Tangled Web: Design Theory

Coco Chanel became important because she cut a jacket that allowed a woman to move
— Callidus Guild

I have been quite taken with threads lately. During the past week I have taken pictures of the MOMA exhibition poster advertising Louise Bourgeois: An Unfolding Portrait, featuring her famous Spider Woman print. Spider legs are sprouting in all directions from the woman’s head. I also took a photo of a sweater by Sacai in Dover Street Market that featured embroidery that had rows of hanging threads. The problem with lots of loose threads is that eventually they must become woven into something or picked up and thrown away.

A feature in Surface Magazine that appeared on the Bibliography this past weekend provided a frame for me to begin to think about how all the things I have been exploring might come together in what is arguably a very loose weave but one that is beginning to take shape. I love people who can take very complex concepts and turn them into plain English and this is what Callidus Guild did during her interview for the magazine. She notes that the best fashion design comes from those designers who are really making a way for you to live. In this way the design becomes alive. In my view this goes for all good design including jewelry or furniture.  When you read the interview Wednesday with a jewelry designer I met during my very inspiring trip to Seattle, Joanna Morgan, you will see the process a designer who thinks that way goes through during the process of design. I have had a number of interactions with designers recently who are thinking this way,

Another important point made is that in order to make modern and relevant designs, one must know history in order to move something forward into today. The question Callidus raises is how do you make things and how do you learn to make them? No one seems to be teaching this anymore. More and more designers such as Joanna and Callidus are self-taught. I have been feeling quite drawn to long ago skills that were still taught in school like embroidery, sewing and knitting and how I could deconstruct and re-construct garments in interesting ways. I loved J.W. Anderson’s recent collection for Loewe because it did just that. The fact that two designers I admire are self-taught give me the courage to maybe take a try at deconstructing/constructing/embroidering some garments myself.

Finally I have been speaking with other makers who know that there will be a retreat back to craft and there will be a need for educational structures that will teach the skills needed for craft based production and sustainable design. As an educator this sounds like something interesting to explore with others. Finally Guild reinforces something I already know; collaboration brings life to your work.

So let’s collaborate. How do you make things and how did you learn to do so?


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