Category Archives: research and reflection

Tutor’s notes + feeback Part 5

CAT 5 Assignment report 514783

Assignment 5 – Final draft annotated

 

Carla has been a great help, especially with my academic writing style, which has been my biggest challenge. I understand now, how I write more subjectively, instead of finding the research to back up all my ideas. It’s not enough to have an opinion, without the knowledge to back it up.

I know we all learn differently, but having the annotated draft, showing me exactly where went wrong, alongside the OCA Harvard Referencing guide (why have I never come across that before?) everything has become a bit clearer.

I am going to a talk, given by Tim Dooling, the historian I interviewed, on Thursday all about Hue and in particular, the Nguyen Dynasty, which should add to my research and help develop my essay further.

I have a lot of editing and re-writing to do these next few weeks, ready for the assessment process to begin.

I have enjoyed this course and definitely learnt a lot.  I wish I hadn’t taken so long to complete, but I did not want to rush.  I am looking forward to my next course, painting.

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Reflective Commentary Part 5

In deciding to pursue a pathway in textiles, this portion on the course was very important to me to complete to my best abilities, to decide whether it is the right direction for me to head.

I really enjoyed portions of Part 5, especially looking at sustainability and the hand-made, two aspects which are really important to me.

I am really happy with my eventual choice for assignment 5, Võ Trân Châu’s exhibition about the end of the Nguyen Dynasty. exploring the history through its descendents’ old clothing. Finding research in Vietnam is my biggest challenge, so deciding to go directly to my two sources of direct information, Chau and Tim (local historian) allowed me to get a deeper insight into the often blurry history of this country I now reside.

I went to see Chau’s show over a year ago, and it still strikes me the amount of time, consideration, and sheer talent of her embroidery skills. She comes from a family of embroiders, so has grown up appreciating this craft. You don’t often see shows such as these, where everything is made by one person, tapestries such as Grayson Perry’s, would not made by the artist, but by a team of craft people. Chau has had no published art reviews, no one has writen critique of her show, she has only exhibited in Hanoi and Saigon, and briefly in Ireland. It makes me wonder why? Although she is young, her textile art is some of the best I have ever seen.

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Embroidered on sheers mesh, mounted in front of painted background.

 

The thing with studying textiles, as I discovered in A Textile Vocabulary, as an art form, in order to have an impact such as in Chau’s work, you need time, a bucket of time, patience, experience, and dedication. I remember making textile samples after samples after samples. My sewing skills improved, but I did not enjoy the process, or the result.

Because I am a ‘mature student’ I already have an idea of what I want to create. Everyday I am developing ideas through indigo dyeing, removing it with bleach, painting over top, using old metal screens to print etc..

Since 2002, I have worked with traditional Chinese paints and brushes, explored porcelain, and now use textiles, but through every medium, there has been one constant, and that is painting. I feel like pursuing textiles further will only pigeon-hole me, instead of giving me the broader tools of development that a Creative Arts BA(hons) could.

I’ve decided my next course will be painting, which means I will have to change pathways.

This course has taken me longer than I wanted, or expected to complete. I did get married in the middle, so was rightly distracted. I have taken in everything I have learnt through this course from contemporary art to photography, creative writing, and visual studies to improve my clothing label and develop new ideas as an artist.

I applied for July assessment, so this will be my final blog posting. I do not have a physical sketchbook, everything is hanging on a hanger, or folded into piles. If you would like to see what I have worked on this past year here is my Pinterest Board:

 

https://www.instagram.com/the_old_is_new_again_/

And my website : http://www.alyssajeanne.com

Thank You Carla Rees for all your support this last year.

 

 

Research Questions Chau and Dooling

Of course I have changed my mind, …

Instead of looking into Textiles in public spaces, using Tipi structures in neo travelers/festival folk, I have decided to go with an exhibition I saw last year by an amazing young Vietnamese Artist called Vo Tran Chau, Chau is her first name.

See Exhibition here:

Lingering at the peculiar pavilion 

Finding research on her work was next to impossible, as there are no art reviews written about her, which is such a shame. The brief for the Essay was to find primary source information, so I emailed Chau.

Dear Alyssa,

I’m so sorry for my late reply, I’m little busy in this time. I hope this email still useful for your paper.

Are there many descendants of the Nguyen Dynasty still living in Vietnam? How did you find them?

Yes, still have many descendants of Nguyen Dynasty living in Vietnam, special is Hue (a city in the central Vietnam that was the seat of Nguyen Dynasty emperors). Just only all descendants of Bao Dai are in France.

I have some artist friends living in Hue, I ask them about descendants, then they introduced their old teacher in Hue of fine art university. He is the first descendant I met, I became his friend after some meetings. You know, the first man is the point, then he introduced to me a lot of descendants around him in Hue and Saigon, and everything became easier for me to meet, talk, and interview with descendants of Nguyen Dynasty.

 

How did they feel about giving you their clothing, did they understand the art you were trying to create?

I think some of them understand what I did, special are young people, some of them not really understand, sometimes they afraid of a little bit, but they still give me their clothes willingly. And some of them don’t care about my art or what I said 🙂

 

How do they feel about their royal lineage being erased? Are they rich, or just normal, like most Vietnamese?

Not easy to tell about how they feel, but most of them are regret about their royal lineage being erased. They are still think what the royal did is being friend with French is right and they regret that Com.munist came and erased their royal. But most of young people don’t care about the history and their royal lineage, now they live like normal Vietnamese.

They are not rich. Some of them are normal, some of them are poor. I started to research about Nguyen Dynasty when I read about their poor life on newspaper, and I also met a poor guy in Saigon, he is a grandson of 10th King of Nguyen Dynasty, he is security guard for a small hotel and homeless.

Did they see the exhibition?

No, they don’t, this’s sad. Because most of them living in Hue, but I didn’t have opportunity to exhibit in Hue. Some old guys in Saigon are busy and not really care about the exhibition.

 

Do you feel like Vietnam’s rich (yet confusing) history is being lost, or forgotten, and do you think many young Vietnamese feel the same? Do most people only want to look forward, in your opinion, because of the hardship Vietnam has endured through many wars?

Yes, I think Vietnam’s history is being lost because many young people don’t care about history so much. First, they feel boring with the history they learn in their school (the history was remade and make up). Second, many money value was come in from outside and made they run to the money value, they become listless with the Vietnamese heritage.

Yes, they don’t want to look back to their hardship life in the wars. They just try to earn more money 🙂

Do you think people still today harvest bad feeling towards the Nguyen Dynasty and Bao Dai?

Yes, because that is what they heard from their teachers at their school and other people around them, this is a reason that the descendant life is harder than normal people now.

In socialism, there is no place for Emperors and royalty. Although Bao Dai wanted peace and unity for his people, do you think he was a bad leader and made bad decisions, ex. working with the French? Do you think he and his family should have had a place in Vietnam, or is it right that they have been exiled to France? (This one maybe a hard question to answer).

It’s hard to say that Bao Dai was a bad leader and made bad decisions, because in that time, he didn’t have power and he had no choice, he is just a scarecrow.

I can say should or shouldn’t in this case. I just tell you that Vietnam don’t have Bao Dai street, Khai Dinh street (his father) or Dong Khanh street (his grandfather).

 

I think the work you have created is so important in looking back at the story of Vietnam. Hue is so saturated in history, do you feel like the Vietnamese people still appreciate it as a place, or is it being forgotten?

I think Vietnamese people still appreciate Hue, where they can visit like tourists 🙂 I think Hue is still an important place for Vietnamese to look back the history, although most of them just care about superficies of it.

You use so much symbolism in your art, is this because it is difficult to openly talk about? There are many layers to the meanings and truths you were trying to express, was there anything you wanted to say, but felt like you couldn’t?

I’m an artist, I’m not a history writer ^^ I made artworks about history, I don’t want tell about Vietnamese history like a writer. I hope the viewers can take their time to stand in front of my artworks to think more about the history, the moving of the time… in their experiences. Because, you know, the history sometimes is blur, you don’t know the truths clearly if someone remake it, you just can read many ways for an subject, then use your experiences to judge.

You said ‘The tremendous effort of those currently in power has and continues to erase these people’s past, rendering their images blurry and patchwork-like, akin to their family history,” Can you give me any references to back up this statement?

I knew this informations from some Vietnamese channels and what the descendants told me, they are not convenient to give you, so sorry.

 

I don’t have any review for my exhibition from art writer, sorry.

I also want to apologise that I just answer your questions like this, because it is not convenient to write deeper in email.

Warmest regard,

Chau

 


 

I also wanted to get some background information on the History of the Nguyen Dynasty, and in particular, Bao Dai, the last emperor of Vietnam. I did read a few history books found on the UCA Online Library, but the were more an account of days and evens, rather than opinion or anything of interest.

I decided to go straight to the source of a man called Tim Dooling, who I’ve heard so much about since living in Saigon, reading his accounts of Old Saigon, on his very well researched website called Historic Vietnam.

He was again, very kind to answer my questions.

From me:

Dear Tim,

I’m a resident of Saigon, studying a BA in Art Textiles from the Open College of Art in the UK. I am writing a paper on a show I attended last year, by a talented young artist called Vo Tran Chau –see here http://san-art.org/exhibition/lingering-at-the-peculiar-pavilion/

The show has brought up many questions about the Nguyen Dynasty and in particular Bao Dai, being the last Emperor, ending that chapter of Vietnamese History. I’ve had a look through a few articles about Bao Dai on your site, and to be honest, I am finding it very challenging researching in Vietnam – there are a distinct lack of books written in English on the subject other than history books.

I was hoping to get a clearer insight into how Vietnamese today see their history associated with the Nguyen Dynasty, which was under-pinned by the French and Chinese. Are there still ill feeling associated with Bao Dai and the Royal family, or are younger people interested in their countries heritage and find it confusing and unclear?

In her exhibition, Chau says
“Water-image” is created from sowing together pieces of clothing of the Nguyễn descendants, who are like portraits without numbers. The tremendous effort of those currently in power has and continues to erase these people’s past, rendering their images blurry and patchwork-like, akin to their family history. In a way, their story reflects society: that same blurriness unfortunately coincides with contemporary culture as some things (tangible or not) are packed with a “heritage” label and others tremble and shiver under uncertain, unappreciative hands.

I was hoping to find some evidence to support this statement in my paper, would you know of any examples I could use?

I know you are a very busy man, and I appreciate you taking this time to read my questions. If you could point me in any directions, via papers or websites, or even your own academic opinion, anything at this point would be incredible helpful in understanding this interesting, yet important aspect of Vietnamese History.

Kindest,
Alyssa

His response:

Dear Alyssa
Thanks for your message.
Perhaps to a certain extent what she says is valid. The school history curriculum still focuses almost exclusively on the history of the revolution, so few young people would know a great deal about the dynasty other than its connection with French oppressors, and the “heroism” of the so-called “rebel” emperors Hàm Nghi, Thành Thái and Duy Tân, who refused to be part of the system. Only in recent years has it become possible to discuss the history of the dynasty in more balanced terms, and to show for example that far from being a revolutionary hero, Thành Thái was actually a violent psychopath, while rather than being active revolutionaries, both Hàm Nghi and Duy Tân were largely victims of circumstance. With Bảo Đại, I don’t think any ill feeling exists, but the popular perception of him as a playboy is probably accurate, although it fails to take into account his earlier life. He began his reign with many good intentions and much promise, but he was eventually ground down by the French who thwarted him at every turn, preventing him from introducing any real reform. In the end there was nothing for him to do but to retire into a life of indolence, which is how he is remembered today.
In my new guidebook on Huế (published next month) I have devoted a lot of space to the earlier Nguyễn lords who originally built up the dynasty, they remain almost unknown to the general public even today. Some see parallels between their territorial borders and those of the Republic of VN, between their war with the Trịnh and the N-S Second Indochina War.
The Party also has a paradoxical relationship with the Nguyễn dynasty, which is officially frowned upon as feudalism – yet at the first Emperor Gia Long’s tomb in Huế, still ignored by mass tourism, you will often find very high-ranking state delegations paying deferential visits. Some say that tourism here has been purposely limited at this site with a view to maintaining it first and foremost as an official preserve.
As for the last sentence of the quote from the exhibition, I wonder if I am understanding it correctly if I interpret it as referring to things which some would regard as heritage but are still too “sensitive” to be discussed openly. If so, I think that things are now changing so rapidly that what was taboo yesterday is often no longer so today. Witness for example the new exhibition on the Ngô Đinh Diệm family which opened recently at the Independence Palace, introducing topics which were completely forbidden just a few years ago. As for the intangible, I recall that back in the early 2000s many traditional beliefs were dismissed as superstition, but that’s long since ceased to be the case. Of course, censorship still exists and is much more prevalent in Vietnamese than in English (my publisher has told me that I can say some things in English but it’s “too early” to say them in Vietnamese) – but the limits of what can be discussed in print and in public continue to be pushed back.
I hope this is helpful, I’m not altogether clear what kind of examples you are looking for but please feel free to come back to me further.
Best regards
Tim


 

Going straight to the source of information is where it’s at when researching with a distinct lack of books, magazines, and popular opinions, when living in a socialist country as an expat, this it what this assignment has far taught me.

Block Printing in Bagru, India

 

My (new) husband and I went to India, for our honeymoon. We flew into Delhi, took a night train to Pushar, and then another train to Udaipur. India stole our hearts, we decided to extend the holiday by an extra few days, to go to Jaipur. Secretly, I wanted to go there because of its renowned block printing communities. Thank goodness I married an incredible man who knows me well enough and was happy to tour the block printing community of Bagru with me.

Bagru is located 30km west of Jaipur, and has a long tradition of hand block printing because of its original proximity to the Sanjaria River. Bagru thrived as a marketplace, making ghaggras skirts, dupattas head scarves, and angochhas, men scarves. The print indicated the wearers specific community, and marital status.

It was a joy to witness a community of craft people working together, as families and friends, to create hand carved block, hand- block printed pattern,  which are hand-dyed and washed, into gorgeous lengths of textiles.

As soon as we arrived we were humbled by the simplicity of everything. The many coloured, patterned, and mud resist panels lay stretched on the dusty yard, the concrete wash basins are worn with no hard edges, and although the area was not actively in use, you could see where each stage of washing and dyeing took place.

 

 

 

The nature dyes

syahi – natural black, made from scrap iron (pictured above). During the printing process, the brown liquor quickly turns into a rich black.  The rangraz (washer) submerges the cloth into near-boiling bath of alizarin dye to fix the black.

begar- In 1869, chemist developed a synthetic version of natural alzarin, a red dye that occurs in the madder plant rubia cordifolia, locally known as majeet. As with syahi, you need to wash in harda which is the mordant.

indigo – In 1897, a chemical synthetic indigo was developed, which was less expensive and easier to use, being more consistent with uniform of colour. Because indigo is a vat dye, you do not have to pre-treat the fabric with a mordant.

 

 

 

The block carvers belong to a small community whose numbers are dwindling due to new technology. The blocks are typically made from seasoned shisham Indian rosewood, which you can see drying in the back of this shop. The cross-section of the trunk must be free from any knots or imperfections. The blocks are planned and sanded and chalked with a white paste, which the carver traces a design onto. Block can take up 6 days to complete, with some designs needing up to 6 blocks.

Block carving

The resist printing with mud technique is called dabu. The chihippa gently flicks off the extra mud from the block and continuously stamps the resist area, then sprinkles sawdust over the wet paste to prevent it from smudging. The cloth is dried in the sun, and then dyed in indigo or otherwise. The resist is then boiled off revealing the white or layer which was underneath.

 

 

 

 

 

Most communities in the area have a table or two in their home from which they print 100-200 meters daily. I was really surprised by this number, as it’s no cottage industry, in fact this is quite a large production of hand-printed textiles.

We walked past a home with scarves hanging over the balcony. I automatically loved them, the size, the different patterns, and colours, different from what I had seen. We are invited inside to see them at work, at of course, I purchased a few.

 

 

 

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the lengths waiting to be printed
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women beautifully printing
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so gorgeous

 

Back at Studio Bagru, Ben and I chose our blocks and colours and began our hand-block printing workshop.

 

 

I decided to print using different stages, the border had 4.

  1. gudh – yellow // background block
  2. rekh – blue // outline block
  3. & 4 datta-  pink green // filler block

Matching up the blocks took so much skill and attention, especially as fabric is not fixed like paper, it stretches and curves. Matching up the corners you simply use newspaper to cover the angle on both sides, match up where the last block began, and continue to go around. The print in the middle was the same. I began to measure the block, to see how many times it could repeat in the rectangle. My teacher simply wobbled her head side to side, as the Indians do, and put down the newspaper covering the edge of the border, allowing the pattern to extend to the very edge.

 

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My fisnished scarf

 

Thank you to  Jeremy at Studio Bagru for showing a glance of  this amazing traditional textile village. We were completely overwhelmed by the skills and hard work, knowledge, and history of these amazing people.  It is thanks to people who work in fair trade/slow fashion industries which are keeping these incredible skills alive.

 

Textiles are the only medium which I have studied, in a ‘art context’ or otherwise which transcends people of every culture, in terms of warmth, shelter, identity, but also in fashion, activism, travel, all of which are present in everyone’s life, everyday, across every border. It is such a broad and interesting subject soaked in tradition through craft, and dried out in brand through consumerism. From mass production, to a needle and thread, I find the search of life through textiles, very emotive.

The ways of the cloth, the time and labour of creating cultural fabrics, whether in Guatemala, Rajastan, Sapa, or Japan, on a loom with hemp or cotton, using indigo or mud, running stitches or embroidery, flowers or geometry, mirror or shells, they all have commonality of an ancient beauty, passed down through generations.

It always gets me, how does a people discover the exact recipe to brewing a vat of indigo which has been used in China, Africa, Japan and India? How do they know how mud can be used as a resist, or can chemically alter the colour when mixed with metal?

I’ve had the chance to see first hand in Northern Vietnam, and last week in Rajastan, how alive this tradition is still today. In Sapa, most H’mong homes have an indigo vat outside, which pregnant woman cannot go near, because babies are known to kill the vat which is a live culture.. they add chillies to the mix because babies no not like spicy food.

In Bagru, Rajastan, the community of block printers are still living together, and even share the same surnames which came from their craft. The Chhipas are the printers, the Rangrez are the dyers, and the Dhobis are the washers. They all live harmoniously together to create lengths of printed cloth. (will write a blog posting about out trip).

Although I am comforted by the fact that these traditions are actively practised, they are under threat due to mass production and synthetically made materials.

Looking at the brief for Assignment 5, I’d like to research nomadic cultures, who tend to use textiles more than other ethnic group because of the ease in using canvas as shelter, clothing as identity, and blankets for warmth. These traditions have tranfered to todays traveler communities in the UK, as well as the festival scenes, of which I was apart of for ten years, using Tipis as shelter, and block-prints are fashion.

The choices for the essay are either practical or artistic. I’ve opted for the practical option, although I am concerned with the academic referencing finding papers and essays written on the subject as guidance. My tutor did mention to use more fact than opinion in my next paper, but this could be difficult.

  1. Select a public or commercial space and focus on a textile that is being used in a functional manner. This can either be an exterior or interior; comment upon its practical use and presence within/around that environment.

Made with total love…

My Girls, I love my girls.. if I could have had 7 or 8 bridesmaids I would have.. but I only had 5 — Kate, Cee, Eleanor, Melody, and Emily.

Each of these exceptional woman and very different and unique, so figuring out a dress style/colour/design was a challenging task. Most importantly, I wanted to make them happy and comfortable, and beautiful on the day.

My first idea was making each dress in a colour of their choice, out of organic cotton and a lovely sheer layer. I gave each of the girls swatches of dye colours, which each one chose a colour, except Ele, who kept coming back to gun metal grey, or brass, or other non-colour colours. Instead of disputing this fact, I simply decided to make all the dresses in some lovely grey silk, I already had.. which meant I could paint them.

My mom had a traditional Ao Dai made out of green silk, which I also painted.

I wanted each floral painting to reflect them. I have never taken so much love to paint anything in my life.

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Cee’s dress
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Eleanor’s dress
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Emily’s dress
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Kate’s dress
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Melody’s dress
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Mom’s dress

My Girls

It should be illigal to have this much fun with a hot glue gun…

Making a totally hand-made wedding, all by yourself, when it’s your wedding, may seen like a monumental task, but I can’t tell you how much I absolutely adored every moment!

It was really important to me not to waste anything, before and after the wedding and to up-cycle where possible (ex. collecting the jars for the vases). We wanted to be as conscious and ethical as possible from our decoration to our caterers. We had a totally vegan meal, which exception to the wedding cake, and bought all bamboo dishes and even bamboo straws, which everyone took home as gifts.

I love going to the markets in Saigon, the craft market in particular. I wanted to make “ART” hats for the Photo Booth, and decided on the culturally appropriate Vietnamese Conical hat to use as a base (there were also glasses to match). I found it magical how I’d have an idea, like, a fruit basket hat — they go to the market and find a glass jar full to the rim with plastic fruits and veggies… buy the lot,spending a fiver, and enjoy contructing the base then adding the toppings!

Here are the hats:

  1. Pom-Pom Perfect (so nice to squeeze)
  2. Mirror Head – kids and adult sizes gold/silver
  3. Granny’s Garden
  4. Birds on the Mekong
  5. Fruits and Veggies

The ceramic money-cats were attached to a carabiner (my husband is really into climbing) and were used to clip onto each champagne glass so they wouldn’t get mixed up (there were 9 different guys). I bought them months before the wedding, not knowing what they would be used for.. but were perfectly paired in the end.

The place settings came from a Banyan tree growing at the venue, which was being pruned.. I collected as much wood I could fit on my bike, dried them for a few months, then brought them to a carpenter who sliced them up. I painted them my favourite dark blue then Melody, by beautiful hand-writing friend, wrote the names in gold.

Another running theme was the “Mirror Balls”  which I would reflect the lights at night … both from the vases on the table and from above.  I actually constructed 7 medium to large ball using styrofoam balls as the base…  the small ones I found.  I made the seating plans, Lys and Ben sign, and bar menu with the cut mirror squares, which all sparkled magically.

The shoes, wow… so they took me around 10 hours of hot gluing each tiny crystal piece onto a quite worn pair of shoes I’ve had for years — upcycling at its finest! I loved the way they turned out, and can’t wait to see the professional photographs.

I can’t explain how satisfying the process of laying awake at night, brainstorming ideas, going to the many markets hunting out the materials, therapeutically assembling the pieces, seeing the finished product, and then, on the night, sitting back and seeing your vision realized. I wouldn’t change a single detail and am completly thankful for having the oppertunity to share my creativity with my nearest and dearest.

 

 

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it’s been a while

My computer is actually dusty..

Captains log, Dec 21st 2017, the last entry before the new world, well that’s a bit dramatic, last entry before Christmas, before New Years, before my birthday, but mostly, before my wedding – mini moon – honeymoon.. settling into home/routine, again.

I wrote my tutor an email before Christmas, explaining I wasn’t going to apply for the recent assessment, alleviating some of the pressures I had been putting on myself.

I developed my wedding no differently to how I’d approach any creative journey, anything I do in my life, with conscious delicacy based on personal meaning. Because our last living Grandparents couldn’t come to Vietnam, they are in their 90’s, Ben and I had our civil ceremony in Vancouver, based on the Pagan ritual of hand-fasting — binding our hands with an antique length of lace.

Alyssa & Ben - 28APR17 - 049_preview
Hand-Fasting / Civil Ceremony

After the ceremony, I went downstairs to where my Nonnie stored her wedding gown, which she lent to me to wear, for our wedding in Vietnam. The length of lace used to bind our hands, I intended to see into the long train (it took me hours hand-stitching each small gap). The hand sewing was so therapeutic and meditative, the attention both in the moment, and the exact placement of each stitch carried an intentions of love;  the love I have for my Nonnie and her past, the life and beauty of the antique dress, and the mark of change, in the now, making it my own (although I do have to return it to her).

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My Nonno holding us my Nonnie’s wedding gown to see if I’d like it!

 

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Studying the Textile portion of this course, referring back to my own personal work I do with bespoke fabric painting, including everything else this course has taught, from visual communications, photography, creative writing, and contemporary art – my wedding was an expression of what I have learnt this past year.

I look forward sharing my months of creative wedding development as a part of my life and the OCA coursework in the following blog postings.

Research Point – Digital Printing on textiles

The research point asked to take a look at Mary Katrantzou’s work, looking at an article in style magazine and answer a few questions regarding the article. The article is no longer accessible;

http://www.style.com/fashionshows/review/F2011RTW-MKATRANTZOU [accessed 03/03/14]

What do you make of the article’s reference to ‘the room on the woman’ and ‘the woman in the room’?

I have instead decided to you my own research into a different designer, who I love, the label is called The Age of Reason, by ALI MAPLETOFT.

Age of reason is based in Brighton, we’re I found them after my friend raved about their scarves. It was only until today that I spent the morning reading through all of their blog postings and mission statements, that I began to fall further in love with them. The designs are fierce, strong, and uncompromised, whilst remaining ethical, environmentally sound, supporting British industry and celebrating women of every age and distinction, highlighting uniqueness and individual beauty.

Here’s how Ali explains her company:

It’s a design company with an anti-sweatshop ethos. It’s all about making fun, playful prints – cushions, scarves, womenswear – in a way that’s ethically sustainable. We’re not exploiting anyone. There are no children working on it. We’re trying to do as much as we can in the UK and we source as many sustainable products as possible. We use wool to stuff our cushions that comes from Orkney sheep that eat seaweed! They’re the most sustainable sheep in Britain, apparently. We also believe in inclusivity and sharing. We’ll share our supplier details with anyone who wants to know. If a university student wants to know, we’ll tell them. If another brand wants to know, we’ll tell them, because we believe in moving that ethical community forward. Some people view that as sharing trade secrets, but that’s not the secret. The secret is the creativity. That’s the bit that’s important. We also believe in helping women, which is why we use older models, street-cast models and models.

 

Reading through their process, I was inspired by their transparency. Ali writes about wanting to share her manufacturers details, sharing the love, by not keeping any secrets from those who perhaps would like to produce their own designs. She walks through her steps from initial ideas, onto sketches, collage, then digital rendering, ready for print. You can appreciate the time and talent it takes her, true artistry, vision and style.

What I learnt is digital printing is very eco-friendly as there is no ink wastage which can pollute the water.  I’ve always been a keep supporter of natural dyes, but they are not suitable for garment manufacturing as the colours fade and run.  You need a chemical mordant to set the colours, which as harmful and toxic to both the environment and person. A lot of water is needed to rinse or boil off dye resists such as bees-wax or otherwise. There are traditional practices which with the right environment, such as in Japan where they use the local mud and rivers to create and wash dyes, on an industrial scale, this type, or any type of dyeing pollutes or uses a lot of water.

Digital printing is a way for artists/ designers to produce large-scale work (135cm x 135cm) + onto silk  or cotton with little impact on the earth. The colours are so vivid, and allows for grades of shades and tones, which previously would be impossible with block printing techniques, used in industrial printing. You would have to layer your colour to create form, with digital printing, you can be more creative, with more ease and accurate results.

I hand-paint fabric, it’s what I love to do, creating one of a kind works of art, never to be replicated. I love the way the age of reason keeps the integrity of its work, but creating a limited number of scarves. Instead of mass production, churning them out, they make sure what you are buying is as special as can be.

Ali says this about Fast Fashion

I’m really excited about how fashion is changing, with more emphasis on individuality and less on trends and seasons. People used to think of sustainable fashion as beige and boring. That’s changed so much, and it’s great to be a part of the movement.

Ali put women artist and designers on pedestals by promoting them in England and America, as well as being sure she contributes 10% of everything she sells to the charity called Womankind Worldwide. It’s about empowering women globally.

If I could choose a mentor, it would be Ali Mapletoft.