This Semester’s Everyday Challenge…

I try to give my Principles of Design for Apparel class a shape challenge where I ask them to look at the actual shape/aesthetic properties of an everyday item and re-interpret it as a fashion material.  Last semester was coffee filters.  That worked so well as to be  a tough act to follow.  The idea of what to do next has been troubling me for months, and actually came up (as a positive and enthusiastic discussion) during a recent interview for a benefitted position in the department. In desperation, at the dollar store 40 minutes before the lecture started, I finalized on….

dresses from dryer sheets

Can you guess?

Dryer sheets!  Aside to complaints about the decidedly not-linen-like odor of the "fresh linen" scent, it went pretty well.

Dryer sheets! Aside to complaints about the decidedly not-linen-like odor of the “fresh linen” scent, it went pretty well.

I try to use an everyday item that’s generally just thrown away after use.  The trick is, it has to be an item that is a simple shape (coffee filters are round, dryer sheets are rectangle, etc)  and it has to have enough body to do something interesting on the stand and it can’t rip easily.  Ideally it has some form of interesting texture.  The choice to use dryer sheets happened about 40 minutes before class, as I was wandering the aisles of the dollar store in desperation.

Eventually, they got a background to give them a little context.

Eventually, they got a background to give them a little context.

Once again, I was very proud of them.  :)  They do such great things when they just play!

Once again, I was very proud of them. :) They do such great things when they just play!

That’s really the moral of the story here.  Design is about playing with elements.  It’s about joyfully embracing the probability of mistakes, and not assigning consequences to them.  It’s about knowing when to abandon your last favorite idea in favor of your new favorite idea.  It’s not about worrying whether the final design will be hard to make or if you even know how to do it.  It’s just a constant amazing process of learning and trying and learning more.

I’ve been a little down because one of my classes isn’t really embracing that idea.  I feel like there should be something I can do to help them lower their resistance to play – they’re so serious.  If an activity isn’t graded, they don’t want to do it.  (Apparently, I waste their time.) Even on an activity that’s no graded, where they are not using their own supplies, I get resistance to trying a new technique. They don’t want to play with volume, or new silhouettes – they want to remake things they’ve seen at the mall.  It’s a little frustrating.

Then I look at what my principles class can do, and I think maybe I need to just bring a couple boxes of dryer sheets in to my other class…

They made prints with common "trash" items - plastic forks, water bottles, etc - in acrylic on white plastid table cloths.  When the prints dried, they made designs with their prints (plus a blue table cloth for luck), and we got this nice, relatively cohesive beach/cruise sort of mini-collection.  Thank you, Project Runway!

They made prints with common “trash” items – plastic forks, water bottles, etc – in acrylic on white plastid table cloths. When the prints dried, they made designs with their prints (plus a blue table cloth for luck), and we got this nice, relatively cohesive beach/cruise sort of mini-collection. Thank you, Project Runway!

The display caption says “What would you do with…” We’re trying to start a conversation about the possibilities of the items in use.  One of the coolest things I’ve ever heard came from one of the girls with the dryer sheet dresses.  I was saying how cool it was that last year, we had the coffee filter dresses on display when a major high school competition (FCCLA) came through, and I got to hear all the high school kids responding to the coffee filter dresses and snapping a jillion pics with their cellies.  One of my current batch timidly raised her hand and said, “I know. I was there.”  And I was like, “And now you get to inspire the next group that comes through!” and she was like, “I know!  This is so cool!”  Not gonna lie – I almost teared up.  (By “almost” I mean, “only did a little”.  I get so proud of them.)

So anyhoo….  What works other than coffee filters and dryer sheets?  What do we throw out at least weekly that is relatively small, and has a simple shape, decent body, and doesn’t tear?

I’m asking because I have no idea what to use next time.  ;)

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