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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Radical Nature – The exhibition challenging our perceptions in a changing planet.

The pick of the bunch...

Written by Adam S

75dpi legs

Charlotte Daffern’s playful statement jewellery borders on the completely eccentric, cheap whilst tackling ideas of gender and national stereotype. The work re-visits the 1950’s as a result of the surge in a return to the ideals of the housewife from baking and sowing to the current increase in upcycling. Daffern’s work re-invents what are considered to be traditionally upper crust British Fabrics into something fresh and vitalic for today’s youth.

From looking at your designs, the humour and whimsicality often associated with the idea Britishness is incredibly evident, especially in the manipulation of tartan. What other material stereotypes did you find to be eponymous with British Culture?

Whilst I was studying for my MA we had a seminar discussion about what imagery you see when you think of British fashion or British people. It was basically fairly twee: twin sets and pearls for women, shooting jackets for men, flat caps etc. Pearls have run through all of my collections so far, I suppose its one element that nods towards the stereotype and the historical fashion of Britain. I try to create an updated version of the pearl necklace. I think most people imagine pearls on royalty, wealthy ladies or the light lipped librarian. However I didn’t want people to dismiss wearing them because of stereotypes they might have.

75dpi escape apron

Subsequently, how has the exploration of what it is to be British affected your designs?

Whilst my work is based on stereotypes it aims to subvert whilst making reference to them at the same time. In the red tartan work, everyone comments on the connection to Vivienne Westwood. If you change the fabric to something that isn’t tartan I’m not sure you would necessarily make that link with her. I suppose I learned the power changing one element such as a print or colour can have on the perception of the work. Having studied with international students and networked with some American artists and galleries I realised how interested they were in British culture and style, perhaps more so than British people themselves. Really it was a natural progression from observing other cultures perception of ‘Britishness’. The result was a want to present my idea on British lifestyle and stereotypes through design.

charlottedaffernteapot spout bangles

Continuing from the discussion on stereotypes, how do ideas of gender and sociology feature in your work? – I particularly enjoyed the ‘hoody’ body adornment and the one armed necklace.

I like to challenge ideas of gender by putting pearls on a man or by giving a woman a pretty polka dot penis necklace. I love humour, irony and contradictions and I think this corresponds with my ideas of what it is to be British as well. I like knowing what’s going on with social and fashion trends. There are things you can take from the pieces that maybe reference different aspects of past or present culture/ lifestyle.

My more recent work is a combination of two stereotypes – the 1990’s acid house rave character combined with the 1950’s housewife. I represent the raver stereotype through the acidic fluorescent colours and the chaotic nature of some of the pieces and the fabrics are all typical to the 1950’s style – polka dots, stripes, gingham checks, florals.

charlottedaffern

Favourite designers?

I’ve done some work experience at Paul Smith which really influenced my love of all things British! Vivienne Westwood is obviously a huge inspiration and proof you can achieve anything if you go for it and believe in yourself. I suppose that’s the ultimate dream to work for Vivienne Westwood! Comme des Garcons, Viktor and Rolf – love their style and how they challenge rhythm and tradition within their designs. I like to see what other people are doing as well, other jewellers, illustrators, graphic designers, furniture makers! The list is endless.

charlottedaffern

From reading previous answers, would you say your choice of fabric evolves from their involvement in the stereotypes your are subverting?

Yes I think they do. I begin with fabrics that people associate with the stereotype and try to deconstruct and develop new sometimes mutated forms from the initial subjects forms and materials. I think a lot of people associate tartan with ‘Britishness’ and gingham checks with tablecloths but they don’t usually see these made into other things and then transformed into something wearable.

What fabric are you using in the new collection?

In my latest collection I have used the things that I associate with the imagery of the 1950’s housewives. Polka dots, checks, ginhams, florals. I imagined the polka dots on a housewifes dress, the stripey shirts of her husband, the checks on her tablecloth, the flowers sitting in a vase on her table. The fabrics I use are a combination of new, vintage and second hand.

charlottedaffern8

As Amelia’s Magazine focuses frequently on sustainable fashion – I wondered if I could could enquire about your thoughts on the following? Would you consider yourself environmentally aware? If so does being aware of the environment impact your work?

I would definitely like to think I am environmentally aware. My fashion degree dissertation was based on what it is to make a company ethical and profitable. Through all the research I learned a lot about how much gets wasted and which companies are taking steps towards improving their methods and sourcing. I love recycling and upcycling. There’s something exciting about spotting something in a charity shop that others have overlooked. There is also the challenge of trying to make it into something even better! The only downside to this way of working is storage space. My mum has endured my hoarding ways for years and now my poor boyfriend is going to be subject to it.

Charlotte_Daffern_6

Are there ways that you think our society can be improved and are you as a designer or as an individual engaged in doing anything about this?

I think the ‘fast fashion’ of today is really damaging. Most customers who pop into town won’t know what goes into their £2.50 t-shirt. I think there have been programmes on television which have tried to highlight this but I can appreciate those on low incomes will completely overlook that when they’re at the till. I don’t think it is going to do much good by trying to educate people and leave it solely in their hands. I think it’s the responsibility of the designers and manufacturers to only offer sustainable options (or as sustainable as possible). As a designer there’s the argument of where do you draw the line at calling something ‘sustainable’ or ‘ethical’? I don’t usually bring up where my materials come from unless people ask. However I do like to use recycled beads, haberdashery, fabrics etc and combine these with new. I would like to use more and more recycled materials in the future. Sometimes the problem lies in getting good quality second hand materials and I would rather create something combining new and old so that the aesthetic of the work is not compromised.

Charlotte_Daffern_3

Where did you study and how did you find the design ethos of the teachers on the MA?

I studied at Birmingham School of Jewellery In the Jewellery Quarter. I found that the course supported ideas, concepts and material investigation. It isn’t about trying to fit into any boxes as far as style or design is concerned. You are really encouraged to develop your own creative handwriting and I learned to be confident in making work that some people might not understand. The work I make is a hybrid of fashion and jewellery; I’ve always struggled to explain it to people when they ask what I do! I’ve found that most people like to be able to explain exactly what something is and they get confused when they see some of my pieces. I think it adds to the fascination but people sometimes reject what they don’t recognise. I think they are happy for you to do anything here, just justify why and that there is a market for it and you can do anything!

What aspects of design make you happy?

So many aspects of designing make me happy! I like to find creative solutions to problems such as how to use the last scrap of vintage fabric effectively; How I can incorporate and combine various colours, fabrics and findings etc. I love creating something that makes other people smile. I think fashion should be fun and daring! It’s a shame that as we get older we sometimes lose that playfulness that we had with our dressing up box. I worked in retail for a couple of years and met such a wide range of interesting people. I was really inspired by peoples reaction to colours, trends etc. One lady told me that despite the credit crunch she wanted the bright orange dress and not the safe black cardigan, That really got me thinking – of course if you only have so much to spend you want to spend it on something that’s got the wow factor! This made me happy!

Find Charlotte Daffern here:

75dpi legs

Charlotte Daffern’s playful statement jewellery borders on the completely eccentric, malady whilst tackling ideas of gender and national stereotype. The work re-visits the 1950’s as a result of the surge in a return to the ideals of the housewife from baking and sowing to the current increase in upcycling. Daffern’s work re-invents what are considered to be traditionally upper crust British Fabrics into something fresh and vitalic for today’s youth.

From looking at your designs, the humour and whimsicality often associated with the idea Britishness is incredibly evident, especially in the manipulation of tartan. What other material stereotypes did you find to be eponymous with British Culture?

Whilst I was studying for my MA we had a seminar discussion about what imagery you see when you think of British fashion or British people. It was basically fairly twee: twin sets and pearls for women, shooting jackets for men, flat caps etc. Pearls have run through all of my collections so far, I suppose its one element that nods towards the stereotype and the historical fashion of Britain. I try to create an updated version of the pearl necklace. I think most people imagine pearls on royalty, wealthy ladies or the light lipped librarian. However I didn’t want people to dismiss wearing them because of stereotypes they might have.

75dpi escape apron

Subsequently, how has the exploration of what it is to be British affected your designs?

Whilst my work is based on stereotypes it aims to subvert whilst making reference to them at the same time. In the red tartan work, everyone comments on the connection to Vivienne Westwood. If you change the fabric to something that isn’t tartan I’m not sure you would necessarily make that link with her. I suppose I learned the power changing one element such as a print or colour can have on the perception of the work. Having studied with international students and networked with some American artists and galleries I realised how interested they were in British culture and style, perhaps more so than British people themselves. Really it was a natural progression from observing other cultures perception of ‘Britishness’. The result was a want to present my idea on British lifestyle and stereotypes through design.

charlottedaffernteapot spout bangles

Continuing from the discussion on stereotypes, how do ideas of gender and sociology feature in your work? – I particularly enjoyed the ‘hoody’ body adornment and the one armed necklace.

I like to challenge ideas of gender by putting pearls on a man or by giving a woman a pretty polka dot penis necklace. I love humour, irony and contradictions and I think this corresponds with my ideas of what it is to be British as well. I like knowing what’s going on with social and fashion trends. There are things you can take from the pieces that maybe reference different aspects of past or present culture/ lifestyle.

My more recent work is a combination of two stereotypes – the 1990’s acid house rave character combined with the 1950’s housewife. I represent the raver stereotype through the acidic fluorescent colours and the chaotic nature of some of the pieces and the fabrics are all typical to the 1950’s style – polka dots, stripes, gingham checks, florals.

charlottedaffern

Favourite designers?

I’ve done some work experience at Paul Smith which really influenced my love of all things British! Vivienne Westwood is obviously a huge inspiration and proof you can achieve anything if you go for it and believe in yourself. I suppose that’s the ultimate dream to work for Vivienne Westwood! Comme des Garcons, Viktor and Rolf – love their style and how they challenge rhythm and tradition within their designs. I like to see what other people are doing as well, other jewellers, illustrators, graphic designers, furniture makers! The list is endless.

charlottedaffern

From reading previous answers, would you say your choice of fabric evolves from their involvement in the stereotypes your are subverting?

Yes I think they do. I begin with fabrics that people associate with the stereotype and try to deconstruct and develop new sometimes mutated forms from the initial subjects forms and materials. I think a lot of people associate tartan with ‘Britishness’ and gingham checks with tablecloths but they don’t usually see these made into other things and then transformed into something wearable.

What fabric are you using in the new collection?

In my latest collection I have used the things that I associate with the imagery of the 1950’s housewives. Polka dots, checks, ginhams, florals. I imagined the polka dots on a housewifes dress, the stripey shirts of her husband, the checks on her tablecloth, the flowers sitting in a vase on her table. The fabrics I use are a combination of new, vintage and second hand.

charlottedaffern8

As Amelia’s Magazine focuses frequently on sustainable fashion – I wondered if I could could enquire about your thoughts on the following? Would you consider yourself environmentally aware? If so does being aware of the environment impact your work?

I would definitely like to think I am environmentally aware. My fashion degree dissertation was based on what it is to make a company ethical and profitable. Through all the research I learned a lot about how much gets wasted and which companies are taking steps towards improving their methods and sourcing. I love recycling and upcycling. There’s something exciting about spotting something in a charity shop that others have overlooked. There is also the challenge of trying to make it into something even better! The only downside to this way of working is storage space. My mum has endured my hoarding ways for years and now my poor boyfriend is going to be subject to it.

Charlotte_Daffern_6

Are there ways that you think our society can be improved and are you as a designer or as an individual engaged in doing anything about this?

I think the ‘fast fashion’ of today is really damaging. Most customers who pop into town won’t know what goes into their £2.50 t-shirt. I think there have been programmes on television which have tried to highlight this but I can appreciate those on low incomes will completely overlook that when they’re at the till. I don’t think it is going to do much good by trying to educate people and leave it solely in their hands. I think it’s the responsibility of the designers and manufacturers to only offer sustainable options (or as sustainable as possible). As a designer there’s the argument of where do you draw the line at calling something ‘sustainable’ or ‘ethical’? I don’t usually bring up where my materials come from unless people ask. However I do like to use recycled beads, haberdashery, fabrics etc and combine these with new. I would like to use more and more recycled materials in the future. Sometimes the problem lies in getting good quality second hand materials and I would rather create something combining new and old so that the aesthetic of the work is not compromised.

Charlotte_Daffern_3

Where did you study and how did you find the design ethos of the teachers on the MA?

I studied at Birmingham School of Jewellery In the Jewellery Quarter. I found that the course supported ideas, concepts and material investigation. It isn’t about trying to fit into any boxes as far as style or design is concerned. You are really encouraged to develop your own creative handwriting and I learned to be confident in making work that some people might not understand. The work I make is a hybrid of fashion and jewellery; I’ve always struggled to explain it to people when they ask what I do! I’ve found that most people like to be able to explain exactly what something is and they get confused when they see some of my pieces. I think it adds to the fascination but people sometimes reject what they don’t recognise. I think they are happy for you to do anything here, just justify why and that there is a market for it and you can do anything!

What aspects of design make you happy?

So many aspects of designing make me happy! I like to find creative solutions to problems such as how to use the last scrap of vintage fabric effectively; How I can incorporate and combine various colours, fabrics and findings etc. I love creating something that makes other people smile. I think fashion should be fun and daring! It’s a shame that as we get older we sometimes lose that playfulness that we had with our dressing up box. I worked in retail for a couple of years and met such a wide range of interesting people. I was really inspired by peoples reaction to colours, trends etc. One lady told me that despite the credit crunch she wanted the bright orange dress and not the safe black cardigan, That really got me thinking – of course if you only have so much to spend you want to spend it on something that’s got the wow factor! This made me happy!

Find Charlotte Daffern here:

Radical Nature is an exhibition at the Barbican that explores art and architecture for a changing planet, page it was held over summer but is now coming to a close with next week as the last chance to go and see the exhibits.

Rad1

The gallery has brought together an array of artists, viagra 60mg designers and architects across different generations to collaborate in the space. The ideas are drawn from environmental activism, generic experimental architecture and utopianism and make for an interesting whirlwind tour of how we can look to live in the changing global climate.
With over 20 artists presenting their work there is plenty to take in and lots to learn, I’ve picked out my top 6 most inspiring installations.

1. Air-Port-City
Tomas Saraceno

rad3

One of the first things you come across, the bubble cell joined up plastic blobs that relate to Tomas’s concept of Air-Port City. He wants it to challenge the political structure and look for people and nations to communicate and join in synergy with a no borders approach. The conjoined cells, and black rope make up an interesting visual and you can instantly relate it to some far off futuristic utopia.

2. Geodesic Dome
Richard Buckminster Fuller

rad6

Taking one of the centre places is the Geodesic dome, pioneered by Richard Fuller over sixty years ago. The revolutionary structure built up of triangular elements is now replicated all over the world. A film, Modelling Universe, where Fuller explains how universal and natural elements can be simplified down to triangles is defiantly worth a watch.

3. The survival Series
Newton and Helen Harrison

rad5

A collaboration in the seventies where the two began to work on projects that would benefit the ecosystem. It culminated in Full Farm, which is restaged at the Barbican. Cleverly constructed raised beds and vegetable plots are used to grow a range of crops. Tomatoes in a gallery are certainly a first for me, although not too sure about the huge watt bulbs powering the photosynthesis.

4. Wheatfield
Agnes Denes

rad4

An inspiring take on environmental art that can’t help to challenge peoples perceptions. Wheatfield – A Confrontation where two acres of wheat were planted in a landfill right next to New York created amazing images. The project was created at Dalston Mill for the Radical Nature exhibition. The fields and towers give an apocalyptic and futuristic feel and the idea of crops bordering towns and cities seem like an attractive idea to me.

5. Fallen Forest
Henrik Hakansson

Rad2

Another installation to challenge perceptions, a 16metre squared piece of rainforest is flipped on its side. The massive lights create an artificial environment that Hakansson aims to point out the unbalanced relationship between man and nature, although I’m not sure if the huge electricity power needed is meant to be part of the analysis.

6. Waste Flow
Mierle Laderman Ukeles

rad10

Involving all of New York’s districts Mierle met every bin man in the area and personally thanked all 8,500 of them. What I found most interesting was the rubbish flow film that came out of the project, which follows the household rubbish through the streets to landfill. The amount of waste and the fact that we all distance ourselves from the process means that it is a fascinating and eye-opening documentary on our waste and throw away culture.

rad7

The exhibition is defiantly worth a visit and with plenty of other intricacies and projects to look at and learn from on the two floors. Urban Harvest Festival will also be taking place next Thursday the 15th where a DIY disco invite people to bring their own music to season the evening alongside a food and end-of-season harvest Swapshop, as well as chefs from Searcy’s cooking up a treat.

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