We want to invite you into our world at POP! This blog post will give you a taste of our working studio, located at Goldsmiths University campus in London. We realise that not many people can physically come and visit us right now and we wanted to share some of our experience setting up the sewing lab.
Over the last two years the POP team has been in and out of our physical space. Like everybody, we have had to adjust our research plans to accommodate for Covid-19 regulations and balance collaborative working in person and at home. We would have loved to be working together more in the studio, but for obvious reasons this hasn’t always been the case. However, this has meant that the time we’re actually in the POP Lab is even more crucial!
One of the wonderful things about Goldsmiths is that their campus architecture is really diverse and luckily for us we are not in a typical university office environment. We’re actually based in one of the houses opposite the main hall and share that space with some other outstanding researchers and academics. (And shout out to you all for being so accommodating of our sewing machine symphonies!)
The POP project uses visual and inventive research methods throughout the work packages, and therefore we rely on having access to workshop facilities such as dress forms, steamers and clothes rails. It’s a really interesting process to bring an atelier into a space that typically houses computers, swivel chairs and desks. Our material dependency has definitely changed the dynamic.
Here are a few before and after shots as we set up the Lab:
Machinery / Objects / Tools
Our aim at POP isn’t to reconstruct historically accurate patents or create exact replicas of period costumes. Instead, we’re focusing on the process of researching, reconstructing and reimagining the inventions to try and help us understand more about the garment, who made it and its function. Following Kat’s “making things to make sense of things” (Jungnickel 2018), we are paying close attention to material specifications and any manufacturing instructions that the inventor has provided, as well as keeping the historical, social, and economic context in mind throughout our making decisions.
For this reason, we don’t need incredibly specific historic tools (even though we do have 1900s treadle and hand crank Singer sewing machines!) We have acquired a pretty sturdy selection of devices to help us reconstruct patents from the last 200 years.
Here are a few that we couldn’t live without:
- Pattern Cutting Tools: we are drafting a lot of our patterns in house, and therefore we need the right utensils to produce them accurately. Items such as a curve, pattern master and set square (for measuring and drawing) as well as fabric weights, a rotary cutter and tracing wheel are all invaluable for this process of 2D to 3D construction.
- Ironing Station: often overlooked, a good press can make all the difference when making a piece of clothing. The most exciting objects in this space are the tailor’s ham (useful for pressing curves or darts) and mini-ironing board (great for sleeves and finer details).
- Sewing Machines: we have a mixture of domestic and semi-industrial lockstitch and overlockers. Trusty brands like Singer, Janome and Bernina haven’t let us down yet.
It took a while to work out the best layout for our mixed methods approach to research because we do a really varied number of things each day. It can go from deep archive searches and group presentations in the morning to fit sessions and fastening tests in the afternoon.
- Fitting Area: it has been vital to have a designated area to try on the garments with adequate space, mirrors and lighting.
- Railings: one of the biggest accomplishments has been getting this industrial steel rail system installed. It is incredibly sturdy and should hold most of our completed inventions by the end of the project. We have also got a couple of mobile rails to transport garments to different events.
- Material Storage: we work with a range of fabrics and materials on a daily basis. At this stage we’re working on toiles, so are predominantly using cotton calico and other upcycled materials. As you can see the more neon coding the better!
We have been known to make the most of every inch of space we have inside the Lab, including the corners, floor, walls and ceiling!
Through WP1 Mapping Across Time & WP2 Mapping Across Theme, we have worked with over 300,000 digital patent documents, and sometimes we just need to step away from a screen. It can make you see things in a completely different light. We have coded and sorted through various printed patent documents and used about every flat surface we have in the Lab to make sense of them.
A fair amount of room is also needed for the reconstruction in WP3 Mapping Across Bodies. Some of the patents require metres and metres of fabric and we need to cut it somewhere… We have a couple of serious pattern-cutting tables that we often use, but sometimes we need that extra bit of space.
Stay tuned for more virtual and physical POP events in 2022!
I would describe our POP Lab as a “neon fusion”. As a team we are working together and using our different skillsets to compliment and learn from each other and the studio that we operate in has really facilitated these exchanges.
We have had the pleasure of welcoming some fantastic people into the Lab so far but recognize that not everyone can visit in person. So watch this space for more virtual and hopefully physical events coming in 2022…
Jungnickel, K. 2018 . Making Things to Make Sense of Things: DIY as Practice and Research, In J. Sayers. (eds) The Routledge Companion to Media Studies and Digital Humanities, London and New York: Routledge. pp. 492-502