In this series we connect the dots on work in Degree Show Two. Here, we look at designers making the everyday extraordinary…
It may sound improbable to find inspiration in the daily commute but Lucie Davis (BA Jewellery Design) has done just that. Her graduate collection includes false nails that replace your Oyster card and a ring that’s only activated while doing the washing up.
“These ideas just kept popping up as I was experience my daily routine” explains Davis, “You get so immersed in it, it’s an intimate, active thing – that’s what I want to get across.” Touching in Touching Out, for example, is a set of false nails with the RFID tag from an Oyster card embedded in them, allowing the wearer to pass through the London Underground ticket barriers without rummaging around pockets for their card and with a little bit of magic.
With a good dose of humour, her collection turns the mundane into something magical. With the use of ‘magic sponge’, Davis has created a ring that expands when it touches water, holding the crystal in place in its setting as it does. The ring requires water to be activated, inverting the usual ritual of removal at the sink. Davis asks us to rethink those moments and objects that we take for granted in our daily life, she’s even created a series of silk scarfs embellished with hand drawn blue lines, a handmade homage to the ubiquitous J-cloth and Hermes scarf in one.
While it re-evaluates the everyday, Davis’s work equally plays on the notions of preciousness. “Sometimes you can get caught up in the word ‘jewellery’,” she says, “Every time I say ‘I do jewellery’ people always ask what metals I use. It’s a bit of shock to them when I say… sponges. Whatever you use, just taking an object and calling it jewellery, you’re doing something, you’re adding a notional sense of value.”
Stacey Huang, another soon-to-be graduate of BA Jewellery Design, finds her inspiration in an equally unassuming place, Tesco. Visiting the supermarket on her daily routine, the Chinese student finds comfort in the familiarity of the products’ packaging: “I find that packaging has become an international language. I’m an international student but I understand this language.”
Having had a previous practice as a graphic designer, Huang’s collection works with the signs and symbols of supermarket products. “I know what’s under the graphics,” she says, “I’ve learned how to get people to buy things. I know the traps.”
So she has transformed the throwaway visual language of mass-produced packaging into a collection of gold-plated and pearl jewellery. There’s the ‘Buy One Get One Free’ earring where the second is, in fact, its reflection, or the ‘Bundle’ in which a necklace is threaded with both earrings and a ring.
While jewellery designers are finding the mundane a fruitful path, the everyday underwent several transformations during the BA Fashion Show with not only Jaeeun Shin’s gown constructed from Waitrose bags but Chiara Tommencioni Pisapia’s collection which saw men ironing, sweeping and cleaning their way along the catwalk.
Pisapia’s collection brings together various inspirations into one place. The designer became interested in sustainability, especially the recycling of plastic, while working for an NGO in Myanmar last year. Her process combines offcuts and waste from various manufactories as well as objects she finds discarded in London streets.
Thinking about the notion of disposability, Pisapia then stumbled across the phrase ‘disposable people’ in reference to contemporary slavery and began researching. These touchstones of influence combine in her Labour Mart Collection an almost-performance of men enslaved in domesticity, their enforced everyday acts clothed in a flurry of textiles. “That’s what interests me the most, the social and political aspects of objects. But at the same time I know my work is quite colourful. I was looking at ’60s advertisements aimed at housewives and they are quite graphic and colourful. We buy products that are colourful plastic and shiny, they cost £1 and then you realise that behind them is a footprint of slavery. Behind the colour and shine there is a dark side.”
Across disparate projects, these designers ask us to think again on our daily experience, challenging us to go beneath the surface of that which we no longer see. From the pleasures and peculiarities of our routines to the ramifications of our effortless consumption, this work reminds us that the everyday is worth another look.