Response to Lecture 25 Feb 2011 – The Disneyfication of Culture

did you know Mary Poppins was a Walt Disney film? – it seems that Im the only one in creation not to know this, in fact Fridays’ lecture was a real an eye opener for me.  In fact there was so much in it that it could have been at least three lectures! Walt Disney was quite a man, striving to create  a ‘perfect’ unspoiled world whether in film, cartoon or the real world. It was interesting to hear about the Culture Industry a phrase termed by  Max Horkheimer who was critical of the mass production of ‘art’ that was happening 100 years ago.  Horkheimer saw artists as people to respect and revere. Disney would not have been popular then, as it is the perfect example of mass production. No longer was there just one artist working on something, Disney employed a variety of artists to create his animations. The Disney empire continued to grow to include production companies, studios, TV shows and networks etc to theme parks and leisure complexes and cruise ships, but what really got to me in the lecture by Hamid was how our children are being brought up on Disney values. American critic Henry Giroux is concerned that there has been very few studies on what children absorb when growing up as he says it’s childhood when values are instilled. Disney films reflect the aspirations and values he wanted so much as a child, happiness and innocence but these are set in a framework of consumerism and conservative white middle class. What a mixture. But surely there has to be some sort of a balance my children watched Disney films even Mary Poppins but they also read books, had books read to them, played make believe with blankets to make dens, sewed and painted, played instruments and listened to music.  They are all well adjusted young adults, have travelled far more than I  and do not need to be rescued from the enemy by a white, blond haired body builders, swinging through trees and certainly don’t need to flutter their eyelashes to get their own way – they’ve gone out into the world and done things for themselves.  I’d much rather my children have watched Bambi and Cinderella and in Stevies’ case Bart Simpson than have them play computer games and watch films filled with violence and swearing.

inspiration in absolute bucket loads!!!

wow what a morning!!!  Lauren Currie probably just changed most of 2nd year Design Studies Students lives if not forever then at least for a little while. Inspirational just isn’t enough to describe what Lauren has done in such a short time.  But just who is she? Lauren was a graduate of Duncan of Jordanstone in 2008 and after a summer of working in design she came back to do her Master  of Design at D of J but Lauren had her future mapped way before that, from 2nd year in fact, when like us today she heard all about service design.  Lauren introduced us to some of her projects today, Studio Unbound, Redjotter, Snook and myPolice.

Lauren talked about the importance of social networking and how incredible opportunities can happen if you put yourself out there and just have confidence in what you’re doing. Through twitter Lauren was flown first class to China to talk about Innovation in Scotland!   Blogging, Tweeting, flickr, vimeo and using Skype are amongst Laurens’ favourite online tools but she also stressed the importance of keeping our online presence professional this leads to an important point – to think of how we are perceived by others both online, in the studio with our peers and with our tutors. Lauren encouraged us to believe in ourselves as designers – if we believe, others will too.

For me its been quite a journey getting to where I am and when I came to Duncan of Jordanstone last May for an interview for direct entry to second year – just walking up the steps to the building was amazing, I can never explain to any one how much it means to me to be actually studying here, it really is a dream come true (someone once said to me that I sound like Im on X factor and the novelty will wear off but thats really how it feels) so for me everyday is like another opportunity to be grasped and I want to learn and push myself as much as I can, while I can.  My enthusiasm for my textile work knows no bounds I absolutely love coming into the studio and have loved the project briefs set  so far and get so excited over new challenges. Lauren has made me realise that if I start now I can also feel the same about anything I want to take on – just apply the same principles as I do in the studio.  So here goes, I always think Im not good enough in my writing but from now on this will change – ‘attitude’ is on her list of five inspirational words. If I believe in my writing and keep practicing by blogging small amounts as often as possible then it can only improve and my confidence will grow. Openess, belief, confidence and explore are Laurens’ other words and I think I will write these out and place them on my  studio desk – they will become my mantra!

Another really important point was to think of ourselves as a brand – Laurens’ Red Jotter avatar is her own red nails and people have approached her because of this so its important that I choose something memorable – I’ve always been known for my love of red lipstick! Wonder what Lauren would think of that?  Lauren mentioned that someones avatar was going to be a plate of cookies – then when applying for an internship  she could send cookies to get herself noticed! I remember hearing Johanna Basford speak and she sent mugs with one of her amazing designs printed on instead of a business card – she said that even if they use it for pencils it will stay on their desk and not put in a wallet and forgotten about – brilliant idea!

So the ‘to do list’ has started – use my connections more, I’m fortunate that I belong to exhibiting groups – so I need to focus and create things that others will want/need. Think of a brand, choose an eye catching avatar,  focus and create, get out and about and interact and remember that its never too late and although I’m 50 remember that life begins there!

Vanilla Ink

Kate Pickering gave a great talk to 2nd Year Design Students on Friday speaking honestly about her experience at  Duncan of Jordanstone, her time after graduating with an Honours degree in Jewellery and Metalwork and then her Master of Design experience, but Im not going to repeat her story I want to tell you about what she has planned for the future.

Vanilla Ink is Kates’ new project which came about after her Master of Design course, during this time Kate realised  that her degree could work for her in all design aspects not only  jewellery making.  She spoke honestly that her degree didn’t prepare her for the real world of business plans, working to others’ specifications, pricing her work and actually selling herself.  She realised there was an opening for others to be helped and so after taking a course at Starter for 6 through the cultural enterprise office she had a business plan to take forward for financial help and has now secured fully equipped work shop premises.

Available to graduates within two years of  their graduation, Vanilla ink will offer  business training and further development in specialised training from designers in the industry, speakers to tell their stories and offer advice.  A one to one mentoring service and each graduate will have their own workspace – something which is often difficult to set up at the beginning and through this space will have direct access to clients.  At the end of the year there will be an exhibition giving the designers a date to work to and also real life experience of setting up and organising.  Interested? Vanilla Ink is open to Jewellery graduates who have graduated within two years, there is an application process and this will give valuable experience in selling themselves.

To find our more about Kate and Vanilla Ink check out her website here.

Status, Taste and Class

It would seem according to Bourdieu that my taste can be attributed to my social status.  I don’t  think I’ve ever thought of where I am placed in terms of class, working or middle class;

these terms are used in social science to define the occupation of the population.  Middle class – those in white-collar and lower managerial occupations and working class as people involved in manual occupation. Their jobs are usually unskilled, poorly paid and provide few benefits or job security.

It would seem from this that I am just inside middle class, my husband has a small business and is a qualified tradesman and I too am a qualified Beauty Therapist  and have taught in an HE college.  My parents were both qualified in their occupations too.  We had a house built for us and as a child I remember my mum always loved the best carpets and fabrics for  upholstery that she could afford, she also loved art and had a beautifully framed Lowry – I realise now this was a print but did my mum love this picture because she was a Lancashire lass, or because he depicted the working class people or because the Queen Mum bought one? From what I know of my mum it would be because she loved it as a piece of art.  I went to a Grammar School which meant taking the 11 plus so I suppose these are all pointers to a middle class upbringing.   My mum must have been very proud of her home as anytime we had visitors  she loved to show everyone around her home and I always took that for granted, that it was something everyone did.  

Although not quite on the same level and she was definitely not a lady of leisure, this reminds me of Veblen (1899) who spoke of the wealthy and upper class  showing their status by extravagant and wasteful expenditure – conspicuous consumption.  These wealthy upper classes had a life of leisure and bought goods and services from those who did work to show the world just how wealthy they were, the more they bought and accumulated the higher their status. They accumulated country estates with gardens featuring fountains, follies and waterfalls. The interiors were even more grand showing goods bought from all over the world with extravagant drapes and furniture and parties were thrown to show off their wealth. Fashion was of a style where no work could possibly be carried out whilst being worn, e.g.  a birds nest hats!



Simmel 1904, also looked at social status  stating that “Society is merely the name for a number of individuals, connected by interation”.  His thoughts were that we buy goods to fit in and that the groups we belong to influence what we wear or what we buy for our home and these are all down to our status.  This was tried out in an experiment in one of our lectures where it seemed all the graphic students wore hoodies and all the textiles students wore scarves, I usually wear a hoody but not on that particular day!

In 2004 Richard Benson and Alex Bilmes talked of different types of middle class, those who earn around £30,000 and those who earn up to £200,000.  Their article in the Guardian led me to explore further the 1950’s social grade system, which put people into catorgories depending on their qualifications, income and responsibilities.  This was fascinating reading and quite an eye opener, it also led me to  “the underclass”  (what a horrible term) given to those in long term unemployement, single parent families, elderly pensioners and those dependant on state benefits.  It would seem that Tony Blairs’ wish in 1999 that the class war is over is far from the truth and has just got more and more compliciated.

Benson, R., Bilmes, A., 2004. Middle Class? Yes, but which part are  you? (online) available at (Accessed 30th January 2011)

 Geser, H.,  1977. The Significance of Simmels Work, (online) available at (Accessed 30th January 2011)

back to study …..

… what a fun lecture we had on Friday, our first after a break which seemed to last an eternity.  Good taste or not good taste that was the question, well sort of, to begin with we talked about The Canon – for those who dont know, the Oxford Dictionary defines The Canon as;

  • a collection or list of sacred books accepted as genuine:the biblical canon
  • the works of a particular author or artist that are recognized as genuine:the Shakespeare canon
  • the list of works considered to be permanently established as being of the highest quality:Hopkins was firmly established in the canon of English poetry

but who decides which books, poems, albums or songs should make it into the top ten, twenty or one hundred ?  Jonathan asked us to think about who influences us and who we influence.  I know I’ve had influence on my three children in their early music choices and now they definitely influence me with music and I love listening to their new finds.  With interiors my twin girls Rachel and Louise most definitely love what I do,  their rooms in their uni flats are a younger version of my taste and its fun to see their take on it.   My influences have built up from a very early age, my love of textiles and pattern has been with me for as long as I can remember and vintage with a contemporary twist was probably the influence of both my gran, who loved china cups and teapots with crochet mats and cushions and my very first introduction to Habitat when I moved up to Edinburgh in the late 70’s!  What a mix.  So for me my taste has definitely been acquired as far as interiors go.

In an exercise it was interesting to see how Top 5’s could be put together – these were fun to do and in 2 minutes, small groups of us  compiled lists of our top 5 albums, films, composers and designers.  Ages within these groups were very mixed and this too had an influence on what we choose, sometimes the choices came from those who talked the loudest and could actually think of something in such a short time so the decisions were not so precise, fun but not accurate!

An important piece of information from Jonathan and James Donald, my tutor from Dundee Collage back in 2009, was to get to know people – network,  often our popularity as an artist will be determined by who we know and not what we know. Befriending the Curator of a proposed exhibition is also a great idea, as Im reliably imformed that they like to be known for finding the next new artist, of course if Saachi was to buy one of my pieces, would that be me made for life?  Now, with Design Studies, part of our course is encouraging us to blog, Tweet and facebook, so we should have a head start when 2013 arrives. 

Off to read Bourdieu tonight!