Patchwork and the iPad

What does the new technology bring to the table?

I recently read an article touting the health benefits of quilting. A team of researchers from the University of Glasgow found the contemplative centeredness of crafts like quilting results in improved well-being in ways that outdoor activities do not. Moreover, creativity can blossom in a climate where it may be suppressed.

I recently spent a week at Rancho La Puerta in Baja California, a splendid spa where every sort of exercise is encouraged. During my three-mile morning hike up the hills I overheard several professional women, on retreat from their stressful day jobs, talking about their kids. From the sound of it, most teenagers are preoccupied with either sports or academics. I never once heard these physically fit mums, in the many conversations I eavesdropped on, ever once mention the arts. Returning to London I wandered the streets and found every young person I came across on the phone or furiously focused on a little black object in their hands as they walked. I began to wonder what this growing preoccupation with these techno toys will have on creativity and  the arts. Do the young have the encouragement they need to develop a possibly hidden flair to be creative? Or is their potential dissipated by all the time and energy spent on high-tech communications and sport?

My assistant Katy broke into these musings, alerting me with great enthusiasm to a student fashion show she was watching on her iPad, the very technology I was questioning. A Chinese fashion designer, Momo Wang, from London’s St. Martin’s College was using patchwork and other crafts to create witty and texturally gorgeous outfits. The imagination displayed in the clothing posted online is a testament to the positive possibilities of technology. She brings so many worlds together: patchwork, embroidery, artistic choice of colour, texture, surreal use of the unexpected, to name just a few. She’s inspired the use of vintage crafts, creating a fresh use of material. There is such intriguing complexity in her designs that she leaves viewers wanting to see more deeply into each outfit. Everyone in the office was totally lit up by this student’s work and emboldened to try richer more chancy mixtures of aesthetics in our own creations.

I realize quite a few young designers in today’s fashion world employ the craft of patchwork and quilting in their outfits. So perhaps my old-fogey reaction to technology is proving to be wrong footed. The very technology I’ve objected to may bring critical attention to all kinds of crafts, which in turn may be used in fresh ways by a new generation. I’m sure all who behold these fashions will think about trying some sort of patchwork for themselves!