Thinking Through Making Friday, June 8th, 2018

Shape Making - think-apply-understand

Lesley Campbell, PhD Student, Northumbria University, Newcastle, Endland

An awareness of new concepts for the teaching and understanding of pattern making.

‘Thinking Through Making’ is the overarching theme as a vehicle to develop a deeper understanding of the integrated design process, supporting Charles Eames’s statement that: ‘Art resides in the quality of doing, process is not magic’. This body of research intends to explore, examine and develop alternative approaches to clothing creation through shape making and pattern-cutting in a pedagogical framework.

From observations within the studio environment it became apparent that many students have difficulty visualizing two-dimensional sketches & flat patterns as three-dimensional garments, and this can often stifle creativity. Fashion illustrations and sketches often lose some of their fluidity and volume during this translation, students can often feel frustrated during the pattern making process and disappointed with the outcome. Students and practitioners may in time develop their own approach to experimental cutting but there are limited texts to support this and therefore relies mainly on self-discovery. However, self-discovery relies on a level of experience, independence and confidence, many students become frustrated and de-motivated.

There still appears to be an educational void in teaching materials and methods to equip students to think and understanding in 3D, and therefore become a more holistic fashion designer integrating all aspects of the discipline. Innovative resources are needed to support the exploration and origination of a new and more experimental silhouette rather than copy existing structures and forms, and strategies for curriculum integration of these investigated.

In 2014 I developed and delivered a series of experimental workshops for Fashion Design students. The aim of the experimental workshops was to explore whether a synaptic link created between hand, eye and mind through an algorithm, ‘a thinking hand’, could assist the holistic fashion designer and enhance creativity. Student workshops also explored morphology as a challenge to the traditional western convention of body contouring through flat pattern cutting. Morphology was explored through a series of irregular shaped, humanoid forms – Alien Bodies. Full-scale Alien Body mannequins were provided as a resource in the workshop on which to apply the method of direct working in three dimensions to generate an initial pattern.

The data captured from this exercise empowered me to want to explore and develop a deeper understanding of how new and re-directed approaches to design teaching could be applied. The intention is to develop a framework of conceptual pattern cutting principles and an innovative teaching model that empowers the learner – thinking through making – ‘think⇨apply⇨understand’.

Several interactive workshops (within a Higher Education environment) using an improvisational approach, without defined outcomes allowing design to occur and progress organically within a theme will be developed. Established design and pattern cutting principles will be analysed, re-categorised, re-invented and re-directed within a teaching context, new one’s will also be created. The framework of the workshops will be informed by themes and/or principles and the use of aesthetically considered and stimulating resources.

The objective of the workshops is to equip students with knowledge, skills and understanding rather than focusing on the outcome, and to expose them to different ways of creating shape that can be later applied to their own concept/idea.

Resolved workshops are intended for delivery by university staff (there are no requirements for specialist visiting lecturers) and to be integrated and/or run alongside the teaching of traditional pattern cutting techniques. Eva Iszoro in her 2016 doctoral thesis on Accidental Cutting discusses the need for innovation in the field of pattern cutting teaching and ultimately in fashion, suggesting that research, experimentation and teaching can contribute to making fashion design more sustainable, more functional and also generate new aesthetics, contributing to modifying the current course of fashion.