Getting hands on with collections

How can archives and museum collections directly inspire creative studio-based students? That's a question that's been actively explored at MoDA, where students from Middlesex's MA and BA Crafts courses recently took part in a three-day workshop on creating their own textile designs.

Applying race paste through a stencil onto fabric.

Applying race paste through a stencil onto fabric.

The workshop was part of MoDA's current research project, Katagami in Practice: Japanese Stencils in the Art School. It was run by Sarah Desmarais, whose practice-based research is focused on the themes of slow-making and the relationship of craft to wellbeing.  Part of her method was to ask participants to slow down and take their time to really look at  some of the katagami stencils in the collection.  Although they were first struck by how intricate and delicate they are, taking the time to engage with them through close observation and drawing made it possible for them to use them in a critically engaged way.  Over the course of the workshop, they cut their own stencils, mixed a traditional rice paste to act as a ‘resist’, and dyed their fabrics using indigo.

Reading about the project, I was led to wonder how our own archives could be used to encourage students to learn more about older ways of making. Given the recent revival of crafts and the hand-made, I think there's scope for more of this kind of activity.