This April we were honored to host the California College of the Arts interdisciplinary student Exhibit: Local Fiber Incubator. CCA students partnered with Fibershed to explore innovative design prototypes utilizing raw wool fiber from Fibershed’s network of ranchers, all materials were sourced within an hour and a half of San Francisco. Works include spatial installations and window displays, furniture prototypes and lighting, interactive toys and environments, living seed-impregnated textiles for landscape stabilization, architectural tile cladding, fashion garments and retail products.
It’s no surprise that at Coyuchi we favor sustainable and local practices, advocating that consumers are thoughtful with their purchases and demand transparency from corporations to makers alike. We loved teaming up with CCA to give a platform to artists who are creating new products and works thoughtfully. The students work is vast in range and all equally inspiring. Check out photos from the exhibit below, along with a Q&A with CCA Professors, Amy & Lynda, on the Local Fiber Incubator course.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves? What your background is & why you were drawn to this class?
Lynda: I have a background in fashion design and have focused on sustainability since 1990 when I designed ESPRIT’s ecollection. Doing the research for that line of clothing took me across disciplines into the worlds of agriculture, textile chemistry and metallurgy (for non electroplated hard wear). Ever since, I’ve loved working across disciplines and economic sectors to develop creative ideas to pressing problems of un-sustainability. I feel lucky to teach at CCA where the opportunity to teach cross discipline classes is encouraged.
Amy: My background is in architecture and interior design with an emphasis on full-scale making, installation and materiality. My work focuses on durability and design with special interest in the impermanent, migratory potentials of the interior. The work spans a variety of scales and platforms from inhabited urban and architectural spaces to object and furniture design. A collaboration with Lynda in Fashion seemed a natural fit and we have similar values about the relationship between design and material resources that have brought us into each other’s orbit for years now. It seemed an obvious next step to collaborate through the interdisciplinary curriculum stream at CCA.
What is the biggest challenge that you see students faced with in continuing these practices outside of the classroom?
Lynda: As undergraduates, designers and artists are still finding their own voice. So, their work can often reflect their personal and inward looking journey. While this is critical to developing deep concepts, in this class, students are challenged to also meet the needs of an outside partner - Fibershed. So the class really stretches students; in a good way.
Amy: The collaboration between Lynda and I, CCA and Fibershed provides students with a rich array of resources (technical knowledge, experience,time management and structure, facilities and tools, materials and a network of potential partners and beneficiaries). Once the students graduate from the class, it can be difficult to piece together the highly orchestrated experience in the classroom by themselves as they pursue work on their own.
How do you feel San Francisco, and its surrounding hour and a half radius, inspire this course?
Lynda: We live in a beautiful region, surrounded by protected lands, county state and federal parks. This class took students out into the rural areas of west marin to meet with farmers and scientists working with fibershed. They participated in collecting soil samples to test for carbon content. This hands on experience aids understanding much more than a lecture in a classroom setting.
Amy: Many of the students come from places outside of the Bay Area and so the opportunity to introduce them to the richness and variety of our area is very exciting.
What are the three main skills you want your students to walk away with after completing the Local Fiber Incubator?
Lynda & Amy: Understanding that fiber and all materials they work with come from the land. Understanding their part in helping to shift culture - from the mindset of of unchecked extraction and consumption to being aligned with the natural capacities and constraints of nature. Understanding that through design, they can add value to fiber to counter the downward pressure of commodity pricing, and help keep family farmers in business.
In what way did this particular group of students excel?
Lynda & Amy: They really put a lot of effort and energy into the class, from understanding Fibershed, to learning new skills (needle and wet felting), doing iterative material experiments, delivering a finished item and installing the exhibition. This is a LOT to accomplish in 15 weeks, 6 hours a week. And their enthusiasm for the partnership, and the making was inspiring. They had so much fun!
What do you hope an audience will take away from the exhibit?
Lynda & Amy: That they are inspired by the creativity and thoughtfulness of the next generation of designers and artists.
Anything you’d like to add?
Lynda & Amy: Thank you to Coyuchi for letting us use this beautiful space. It was close to CCA and a great venue for the work.
What was your most inspired moment in this course?
- Working with Janice Arnold, she had unique expertise and clear advice.
- The opportunity to participate in a public exhibition - hosted by Coyuchi in their fantastic space.
- The in-class demonstrations with Sierra Reading were incredible.
- Going to the Mann Family farm - being outside, in clean air, to see where the fiber comes from and to meet the people making it happen. I loved being out of hustle of SF, seeing people living very different lives, and realizing more possibilities for projects and careers. I loved the landscape of west marin.
- I enjoyed the interdisciplinary collaboration and conversation - learned a lot working with students outside of my major, my professors, Lynda and Amy, Fibershed and all our guests in the class (Sierra Reading, Sydney Martin, Janice Arnold, Fibershed, Rebecca Burgess, Krystle Moody and Marie Hoff).
What part of this course did you struggle with most? Did that change at all?
- I struggled with having space to do the work, transporting the materials - not having storage for the class work. Tools prior to needle felter.
- Documentation was sometimes hard - getting video of yourself working.
How has this class changed the way you think about consuming? Creating?
- Awareness of handcraft and quality, noticing details more when you make it yourself.
- First time designing within a system - fibershed’s model and mission. Different kind of thinking - awareness of full impact - production and full life cycle.
- I realized the potential of what this material can do for/to the earth - started to be aware of all the other materials I interact with daily.
- Beyond buying locally I started to think about a whole other layer of specificity and connection to local production and market. There are new potentials for making and adapting within that same constrained set of parameters/system.
How do you plan on incorporating what you’ve learned into your work?
- I loved the initial phase of exploration written into the course curriculum. Knowing there is a project but letting that come out of experimentation.
- I plan on incorporating the inverse process - working for the experience of knowing the material rather than making material suit a specific predetermined outcome.
- I thinnk I gained possible partnerships - scientists, farmers, artisans - new structures for partnerships.
- I will take away the idea of fiber and textiles as a new medium model for working within a sustainable strategy - fibershed is actually having impact within a different model than we are used to seeing (cradle to cradle).
- SF as an infrastructure for connection within a specific ecosystem.
Do you feel your relationships with ranchers and landowners will flourish after this course is completed?
- Yes, would like to stay involved with Fibershed as a connector.
- Take part in FS workshops.
- Maintain Relationships with the individuals involved with the course.
- Utilizing overstock tile with wool (Adelya’s project) - unanticipated combination of materials to produce sustainable techniques/second life and new structures for the material itself.
Anything you’d like to add?
We are inspired to have a much deeper relationship with the land - personally and in work.
Check out a couple of the student portfolios!