Guest Lecture with Dan Parry
This lecture was very interesting, and I’m sure very useful to someone looking to set up a commercial venture. His discussion of audience, and early adopters was very interesting, especially through the lens of Metier’s transition to Tectonic.
“It’s actually quite key–lots of people launch things because they’ve got this assumption that it’s just going to workout, and often these assumptions are proving to be invalid or untrue. What assumptions are you making about your audience? What assumptions are you making about your products or your service? And what assumptions are you making about your own ability to do this too?” (Parry 2021)
The Parry’s assumptions about Metier proved to be untrue, but the lessons they learned has formed the basis of Tectonic. One of the key aspects of user centred design I am learning is to not go in with assumptions. Letting user feedback guide your process returns results you may never have considered, or written off as non-important previously. I do feel that this is more important for collaborative and commercial projects, and that completely self initiated ideas can be more intimate spaces developed without outside interference. This depends on your outcome though – if you will have end users, at some point you must consider them!
I think Parry’s point about building an audience before the launch is very important, and have seen how communities have rallied around crowd funded campaigns to support an interest and passion. This can be combined with the concept of MVP to iterate and test an idea from the beginning. I must say that this approach is far less intimidating than deciding that every detail of a project must be fully realised and fleshed out before launch! Soft launches, MVP, and early adopter audiences can all help you develop and support an idea in an optimal way.
This led me to thinking about my audience. I was hesitant to pick my direction because I felt like this was a non-commercial project that did not have an audience, so this was a thorny question.
Initial ideas about audience-
There was none
Just my family group
After a tutorial, I reassessed. I had been thinking quite narrowly, of a research based book project supplementing a retyping of my great grandmother’s journals. Why not expand this to a broader exhibition based project? I could explore the issue of immigration, family history and seeking a connection to my sense of roots in a tactile way. As an immigrant myself, I relate to my great grandmother’s stories in a way I would not have been able to anticipate as a child reading her journals. I know that Emy did practical and artistic handicrafts, as did my other grandmother from Sweden, in addition to this another of my ancestors was a royal tailor, perhaps this is the perfect way to stitch all of my wayward threads together?
During my first module I did a project based on my little dala horse, and had researched a Swedish folk painting style called kurbits. I started looking into Swedish textiles, discovering that while many forms of handicrafts were officially recognised as folk art by the Hemslöjd Movement, quilting was not. This was because patchwork regularly used new, imported and printed fabrics. (Horton 2009) This was surprising to me as quilting was an important part of both my grandmother and great grandmother’s crafting, being both functional and beautiful. I began connecting these elements together, expanding my original plan of just researching and creating a book using my great grandmother’s journals, and instead settled on a three phase plan for an exhibition.
Three Phase Plan
1. Research and produce a book incorporating my great grandmother’s journals, possibly also include textiles – make a quilt or wall hanging
2. Collaborate with other artists and designers, to create a piece about their own immigration or migration story, or their immigrant ancestors, family history or other meaningful story.
3. A public exhibit featuring all of the pieces and showcasing an interactive “digital quilt.” Members of the public can submit their own quilt square, which can be “flipped” on a touch screen to reveal their story. This could also be hosted online far longer than the exhibition would run. In addition to this, every collaborative partner would submit their own quilt block/s to be added to a physical collaborative quilt.
Quilting and textiles such as tapestries have a long history of bringing communities together, from social occasions such quilting bees, to social justice campaigns such as the so called “Pants Quilt” (actual title – “Sunday Morning” by Nikki Matthews Hunter) a beautiful quilt made from donated pairs of formal trousers worn by women across the world in a movement called “Wear Pants to Church Day“. Such a simple action, but a strong cultural campaign that received a huge amount of backlash and vitriol. By harnessing the power of traditional female crafts, Hunter unlocked the beauty of the day and created a piece of artwork as meaningful as it is emotive. Tapestries have also been a powerful tool, capturing a time and place, recording historical events or simply telling a story. Tapestries were often collaborative projects, taking years of time to develop.
The Migrant Quilt Project creates quilts commemorating migrants who have lost their lives attempting the border crossing into America.
In this blog post about attending the 2019 Quiltcon by the Modern Quilt Guild, you can see a great many wonderful social justice quilts in the under 18’s category. Quilting is a vibrant artform, producing tactile emotional responses in viewers.
Judy Chicago is another artist who famously uses textiles and quilts in her work. Her project the International Honor Quilt is made up of 539 individual triangular quilt blocks honouring women. The quilt is a collaborative project, with each block being made by an individual or smaller group. It grew out of a response to one of Chicago’s other works, The Dinner Party, which invited viewers to engage with sumptuously embroidered table settings representing 39 important historical women or archetypes. In addition to the table settings, the artwork includes tributes and educational blocks about women throughout history and the specific women who contributed to the project. Visitors were inspired by this and a grassroots response began, with individuals and groups adding to the International Honor Quilt for nearly eight years. The panels are modular, which allow them to be displayed in ever changing combinations, tessellating over walls and creating striking patterns or shapes. The collection has been digitised, with each panel’s history recorded here.
In looking at community led textile art programmes I found Stitches in Time, a London based charity that began as a way to connect people. Their foundation project was called “Tapestry for the Millennium” and took seven years to complete. By the end of the project, 43 artists and over 3,000 people had participated. They have continued to grow, offering workshops and user-led projects to build communities and improve language, sewing and business skills. These include fantastic outreach projects such as English language sewing classes, skills based enterprise classes that offer unemployed women practical training and experience, social sewing opportunities and classes for every age group. Their current project is called “BY YOU Tapestries” and they encourage people to create a textile piece representing their experience of the pandemic to be incorporated into a large final piece.
My exhibition is a way to draw all of these threads together, into an interactive, social tapestry through the ages. Having an understanding of where you come from, where you have been, and where you are going is grounding and beneficial to an individual’s well being. This visual thread is also a tool of social geography, enabling visitors to recognise how they are linked to the people and community around them, and encouraging them to learn more about themselves.
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