Order and chaos have become recurring themes in my practice. I am utilising both hand and digital print processes and the contrasts between the two, in terms of design and production, are brought into stark relief as my practice develops. Aesthetically I am looking for something ‘in-between’ the hand-crafted and the digital, where hand and digital print might be used interchangeably or even concurrently.
What I like in my edgelands space (full of industrial structures and irrepressible nature) is the juxtaposition of order and chaos, which I am looking to reflect in the nature of my designs. Experimenting with hand and digital print processes I find that the digital tends toward order which, if not the desired aesthetic, must be somehow overcome. In contrast, when designing and making using hand techniques there is a tendency toward chaos, which it takes skill to keep in check.
I find uniform pixels and vector drawn lines cold and uninspiring. The crispness and regularity that digital processes offer can result in a flatness that stifles designs simply because they are too ordered. I recognise this as an aesthetic preference and not purely a digital thing. I have a similarly negative reaction to Escher’s tessellated creatures and the stifling geometry of much traditional European/American quilting.
As a surface pattern designer what I am seeking (in design and perhaps also in life!) is a good balance between order and chaos, where there is coherence but also space for the chance event. The word pattern implies a certain order. Textiles also have an inherent order in their structure ie. the patterns that enable the weaver to weave or the knitter to knit. But can you have too much order? I’m certain you can.
Comparing hand (a-c) and digital (d-e) print samples
A friend recently told me about the concept of the ‘chaordic’ path. A portmanteau of the words ‘chaos’ and ‘order’ the concept is one developed by Dee Hock, former CEO of Visa Credit Card Company. He uses the term to describe the place of overlap between chaos and order that is required for a complex and de-centralised system to work. Such systems he argues reflect nature. This is an interesting idea that is being used in organisational development and conflict resolution settings. But it is interesting to me in an aesthetic sense because I am also looking for an ‘ideal’ place between chaos and order that reflects my observations of nature in the edgelands environment.
Deyan Sudjic makes an interesting observation about the relationship between nature and design at the beginning of The Language of Things. With reference to a MacBook that came with the wrong coloured cable he suggests we look for a consistency in designed things that we observe in nature. He gives the example of a tree:
‘the outline of it’s silhouette, the shape of a leaf, the rings on its trunk, the shape of its roots are all formed by the same DNA; and they are all of a piece. And in some way we look for man-made objects to reflect, or mimic, this quality. When they are revealed not to have it we are disappointed.’ (Sudjic, 2015 p17).
I have experienced this in developing designs where I have tried to use imagery produced using different processes, they don’t always work because the elements can jar when placed together. But building on Sudjic’s theme, I would go one step further and say that it is not just the consistency we seek but also the ‘imperfection’ the overlap between chaos and order – for example the rings of a tree stump are all perfectly concentric (ordered) a result of the way that trees grow/what they are made of but they are not evenly spaced or perfectly round (they are more chaotic) mostly due to climactic and other physical and environmental impacts. This is the same, if less obviously so, for people as it is for trees and I suspect we also look for ourselves in the material things we cherish.
Textiles provide many metaphors for other aspects human experience e.g. the threads that run through our lives, the way people, ideas, communities are woven together, the possibility of frayed edges teaching us more about the whole. And it is to these frayed edges – where order starts to unravel – that I keep returning.
- Sudjic, Deyan (2009) The Language of Things: Design, Luxury, Fashion, Art: how we are seduced by the objects around us. London: Penguin.
- Chapman, Jonathan (2005) Emotionally Durable Design: Objects, Experiences and Empathy, Earthscan: Oxford