Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Kedut Light

Our solution to the ceramic and textile brief of Syntropy was the Kedut light. We designed this series of light fixtures to both incorporate both Malaysian songket textile and ceramic ware, and to highlight the beauty of the traditional songket that we had become so fond of. We were aware of the small timeframe we had to produce a product to fit this brief and while many ideas of jewellery and wall art were being thought of, a practical realistic project for the time given was the lighting option. The shape and incorporations in our design, however could be applied to other field of design other than just lighting. 

Our light illuminated the songket from the inside, showing off the small intricate details of the weaving. The ‘crumpled’ looking songket also provides an interactive component to our design. This component is aimed at stimulating people to touch and feel the light, move it and crumple it how they like. This allows all individuals to get up close to the songket and really see the amount of effort that went into weaving the fabric. 

lighting concept

Originally we had planned to use sheer fabric with copper wire woven through it to make it rigid enough to crumple and bend. As we experimented with the qualities of both sheer and normal songket, we found that interfacing the fabric was also successful. Thanks to Aliff, we were able to iron interfacing onto the back of the fabric and steam press the creases we desired into the songket. Each of techniques were successful and we presented both in conjunction with ceramic fittings as a series of lighting fixtures. 
Kedut Prototype
The ceramic fixture was slip cast from water bottles that everyone had been drinking from while in Alamanda (not sure why they didn’t drink the tap water). We were on a very tight schedule and thanks to Ion and Larissa patience we were able to make the molds, cast and fire 2 of the fittings, one of which was successful. Ion also made two fittings, which he then carved into the geometric pattern we desired. Both the cast and thrown fittings were successful and we decided to present both options for final presentation. 

Kedut Prototype 2
Our group worked extremely productively and everyone had a clear direction within the group. Ion’s skills in the ceramics and graphics department were brilliant. His meticulous skill with ceramics really payed off for the final product. Larissa and Aliff worked extremely hard on the fabric side of things. Aliff was the master sewer for all our swatches and helped a great deal with his knowledge of the qualities of certain fabrics. June’s knowledge of fabric also came in handy when she suggested to Blake to use the steam press to create the permanent pleats. Everyone worked well and the tasks were split fairly among all and we were all extremely grateful to be able have worked with one another. 

Team Members : Ion, Aliff, Larissa, Blake,
Blog Post by Blake.


Our final solutions for the Re:Invigoration project included a small range of homeware applications that engaged the delicacy of Songket textile and the functionality of ceramic structures. We developed prototypes for both lighting and seating solutions that we felt reinvigorated the materials by combining them in a dynamic way. By showcasing the Songket textile through illumination and contrasting it with its polar opposites, the rigid attributes of the ceramic and rattan, we were able to produce innovative products that would revive the Songket industry and utilise a beautiful weaving technique of the Iban people. Not only did we aim to preserve these deteriorating crafts by creating a new use for them, we also aimed to reinvigorate the way the public and consumer viewed the textile, by giving it a new functionality that was perhaps in the past restricting this consumer market.

Our Final Exhibition Display

The Lighting Solution
The design concept based on a motif which is incorporated into both the shape and the feature of the lighting is scalable and adaptable. Using extrusion dyes of varying sizes the light can be manufactured in any size. A large feature light as a focus in a foyer is as easy to create as a series of lights which combine to form a dynamic light show in a large shopping centre or a series of tiny motif lights similar to fairy lights in an outdoor setting.
The extruded form could be cut to any length. The carved incision work creates employment opportunities for artisans who would be employed to give each piece the final handmade touch.

The object can potentially be hung from the ceiling or placed on a table or wall as an effective and unique lighting concept.
By varying the basic motif contained within the design bother corprations and individuals may be offered a product which expresses a global message in a public space or a very private and individual narrrative in a home. This is enhanced by the Songket which can be designed to suit the needs of the end user - colour and design creating an endless range of potential markets

The Seating Solution
The backlit Songket serves as the “pearl” of the design, and becomes a more significant feature depending on the time of day. The rattan casing plays the role of the “shell”, and would be woven using the expertise of the Songket weavers.  Both the rattan exterior and the porcelain top would be sourced locally and prepared by its artisans. This manufacturing process would support the economy (through exports), the environment (through efficient use of natural resources) preserve the culture (through design) and its people (through employment).

Therefore, the Songket weavers and Iban people would have their work showcased on the world market and this would ensure the practice’s survival through global appreciation.

An example of our envisioned use of products in a corporate setting

All ideas were arrived at together, however each team member had a crucial role to play in the resolution of the Reinvigoration project. Especially in the beginning, we found our ideas were too refined, and needed to be scaled back to a more appropriate use of materials and to aim the products at wider, more diverse audience. This in turn would compliment our goals to produce a stable income for the craftsmen to continue their traditions. We all played to our strengths to work together- Mitchell brought a technical knowledge of materials and structures to our ideas bringing a much needed practicality to our solutions. Lou brought her design and textile knowledge to aid the production of ideas by linking concept to the outcome. Both utilized their graphic skills to create the poster panels for the final exhibition. Pari was critical in idea generation and brought an acute knowledge of ceramics to the production of the final outcome and prototypes.

Modular Songket & Ceramic containers & seating

As a designer and consumer, questioning individual’s attachment to their objects and the nature
of consumer gains in buying design/craft products was an automatic reaction. Design/craft products acquire symbolic value and serve many purposes for their owners, such as enjoyment of tactile stimulation, admiration of craftsmanship, connection with the meaning of the work. Consumers value the aesthetic pleasure they received from the intrinsic beauty in color, design, or workmanship of design/ craft products. In that context we tried to create the fusion of Malay Songket textile and ceramic, which can solve the issues that traditional Malay Songket has been confronted by industrialized global market. Our expectation through this design/craft collaboration was to lead and adapt the traditional craft- Songket textile-to the opportunities of a global market.

Our group’s approach was to facilitate the continuation, adaption and application of traditional Malay Songket weaving in a contemporary design field through its fusion with ceramic. Based on traditional Songket motifs we developed modular design system, which is standardized units and can be separated or recombined. The basic form of our modular design was initially derived from Ain’s motif design
for Songket textile that displayed the repetitive cat’s eye shape. Through the modular concept, our design development was extended into other ranges of high-end consumer products. For instance, the
modular system can be extended to a tea table/stool set, jewellery piece, jewellery box set or even as decorative wall panels for an interior space.

Modular Concepts

The collaboration of our group – Ellen (Interior Architecture), Olivia (Fine Art), Ise (Ceramics), Min Shin (Design/Ceramics), Ain and Mary (Textile/ Fashion Design) – provided different perspectives to develop the idea. Based on each member’s specialty, our design development and prototype making were the outcome of all team members’ effort. However, most documentation and preparation for our final presentation were completed by Ellen. Our team members’ different perspectives help bridge the gap between tradition and modern, native and foreign, design and craft, ceramic and textile. Our fundamental principle was simple, even though crafts are rooted in age-old tradition, crafts should be enriched and renewed by creativity of each generation and the contemporary needs of societies. Tradition does not simply mean to preserve old methods. We tried to embed this mindset into our design, and decided to make ceramic stools combined with Songket textile. To achieve this we employed several methods (Justine suggested very creative ways to do this): stitching, joining, embedding using cotton, synthetic threads and metallic (copper) threads, which are used for Songket weaving. We have encouraged an innovative approach to materials, extending the capabilities of the hand via industrial or manufactured processes, not to overshadow the traditional techniques but enhance their current usage and application through this collaborative approach. This also essentially provides a competitive edge to our design, as we are able to adapt and interchange traditional processes with contemporary thinking in design.

Songket / Ceramic Container & Seating prototypes

For the final product, different material can be added to improve the functionality of the modular tea table/stool set. If the ceramic material of the stool body is replaced with timber material (such as, Malaysian Sal wood), the durability, and the weight will be significantly improved. The use of native Malaysian resources will also stimulate the Malaysian market and hence the traditional craft practices. 
Team Members:  Ellen, Olivia, Ise, Min Shin, Justine,Ain and Mary  
Blog Post by Ellen.


Our aim was to utilize the interesting patterns created by the Iban pottery paddling technique for an interior application. By incorporating the very organic yet beautifully handmade and traditional technique of ceramics with the ever so intricately woven songket textile we could create a new product for the upper retail/interior market. As the product would be situated in a semi-private, semi-public sphere, the aim is to increase exposure and awareness of traditional Malaysian craft and design in the hope to support communities and preserve these beautiful crafts.

Cultural engagement:
By engaging in a cross-cultural, creative enterprise with Unimas and COFA students to design a prototype for Syntropy, we gained a greater perspective of the opportunities of working together, the opportunities of design perspectives and initiative on traditional crafts while also analyzing the negatives of our influence and the possible loss of tradition. Taking all this into account we tried to incorporate both crafts at a similar level, by elevating the iban to a high end level, and making songket easily accessible to manufacture by designing smaller pieces.

Our modular joining partition screen based upon the eight split petal flower design Bunga Pecah Lapan demonstrates the usefulness and aesthetics involved in traditional geometric Malay patterns. Pecah meaning ‘split’ is a screen system that can divide an interior space, provide privacy and showcase two of Malaysia’s greatest creative arts the iban pottery and traditional songket weaving.

Tile Pattern Explorations

The motifs for the songket were based on both traditional songket motifs and the incorporation of iban geometric patterning to create a contemporized and synthesized look between the iban pottery influence and the fusion of songket textiles. As the songket is woven in small pieces, it allows for faster production of the larger modular system. It also means that if a mistake is made it is a matter of starting again a weeks work, not six months work for traditionally woven songket shawls.

Bunga Pecah Lapan - The Eight Split Petal Flower Prototype with Songket Inlay 
Pecah Screen

The materials and joining mechanism used in the final product would differ greatly to the prototype. Fine white porcelain would be used for the tiles, allowing for a lightweight structure. The slip casted porcelain also allows for greater transparencies where the iban textures are located on the tile. This is a highlight of the design. By splitting a room using a screen sometimes you do not get a sense of wonder what is behind the divider, with the Pecah screen, light can filter through allowing the visitor to interact with the space, inching forward to see through or around. The joining mechanism allows for various formations due to the clip on bracket.

Working in a team can have its issues, however we found that each one of us brought something useful and positive to the team. We, Adrianna (Applied Object, Ceramics), Kate (Fine Arts Printmaking), Emily (Applied Object, Textiles), Santina (Ceramics, Textiles) and Mahmut (Textiles) could contribute, collaborate and problem solve together. We also separated tasks for efficiency. Ceramic pieces were being made by Santina and Adrianna, while Kate and Emily worked on the textile designs and Mahmud, the all rounder, helped with all aspects of the design process namely computer generating the different formations of the geometric patterning system.

Team Members: Kate, Emily, Santina, Adrianna and Mahmud
Blog Post by Emily.

Cahaya Songket

Continuing our work from the initial concept, we decided to name our object Cahaya Songket or Light of Songket. The name has a double meaning, representing the object as a lighting application but also as what we hope to be a new direction for the use of songket. 

lit up Cahaya Songket
Cahaya Songket incorporates both songket textile and ceramics which can be used as wall tiles, lighting, covering, and at the same time, as a form of art. The approach started by evaluating the current issues faced by the songket weaving industry such as limited usage, competition with mass produced songket which are cheaper and more readily available, and the need to give the craft a new zest of life.
We divided the work accordingly to the skills and knowledge possessed by the members of the team. Dai was in charge of presentations and digital prototyping, Irine led the work in ceramics, Nicole specialised in creating the textiles and its application to the ceramic pieces, and Alicia provided general help in all areas. Even though each of us was in charge of a component of the project, the rest of the group would help out with whatever work was required.
As a team we worked really well. We learned from each other by helping do the work, regardless of whether or not we have had previous experience in ceramics or textiles or presentation. It was a true cross collaboration between disciplines, so much so that Dai is taking ceramics moulding class next semester!   
One of the most important considerations in our design was that we wanted to retain the traditional methods and techniques of both ceramics and songket. We did not want to change the two professions of songket weaver and ceramicist, by creating an expectation that a songket weaver would be able to produce the ceramics pieces or for a ceramicist to be able to weave songket onto ceramics. That is why we have designed Cahaya Songket as a combination of finished products: a ceramics tile wrapped in songket textile.

Protoype Tile &  Lighting 

Our design can also incorporate parts of an imperfect songket textile, which is usually not sellable. In this way, a beginner songket weaver can be assured that the months of work she has done is never completely wasted even if there is an imperfection. We want to promote usability of songket and reduce wastage of such a precious fabric. In our prototype we have also visualised the end result of using double ikat dyeing process, to encourage future exploration by local artisans that can enhance the songket weaving craft.
The production of the ceramic tiles is done using moulds, which is an easier ceramics process and can potentially encourage inexperienced young people to join the workforce. Even though we have mentioned using porcelain to create the ceramic tile, we believe there is an opportunity to use locally sourced Sarawak clay in the creation of Cahaya Songket.
At the exhibition, we were really encouraged to hear from Dr June Ngo that producing Cahaya Songket is very feasible. We hope Cahaya Songket can benefit the social economic issues faced by songket weavers, provide a connection between designers and traditional artisans, and promote Sarawak crafts locally and internationally.

Group 3:  Alicia Tho, Daihyun Jang, Irine Lui, Nicole Crouch
Blog Post: Irine  and Daihyun.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Songket & Ceramic - material impressions

Our group developed personal objectives for the final project of the Syntropy Studio which included a focus upon maintaining the integrity of the Songket process whilst introducing innovation through material choices, encouraging dialogue in public and private spaces about the Songket process and traditional Malaysian craft, and to sustain the Songket weaving centre by utilizing skills that are already present. We believe that a knowledge of the complexity of the Songket process would assist in increasing the perceived value of handwoven Songket pieces, therefore heightening the textiles’ popularity. 

Two concepts were developed that would meet these objectives.

Concept 1: 
Ceramic slabs combined with Songket woven from copper, fibre optic cable or stainless steel filament would be slip cast from molded sections of copper or stainless steel Songket and would therefore have a woven appearance. Naturally raised sections of the cast ceramic Songket would be cutaway to allow for the warp fibres of the metallic Songket to pass through.

This system could be used in corporate, commercial and private settings, or smaller scale, lighting, through the use of woven fiber optics and translucent porcelain. This concept allows for personalization of the system and woven pattern, depending on the application. 

Concept 2: 
Contemporary tableware for an international market featuring imprints of copper Songket that each display poetic remnants of the Songket process, conveying the transition from fibre to fabric. 
The plates and side plates would be packaged in a beautiful handcrafted Songket pouch with an interlocking closure mechanism that alludes to the weaving process. The pouch could then be unfolded for use as a table runner. Stainless steel filaments would be incorporated in the Songket on the pouch to increase durability. There is potential to commission Contemporary Malaysian ceramicists to work in collaboration with Songket weavers to fulfil this concept. 

songket weave impressions as  tableware decoration

As a group, we were able to utilise our individual skills and divide the workload equally, successfully allowing our group to complete the design solutions on time. 

woven copper songket and tile patterns
The ceramics elements were made possible by the wealth of knowledge Kiara, Amber and Fandy possessed and they worked mainly in this studio throughout the projects’ development. Vashti and Hilya focussed upon creating the copper songket pieces and the table runner prototype, employing their joint textile knowledge and capitalising upon the facilities available at UNIMAS. The final presentation poster was also a product of our successful team work, with hand rendered drawings by Kiara, graphic and poster layout by Amber and text by Vashti.

Our group used experimentation, discussions, rendering (hand and computer) to develop and explore our ideas. Throughout the design process we were able to refine our ideas through exploration relying upon individual expertise within the group. Our successful team work combined with clear objectives and an effective design process allowed for quality design pieces to be produced within the limited time available. 

Amber, Fandy, Hilya, Kiara and Vashti
Blog post by Amber, Kiara and Vashti

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Suspended Songket & Ceramic Tile system

We are creating a modular system of fine porcelain tiles that can be assembled via a stainless steel joining mechanism.

The modular tiling system would be suspending from the ceiling of the lobby atrium with stainless steel wire. We are still experimenting with the arrangement of the panels, as ideally people would have to navigate through and interact with the spaces created by layering panels. By doing so both the textural patterns from the front and the incredible intricacies of the back, showcasing the workmanship of the songket weavers.

Using the rolling mill, roll out a slab of clay.
Then cut out templates for the tile shape.
Imprint the Iban motifs onto the remaining slab of clay.
Using the same template cut tile shapes out.
Holes will be made for the songket to be woven through on the smooth tiles.

We are still looking at different types of joining systems. These include stitching together using simple brackets, framing system, or double pronged fastener.

The Client:The design is appropriate for a high-end semi-public space i.e. a hotel lobby, restaurant/bar or a space that would further promote Malaysian design and craft like a retail store selling songket wearables and fashion accessories. The prototype of our design is intended for a large-scale setting however the system could be commissioned at any scale.

Cultural Relationships:We have decided to incorporate specific sections of some traditional Iban and songket motifs and symbols. References to the Iban culture have been made as we have been struck by the simplicity and textural qualities of their ceramics. This coincides with our pre-existing aesthetic notions of translucency and lightness of objects. We feel that bringing forward and highlighting certain aspects of these motifs will carry forward the narrative of valuing the past and present crafts in the Iban way of life. 

In designing this proposed modular system our intention is to uphold and strengthen the beautiful attention to detail and craftsmanship of the Iban people and the intricacy and precision of songket. Our tiles will have small sections of songket stitched within the tiles. On seeing the skill and time involved in weaving a single garment, using small sections of Songket allows for both reductions in cost and a focus on the intricacy of the weaving, standing out from a larger pattern. The motifs within the songket will be contemporised by manipulating scale, colour and application within the ceramic tile. The smaller designs also allows for fabrics that are otherwise discarded (mistakes having been made elsewhere in the weaving) to still be used.

Development into a series of related itemsIt is a modular design, meaning there are many opportunities for development. The initial shape (a parallelogram) can be altered for other tessellating patters on a two dimensional plane. Alterations to the joining mechanisms between patterns can lead to three-dimensional shapes being built as light fixtures and light sculptures.

Group Members: Adriana, Emily, Santina, Mahmut & Kate

Post by: Adriana, Emily, Santina, & Kate.

The Songket Story

From our experiences in Batang Ai, Nanga Sumpa Longhouse and our observations at the Tanoti Songket Weaving Workshop in Kuching, we felt that a knowledge of the complex and time consuming process behind Songket weaving adds significantly to its perceived value. Our emersion in Malaysian culture, led us to formulate several important personal objectives, that we felt were necessary to maintain the integrity of the Songket weaving process. Visits to SIRIM and the industrial ceramics workshop, revealed the ease with which cultural messages, and subtleties between the symbolism of different cultural groups, become obscured, when traditional processes are replaced with industrial ones. We also became aware of the risks involved in basing decisions on the evolution of traditional crafts purely on how they might appeal to an international market. In many cases this proved to be a poor approach and the results seemed eerily detached from the examples of pure and unaltered traditional craft that we were exposed to at the longhouse. We wanted the object we created to encourage dialogue about the intricacies of the Songket process, and to let the form reflect this.

On the first day of the project we devised two ideas. These are as follows:


Copper and Ceramic Songket: “From fibre to fabric”
Our initial idea involved imprinting copper Songket on thin slabs of ceramic, removing sections in correspondence to natural rises and falls in the woven structure, and using the removed sections to thread loose copper warp fibres. This idea could be extended to lighting, with the copper fibres replaced with fibre optics. The copper could also be replaced with stainless steel.

Kringka Tableware Collection
Centred around the idea of meaningful consumption, this collection of tableware would be housed in a beautifully crafted Songket parcel which can also be used as a table runner. Through slowly unfolding the parcel, the Songket weaving process is revealed through a series of imprinted ceramic panels as well as the motifs on the tableware itself. This motifs require further development and will be explored over the coming days.

The dinner table is a great forum for discussion. The tactile nature of the imprinted ceramics is designed to encourage conversation and introduce people to the complexity of the Songket weaving process. The table runner could incorporate stainless steel/ceramic elements to ensure a stronger structure for the parcel.

Group Members :Amber, Fendy, Hilya, Kiara, Vashti
Post by: Kiara Spencer-Smith, Amber Jade Green, Vashti Maynard