for when the worktop is horizontal or vertical.) The lamp also introduced a different aesthetic quality to my design, and the feedback from my peers/tutors suggested that it reminded them of an anglerfish. I really liked this aspect of the design, and thought that the angler-fish theme could be pushed further when designing the surface of the chair- perhaps a fish-scale print fabric covering the memory foam on the seat? Or potentially a scale design etched into the plastic on the back of the chair? Overall,I was fairly pleased with the final result as it remained true to the sketches I'd created in my book, and was a product I would very much love to use myself.
Overall, today's project was useful in enabling me to take a very literal approach to problem solving through design, as it was satisfying to observe a problem people faced while working around CSM (hunching over and having bad posture) and then trying to address this issue with my chair. Once again, it reaffirmed my love of working around the body and designing with the human form in mind (like the sleeves I made yesterday for Wear It) and has made me consider choosing 3D design and architecture as an alternative option to the Fashion and Textiles pathway (which I think will remain my first choice.) While my chair design can definitely be developed further into a larger scale model, I am satisfied with the results of today and am looking forward to continue working with models and in three dimensions.