Experiments in Knots, Modular Units, and their Function

In order to begin to explain why I felt this pursuit was necessary, I believe it is imperative to contextualize how the product/consumer landscape currently thrives.

We live in a time where “collab” seems to be every brand’s favorite word, with the goal being to add as many names as possible to the title of each release. Based on what a collaboration was in the past (a limited, hard to purchase, unique colorway or item), this mentality makes sense, in that this market, especially the 2nd-hand market, loves scarcity. In the past decade, we’ve witnessed the power that a celebrity or external brand co-sign can give to both marketing and selling a product (see anything Kanye, Travis Scott, Virgil, Supreme, etc.); however, brands can also create an artificial scarcity by doing a slew of small drops, spaced apart for a month or two, which will most likely improve sales numbers for products the brand wants to maintain a certain level of energy behind. Pressure from social media and follower counts motivates a portion of the population to spend far more than the original retail price for hard-to-buy items, in order to have a profile which looks like that of individuals who are being seeded product directly, and in some cases even being paid to post pictures with said product. This group in the population is large enough that an entirely separate market exists for these sought-after items.

There is a very specific reason why certain products feel almost impossible to buy nowadays. Individuals who take the time are able to profit through the use of bots for automatically purchasing goods, as well as monitors so they know exactly when new product is added to brands’ websites. These advantages give them an edge over the average consumer; however with the amount of time and money spent on just the automation aspect, one has to find some way to offset the costs of getting in. Once the systems are set up, it becomes quite easy to purchase multiples and if you are successful, the ROI can be quite good; therefore, many have been able to turn it into a full career, (as long as they keep a low profile). During the pandemic, through most of 2020 and spilling into 2021, I witnessed a massive influx of resellers, pushing product beyond just the hyped releases and obscurities, and moving into consumer goods like patio heaters, above ground pools, and even reviving trends of the past, which hadn’t previously been lucrative, like trading cards and internet art (yes, buying and then promptly selling artwork, digital or physical, is a form of reselling).

Basically, to sum this all up, I believe we’re currently experiencing, for lack of a better term, a super-capitalism; a capitalism inside a capitalism.

And frankly, I’m tired.

So instead of just focusing on the new stuff being pushed nowadays (I still see it though, and there’s a lot of waste and ugly products out there for brands who claim to be pushing sustainability), I chose instead put my energy towards research into production methods from the past.

Historical research indicates weaving to be human’s most primitive form of textile production, beginning with the knowledge that early homo sapiens utilized twigs, grass and other plant life to create shelter and tools for a variety of purposes. Eventually methods were developed to create rope or twine (the hair inside a coconut shell can simply be twisted repeatedly to form a rope, and will adhere to itself if twisted at the connection points for greater lengths (Natural ID for the win!)), which, with enough experimentation, could eventually lead one to a simple textile. Although the “threads” would be quite large, these early examples would fit within our contemporary definition of a woven textile, with an interlocking warp and weft running perpendicular to each other at 90°. I imagine these innovations were refined through practice, over generations, to the point where an entirely functional object could be created using this woven rope method. Recently a very early example of just this was unearthed in Israel.

This is a remarkable find. Not only is it incredibly preserved for its age, but it offers invaluable insight into the way objects were being created in the past, with an emphasis on function, the form coming simply as a result. In my own time spent, weaving without a loom using shoelaces, rope and twine, I’ve enjoyed the character each of the elements took on during creation. There is a certain sense of freedom in creation with an unexpected outcome, where the maker is forced to contend with the will of the materials in their hands. Shoelaces of all varieties (but especially waxed laces) are great for this when woven because, being composed of a multitude of fibers and materials, they behave in unique ways when pressure is applied in different directions. I was lucky enough to have been bestowed with an excess of black and brown waxed laces during college, which I have now been to able utilize fully throughout the bulk of my experiments.

In creating forms through various studies, I was interested in woven structures in the context of functional items, which then lends itself to accessories and thus fashion as a whole. However in beginning to investigate usage of primitive weaving techniques in the fashion canon and consumer product landscape, I was bombarded by existing examples at a range of price-points. It was at this stage I needed to reevaluate and question; “What am I adding to the conversation through the creation of this work?” and deemed it unnecessary to attempt to reiterate previous expressions.

My first attempt at weaving without a loom, I felt slightly intimated, determining some sort of base was necessary to work around. Weaving shoelaces around a shoe felt fitting, and my initial interest in the project from a deliverable standpoint was rooted in creating a woven pair of shoe covers.

After completing the first of the two, I was immediately taken by the density of the study. It had movements defined by a grain, distinct textures, stiff sections and more flexible ones. This gestalt of flimsy lifeless laces had transformed into its own object, possessing properties not present in its initially separate parts. I began placing it over and around anything that wasn’t a shoe, and it dawned on me. “Can I create a range of functions from base elements like this, but combined in different ways?” The same principle applied in fabricating the weaves would serve to determine their function as well; a system of laces participating in an even greater modular system of complex elements.

Taking this idea a step further, I went back to why I initially began this endeavor — a distaste for the mindless production and subsequent overconsumption a portion of the population happily takes part in every day. The creation of woven objects using widely available materials like shoelaces, rope or twine adds direct value to those materials, simply because of the way they are arranged (like paint on a canvas versus paint and a canvas). So while one may get a strange look (or no looks at all) for wearing a shoelace on their wrist, a woven shoelace or rope bracelet is considered an acceptable accessory, because value has been added to the materials used. There is also an even greater value added if one makes an object for themself, due to the memory of time and labor expended in making the piece. With value specifically in mind, some of my experiments involved unorthodox “rope” solutions, such as broken headphones and chain links. With the increased push toward sustainability and circular economic practices, its important to try and buy new things less often, and look around to see how seemingly non-functional things can be recycled or reused in unique and innovative ways. While I don’t imagine someone reading this would immediately stop buying overpriced designer accessories, and switch to only handmade woven goods, I do encourage the reader, in your spare time, to grab some rope or extra laces lying around your house, and just play around. Tie some knots, try some weaving and don’t worry about how it’ll look in the end, the joy is in the process.

I created a system of categorization for my personal experiments, in order to best express the range of possibilities of function/form I encountered while working; Surfaces, Voids and Joints. This work is meant to shed light on the range of possibilities when creating woven accessories, and by no means encompasses the full range of potential when working with these mediums and methods. I encourage any and all inspiration from these studies to be brought into practices in your daily life. Imagine how cool you would feel walking home with produce carried in a bag you wove yourself by hand! Just saying…

Surfaces:

Surfaces are categorized by planes created with woven fibers, with no predetermined gaps.

Voids:

Voids are categorized by planes created with woven fibers, interrupted by one or more predetermined gaps.

Joints:

Joints are categorized by fibers with interruptions, like knots, loops or foreign accessories, such that woven objects may be held in place by them.

With these fundamental base elements, I was able to experiment further, investigating interactions between the range of simple and complex established modular units.

Object Studies:

Outfit Studies: