OCA Textiles 3: Research Assignment Five- Response to Formative Tutor Feedback

Morris (2020) Detail of Sampling with Nine A4 3mm MDF Sheets with Rice Paper, Tissue Paper and Newsprint, use of related resist with dull taupe, chartreuse green and light-mid grey printing inks, and imagery from natural coastal textures

Again, I really appreciated the tutor feedback, to help me gain some distance from the critical review to enable change. Given the continuing amendments and revisions, re-reads and reviews word blindness can and did crept in on several occasions. While there were reasons why I wished to hold onto the starting point of the critical review with some time away from the critical review… and added distance I could see that it did not read well and detracted from the overall introductory sentence and initial intent. On reflection I found this to be difficult as the critical review process grew arms and legs and changed direction so many times as I became more aware of the environmental variables at play within material making, sustaining, and reusing. With that in mind I spent some time evaluating the change, the meaning of the change and how I felt about it. Due to the complexity of the topic under investigation I wished to give sufficient room, space, and emphasis from the outset to what was deemed to be significant areas for consideration. That said I eventually rephrased the introduction as follows to include one main heading and several subheadings.

Title: Material Innovation and the Environment: Positive Change?

How can innovative materials support a more environmentally sustainable way of living?

How are materials being used in an innovative context using modern day technology and traditional processes?

What is driving the application of innovative materials and how has this been informed by the past and influenced by the present and future?

What role can the individual play in the progressive use of materials to promote environmental sustainability?

Through an investigative process the relationship we have with materials and the environment can be explored.

The tutor noted the need to restructure my conclusion which would be the single biggest improvement to my critical review… which I did. In doing so it really helped to focus my thinking and to pull together my critical review towards a cohesive and more unified end point as follows…

Conclusion- Material Innovation and the Environment: Positive Change?

How can innovative materials support a more environmentally sustainable way of living?

Through reviewing the literature there were endless current and forthcoming ideas for new material development under the auspices of environmental sustainability. Given the word count for this critical review so much had to be left out. That said environmental sustainability is not only about reducing waste during the end-of-life cycle but cutting consumption from the outset, of making and using only what is needed and required, no more. Of course, technological advancement is important but through this review process there was insufficient evidence to support such a scale of new material development and production solely for environmental gain. Instead, it appeared that such an increased supply of new materials fed and fuelled an ever-increasing demand rather than being about the environment itself. There was a noted correlation between increased production with greater consumption and increased demand for more material production. Reframing unhelpful beliefs concerning innovative materials away from new and best to increasingly rescript towards the innovative use of materials which are already available, to educate and re-educate to develop norms concerning value with continuing use and reuse which was evidenced as the environmental priority. 

How are materials being used in an innovative context using modern day technology and traditional processes?

Through the review process and re-evaluating what I know and understand about innovation I have come to an entirely different perspective about what innovation can mean and refer to. Being infused with science and technology from an early age I thought innovation reflected what was new and best but more recently I have come to realise it is about worth. The meaning of innovation is so often encapsulated as doing, as it is crucial to the continuing success of any organization and through this it has been increasingly applied to saving energy, reducing waste, and helping the environment. Admittedly while some innovative processes, systems and products are of technological and environmental worth many are not. Even within the arena of recycling from old to new the environment can be compromised. Recycling means turning a range of materials into raw materials which can be used again for a completely new material which can involve energy consuming processes and procedures. Admittedly this has the potential to reduce waste disposal but often it can mean transforming useful materials such as plastic and textiles into new materials. Considerable resources are often used to transport, reprocess, and reassemble recyclable materials which can be expensive and costly to the environment. There was acknowledgement however of increased environmental benefits when local communities were directly involved with the locally based designers and makers to reclaim and reuse materials in ways which forge greater links with identity, meaning and the environment.  In considering this the use of more traditional processes and materials to design, make and consume seemed to take precedence when a material was coveted, used, reused, repurposed, kept and valued as something regarded as unique and superior as filled with meaning for the maker and the consumer. The relationship with materials appears to contrast sharply when mass produced with little meaning and reverence so are readily discarded and quickly considered as waste without value.

What is driving the application of innovative materials and how has this been informed by the past and influenced by the present and future?

From the review the speed of technological and scientific advancement has increasingly quickened since the industrial revolution but especially so within the last eighty years with industry and production methods expected to continue to transform and change to somehow keep pace with expectation and abreast of innovation. Such need for change seemed to be heralded by reduced costs to the organisation, to the environment, with less use of scarce resources. Many designers and makers can often appear trapped within a perpetual cycle of growth to meet actual and perceived societal and business demand. For example, while new synthetic fabric can be viewed as innovative in its own right given the environmental context if this fabric is however additional to what is required or fails to effectively replace to avoid environmental depletion then their overall usefulness can be challenged. If new biomaterials can be made with zero waste and pollution to reduce the need for harmful material production methods, then such slower making processes can be validated if need has been substantiated. The development, making and application of such innovative materials can therefore reconnect maker with consumer and with what is wanted, needed, and required to challenge the pursuit of constant consumerism, preoccupation, and disconnection. More recently there has been an increased focus and need to slow down and pay attention, to appreciate and value more to need less, to connect with sustainability and more traditional making processes to foster more meaningful relationships with the material to value quality over quantity.

What role can the individual play in the progressive use of materials to promote environmental sustainability?

As I researched, I became increasingly aware that the following Rs: reduce, reuse, and recycle which are often used to describe the core components of environmentally responsible development, production and consumer behaviour was not always what it seemed and can be used to promote further consumption. Indeed, there are six Rs that makers and designers need to keep in mind regarding the environment centred around rethink, refuse and repair, of making and consuming environmentally supportive quality materials which last and do not need to be instantly replaced which goes beyond material making and incapsulates changes in how we see ourselves and the environment. It is about the relationship we foster with materials in the first instance, of the meanings we subscribe to making and materials which determines how we use and care for the material. For the Japanese, an additional R is structured around respect for the item or material itself which acts as the core motivator for value and retention, to have and to keep only what is meaningful and of worth from the outset to give no cause for waste.

Initial making with meaning and repurposing the materials themselves through repair and reuse instead of recycling has the potential to encourage keeping materials and not discarding. Reusing does not need remanufacture and creates little waste and pollution. Ultimately reduced consumption has been shown through this research process to mean the most with the greatest potential for environmental gain. The greatest need for change lies within all of us to make conscious decisions about what we consume, what we need and do not need to live fulfilling and meaningful lives, of the need to put social and mental wellbeing over material wealth and gain, to decrease consumerism to promote sustainable lifestyles. I have increasingly focused my creative practice upon material making and meaning from using, reusing, reclaiming, and repurposing what is readily available locally to work in ways which best sustain and promote the environment through the use of waste and creation of no waste. Ultimately it is up to all individuals to live in ways which support local communities to thrive through an ethos of respect, value and worth of making and materials with the amelioration of waste. The priority then is to increasingly make sure that material resources are used more efficiently and kept in use for longer to minimise waste and reduce its environmental impacts by promoting use, reuse, and repurposing. To work towards eliminating all avoidable waste by 2050 and all avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042, to secure clean, healthy, productive, and biologically led environments including diverse seas and oceans as well as coastal ecosystems (HM Government, 2018).

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