Time to take a breath

Last year was intense, with little time left in between various projects and ongoing tasks for a moment out for a bit of self reflection.  This year seems even more tightly packed.  We’re only a few weeks into this term and already we have too much to do.  Let me expand.

In Subject, we have the BBC project – make an adjustable, pull-up table – plus weekly tasks with material processes, (generally a CAD deliverable), along with other tasks such as exploratory detailed sketching to do with plastic extrusion and so on.

In Field, we are tasked with starting up a new business, including all marketing, branding, product making, selling and all other processes involved.

With Constellation, we are taken to places that we have never considered before and have our minds blown – in my course choice, anyway – tasked with various mini essays or similar.

On top of all of this, we have the blog.  This blog.  Then take into consideration that we also have various workshops to attend, when are we meant to fit in time to read all the recommended books that relate to our practice?  With part of our current time dedicated to Field, we have the opportunity to mix with people from other disciplines within CSAD, and it has been eye opening.  It seems that other departments have a much less strenuous timetable, along with a greater freedom of movement within their designs.  

I feel as though I need some self reflection to make sense of this current situation.  Having not come from a creative or artistic background, I really am learning and growing with everyday.  I don’t know what I want to do, where my skills lie, or what I could, nay should be doing, so freedom of movement is key for my current growth.  I should be able to be completely wild and experimental with my designs, like a bouncey ball of creativity in a room without boundaries, but I feel as though I lack bounce.  I’m not sure what the problem is.  Is it the tightness of the brief?  With the BBC project, for instance, we have a specific set of achievables to meet, and a real-life client at the end of the judging panel.  If I propose something that is really outlandish, it surely will get shot down as an unachievable design.  So I change my design, reign in the craziness and propose something more grounded.  Is this my doing or a result of the constrained nature of the brief?  Have I chickened out of the design in an attempt to ‘do the right thing’, to satisfy the reality of the brief?  Not sure.  I know that if I present a design that is outlandish and pushes the boundaries of convention – not that I’m saying I have this in me – it just won’t fly.  We are currently being shown how to manufacture for industry so we can become ‘better designers’; so we know how to design something that can be made.  Does this make sense?  If we only design with an eye on the ability for it to be made, then are we stifling creativity?  Doesn’t it make more sense to have no boundaries at the inception of the design, then look at how it could be made a reality?  Tweaking the design to make it possible, rather than designing to be possible from the outset.  Why haven’t I pushed myself to go with something less conventional as a design?  Is it because there is a real customer at the end of the BBC project and a genuine chance to have a table made and put into production?  What is more important to me?  The chance to be creative and push the boundaries or have a table made?  The reality is, both…at present.  The financial incentive is a sad reality of the modern world, (we all need money to pay for our studies), plus, the stamp of commercial approval on my CV at this early stage would be great.  I do have a family to support.  However, more exploration is needed to really know where I stand.

With field, it is a compromise, I can pitch an idea to my group of lovely team mates, but if it only satisfies my needs, then it won’t be taken up.  I can re-arrange my pitch, explain how it could work for us all and may be a risky strategy, but could really be something different; but again, if it’s not liked, it will stay in the margins.  So where does this leave me?  Struggling, is my honest answer.  I feel as though I don’t have time think about what I am doing, simply ploughing through the work, just to meet the deadlines.  This is not where I wish to be right now.  At the beginning of term, I took out several books from the library, books recommended to me by lecturers based on where they thought I was heading as a designer.  They remain on the bookshelf.  I really want to expand my thinking and explore various avenues to find out who I am and what I can do, but there is just not enough time.  If I put in little effort for the ongoing projects to free up time for reading, I let myself down, and with field, I let my team down as well.  I am currently feeling the urge to be more creative, to be more artistic, but don’t just have time or the avenue to pursue it.  I would love to make a series of items, and sell them at the Christmas market, or simply display them somewhere, but again, time is not my friend.  We were graced with a lovely guest from the Centre for Entrepreneurship recently, who regaled to us stories of students who have won awards for creativity, for successfully selling their items on the side, for having a popup event displaying their wares.  It seemed to me that everybody mentioned to us were from other disciplines: textiles, ceramics, fine art and so on.  Sure, they are in a discipline where they make items that can be sold, whereas in Product Design, we sell ideas based on prototypes, and solve problems…but not to the public.  My question is, where do they find the time?  Are they more organised and can get through their work faster than us so they can do extra work in their downtime?  Probably, but speaking to our friends on the Field module, it seems as though they have a lesser workload.  I know I could easily be more organised, but I do wish we had more time to be creative and explore other things we may ultimately bring into our practice.  Heck, we might have time to do some painting and sell it on ebay!  

So where am I going with this?  What is the purpose of this blog post?  It is merely a way of me working through my current design conflict.  I need to figure out where my priorities lie.  Is it as someone who follows the brief to the letter and reads exactly what the client wants, producing something functional, or is it someone who wants to propose questions, rather than directly answer them?  Again, I don’t know.  What I do know is that Constellation, at the moment, is something that is proposing these types of questions to me.  I may not fully understand all that is delivered in front of me, but it really is opening my eyes to a wider landscape than I had ever considered.  I do my very best to convey what I have absorbed within my blog posts and forthcoming essays, and truly do enjoy writing them.  My writing flows rather coming out in a staccato manner, (this post is much more the latter!).  The biggest struggle I have with this is the academic writing.  I just don’t seem to remember the details or the new words that should be entering my vocabulary.  The best advice for this is to read more, to expose myself to more academic writing.  There’s the rub: where is the time to read more?

So have I found this useful?  Not sure.  Do I know where I am going and what I should be doing?  No.  Have I spent this time-out sensibly?  Probably not.  I hope to all that read this, they find it useful, or at least relatable.  For me, I still don’t know what to do for the best.  A bit of everything or a lot of one thing?  One thing I do want to ensure I do?  I want to try to sell one thing I have made.  By sell, I mean, give it away as a Christmas present.  Hey, at least it is a start!

Adios fellow amigos!!

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