Dissertation Proposal

Within my dissertation I plan to evaluate the effectiveness that craftivism has had on implementing social justice throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.  

Over the past weeks I have been able to continually come back to my dissertation proposal and be able to effectively and coherently change and build on my initial ideas.  From reading The Subversive Stitch last summer, I was able to find out about Craftivists Sarah Corbett and Betsy Greer; it was from here that my ideas began to grow and change into a topic that I could not be happier to write my dissertation on.  I gathered book from the university library, along with online journals and articles to start to piece together what I want to argue in my dissertation.

When I started this proposal, I had about 5 books and 7 online sources, I couldn’t fathom how I would be able to find any more than that, let alone the 50 different books that are accustomed to dissertation writing. However I tried to put this from my mind while I was writing, and sooner than I through I had a full page bibliography and still more to add in.

My meeting with Ashley a few weeks ago really helped with the writing of my proposal. I was able to finally see the different between writing an essay and writing a dissertation. The dissertation needs to be much more analytical with all facts and suggestions backed up from reliable sources. This helped to change the tone of my proposal, to sound more confident in my argument.

I actually really liked finding sources to back up my theories; I looked at books and articles from online newspapers about activism, social justice and the resurgence in craft and was really excited to see that there actually was evidence to the points that I has been making in my proposal.  I had to turn to newspapers more and more through the writing of my proposal. I have been including different craftivist projects within my proposal to make my point about how craftivism can be used to effect change within society, and one of the projects that I am looking into is so new, that it doesn’t have any books or journal articles written about it. I was quite concerned with this because I was getting all my information from newspapers, which are quite biased, whereas scholarly articles tend to evaluate all sides of their argument. Thankfully I didn’t have to rely just on newspapers, blog entries could be found on the craftivist websites also, which helped me to gather the facts I needed to suppose my argument.

The way that I wrote my proposal was that I took each aspect of what I was writing about – activism, social justice, craft and its resurgence, Sarah Corbett, Betsy Greer and the presence of male craftivists – and wrote them as if I was writing a short essay on each. While this was really useful because I was able to explore the different points I was making, when I came to putting these into my actually proposal structure, I found that I had far too many words. This then presented a new challenge, cutting out what I didn’t need. I was quite happy to keep everything that I had written but the word count wouldn’t allow this, so I started to critically read through what I had written, and cut out the parts that were either not needed, or where I had repeated myself but just in different words; this took almost as long as writing the actually words I was cutting.

While I was deciding on the different topics that I was going to be adding into my background research I came across a hitch in the road. I had planned to look into the Canadian Revolutionary Knitting Circle, but when I started to look into them in more detail, I found that they had sort of dropped off the face of the earth. I couldn’t find anything about them past 2008, their website had been taken offline and this really had me starting to worry. I now would have to start my research over and find someone else to take their place.

The main reason that I wanted to look into the Revolutionary Knitting Circle was because it was founded by a man. In a dissertation about how craftivist can change society to make it more equal for everyone, I wanted to have both male and female Craftivists in my argument. While craftivism seems to quite predominantly feminine, which it is, there are male craftivists, just not a lot. I had to find a male crafter that wasn’t only a craftivist, but was a craftivist that was out to change the society we live in. That made my search so much more difficult.

I was able to replace the one group, the Revolutionary Knitting Circle, with two male craftivist, John-Paul Flintoff, and Jamie Chalmers. Both of which have been participants in some of the craftivist projects that I have been looking into. I thought that this was perfect; not only where they men, but they had also been part of projects that I had already written about, thus cementing them into my dissertation rather than flinging a few male craftivists at the end!

I’m really looking forward to when I’m going to be looking further into these craftivists and the different projects that they have been involved in. I have really enjoyed gather research and piecing together my argument; that being said, reading the same words over and over and over again gave me a sort of mental block at finding any errors or mistakes that needed to be changed, but I never got tired of reading my confident, analytical dissertation and thinking ‘I actually wrote that!’.


London Design Week

On Thursday 17th March, we all went on a visit to Chelsea to see London Design Week in the person. Three floors full of different companies that were displaying the designs that they had created for the upcoming season. It was really inspiring to see the colours that were surrounding us, and how they had combined colours to create really effective colour schemes.IMG_2172

We were able to look through the different fabrics and wallpapers and to see how each different company had arranged their designs in displays, to see the collections and the coordinating designs, it was all very exciting. On the top floor however, seeming hidden away, was my favourite area, the tiles!

There were two or three different tile shops which were stunning in themselves, but they also happened to have mineral tiles in their displays! It’s safe to say I got over exiting and was contemplating on how I would be able to smuggle them away under my top.


Sadly I wasn’t able to order samples of the tiles which would have been a really lovely addition to my end of year display, though I did manage to snap a few photos that I can stare at longingly for the time being. Once I had thoroughly scoured the whole designs show, I went to the V&A museum, via one of the curtsey cars outside the design show (never have I felt so posh in my life, not to mention there was two designers in the car with me at the time!), to have a look at inspiring displays there too before being picked up an shipped back home, sans tiles.


Mineral Spirit – Reflective Statment on the 12 Designs of my Collection


During November/December 2015, I undertook a work placement with architect Richard Weston that massively impacted my collection. With background research on my client and the upcoming trends on WGSN, I was able to use my work placement to further my design ideas to a much greater extent than I had imagined. While on my work placement I was constantly observing and learning about minerals; I was able to see their beauty and to let this beauty inspire me; this is what sparked the ideas that I built upon during the creation of this collection.

With this new inspiration, I wanted to experiment with as many techniques as I could. I have a love of printing but I didn’t want this preference to hinder my designing in any way, so I chose to explore and experiment, and I was able to fully embrace my abilities as a textile designer within the creation of this collection. I revisited techniques that I learnt last year and was able to build upon what I had already know; I also used techniques that were new to me, such as digital stitch.

I’ve felt really free to experiment within the creation of this collection. My inspiration was something completely new to me and I wanted to embrace all aspects of textiles so as to find the best techniques that fitted with my style, the collection and the company that I have chosen to design for, Kelly Wearstler.

With a keen focus of mark-making and luxury items, Kelly Wearstler caters for both the residential and contract market. It is the latter that I am aiming this collection at. I have also taken my inspiration from marks and patterns in nature, and this has helped me to know that I have been taking this collection in the right direction. I have mimicked Kelly Wearstler use of luxury materials, creating this collection with the aid of both cottons and linens; I have also kept to their preferred colour scheme, while adding hits of colours from my chosen trend.

While designing this collection I used both the inner and outer structure of minerals as influence; small fissure called dendrites, the abstract nature of quartz and the angular outer surfaces of the minerals themselves. Each elicited different ideas from me, making my collection a compilation of mineral themed designs. With each different design I wanted to incorporate every aspect of the mineral, including their inner beauty; the layers within each mineral gives great inspiration on how to add texture and layers into my own designs, this has helped me to constantly develop my collection.

My collection includes a number of different designer techniques which I have been able to explore, experiment with and combine. I’ve used techniques such as;

  • Painting
  • Screen-printing
  • Digital printing
  • Machine embroidery
  • Digital embroidery
  • Applique
  • Fabric manipulation

Recently I’ve really wanted to experiment with fabric manipulation, having never used the technique before, I thought it would be a great way of showcasing the different visual effects that are found within mineral structures. I experimented with hand and machine manipulation, and digitising the results, which has been a really great undertaking. It has opened a new door for me into designer techniques which I plan to fully utilise in the future.

From graphic structure designs to abstract experiments, I have explored different avenues in my quest to create my twelve designs. To create effects that I had seen within minerals, and their structures I explored with both painting and marbling. Both techniques were helpful in the creation of my designs. I have been able to manipulate and experiment with them so that I could then place them into later designs, to further tie my collection together.

To bring added texture into my work I experimented with applique, and layering fabrics which I really enjoyed. I added embroidery into the mix to give detailed focal points within the designs. I then further experimented with embroidery; using this technique as a way to lift my hand printed designs, and to add that level of sophistication and elegance that is known of Kelly Wearstler.

Towards the end of my time creating this collection I was thinking less about the different aspects of what I needed to have in each designs, and instead was focused on the different techniques I could use, and enjoying these as much as I could. I feel that because of this, I have created designs freely, and have been more open to different kind of experimentation, and joining these techniques to explore the best results.

This collection has changed slightly from what I had originally planned, but I feel that this is a very positive step. I have not tried to force my collection into the set ideas I had at the beginning, instead I let myself try out different paths to see which ones conveyed my designs in the best way. I have thoroughly enjoyed using different techniques that I wouldn’t usually have during the production of my twelve designs, because I have been able to broaden my skill set and really enjoy all aspects of textile design.

I feel that my exploration into all these different avenues is clearly seen within my twelve designs. I have tried to make each design link in with my chosen company, theme and with my own personal style and feel that I have achieved this. Each one of my twelve designs is linked by the inspiration subject that I had chosen, and by techniques that I have explored. I feel that my response to each different designs has helped me to grow as a designer, considering techniques that I might not have before, and being open to explore all aspects of textile designs. This openness and willingness to experiment and develop will be extremely helpful when the time comes to further refine these designs.

Craft + Activism

Last week was my tutorial with Ashley, She was able to help me see the parts of my Dissertation that need further research and elaboration; added facts about the resurgence of craft, where it has been and a resurge in relation to what? how much has it risen and from when? all these are question that I need to find the answers to so as to give my dissertation a much more analytical stance. I also need to dig further into my idea of social justice and what this has to do with the question of my dissertation and my research.

from my meeting I have also though about adding more ‘ordinary’ acts of craftivism. at the moment I am looking at leaders of craftivist groups and I thought it might be a good contrast to see the craftivist work of ‘ordinary people’.  I’m interested in seeing how normal people have been implementing craftivism.

I now have a plan to focus on gathering facts, and if I can’t find facts, then making educated suggestions based on related evidence to support my dissertation question.

At the moment I have a basic outline and some research that is helping the direction of my dissertation. I’m really happy with the topic/subject that I have chosen, I find it really interesting and it has a depth of knowledge that I cant wait to dig into.

Mineral Spirit

Further from my tutorial on Tuesday, I’ve been working to the bone to get my collection completed and up to standard. From having manipulated my original croquis designs and mixed those with the marbling techniques I had tried out, I when on to further create the rest of my collection.

I did indeed experiment with machine embroidery on top of my hand-printed dendrite patterns and I really like the result. I feel that the now I have seen the embellished print, that there is much more elegance and interest with the added detailing, making it much more suitable for my client. From here I went onto to create two digital repeating structures that feature the dendrite patterns again, albeit in different layouts and colours; I also added some of my marbling technique which giving it more interest, can be seen better on a larger scale.

During this last week I haven’t really had time to overthink what needed to be done to complete my collection; I seemed to have acted on instinct, my ideas coming faster the less time I have to ponder them. Having been really happy with my dendrite motifs, I wanted to compliment the hand printed and machine embroidery version with some digital embroidery, which I got stitched out in two different colourways. I find that while creating my designs, what has been asked of me (different colourways, repeats and co-ords) seem to natural progress through the designs process.

Having completed ten out my twelve designs, I started to look at some of my fabric manipulation but I wasn’t happy with how they looked, or the feel of them and I couldn’t really see how I could alter them to have more of my spirit and be acceptable to my client; so I went back to the drawing board. Or rather back to my original inspiration; minerals. Using the book I was given during my first work placement with Richard Weston, I found an image of a quartz that was quite abstract but intrigued me. I could already picture in my mind the different processes I would use to create this design, so I ran with it. I found another image to compliment so that I had my last two designs, then set to work. The quartz images were quite textural, and as such I thought that adding in some of the marbling I had done would be a good way to show the difference of colours and texture with the quartz itself. I then appliquéd this onto backing fabric, used free machine embroidery for detailing, and added organzi material in-between to show how the minerals grown and how the different fissure and interest within the minerals com in different layers.

I have to say that I really love these last two designs, they are beautiful and abstract and taken right from the source of my inspiration; the mineral itself. The abstract nature of the quartz has now been mirrored in my designs.

I’m really happy with my collection. I feel that while not all of my designs necessarily match, they all have the same overarching theme of minerals. I feel that I have explored different designs avenues so as to find the best fit for myself and the client I am working for.

Marble Me This

Another Tuesday, and another day in which my designs have been influenced and changed; for the better. Today I had a tutorial with Keireine. During this tutorial I was able to really think on what aspects of my experiments I liked the best, and from what Keireine said, I needed to tweak my designs so that they had more soul in them.

It’s all well and good creating loads of designs but if they don’t speak of me and my style then they’re not really relevant are they?

So what I really loved about these croquis samples was the focus on the form of the minerals, and the marbling effect. I think that these two element together create a better sense of the overall mineral than they do apart.

I was given ideas on how I could further develop my existing designs, and I plan to do just that. On my hand printed designs I agree that the blunt line down the middle needs to be softened and I plan to do this by machine embroidering the dendrite pattern on top of the printed designs. I think that it will close the gap with the embroidery and I will be able to see how this effects that outlook of the design.

Again I agree that the samples that have manipulated edging where too plain and generic. Somehow I need to find a way to incorporate a sense of the minerals I’m working from, and a sense of myself into the designs. I plan to experiment with adding more threads and different textures into the cording samples, as suggested by Keireine, to see if they better emulates the inner structures of my minerals.

As for my digitally transformed fabric manipulation, I’m really pleased with how they look, and was glad to see that when Keireine saw them, she reached out to touch the manipulation only to find it was a flat design. This is exactly the reaction I was looking for, that illusion of manipulation mistaken for the real thing. I really loved working with hand-crafted manipulation and then digitally transforming tem, and the effect that they have afterwards. I plan to experiment with this further with both these techniques.

From here I set to work on incorporating the effect of marbling into my croquis designs. I was able to keep the graphic nature of my motif, and mix them with the free-flowing effects of marbling.

I used different coloured inks, along with different ways of dropping and mixing the inks into water to elicit different results. The black ink was by far the most prominent ink, floating on the top of the water whereas the other coloured inks dropped to the bottom of the dish. This effected the way in which I experimented because I was conscious that the black wielded the best results, therefor it was in the fore of most all my experiments.

Once the samples where dry, I scanned them into the computer, and started to manipulate them in Photoshop, where I was able to change the scale and colour to better suit the production of my designs. I took the layout from my original designs and mixed them with the marbling samples I has created. The mineral structures are still the prominent feature within these designs, but instead of looking like flat designs, I believe that the marbling effects gives them much more life and texture, making them more interested and better suited to my client.


Croquis Designs – evaluate and critique 

I’ve decided to name this week Croquis Week; from Tuesday onwards I have been designing, experimenting and creating croquis. 

On Tuesday there was a lecture about croquis which helped a lot with all the niggling confusion about what I was aiming to create; sizes where talked about, layout, as well as coordinates (which I had been struggling with) and then tasks were set. From your motifs, experiment with layouts before finally painting a croquis, using gouache paints. 

I wasn’t happy with the motifs I had to start making my croquis straight away, so I went back to the images I had gathered and started a fresh, and what a good idea that had been. From these motifs, and my tutorial with Helen, I was inspired and wanted to start creating. 

Firstly was working with layouts, I photocopied my motifs and started to play with layout using photoshop. I find it much easier, and faster to consider different layout approaches on Photoshop. Once I had pinned down a layout that I was really itiching to paint, I set to work. While painting each different colour, I created colour chips which I could then display with the finished croquis. 

With the help of my hairdryer, the overall process was much quicker that it could have been. The background was easy, the next layers not so much. I found it quite difficult to keep the graphic nature of my motifs while using paints and a brush, but once the whole thing was completed, I still liked what I saw. I think the colours work well together, although if I could, I would have had a lighter background. One thing I can say is that while I was painting, I couldn’t help but think how I would be able to change little bits, like the background colour, easily on photoshop. But once I’d seen the overall effect of the hand painted croquis, I could definitely see the difference between something created by hand, and something created digitally. Not that I couldn’t see the difference before, but because I’ve been working a lot with photoshop I’ve stopped seeing the effect of hand painted designs. 

With my first croquis completed I moved on to the next task, which was to create the same motif but with a different process; I chose collage. 

I love paper. Coloured paper, patterned paper, textured paper, you name it, I love it. Searching through my paper stash I selected a few different textured and coloured papers, while making sure that it still linked in with my colour scheme, though not necessarily the first croquis. Where my painted croquis is quite refined and plain, my collage wasn’t. The papers I chose were loud and colourful, with beautiful patterns; one that compliments my work with minerals, and one I chose because of the colours and design.

I didn’t expect to like the collage but once I looked at the finished article I feel in love. The textures and colours mixed amazingly, made better but the edition of free machine embroidery on the mineral detailing. 

  The two croquis, while having the same layout were completely different to create. The collage was very fast to make; I didn’t find it difficult to chose the papers. I saw what I liked and chose it, nor did it take long to cut the shapes of the minerals. The painting took quite a while, the mixing of the right colours wasn’t fast, nor was tracing the different minerals to get them into the right position before painting the five different layers.  

While I love how the collage looks, I think that the painted croquis is much more appropriate for my client. Working for the high-end contract market, my deisgns have to be refined and sophisticated while speaking of luxury and elegance. My ‘client’ (the company I have chosen to deisgn for) Kelly Wearstler have very paired back designs, using minimal colours and marks. I feel that my original croquis would work quite well for the company, whereas the collage might be too loud and experimentative. 

From here I moved on to creating more croquis. I had started to think about what my coordinating designs could look like; because I have a tossed layout in my original croquis, I decided to go for a very set pattern of stripes. Instead if painting this croquis (which I plan to do on Friday) I spend the day embroidering it first. I already new what I wanted the deisgn to look like from my layout experiments on photoshop, so i jumped right into the creating. I decided to use appliqué and free machine embroidery to create my designs; linen made up the background of my croquis, I decided to use organzi as the base for my mineral forms. I used two different coloured threads, a golden brown for the lighter shadows and a dark brown for the outline and dark planes.  

 This technique was completely different from both painting and collage, though it was much more similar to painting. It took a lot of time and preparation, but the creation was very methodical and I enjoyed be process. The collection I am deisgns is for table linen, therefore I don’t know how appropriate embroidery is. I really liked the added texture of having different materials and surfaces mixed together but they could easily get ruined if used for what they are intended. That’s being said, I decided to take my croquis and scan it into photoshop, where I started to experiment with having the look of embroidery, which wouldn’t get ruined half as much as the real thing.

This then inspired me further. As you know I’ve been experimenting with fabric manipulation with the idea of designing table cloths, but Helen suggested that i scan in the manipulated fabric and manipulate it further digitally, so that the result would be a design that featured the look of the manipulation, but not the feel. This way the deisgn could be used for any table wear fabric. I’m really enjoying the idea and the process of creating these deceptive deisgns. I’ve experimented with different colours and have found that I’m really loving the results. 

I plan to paint my two coordinating corquis on Friday, and moving on to alternative colourways on Monday.