Constellation since we handed our proposals in has been a whirlwind, with so many different things to plan and get my head around all before beginning write my dissertation up. When choosing a topic to base my dissertation around I knew right away that I wanted it to link back to my subject area of Textiles. Last year I fortunate enough to get a place on the level 5 field trip to Rajasthan, India. An area world famous for it’s traditional crafts, one of the most iconic being block printing a process dating back centuries. Whilst on the trip we had the chance to spend time visiting traditional block printers at work, as well as to visit a papermaking and traditional blue pottery factories. Having the chance to see a variety of craftspeople working was so insightful, as I could see the processes in front of me rather just reading or hearing about them. Whilst we were visiting these different places we had a guide accompany us, who would give us the bigger picture of the industry and the problems it faces. We also visited various museums related to craft, my favourite being the Anokhi museum of hand printing. It was created by the owners of the fashion and home wares to house their extensive archive collection of traditional block printed fabrics, different processes and also has block printers giving block carving and printing demonstrations.
As a Textile designer the preservation and conservation of traditional techniques is so important, as it’s these unique traditions that give areas their own characteristics full of life and meaning. Block printing is also a topic that I feel very passionate about, so the idea of basing my dissertation around traditional crafts was perfect. With my decided main exploration being Traditional Textiles in Rajasthan, I began to research into a few different areas to analyse the traditional processes. After looking into a few different printing locations in Rajasthan, I thought that the town industrial town of Sanganer outside of the regions capital Jaipur. I also liked the idea of exploring the Environmental factors that threaten the industry, along side the contemporary adaptations of traditional prints for a growing western market. Which are areas that consumers need to be more informed about, as we’re all consumers who probably own something made in India with no idea about the processes.
After deciding the who’s, what’s and where’s of my theme, the hardest part was then trying to pin point my key argument/ exploration within my traditional crafts idea without being too broad. After submitting my proposal, I was still unsure of my particular topic so began to research quite broadly into my topic area. Investigating into a few traditional printing processes that have been used in Rajasthan for centuries, along with researching into what is still being used and what has been modified over time. It was this decision making that took far to long and really put me behind especially over the summer months, as my research wasn’t very specific. If I were to re-do this dissertation process again I would have most definitely utilise my time better over the summer. As when I returned back in September we were thrown straight in at the deep end with our final subject modules. Regular dissertation tutorials when we returned back for Level 6 were very helpful, even at times when I hadn’t really progressed too much further with my research. Having an honest relationship with my mentor, meant that I felt comfortable to talk about my concerns and not too feel guilty if I was a bit behind but would help to prioritise what needs to be done next. This progress has also taught me a lot about the importance of time management and the need to prioritise tasks throughout.
One of the big obstacles I faced during term one was taking 2 weeks out of University to go on the Level 5 field trip to South Korea. The timing of the trip not being the best with the dissertation draft being due, also around this date was an important subject deadline to present to our clients who were working for. However these time management skills really came into good use and helped me to sort out what needed to be done right away and what could wait a few days or until I returned from the trip. Unfortunately I was unable to hand in a draft that is also a large regret of mine, however being away for 2 weeks really motivated me when I returned to catch up with my work.
I have definitely noticed the jump from Level 5 to 6 in Constellation and I have surprised myself with how far I’ve come from first year, with academia isn’t one of my strongest skills. I have felt a bit out of my depth at times over the last few years. However this year as been very different, with ideas almost clicking into place, from learning new research techniques, to referencing, essay structures to just more about academic writing formats. I put this down to the fact I’m researching and writing about a topic area that I’m passionate about, spurring me on to do more as I’m interested in learning more about it. Most definitely changing my approaches to this body of work for the better. Completing an academic text of this scale has also been an achievement in itself, as I know have the understanding of what it takes and how to complete it without being too phased. My relationship with constellation and subject has also massively improved, as I am now starting to think of the theories and meanings behind my subject work. Wanting to push my research and writing skills more especially on my blog. Hopefully this will continue onto to my final field module.
The writing up of the dissertation itself has had it’s ups and downs, with times when the words have flown allowing me to write up large chunks. To other times when I just can’t seem to get my key points across. I’ve also learnt a lot through this process about where my best working environments are and how to be as productive as I can be. This will help with my field module to make sure that I’m using my time effectively, especially when reflecting on my project progression on my blog. I will always remember this constellation module with mixed feelings, however it has taught me so much and just proved that I can get the work done if I just put my mind to something. This is an important lesson that will stick with me for years to come.
Overall my constellation experience throughout level 5 has been a real learning curve, as I have definitely noticed the academic jump from level 4. I have never been a confident writer and have always tried to avoid academia wherever possible, nonetheless this year I have had to learn so many new skills and topics which have really helped me to get into constellation a bit more. Term 1 was definitely a struggle for me, was my topic area was philosophy, which isn’t something that I have ever done before. However over each session I began to get more and more interested in the different theories, although when it came to writing the final essay for the term, I really began to struggle. Nevertheless I still found this task to be very helpful in my academic development and on reflection I have learnt so much about my writing style and areas that I need to spend a bit more time perfecting. Our feedback also has helped me to see what areas I will need to spend a bit more time working on compared to others to get it right. One of the main problems I faced in Term 1, was being away on field and missing some of the key lecture theatre talks. Although I know that it was my own fault and that it’s my responsibly to catch up on Moodle, I just felt as if myself and a few others never managed to catch up fully and felt a bit clueless about certain tasks. I just felt rushed and don’t think I really benefited from the essay, just the feedback and from reflection afterwards.
The start of term 2 started off very quite busy with different lecture theatre talks, which one again I missed due to being away on my field module. However I managed to stay up to date through Moodle. The whole dissertation proposal task was something that I had been dreading, as we actually had to choose a topic and stick with it. So the worry was there to get my topic somewhat right and that I’d only need to tweak with my main concept overtime. I found my tutor Jayne to be helpful in my development, as she has really helped me from the start of the term. From guiding me when filling out our ideas initial form, to then stating our key dissertation ideas ready to be asigned a mentor. To then helping me narrow down my theme to find a topic area that I am passionate about, ready to continue researching for the months to come. Having regular tutorials to check our progress has been great and so beneficial, as without these I would most definitely come completely off task. Although term 2 has been very hectic for me, as my field and subject areas have been very busy with loads of deadlines and tasks to be completed throughout the term. This has been very distracting and at times has made me push my proposal aside and most importantly has eaten into my allocated dissertation planning time.
Time management is something that I definitely need to improve at. As at the start of the term I had the intention to make Friday’s my planning and research day only, however as the term progressed extra workshop sessions in Textiles have been held which I’ve needed to attend, which unfortunately put me behind on my proposal. Like most people I then tended to complete the tasks i’m more confident with first, leaving my proposal to last which then really hindered my tutorials with Jayne. I was then not progressing with my ideas at a good pace, leaving me still undecided about my finalised topic area of choice. It was only towards the end of term 2 that my theme and ideas started to come together and my began research and I really got into full swing of the task. I also most importantly was beginning to enjoy what I was reading, without stressing over all of my other work. The initial research period is something that I really regret not getting into sooner, as once I got into my background reading the ideas started flowing. However this was all after my designated tutorials, so I haven’t been able to run all of my new concepts and findings with Jayne. On the other hand, this is only a proposal and I still have a summer planning tutorials to really set my ideas in stone ready to further my research. The main thing I have learnt is that you can’t plan everything and different tasks and important things are going to come up over the next 6 months that are unavoidable and I would really like to get as much work done when I’m least busy to put me in a good position when times get chaotic with i’m certainly sure will.
This dissertation proposal task has been a great insight into what term 1 of 3rd year will be like, but with more pressures and a bigger workload. My aim is to complete as much research as possible from now and all over the summer, as when I return at the end of September, I want to feel up to date on my dissertation workload, ready to focus in on my different Textile projects without feeling like i’m spreading myself too thin. My plan is to dedicate time over the summer months were I will spend time at different libraries at home and will plan time to be in Cardiff to go to uni to continue reading and developing, to collect a large list of references from a range of sources. I also would really like to write a large chunk of my dissertation, that can be changed if need be in September, but will be put in my a great position ready to develop and perfect when I meet back with Jayne. Hopefully remaining this organised will help me to just enjoy and embrace being a 3rd year without as many of stresses which I will enviably face.
After a few weeks of initial reading to research into my chosen topic area, I then began to think about the dissertation proposal form that needed to be filled out. Which up until the workshop on how to write our proposal, filled me with dread. However the workshop was so helpful in just reassuring me that it is only a proposal and it’s not the final outcome and there is most importantly time to change and develop areas. Throughout the workshop I managed to take down so many notes with hints and tips for my planning process and about the different subheadings that need to be completed. Unfortunately I missed the other workshops before due to a hectic workload in Textiles and poor organisation of not checking the dates prior. I think that reminders should be sent out as well each week not just me but a lot of people I know also missed out, however when we had a reminder the workshop was full.
Overall, I have had mixed feeling about Constellation as a first year Textiles student. The initial block of study skills sessions each Thursday were such a great help, really giving me the chance to refresh my academic writing skills, as I have never felt confident about writing. I found that the majority of the classes really helped to refresh my memory. From the ‘essay writing and referencing’ session with Morag Colquhoun, which really helped me to understand how to structure a well written essay, to Jon Clarkson’s ‘understanding arguments’, as well as analysing ‘visual culture’ with Cath Davies to ‘reflection and evaluation’ with Ashley Morgan. I found these 4 sessions in particular highly beneficial to me, as not only did they help to expand my academic research knowledge but also helped me to develop autonomous learning skills. This also helped me to understand the relationship between the theory and practice in a subject and interdisciplinary context.
I also found quite a few of the 12pm key-notes valuable, as they introduced me to a new diverse range of theories that I may not of previously heard of in my own subject area. Although I did find that a few of the keynotes did not interest me in the slightest or keep my attention. Some of this may have been down to me maybe not liking the presentation styles of individual lecturers, but sometimes I just felt that they may have just been talking to fill the time which I didn’t find very relevant.
The 500 word Baby Cage essay that we completed in Term 1, was a great help to my academic writing development. As it allowed me to use all of the skills that I have learnt and refined throughout the study skills. Writing the essay with a limit of 500 words was actually more of a challenge, as I had to make sure that the references I used were the best to support my argument. This essay has definitely helped to prepared me for the final essay of this year.
My first choice for the 2nd term study groups was Cath Davies ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’, as I felt that I could relate this theme back to Textiles and popular culture. However due to high demand, I didn’t get into this group and was allocated with Jon Clarkson’s ‘After Modernism’ module. I was initially quite disappointing with being placed in this group as, I just didn’t feel that I could relate the topic back to my current textiles work at the time. Nevertheless as the weeks went on I began to see where artists in the ‘After Modernism’ topic have influenced the way we work today. When it came round to choosing our essay questions, I once again felt a bit down and overwhelmed by the questions on offer, along with the length of the essay. Apart from the short Baby Cage essay, I hadn’t written a large essay since my A Level’s.
After a while of being undecided about my question choice, I finally decided to go with ‘Is Pop Art a celebration or critique of consumer culture’. I have really surprised myself with how interested I have become in certain areas of the Pop Art movement, especially since I haven’t looked into this topic area properly since GCSE Art. I would have liked for there to have been an extra support session specifically for essay guidance, with lecturers to double check that our essay content was correct. The tutorials times often conflicted with my main subject lessons. On the whole I feel as if I have learnt a great deal in Constellation since September, It has refreshed and developed essential essay writing skills that I felt behind on. Although I found some weeks a struggle to motivate myself to concentrate and take notes, in the long run it has really helped.
After speaking to our Textile buddies in the year above, the girls really stressed the importance of attending each session, as they said in the long run it would be beneficial not only to constellation and dissertation prep, but also will help with critical analysis in our Textiles projects. Most importantly it has helped me to remain more open minded, in order to come a more autonomous student.
Todays ‘Essay and Referencing’, has been such a great help in my academic progress. As it has allowed me to refresh my essay structure skills along with my knowledge of Harvard referencing. This session in particular has been very beneficial, as they are skills that I will be using and developing throughout the rest of my university education. Planning out an essay i’d say is one of the most important steps, as it not only allows me to plan out my argument with key points, but to make sure that it is achievable.
Todays keynote with Cath Davies has definitely been my favourite this year, as I could relate the theme back to my subject area, Textiles. We started off by learning how to identify ‘Cultural Markers’ including; status within periods and cultures, production processes, the role they played at different stages of its career along with connotations that are attributed to the object. Before moving onto looking at the initial brand biography of Dr Martens and how it’s connotations have changed.
The part that I found most beneficial is learning about how Dr Martens company have had to rebrand over the decades since they first launched, as they were originally worn by workers, however it was then adopted by the youth street scenes during the 1960s – worn as an anti fashion statement. Learning about all of these key points in the companies history has made me think about other companies who have had to adapt and change target market to stay successful. Showing that in whatever industry you are in, staying current is key.
Today I have really struggled with Alexandros’, ‘The Future of Sonic Arts’ study skills session, as it’s so unlike any other work i’ve done before. Sonic art is an artistic discipline in which sound is utilised as a medium and like many areas of contemporary art, sound art is a interdisciplinary art form that can be used in a range of ways. However, I’m not sure if the Sonic Arts topic is completely relevant to my subject work at the moment, so it’s not something that i will continue looking into.