In order to demonstrate how the skills we have learnt in Design Studies can be applied to the discipline of Jewellery and Metalwork, we were asked to review and rethink a studio brief we tackled this year. Then by applying the primary and secondary research methods learnt this year during my Design Studies, discuss how these techniques could be utilised during the research and design process if I were to approach this brief again.
Our studio briefs have been wonderfully diverse this year. We began the year with the vessel project which asked us to design and make some form of container. The second brief was the wire project which was to be influenced by the work of an artist or sculptor whom you found inspiring. The third studio brief was the catwalk project where we were asked to design and make a extravagant, colourful, piece based on a culture or time period. It had to be effective on a catwalk as a fashion statement. The project brief I would like to reconsider in connection to the secondary research methods we have developed, however, is the project we are working on at present, Stone Setting. This project did not simply require us to learn a selection of new jewellery skills, it also encouraged us to research into the ideas of myth, legend, superstition and religion which surround semi-precious stones.
At the beginning of any new design brief I have always applied secondary research skills, however, possibly not in the organised manner to which we have been introduced by Design Studies, more in my own mish-mashed style. To begin the stone setting brief for instance, I started off scouring the library with a clear idea of what I was looking for but as always, other books caught my eye and I was drawn towards them. My next step is always to conduct the same sort of search but online. To get a an overview of the subject I began with a general look at gemstones, then going on to look at their hardness, how they are formed, the different types of cuts and settings. Having now looked into and practiced Primary Research methods, I believe that interviewing a jeweller who uses stone setting widely throughout their work or possibly interviewing a stone-setter would have given me more of an insight into the various settings, their pros and cons and any hints and tips which only come with years of experience.
Having gathered a wealth of general gemstone knowledge I then moved on to researching their individual symbolism throughout the ages and the ways gemstones and jewellery have been used. I found some of the myths and legends surrounding the stones fascinating but found that, after doing all my research and telling people what I had discovered, they had heard other variations which could have been added to my bank of knowledge had I shared my findings earlier. Luckily by this stage I had not decided firmly on which myth to go with and so I went with my three or four options and basically had an informal brainstorming session with some friends. I tend to do this at some stage during every project as I find it invaluable in the design process. It is too easy to become blinkered to other views and to become fixated on one design without trying out any alternatives. Other people see things differently and can input observations and ideas which would never have occurred to me, they can broaden your thought process.
The primary and secondary research methods I have developed this year in design studies will, without doubt be even more useful when it comes to designing for the public in the form of commissions. Here it would be imperative to use various primary and secondary research techniques. For example if a client commissions me to make an item of jewellery I think a combination of interview, observation and experiment would hopefully give me a real insight into exactly what they are looking for. Initially, I would conduct an interview to ascertain the basic requirements and get a feeling for what the client is looking for. A good line of communication is essential to keep your client updated and to make sure you are both on the same page.
Sometimes when designing for a particular person it can be hard to get to the bottom of what they are really like just by asking them a series of questions no-matter how well thought out and planned your questions are. In this case I believe observational skills are invaluable. We use observation almost without thinking from the moment we first see someone, this can be a dangerous thing which can easily cause you to jump to conclusions but if used properly can be incredibly useful. As with interviews, people can portray themselves in a particular way by means of dress, hairstyle etc when in-fact this is not reflecting their true personality. I would observe their body language, dress sense and their reaction to certain questions I ask. All of these would help me gather a better picture of what they might really be looking for. I would also conduct a sort of experiment by showing them examples of my previous work and gauge their reactions to the pictures or items I show them. Paying particular attention to the items of jewellery that they find the most attractive and enquiring after what exactly they like and dislike about them.
Without really realising it, I believe I was already using these highly beneficial research techniques, introduced to us this semester to aid me with my research and design processes. This series of assignments has been beneficial as they have made me far more aware of the techniques and how I use them within my discipline. I may have been already using these skills, however, I was doing so without thoroughly thinking about what I was doing and so was not using them to their full potential. Books and internet are not the be-all and end-all, talking to people and observing their behaviour holds a wealth of knowledge which I think I was previously missing. I will carry on using this approach but in a a far more conscious manner as I believe it will contribute to me producing work with a far deeper personal meaning.