On the morning of the first day of the graduation show at the Royal College of Arts in London, Michelle stood around discretely, waiting for people to pass by her work.
As a student of printed textiles, Michelle’s project stands out because it does not resemble a piece of fabric or anything that can actually be worn.
Michelle, wouldn’t you agree that printed textiles are usually wearable?
“Textiles is a material, basically a sheet of material, that can be used for many different kinds of applications, like paper or metal. It is a type of surface that can be designed, constructed and manipulated to create functional objects used for the body and for space,” she said.
Michelle’s final project, Curl, is an interactive installation. It is made up of several small surfaces with gradually changing colours. Visitors can choose to curve any individual pieces to form special shapes and patterns themselves.
How did you get the inspiration for the project?
“I went to the RCA to explore surface and realised that transformation was an important theme in my work and had been for a while. I wanted to investigate that idea in depth and as a result my work became about ‘moving surface,‘” she said.
It is beautiful and fun for people to look at and play with, but as a general rule, creators do not like people touching their works because of their fragility.
Can you tell us more about it?
“My work is about encouraging touch, interaction, and creative engagement. Without that I wouldn’t be able to communicate my ideas and engage people with my work the way I want to. Curl is a working prototype and could be developed into a more sturdy and longer lasting piece, which would allow it to have a life of its own,” she said.
“There was amazingly positive feedback from everyone. It was great to see people discover what Curl could do and look at their reactions. People found it really fun and engaging, which is what I was hoping for.”
Having recently graduated, Michelle now possesses an array of skills that include both graphic design and textile design. We asked her a hypothetical question and she gave us an interesting answer.
If you could only choose one occupation, what would you want to be the most?
“Idea Machine/Set Designer/Place Maker/Experience Architect/Photo Journalist for National Geographic,” she said.
This makes us wonder what “/” represents – is it and or or?
No matter what, all of the occupations evoke creativity and excitement. But before figuring out what she really wants to do, it is important for her to master her own style, which she is set on doing.
“I am always reading, watching and looking at the world. People, places, and things inspire colour, shapes and ways to improve the systems we live in…”
“I design through making and my process usually starts with models and prototypes and evolves from there. Each time I try or test something, I learn a little bit more about the idea, the functionality, the materials and so on, until I have a final result I am happy with,” she said.
“I recently realised that movement and interaction have been an important part of my work for the past 8 or 9 years,” she added.
These days, Michelle describes herself as an Experience Architect. So, what exactly is an Experience Architect?
“An Experience Architect builds experiences that engage with people’s imagination, creativity, and desires to touch and make a mark on the world around them. The experience could be a place, a space, inside, outside, with a group or a single person.”
Any future plans?
“I am now continuing my ‘Moving Surface’ research and I hope to continue making, designing and giving people fun, engaging and inspiring experiences.”
Michelle hopes to have Curl reinstalled somewhere else in order to continue its mission: to be enjoyed.