The faces of circular textile research


Have you ever noticed how important being face-to-face is for understanding what someone is trying to tell you? Communicating in other ways (phone, text, twitter, skype, email…) can often lead to misunderstandings. During Trash-2-Cash workshops, Prof Rebecca Earley and Dr Rosie Hornbuckle explored the importance of the ‘face’ in a series of tasks aimed at helping people to communicate and collaborate better. 


Rosie now explains the approach and what they discovered. The full details can be found in their paper ‘A Meditation on the Faces of Circular Textile Research’ on our Publications and Progress page.   


Taking pictures

Much of what we do as designers is based on a ‘hunch’. When we began to work on the Trash-2-Cash project, faced with the challenge of getting all these different people from different countries to get along, Becky instinctively knew that using people’s faces could be a way of supporting and strengthening our relationships and help us to better understand one another. So she took her camera to Workshop 01 in Stockholm, Sweden, and did something that you maybe wouldn’t expect a Professor of Textile Design to do… she asked everyone if she could take their picture.


Making stickers 

At first we used these pictures to introduce people on the Trash-2-Cash website, but having this archive of faces lead me to think about how we could make the connections between people more real, help people to understand what we are all here to do, and how we could do it together. So I decided to map everyone’s expertise, I asked each person what they know most about and then created a spreadsheet. What we know about spreadsheets is that although they are very useful they are not very friendly or fun. If you want someone to be interested in your information, a spreadsheet is not the way! Instead, I created ‘face stickers’ from our archive of pictures.  Within the workshop coffee break we asked people to put their face within a poster of the project, so they could see themselves next to other people with similar knowledge, or they could see who they could talk to about fibre science or life cycle assessment or consumer studies. It was a very popular task, and as researchers we could see that this focus on faces was working.


Drawing each other 

To this point in Trash-2-Cash Becky had mainly been using her knowledge to run workshop sessions, interview people for podcasts and tell other people about the project. But Becky is a textile designer, she is happiest when making. So she took the idea of faces and decided to help everyone make something together… to anyone who was not a designer this may have seemed like a very strange idea for a scientific project workshop.


Becky used her previous design ideas, which involved using meditation, and asked people in pairs to draw each other’s faces. Becky then used these drawings to create a new piece of textile design by printing them onto an old polyester shirt. Although some people were uncomfortable doing this to begin with, they found it a positive experience. The workshops last for two days and are busy and intense – so the meditation followed by the drawing in silence gave people some much needed head space. In this kind of space our thoughts are different and so how we looked at our partners in this task changed.


I guess the surprising thing for us as design researchers was that we responded to the interdisciplinary workshop in a way we hadn’t expected to - we were able to positively influence the project and in turn it influenced us. A textile designer and a communication designer working together for the first time with very different outcomes but a common goal: helping people to work together.