Plant-Based Structures: Growing a Textile Practice in an Ecologically Local Context

Johnson, Neesha
Kalyanji, Jyoti
Robertson, Natalie
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Master of Design
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Auckland University of Technology

Planted firmly in textile design, this practice-led research engages with the natural and landscaped environment as places of experimentation. The dynamic relationship surrounding site-specific local ecologies and plant-based materials, makes for a nuanced and intricate starting point. Custom-designed ‘textile structures’ encompasses a series of site-specific experiments, utilising abundantly available, appealing plant fibre materials, which are economically and ecologically sustainable. Prototyping acts as a vehicle for the hybridization of tacit, practical and theoretical knowledge systems. Underpinned by values of service time, temporality, and ecosystems, they are designed to be mutually supportive ‘partners’ for short-term life cycles and applications. Through natural weathering and biodegradability, nutrients can return to the land from which they were harvested. This project highlights making practices that are driven by plant materials in structures that are compatible with local ecologies. Decisions within the design process are guided by working in collaboration with the site and allowing for opportunities to be expressive with materials. The research acknowledges the physical properties of plant-based materials as active participant-citizens, adding value to their usage in customary and experimental making techniques such as plaiting, braiding, and weaving. Through practices of human disturbance; tending, harvesting, foraging, care, and observation, a reciprocal human-plant partnership emerges. This project questions what can be uncovered through a hands-on introspective textile creative practice, whilst working with plants in an ecologically local context. The intention of this research is to learn about locally sourced plant species, to gain knowledge regarding their use within creative practice-led materials driven making, and to demonstrate an evolved perspective regarding their value and potential.

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