Personally, the most beneficial activity so far has been “identifying team roles”. I was the observer, so it was very useful for me as the project manager to watch how the team interacted with each other. It was also helpful as it either re-affirmed our role choices, or showed up roles that needed to be changed, so we now feel more confident in our roles.
Our overarching theme for the group project is ‘Souvenirs’ and ‘remembering Belle Vue’. I am a collector at heart, and am fascinated by other people’s collections and the reason why they collect. I went to a very interesting talk as part of the Manchester Histories Festival called ‘A collectors Insight’ which was by the two main collectors of Belle Vue. Personally I want to focus on ceramics design in this project: there are lots of ceramic objects related to Belle Vue that I have been able to draw inspiration from – I had several opportunities to view souvenirs first-hand in the Manchester Histories Festival Belle Vue exhibition, and in an object handling session. During the latter, I was able to study a ceramic jug that was originally used in the Belle Vue Chinese café which features a blue willow pattern. Before seeing this jug, I had already been considering how I might use pattern in my work, and was inspired by the work of Paul Scott; a ceramicist who uses traditional blue ceramic patterns and digitally alters them to comment on society. I had been thinking about how I could portray the zoo, but maybe make a comment on how the animals were often mistreated and died early deaths. Seeing the Willow pattern jug as a Belle Vue souvenir has made me think about using an altered version of the Willow pattern and Belle Vue imagery.
I printed off postcards depicting scenes in Belle Vue, and traced over them, transforming them into a willow pattern. I was surprised to notice that a lot of elements in the postcards are the same, such as water features, birds, buildings and trees, although the actual story of the willow pattern is not really similar to Belle Vue’s history. The willow pattern does, however, represent how narratives can be told through an image, and I feel that that is quite relevant to Belle Vue; a zoo which had a rich history and many stories to tell. At the moment, I have just been re-interpreting the images as they are, but I think the next step is to start to show some of the animals and characters – I think Maharajah the elephant would look good in the willow pattern for example, particularly as he had a very famous story, where he walked from Edinburgh to Manchester. Another featured character could be Consul the Chimp, who was a monkey dressed in a suit who drank and smoked.
Earlier in the project I attended the “Shelter Workshop” and had the opportunity to work with the Interactive Arts students. It was very different to work with another discipline as we worked in completely different ways. When coming up with our designs, the Interactive Arts students in our group first thought about the aesthetics of the shelter, whereas we as Three-Dimensional Designers first thought about how we could join the materials together. This helped me see that neither way is better, but that both are necessary at the same time. The workshop was run by designer Constance Laisne who develops educational programmes, primarily focusing on how tools affect design. It was interesting meeting her as a designer, as her approach to design heavily focuses on why people need designs; in this case, asking why people need shelters, what we consider shelters to be, but also whether everyone should have an automatic right to a shelter. This workshop has made me understand the necessity of questioning what is behind a design.
I feel that the members of our group are fairly similar in the way we approach design. I have found that working in this group is successful as several group-members are particularly pro-active and this helps push all of our individual contributions along. For example, Jo came up with lots of different designs and things to make as testers very early – she thinks through making more than I do at the moment, and seeing how she works has made me re-consider the way I design. I think that our differences in approach come from our different interests – although we are all craft-based designers, we are all interested in different materials which I feel definitely influences our experimentation and design. I am looking forward to the next stages of the projects and seeing how we can help each other develop our solutions to the project.