CCW Professor Becky Earley and the Textile Environment Design (TED) team have had a busy autumn term. As well as her work with TED, Earley is Director of the Textile Futures Research Centre based at Central Saint Martins. ‘It’s been a work whirlwind autumn for the TED team at Chelsea, as we launched our Mistra Future Fashion online exhibition with a 24-hour pop up show in the Banqueting Hall at Chelsea on 13th November,’ said Earley (to view the Textile Toolbox work and take part in a survey, visit www.textiletoolbox.com). ‘The 10 new “provotypes” (prototypes that provoke debate) suggest new materials, processes, services, systems and business models for the future sustainability of the Swedish fashion industry.
The day after the show came down I flew to Stockholm to continue with the Mistra research. Studying ancient making and repair tools in the Vasa Museum (which houses the incredible warship ship that sank on its inaugural voyage in 1628), I noted ways in which garments and accessories were made and repaired. The next task in Stockholm was to deliver a workshop for 17 fashion companies, showing them how to use the Higg Index and TED’s The TEN to redesign best-selling products in their range. The best result this year was a 41% improvement in environmental impact – not bad for a one-day workshop!
The next morning it was off to Nottingham Trent University to be a panellist for a debate titled “Is Technology Killing Hand-made Crafts?”; part of a series of events marking 170 years of the art school. Grant Gibson, editor of the Crafts Council’s magazine, chaired the debate in the Newton building. Panelists, including Tavs Jørgensen, ceramic potter and research fellow at the Autonomatic Research Group, University College Falmouth, and Christopher Breward, Professor of Cultural History at the University of Edinburgh, Principal of Edinburgh College of Art and Vice Principal of the University (Creative Arts), questioned whether there is still a place for teaching traditional craft in art and design higher education as preparation for work in today and tomorrow’s creative industries.
Early the following morning I was Glasgow bound to present the Mistra Future Fashion work at a Zero Waste Scotland event, working with the Design in Action team from Dundee University and recent CCW PhD graduate Dr Jen Ballie. I showcased the physical textile samples and garments from the exhibition and talked the audience through the online exhibition. The audience was particularly interested in the work of CCW BA Textiles graduate and TED Junior Researcher Josefin Landalv. The proposed network of 10,000 Swedish cabin weavers using discarded clothing to save it from incineration resonated with the Scottish industry stakeholders and their wool industry.
Finally, it was on to Huddersfield University and a keynote talk at the Transition Textiles conference, where I once again showed the Mistra work, but this time focussing on the journey the TED team went on from material innovation, to systems and social considerations, to the sense of the self. Titled “The ‘i’ in the Textile Toolbox Team” I presented my own work and that of CCW PhD researcher Clara Vuletich. We have both been considering insights from the field of neuroscience and the effect that meditation has on the brain, and on the textile designer working in the field of sustainability. Ehrenfeld (2008)* suggests that in order to move towards sustainability we have to become our “whole selves”, and it seemed fitting to end this busy research dissemination period with a chance to pause and reflect on the values we are instilling in our students and the real benefits of our research on our colleagues and ultimately ourselves.
The final presentation of the term is at the House of Lords on the evening of Wednesday 10 December, where I will be showing the Mistra project to the All Parliamentary Working Group for Design and Innovation.’
*Ehrenfeld, J. (2008) Sustainability by Design: A Subversive Strategy for Transforming our Consumer Culture, Yale University Press: UK