The Accessory: A story in 2 parts

So we come to the final finished item that is required to complete my City & Guilds Level 3 certificate (a.k.a. Part 1). The requirement is for an accessory : “This can be an item or set of accessories selected from jewellery, gloves, bag, cuffs, fan, shawl, scarf, belt or similar items.”

The previous items I have made have had different approaches to their conception, design and fabrication. My 3D item (shoes) were inspired through a love of shoes and some design work that I created specially for the purpose after observing pictures of kimono silk patterns. We were looking at pattern in class at the time and we were encouraged to use our pattern design work for our first completed item – in this case I did not think what I had done was right for a pair of shoes, hence I did the extra design work but based it on more pattern studies. For the wall hanging I had a client in mind and my design work was based on the location, I spent a considerable amount of time agonising over techniques and found it hard to transfer sketch to prototype to samples to finished item. With my next piece, the panel, I wanted to try out a way of working when designing and already had what format my item was to be delivered in (a book cover). In all the cases I spent a lot of time scratching my head wondering what techniques to use. This time I want to use some specific techniques for my accessory. This all came together when I went on a trip to Wales and found this book in the CAT bookshop. I also recalled one of workshops in the March issue of Workshop on the Web, which used soluble fabric to create a “cheats” way of using felt. We had already made felt in a pre-Christmas workshop and I had really loved the feel of stitching into real wool felt (see this). So I had the technique chosen. I chose to create a briefcase/laptop bag (inspired by one in the aforementioned book). So what design influences was I going to use? Though some of the people on my course think its acceptable to just make something up from their head (though my tutor begs to differ) I like to follow some sort of design process (i.e. the whole point of me doing this course). This time I thought it would be a good idea (especially from a time perspective) to use the design work from my shape and pattern module.

I thought the design work was particularly appropriate for making something more interesting out of a laptop / office bag. Office culture is awash with boring black laptop bags and dull accessories, if you look around my desk I have my colourful Origami and hand painted pottery containers. So, why don’t I extend this to what I cart my laptop around in? Currently, I have forsaken the standard issue for an IKEA laptop bag which is compact and well designed but it is still regulation black.

I based this work on some sketches I did from a photograph from this book. I then played with the scans of the sketches producing patterns and creating new shapes from the negative space in the patterns. I had a lot of fun then recreating the patterns using cut outs from watercolour papers. I was originally inspired by the shape cutting employed by my friend C, my own arrangements reminded me of tattoos and but others on the course thought it reflected Matisse’s style. At the time I thought the work suggested an interesting avenue for designing a wall hanging or 3D item.

The decorated papers were produced by creating stencils and homemade stamps.


Sticking with the red background of my original design board I created a cardboard prototype of the case I intend to make. As I have some strong shapes to play with I used them to influence the shape of the front flap. One shape suggests a design for a fastening.

I want to experiment with some sampling next to see how refined a shape I can achieve from felt and the “cheats” felt from wool tops and soluble fabric. Also, as I am time pressured I am going to try felting a section of old woollen blanket in the washing machine and dyeing it – if its successful I may consider using that as my fabric for the body of the briefcase instead of having the whole body workout of making a huge piece of felt.

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