Contemporary threads: a new OCA textiles course
A new OCA Textiles course at level 2 (HE 5) was launched this week. I think it’s the most exciting course in the OCA textiles degree pathway suite, since it challenges students in all sorts of ways, both practically and philosophically. Called Contemporary Textiles, the course focuses on tactile and visual design ideas and a broad range of processes and materials. It challenges ideas and preconceptions exploring important issues in contemporary textiles – new materials and processes, sustainability, and introduces the use of basic digital technology as a tool for developing creative ideas. Developed jointly by OCA’s Textiles Curriculum Leader Pat Moloney and a sustainability expert in textiles – Lisa Bloomer – we have got a course that we think will result in even more exciting work coming through for assessment. Students will look at the way cultures re-use and transform materials: objects discarded from our everyday lives that have been picked up by other cultures and treated as valuable or exotic. This is particularly evident in Africa and in Mexico where packaging, telephone wire, tin cans and bottle tops are transformed to create new meanings within the context of their own culture. Lisa Bloomer is currently in Guatemala for six months exploring just this.
In addition to looking at and using recycled materials students are asked to explore new materials. Fibre technology among other materials offer a fantastic opportunity for textiles artists, as does plastic tubing, electrical cabling and so on. The course also explores bio-mimicry. A household name associated with this term is Velcro, functional tape inspired by natural burrs, designed by a Swiss naturalist after he observed how burrs are dispersed in their natural environment. More recently though there are many fantastic examples of bio-mimicry such as fibres which are inspired by the iridescence in peacock feathers and the wings of butterflies. By mimicking the shape and structure of a butterfly wing, colour is created by the interplay of light and surface without the use of dyes and pigments saving energy in the production process and reducing manufacturing waste.
This course will certainly raise the game for textiles students who choose this course, since the course forces students to think and act on issues relating to the re-use of materials, sustainability and new materials. The digital element of the course is at a basic level so students should not be put off by its inclusion. It will just add another element to your textiles armoury, in an increasingly digital world.