• The Disruptive Designer

Disruptive Vacation Period, Reflection Collaboration & Networking. Part 1 of 2

Updated: May 8, 2019

You may delay, but time will not, and lost time is never found again.

Benjamin Franklin

It has been over a month since I last posted on my blog, due to taking a family vacation to Cuba for 2 weeks over the Easter holidays, followed by a period of man flu and jet lag upon my return. As a result I have not worked on my masters project for over 3 weeks now, giving me some valuable regeneration and reflection time. This post is a review of my decision making and actions regarding this disruptive period.

Warning: This is a long but insightful post!

Pre Cuban Vacation (End of May, Early April)

Being a methodical perfectionist I knew I would have a 2 week block where it was unlikely I would be able to work on my MA project, from a physical and practical perspective. I therefore decided to get a few collaborative projects started before I went away, so when I returned there "maybe" things waiting for me that required my attention and thus not feeling the 2 weeks was "lost productivity" time. While away I could have piece of mind and enjoy the time with my family without feeling guilty.

My focus was on two areas:

Part 1 - Hand & Lock Competition - Owl & Rat Canvas (See past post)

Part 2 - Litter theme research and commencement of possible print directions. (Final Project in mind after supervisor meeting with Robin)

MA Objective - Building a Network of Specialists

One of my MA objectives is to build a network of specialists with the aim of developing Kingfly Tailoring as a viable business venture. All the creative work I have produced so far has all being of my own making and thus very very time consuming. If Kingfly is to develop and a living earned, then I feel it is vital that I begin to collaborate with other creatives, so my time can be spent elsewhere on the business and not solely on the practical production parts. If I am to take on multiple clients simultaneously, then I have to accept that I cannot do everything on my own and help will be needed.

Going away on holiday for 2 weeks is the perfect opportunity for me to test out working with 3rd party creatives, with the ultimate aim of reviewing:

// The appropriateness of their work/style to my own. (Does is compliment mine and suit the brand identity?)

// The quality of production. (Is the quality of finish and detailing suitable?)

// Cost, value and lead time. (How long does it take to produce, how much and is it worth it?)

// Communication and relationship. (Can I work with them again in the future? Any language, communication, instructional issues?)

// Other unexpected issues or concerns. (Is there anything else that arises that was unexpected and impacting on productivity?).

Based on where I had got two weeks before I went away:

//Owl and rat canvas 75% completed, feedback received, considered but not acted upon.

// Theme of litter chosen and some initial research methods tested out, with some ideas for print direction considered in my head, but very little on paper.(Further details in part 2)

I decided to address the two points above by collaborating with:

Linda Morrish - (Mum) - 67 years old, retired housewife. Very creative hobbiest, who creates artefacts for personal satisfaction and use, crossing over boundaries and not afraid to learn and try new things. Specialities are:

Jewellery and bead making, card making, hand embroidery, knitting.

My mum lives 1.5 hours drive away from my house in Huddersfield and spends most of the day on her own due to my dads work load; using making and creating as a way to past the time and for the sense of achievement and worth. My mum does lack self confidence and is also a perfectionist, believing her work could always be better.

Based on the Canvas feedback from Debbie and Jenny Robson, I have decided to to try and add more texture to the ear section via hand stitch manipulation. Given this requires a lot of hand skill and knowledge, often refined over many year, it makes sense that this part is outsourced. In order to test my mums hand sewing skills I asked her to produce a fabric sample swatch of stitch types within a specific colour range, focusing on texture. Given my lack of knowledge in this specialist area, I was keen to see what would come up with allowing her the freedom to be creative and experiment if she chose to. I sent her a photo of my owl canvas so she could get a clear idea of the rest of the art piece and to inspire ideas.


5 days later I received my mums sample via signed delivery. I was pleasantly surprised my the sample as she had created a picture of an owl using a variety of techniques. The thicker change in thread type and the looser hand stitches aesthetic would work well on the ear section of the main canvas, while the beads would compliment the rhinestones of the eyes.

The two areas that were of a real surprise were the eyebrows and jewellery wired ears, which helped to protrude away from the canvas, breaking the flattened feel of the image. Both my canvas and my mums owl, had a sense of curiosity and intrigue and one could not help but to analyse and touch it.

My mum was more than happy to produce this sample and loved the challenge, learning new skills as she went along. On this occasion she did not charge me and was more than grateful for the opportunity of being asked to produce some thing using her skills and abilities. I got a sense that she felt really valued and appreciated as a consequence, certainly we were talking a lot more via the telephone due to this. I cannot help wondering about the mens shed and embroiders guild and how they are far more than just a creative hub, but also an opportunity for social interaction and building of friendships. I wonder how many other lonely creative people there are in the community (like my mum) who are sat at home most of the time, with skills that could be used within creative projects. (Perhaps limited by mobility)???? Is there a way to reach out and engage with them?

Given the quality of the work my mum produced I asked her if she would like to work on the main canvas, ear section. Surprisingly to me, she declined the invitation, stating:

" I loved making the owl sample, but I really don't want to mess up your hard work".

My mums lack of self confidence and belief in her own abilities became apparent and she was scared she would ruin the larger piece. Even though I explained it was a experimental sample to test techniques, she still felt the pressure was too much for her. Given my mums fight with mental health issues over the years, I did not want to force her any further in the fear of relapse.

What to do?

I found myself in a predicament.. my mum had the skills, resources, knowledge, experience and time to do what I needed, however lacked the confidence to work on the larger piece, while I had the ideas, confidence to attempt it, but not the time or skills.


The idea came to me when I was looking at the rat detailing of the canvas. I had used applique in this section to create a more tactical quality. If the ear is also to have a tactile feel, could I applique on this section also?

What if I asked my mum to produce the ear (just like she did the little owl) as a separate sample and I would attach it to the main canvas and work on the join if need be?

My mum was more than happy with this suggestion as there was no longer any pressure of her damaging the main piece. I asked her to be creative with the ear, just like she had being with the little owl and enjoy the freedom to play and experiment. Once again mum was not happy with this as the pressure was too much for her.

We finally compromised... I would design the ear to scale, giving her clear instructions on the colours, stitch types (based on the little owl sample) and locations. My mum would then recreate my design as per instructions, but still have the freedom to adapt and amend if she felt the urge or need to (based on her aesthetic judgement). I would cover the costs of all materials and pay her for her time (she declined payment yet again).


It has been 3 weeks since I gave my mum the design and thus so far she has not finished it.

I need to have a chat with her to determine delays and hold ups in order to speed up the process (If indeed it needs speeding up). I do know my mum has other responsibilities but I am suspecting the lack of confidence and being a perfectionist is playing a part in the stretched out production. Perhaps with more commissions this will reduce somewhat as her confidence and self belief will increase? I didn't specify a completion date either as I wanted her to enjoy it and not be stressed out, so I need to consider and discuss time frames in the future.

I will post and review of the outcome once I receive it.

1 - Hand & Lock Competition:

Completion of the owl and rat canvas sample based on feedback from Debbie, Jenny and Robin.

Focus was on:

// Adding more hand work to the piece to create further texture and balance the amount of digital work. (see above)

// Add more cohesion to the piece to blend the current mix of differing styles, giving it more harmony.

// Framing the canvas to create a framed art piece, based on the theme of textiles and wool production - bring in the Skelmanthorpe Textile Museum research images.

My mum has been challenged to work on the tactile ear section and once I receive this I will assertion whether or not the art piece works holistically or whether it still feels more cohesion is required to make the multiple techniques more harmonious. I expect the pyrography wing section will require more tactical interest (Perhaps the Nail art technique could would well here)?

Feedback from specialists have commented that this particular canvas piece is more like an "art piece" and not practical enough to be used for the internal functional element of a jacket. I totally agree and on this occasion and would like to push the art piece direction by considering its presentation. The question of how could it be displayed is another problem that requires attention, but again an other opportunity to collaborate. Thinking about the tailored jacket, wool and the link to Yorkshire, I wondered if inspiration for a frame could be taken from the Skelmanthorpe Museum visit and in particular the hand weaving loom? (See past post and image below).

I approached Bob Barber at the Mens Sheds (See past post) to discuss ideas, possibilities and collaboration with some of their members. Bob was very supportive and asked for me to produce a design idea with measurements and supporting photos. He would then discuss it at the next meeting to see if they could support me.

Using the canvas piece and I mounted it on my wardrobe door to get an idea of scale. Masking tape was used to determine the frame edges and spacing.

The design is based on the separating mechanism of the loom and I wanted to achieve the impression of the canvas having been woven and crafted.

Dramatic and Impacting, Unapologetic!

I discussed the concept with Bob and Neil (A mens shed committee member) and they loved the concept. The conversation turned to the 2D and 3D aspect as the canvas (due to the shaping during the tailoring manufacture process) as we noticed the piece sat better on the mannequin than it did when laid flat on a surface. It was suggested that the middle hanging section could have a bespoke 3D wired form that creates the illusion that the art piece is is sat on a body form. I was more than happy to attempt this.

It was agreed that I would work in conjunction with one or two interested members in the production of this frame. I was asked to source 2 scaffolding planks so they could make a start before I went away (this I did from a local up-cycling furniture maker).

I will review the production of the frame in future post.


The Hand & Lock competition is an opportunity for me to showcase my work and possibly receive some additional external feedback (Judges, online comments, etc)?. It was never something that I intended to enter when beginning my masters degree and thus was not in my project proposal document. I do not want the competition to negatively impact on my MA progress, however I do not want to miss out on this opportunity either.

Since the competition time frame is quite long, I do not have to submit images of my proposed piece to the organisers until the end of July. This gives me 3 months to decide on whether or not I am going to submit the owl & rat sample or start a new piece with the competition in mind?

Issues: Owl & Rat sample.. the main issue with this piece (even after completion and framed) is that is was originally designed as a sample of techniques to determine if one image could be created combining a variety of methods. Therefore, it lacks a narrative or underpinning. I could create a story after completion to fit the piece and complete the package, however part of me feels uncomfortable in doing this.

Issues: New Piece - If I start a new piece I can use the owl & rat experience and improve on the new piece as it will be more informed as I will have more experience to draw from. The research in this instance will inform the design.


What an amazing experience!! Havana was particularly inspirational due to the political influences and embargo's placed on the country over the years. The mix of historical old, 50s/60s Americana, Spanish and the new modern, coupled with a struggling economy and reliance on tourism made from a hybrid aesthetic which questioned beauty, taste and heritage.

It felt as if time had stopped, things had decayed and now because of tourism, money was being invested in specific areas of interest. Investment in art was apparent, with several pop up galleries exhibiting pieces from not only local artists but also international names.

Rats, Rats everywhere.

Our guide for the day commented on the re-cyling of the city waste, stating they do not have any strict policies and the bins you do see are in tourist areas, main for show or to give the impression Cuba cares about the environment. Walking along the streets in Havana, it was hard to escape the piles of rubbish dumped on the road side. Interesting in a exhibition gallery along one these streets was a piece highlighting the rat issue that had suffered in the past. It also explains why there are a lot of stray cats!