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Designers, artists, makers and thinkers breathing new life in textile industry

Friday, 29 July 2016   (0 Comments)
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This month we caught up with Social Fabric SA, a project that believes that the collective creativity of South Africans – designers, artists, makers and thinkers – can pull together to breathe new life into an industry worth re-building. Find out how they are creating a network of thinkers, artists, designers, tertiary institutions and textile manufacturers who are open to collaboration. Through this network they hope to inspire more curiosity around local textiles, cross pollination of ideas and in turn, more commercially viable products that will eventually lead to the creation of sustainable jobs for more South Africans. 

What is Social Fabric SA?


Social Fabric SA is a project bringing together artists, designers and South African textile manufacturers to collaborate and start re-building the embattled textile industry through the development of a design-led innovation pipeline. 

 

How does the Social Fabric SA project work? 

  

Textile Host: Identify a key South African textile and invite a local manufacturer of that textile to host an artist-in-residence. 

 

Artist in Residence: An artist is invited to work at a textile manufacturer as artist-in-residence. Their role is to observe, research and react to the material and its manufacturing process; and to work with the manufacturer’s team to experiment with new techniques for making. This is specifically an open-ended process where the artist may end up making a complete artwork(s) or concepts, sketches and experiments. For the first three projects we worked with Paul Edmunds, Liza Grobler and Pierre Fouché and the artist for our final project is Igshaan Adams.

  

Workshop: We invite a cross-disciplinary group to play and experiment with the textile. The outcomes from the artist-in-residence are presented to the group and we use a collaborative, creative approach to inspire them to investigate new avenues with the textile and to come up with fresh new ways to use it. 


This process is repeated with four different textile hosts. We have already completed three projects: felt with Krafthaus, mohair with SAMIL and socks and yarns with FALKE and the final project will be around textile off-cuts using a selection of waste materials from a variety of manufacturers. So far we have worked with CPUT’s fashion department, NMMU’s fashion design and architecture departments and Stellenbosch University’s Visual Communication Design department.

 

The DOEN Foundation is generously supporting four such artist-in-residences and the follow-up workshops.  

 

How is this project valuable to the South African textile industry?


We asked the questions: can African-led creativity help develop a competitive market and can  producers of domestic materials support a design-led innovation pipeline? It is the aim of the Social Fabric SA project to initiate a framework to answer these questions.    

 

Our aim is to create a network of thinkers, artists, designers, tertiary institutions and textile manufacturers who are open to collaboration. Through this network we hope to inspire more curiosity around local textiles, cross pollination of ideas and in turn, more commercially viable products that will eventually lead to the creation of sustainable jobs for more South Africans. 

 

We are already starting to see the way in which the threads of this project are weaving their way through the textile industry. The changes have been felt through the different levels of the project:  from one artist who until now has worked only with his hands starting to appreciate the value and beauty of a machine-made textile object; to one of our textile manufacturers testing new products inspired by the artist-in-residence and workshop participants embarking on commercial collaborations after meeting at one of our workshops.

 

What insight have you gained into the role of creativity from working on this project?

 

Making the time to think creatively, to experiment and play is an essential part of product development and a part often neglected when time and budgets are tight. A part of the mandate of Social Fabric is to demonstrate the value in setting aside that time for thinking differently and to show how creativity has the potential to bring to life the very ideas that could create the innovative edge to uplift a company or an industry. One of Social Fabric’s main focus areas is around material exposure – getting real South African textiles in front of the right people and creating a space for design to happen in a playful way.

 

Our project aims to weave a social network around textiles, getting different players in the industry to start to talk and work together. One of the main take-aways for a participant in our Mohair workshop was the benefit of cross-industry collaboration. She had this to say: “What I found inspiring was how connecting people from different disciplines really stimulates creativity.”

 

In a broader sense this perception-change really embodies what Social Fabric is about; creativity is sparked when you start to employ a multi-disciplinary collaborative approach that strengthens our own knowledge bases, inspires new thinking and ultimately improves delivery in our own sectors.    

 

What are your plans for Social Fabric SA in the future?

 

At the end of the final textile project we will hold an exhibition to share the outcomes with as many people as possible and will also be publishing a 'how to' booklet to share our learnings.

 

The aim is to leave behind a road map for the textile industry, tertiary institutions, artists and designers to replicate and adapt the relevant aspects of Social Fabric SA for the benefit of the textile industry and potentially other industries as well.  

 

Whether you're a manufacturer, artist, and or designer, they welcome your questions, comments and feedback. To find out more about the project or just get in touch, please contact Winnie Sze and Helen Andrews on socialfabricsa@gmail.com

 


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