The aim of this paper is to emphasise the relevance and importance of sensibility, contemplation and craftmanship as a foundation for sustainable development in fashion and textiles. The paper looks beyond the frameworks and tools that often guide lecturers in higher educational institutions. How do we prepare ourselves and the students to critically work with, contribute to and reflect upon the SDGs?
First, I have to admit that I love frameworks, methods, tools and techniques that can assist and support structuring and operationalising my work as a researcher and educator in fashion and textiles design. Therefore, I began by getting an overview to identify a knowledge gap, but I quickly realised that there is a vast amount of exactly that and with lots of unreleased potential. It occurred to me that yet another framework might be obsolete. To exemplify, I found recently published frameworks, reports and research such as Fashion Seeds (2019), Ellen MacArthur Foundation & Ideo (2017-18), Fletcher & Tham (2019) and Simonsen (2020).
One of the biggest challenges of working with sustainable development in design is that it is a rather complex subject area. No matter what you do it is always possible to identify some flaws or a fault, something crucial is missing or there is a tendency to greenwashing. This is caused by the complexity and an often-limited access to knowledge. A ‘Sustainable challenge’ can be characterised as a wicked problem in the sense that it is difficult or impossible to both formulate and solve and the solutions are not true-false but better or worse (Rittel & Webber 1973). However, we need to deal with that, and we need to acknowledge that sustainable development requires collaboration drawing on knowledge and action from many fields and professions in order to go ‘full circle’.
So, how can we establish a good foundation for dialogue across fields and professions and how can we work with these wicked problems ‘regarding fundamental changes in the relation between humans and nature’ – to cite from the conference call that also emphasises that “These imaginations and valorizations of different futures might influence how we perceive the options for both acting in the present toward the future(s) and remembering the past”. This paper is an attempt to address the need to learn from the past (in the form of craftmanship) while we are living in the present, designing for the future.
In the 1980-90es ‘The silent game’ was used at a course at MIT called ‘Learning to Design and Design for Learning’ (Schön 1993). Basically, the game is played in complete silence by two active players and one observer. The game pieces are a selection of materials (it can be bricks, screws etc.). Player A makes a move by setting up some pieces according to a self-made rule and player B has to make a move that shows the understanding of the rule. And thus, the game moves back and forth between the two players while the players as well as the observer tries to understand what is going on. Considering that this takes place in complete silence it will inevitably show how difficult communication and mutual understanding is if you no common language exist. The players learn a lot about understanding other people/professions’ ways of thinking and acting. Schön describes this as a ‘conversation with the materials of the situation’.
Albers is not using the exact same phrase while arguing for the importance of tactile sensibility (in 1965) by introducing the idea of making ‘tactile blueprints’ – rapid prototypes – for weave patterns using corn, metal scrap, straw and other ‘household’ materials glued on paper instead of imagining the patterns or designing them on cartridge paper without any expressed concerns about structure and feeling of materials (Albers 2017). In this way, Albers demonstrates what might be termed as craftmanship of the professions. A very recent example of this, is the way Astrid Skibsted is working with yarn winding (Skibsted 2020). Yarn winding is a common technique for planning colour ways and testing material for weaving projects. It is comparable to Albers’ ‘tactile blueprints’. Skibsted is using them to establish a dialogue with the materials of the situation. Thus, the yarn winding experiments become more than threads around a piece of cardboard. They make us reflect on the bigger context. Even though Skibsted’s focus isn’t especially on sustainability her work points to existence, presence and the necessity to be in the world instead of just observing it.
- kreative processer
- tekstil, design