Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Changing the Paradigm

I am very tired and feel that I haven't done enough work this week.  I never seem to do enough.  How much is enough?  No practise either.  Oh well.  Haven't progressed any further with Ms Rothstein.  Where does the time go?  Went to the British Library to renew my membership and they would not accept my passport as proof of address (I'd left my driving license in Hotel Saxelhus on my trip to Copenhagen and haven't got it together to get another)!  Argghhh what a waste of time.  So my plan to read Bourdieu in peace has been thwarted.  Can't say I am that disappointed.

This week has been very interesting as I read the most fascinating essay by Kate Fletcher.  I've read it before but like with so many things this time I thought about it differently.    'System change for sustainability in textiles' and it is part of a group of essays in the book,  'Sustainable Textiles:  life cycle and environmental impact'.  Basically, there are many ways to reduce energy, oil, water, packaging but what would really help would be to change our relationship with the whole system.  It is very interesting but where it led me was that I have decided to try and understand historically the system of manufacturing textiles.  How is it that the system of manufacturing textiles and fashion has got to this place?  

I have begun reading a series of essay on 'Textile History and Economic History' edited by N B Harte and K G Ponting. Of course I love it.  Immediately what strikes me is that textiles have always been created  using a variety of different structures in order to pull the final product together.  Silk, the fibre was imported before weaving likewise with cotton.  Even in the period before the industrial revolution when yarn was 'put out' and weaving was a domestic industry, the end product was created from a whole series of processes.  Here we are now in our current situation which appears to be a cumulative extension of what originally started many centuries before.  

The Englishman's clothes, Thomas Dekker claimed (writer of the Seuen Deadly Sinnes of London (1606), The Non Dramatic Works of Thomas Dekker, ed.  Alexander Grosard (privately printed in 1885) vol. 2 29-60)  claimed

"An English-man's suite is like a traitors bodie that hath beene hanged, drawne and quartered, and set up in seuerall places:  the collar of his doublet and the belly in France; the wing and narrow sleeue in Italy; the short waist hangs over a Dutch bothers stall in Utrich; his huge sloppes speakes Spanish;  Polonia gives him his bottes; the blocke for his head alters faster than the feltmaker can fit him".

How fabulous is that depiction!  That illustrates fashion but what I am beginning to comprehend is that even before the clothes were made up the fibres very likely were imported, and piece work was everywhere so how can we change a system that has been with us since the beginning of time?  

Beautiful old label, sadly out of focus as it was snapped on my phone 

The interesting aspect is that in my research I am realising that the garments where altered and restructured generally in the home or a work place.  Maybe it is possible to shift the paradigm albeit at a final stage - maybe it was always there but has just been lost in the last 30 years.

And as for bring the manufacturing process back to 'Great Britain'.  I believe so strongly in having a textile manufacturing system in Britain.  About a year ago I watched a documentary on catch up telly (BBC Wales) about the women who had worked at the Burberry factory which  before it was closed was  situated in Wales.  The programme documented what they are now doing 2 years after it was shut down.   Some are employed, some have retired and some were still out of work but what these women missed as much as the money was the camaraderie, friendship, chats, the Christmas lunch. etc  We have now got vast pockets of unemployment in this country but I really do believe that the free market has  left so many people standing in the cold.  The loss of skills, mental and physical health and dare I say it, the 'cultural capital' is being stripped from our society.  That's just me babbling but I really do believe very strongly that we need to support our own people.  There's an interesting article in Eco Textile News this month about the production of outdoor clothing and it being made outside of the US and the lack of control regulations for the workers.  I just skimmed the article but the writer was basically saying what I think but from a US angle.

Man's shoes - photo snapped on the train

Finally, before I sign off, on my way back from CSM the other day, I was sitting on the Met line and this old boy got on the train.  He was in his 70s or even 80s and he had these fantastic shoes on.  They really curled up at the toes and had brass (probably composite) buckles.  He was a very natty dresser and even had stripy socks on.  He didn't look eccentric or over the top you could just tell that in his time he really had loved his clothes and still did.  The shoes are probably from the 70s.

Books that I am Reading.
Harte, N.B. Ponting, K.G (1973) Textile History and Economic History, Essays in Honour of Miss Julia de Lacy Mann.  Manchester University Press
And For Fun
Pidgeon English by Stephen Kelman.  In the end I loved this book.  I think it could possibly have been edited down a bit but it was so well crafted and I loved all the characters.  A really good read.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Half Term Hiatus

A reluctant pause in my studies has been brought about by half term.  My 10 year old has been away from school so not only did I take days off work, I didn't study much for my PhD either.  However, I did bake lots of cup cakes, chocolate chip cookies and even went to see the 'Muppet Movie'.  I just couldn't face 'Star Wars:  The Phantom Menace' in 3D!  I went on a day trip to Cambridge.  Me and my older son took my nephew out for lunch.  I had never been to Cambridge and now have a little secret fantasy that once I am a Dr maybe I could get paid to teach there!!!! (Ha Ha) I loved it, what a gorgeous town.

Back to my work.  I did attend two mornings of RNUAL and heard some interesting confirmation presentations.  I particularly found Morna Laing's presentation on the depiction of the 'child woman in the fashion press' very interesting.  She uses a form of 'discourse analysis' to pull her participant observations together.  I will look into that as it could be relevant for my own research.  I heard Emma Rigby talk.  What is interesting is that two of her participants have altered their trial garments.  I won't go into Emma's presentation, I know all about it however if I do have any interested readers, Emma Rigby and she looking into designing clothes to minimise laundry use.  Two of her participants have adapted their garments.  One had removed the press studs and sewn on buttons and created button holes.  This is a fair amount of work. The button holes had been finished; on a machine or by hand I am not sure.  Another participant had dyed her merino wool undershirt, green.  Now that could be complicated.  So what I am beginning to conclude is that these participants were not afraid to engage and adapt their garments.  This was done without prompting.  She had no idea that they could even sew.  I did question Emma on how she selected her participants.   It was done through advertising, putting up notices on Gum Tree etc so they weren't necessarily a bunch of like minded people.  It is definitely food for my thought.

My Work
It has been very minimal this week.  However, I have been reading Natalie Rothstein.  It is so interesting.   So much work went into the production of this highly decorative woven silk.  My gown, Nancy's gown, Queen Charlotte's gown was produced by the weavers 'Batchelor, Ham and Perigal' and Ms Rothstein mentions their names several times in the opening chapter.  Apparently, one small town in northern France contributed a disproportionate number of migrants, whose family entered the 'Flowered Silk Branch' of the industry, the 'Perigals' being one of them.  I find it very exciting when I touch the silk to actually think that it was woven by these extremely skilled workman who were part of chain of migrants escaping persecution.  Here, I am in 2012 touching it and taking photos on my phone!  I can feel the history!  Literately.  So I  am beginning to contextualise my gown.  There is a book of samples from 'Batchelor, Ham and Perigal' in the V & A.  I think I must visit it.  If they will let me.

Here's a quote that I underlined, as it made me view the patterns in her book from a different perspective.  What I am trying to say is that it is easy to flick through and admire the beautiful designs, photographs and view them as works of art, which of course is what they are but they were originally designed to be sold.

'They are not, however, pretty patterns to be admired, or not in isolation - they had to work technically and they had to sell'.  Rothestein, N.  p17 Silk Designs of the 18th Century

Mercantile capitalism, it was serious stuff.  An apprentice silk weaver spent seven years as a draw boy training!

Bourdieu and Distinction
Oh no.  I had to give the book back to the library.  Someone else wanted it.  Blimey, can't say I was too sorry to take a break from that book.  Here's what I have understood so far.  Taste is manifested in everything people do and possess.

'the basis of all that one has- people and things - and all that one is for others' Bourdieu, P. p56 Distinction

I think I am going to sit in the British Library, where there are no distractions, tap into the collective conscience of concentration that sits in a fug above all those studious scholars  and work that book out 'cos I know it's relevant to me.

Books I am Reading
I am fed up with Pigeon English.  It's great and I love the the main character but there is so much dialogue primarily between teenagers.  I live with two teenagers, enough is enough already!  It's driving me a bit mad.  I might give it up.

I was given 'Love on the Dole' (Walter Greenwood) for Christmas maybe I'll go there.  Set in northern England the 1930s,  it tackles the subject of unemployment and various social issues.  Could be useful.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

A Cold Snowy Week In London

I sit here very cold, in my little room, still in my pyjama's (socks and thermals underneath and feet placed on dog for warmth) whilst I write my weekly research journal. I have a ritual that I get up early every Sunday whilst the rest of the family sleeps and I crack on.

What happened this week?  Apart from snowing, I went to hear Jonathan Chapman of 'Emotionally Durable Design' speak at CSM alongside Becky Earley and Carole Collet.  Apart, from the room being about 100 degrees and drying my eyes out and making me feel sleepy, it was very interesting.  He appears very laid back and relaxed , telling us to just focus on the one bit of the world that we can change!  So that's what I am going to do! I like him and his book (above) it is a very interesting read.  Here's a quote which is very much relevant to me and my approach to design.

Everyday objects that engage the senses invade our lives and literally depend upon our care and attention in order to survive.  Designers must aim to increase the intensity and perceptibility of subject-object dependency, enabling products to achieve and more immersive modes of prolonged user engagement.

Jonathan Chapman, Emotionally Durable Design 2005 (p.81)
Becky Earley, my director of studies, was sadly unwell so we were one down.  All went well and it was most useful, Kay Politowitz present along with Linda Sandino.  I showed my 2 half size garments.  I was a little disappointed with the outcome of my 1940s influenced dress (it bears no resemblance to a garment from the 1940s but the inspiration came from Ms Rogers and an old shirt of my mother's).  The pattern was not quite right and the collar didn't fall correctly but as the collar was only sewn on about an 2 hours before the actual tutorial so it was just one of those things.  I will correct it.

The garments are,  the 1973 inspired dress that can be restyled by unpicking and removing the sleeves and collar.  This I suppose, doesn't have to be a permanent change but the act of unpicking and re-sewing is a quite a significant decision.

All the fabric used in both sample pieces were off cuts.  The cotton used here was a lovely fabric, so easy to cut and sew.  There was hardly any fraying and ironed beautifully too.  In reality, this type of cloth is an ideal material for this methodology as it is so easy to work with.

All seams on the inside of the garment are french seams.  The dress can theoretically be restyled into 9 different garments.  Personally, I like my own version made and lined in silk.  I wore it to a party and was voted the best dress person there!! Only about 30 people at the party though so not such a feat!

The collar is not right as the front is supposed to gather into the neck and the collar will curve downward.  I will re cut the pattern and think about using another type of fabric as the chiffon was very difficult to work with.  I think this style will work better made into a full size garment.

The dress is designed (should have put pics the other way around) to turn in to a blouse.
 In the skirt of the dress is room enough for two sleeves to be cut.  I have made the pattern for the shirt and sleeves (the shirt comes out of the dress but I don't want to cut this dress up as it is a sample) but haven't had the chance for it to be constructed.
I have made a sample of the sleeves which are similar to some sleeves to be found on a Biba dress from the 1970s.  The sleeves will be quite full with tie cuffs. The ties can be materialised from the belt.  More will be revealed once it is constructed.
It is so easy for me to feel disappointed and not finish this garment because it didn't work out in reality to the garment that I had in my mind's eye but I will carry on and draw it to its natural conclusion.

Print - I must quickly jot this down, before I forget, Kay Politowitz,  talked to me about the print on the garments.  The garments have been made from scraps so of course the print looks much larger than if the garments were full size.  Additionally, she has inspired me to think about printing my own fabric and utilising a change in print design as part of the garment metamorphosis.  Is that a good word?  Metamorphosis instead of adaptation.  I need to think about it.

This journal came about from a recommendation in the book 'Visualising Research:  A Guide to the Research Process in Art and Design' by Carole Gray and Julian Malins.  Now my next step has been to create a contextual review mind map.  Blimey, it nearly sent me insane as I created it on my new Adobe CS5 Illustrator program.  I watched an hour and half of on line tutorials and still found it very confusing.  I kept turning my little bubble things solid black.  ( I wanted to scream!) It's all a learning curve, a frustrating one at that.  The colours don't really mean anything except that the pink bubbles are practise related.

Books I am Reading
Bourdieu, P.  Distinction (1979) A social Critique of the Judgement of Taste
I am struggling with this book, the language is intense and confusing but I totally comprehend and agree with what I am reading (dare I say this though?  Maybe some of the research is a bit out of date now. I don't know I am not a sociologist).  The acquisition of knowledge is a very important.  Taste, knowledge, consumption - it is very closely linked.  I will read on.
I haven't even looked at Natalie Rothstein for 2 weeks now nor opened Digital LR Cameras & Photography for Dummies however I have started reading (I'll put it in it proper bibliographic format)
Prown, J D. (1982) Mind in Matter:  An Introduction to Material Culture Theory and Method.  Winterthur Portfolio Vol.17, No.1
Now, this is interesting and good to read for those like myself studying garments within the museum context.
And for pleasure....
Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman.  I am really enjoying it.

This week,  I will focus on my existing books, read them and not start any new ones.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Preparation For Tutorial

I am very busy trying to prepare for my tutorial.  I really need to focus.  I want to show them two 1/2 size garments.  One is constructed and the other is still in pattern pieces.  I did the stupidest thing the other day.  I was cutting out my pattern and in true Matty style, I decided to make the dress from silk chiffon.  Why silk chiffon? Well, of course, it's because I love it and I couldn't resist it but really it's not helpful. Anyway, I carefully laid out the chiffon, easing and blowing out any creases, lying it between brown paper and tissue paper.  I cut the back out on the fold and then in a moment of complete madness, lost my concentration and decided to neaten up the brown paper to which the piece was lying and I sliced the CB right down the middle. Man oh man!!  One CB ruined in a second.  Thank God it wasn't a full size garment.  I write this just to remind myself of the pitfalls of losing one's concentration.  Anyway garments progress.....

This morning, I had a brain wave.  I was hanging out some linen that had been washed in my home (my husband was washing the lengths to get rid it of the dressings etc) when my light bulb went on.  Aha!!  Forget the silk chiffon, linen is the way to go.  Of course it is.  I've been staring at an unpicked 18th century linen bodice so of course I must use linen.  These linen lengths came from Spence Bryson in Ireland.  Funny as I just looked them up and their site says they are a hankerchief manufacturer.  This linen is fine and gorgeous and I think will gather beautifully.

Additionally, I am trying to formulate a mind map showing my literature/contextual review.  Although, it's totally not the way I think, it's very useful and guess what I am going to create it in AI (Adobe Illustrator  ha ha).  I've no idea what I am doing but now with my new Adobe Creative Suite installed, I've got to use it.  By the way, on the subject of mind maps, we had a really informative session with Dr Caroline Gardiner and in her handout she suggested using a free software package called Compendium.  Well, I am sure it's brilliant but I wasted an hour and a half trying to figure out how to put my work on it and still couldn't do it.   My mind map is formulating my way forward and clearly outlining that I have wasted some valuable time reading irrelevant literature, irrelevant to my research.  Good literatutre but not needed for me.  Annoying.

I've only got one more drawing lesson with Celia at CSM.  I've loved it so much.  Life drawing all day Saturday is so relaxing.  I've learnt so much.  She's a brilliant teacher and I love all the people in my class.  I wish it wouldn't end but...........  Being a PhD student is so fabulous 'cos it's an excuse to do all these extra things in the name of research.   One girl flies in from Bucharest each weekend for this class. Blimey.

Clothing for Sale in Organic market in Olargues, South West France

Taste, the idea of taste.  What's good taste?   Good and bad taste in clothing is  linked in with identity (and in my opinion branding).  When I was in the South of France, this summer, I went to an organic market.  Apart from being incredibly expensive, without thinking I bought the most expensive melon in the whole of Europe (8 euros!), there were clothes stalls and yes, they were selling your typical organic clothing.  Revolting.  The cotton was undyed and constructed in France but no normal person would truly want to wear it.  Here's the thing, it's only the truly committed who will wear this type of clothing and as a designer I want to create clothing that the committed/half committed and not really committed want to buy because they are lovely, stylish and wearable.   Clothing that doesn't say "I'm committed [to the cause] and only wear this type of clothing because I am committed!!!"  I am thinking on the page but I think it's very important.  I have started reading 'Distinction' by Bourdieu to get a clearer understanding to arguments and theories around 'taste'.

 In the opening paragraph of the introduction is a quote by Paul Claude, from Le soulier de satin

"Take one of our good pupils, for example:  modest and diligent, from his earliest grammar classes he's kept a little notebook for  phrases.
After hanging on the lips of his teachers for twenty years, he's managed to build up an intellectural stock in trade; doesn't it belong to him as if it were a house, or money"

That quote really resignated with me.  Maybe it obvious but it leads on to the whole concept of that question.  How do we acquire taste and style?

Books I am Reading?
Digital SLR for Dummies.  I will master my camera.
Distinction:  A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste by Pierre Bourdieu
Silk Designs of the 18th Century by Natalie Rothstein
and whilst pattern cutting I always consult Metric Pattern Cutting by Winifred Aldrich.
And for pleasure, I have just finished The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (what a book that is).  There is a paragraph where a young Russian greets our narrator.  His clothing is described as being made of brown Holland and has been patched beautifully.  The patches are exquisite colours and patterns (African obviously) but what the narrator notices is how beautifully they are been sewn.  To me that is interesting - a man commenting, in a book about the neatness of the stitches in the patching of a garment.  I know Richardson writes about sewing all the time in 'Pamela' but here we are about 150 years later ....
Not sure where I am going with this.