Studio & Entrepreneurship – Week 6: Interdisciplinary Insights

Week 6 Lecture & Resources

Thoughts on Resources & Lecture

Digital Encounters – Textile pieces by Louize Harries. (image via louizeharries.com)

Research

Interdisciplinary Collaboration

The Bauhaus design school fostered collaborative working practices and is a good example of an interdisciplinary approach to design, where conversations between people working in different media and/or disciplines were actively encouraged.

Designers on Holiday

Designers on Holiday was an annual residential “camp” for designers, held on the Swedish island of Gotland. The idea was to provide a space where not only can designers connect and collaborate on experimental projects, but also re-engage with the natural world by encouraging a sustainable approach.


Bird Yarns

Bird Yarns exhibition at The Lighthouse, Scotland’s Centre
for Design and Architecture in Glasgow.
Bird Yarns exhibition at Dovecot, Edinburgh. Photograph by Helen Voce.
Click to view larger. (Image via Cape Farwell)

In 2012, I took part in a textile art project called Bird Yarns. It was a collaboration with Cape Farewell (who raise awareness about climate change) and textile artist Deirdre Neilson, as part of Sea Change, a 4-year research programme of research and making across Scotland’s western and northern isles. A group of crafters from across the UK, including myself, made knitted arctic terns to highlight the changing migration patterns of seabirds.

My work-in-progress bird.

When you signed up for the project, you were sent a kit with natural, undyed Scottish wool from Ardalanish (Isle of Mull weavers) and a set of instructions on how to make an arctic tern bird. We were encouraged to use reclaimed/recycled materials to complete each bird’s features (the distinctive red beak and legs). I made the beak from a scrap of thick red felt stitched into a conical shape. For the vibrant legs I did some French knitting with a cotton yarn and added feet made from a coated red wire which I wove into a webbed shape.

Everyone that took part sent their birds in from assorted corners of the UK and the “flock” travelled around, migrating in their own way, to be exhibited at places like The Lighthouse in Glasgow, the Dovecot in Edinburgh and An Tobar on the isle of Mull. I wrote about the project on my craft blog at the time here and here. I particularly liked the idea of using something unusual like knitted birds to highlight the effects of climate change – a really interesting way to provoke conversation, and hopefully, action. They were quite charming to see in real life and I feel this definitely invited people to ask questions and find out more.

The hand knitted arctic tern bird I contributed to the Bird Yarns project.

I was so surprised during this week’s webinar, not only by the fact that Ben happened to mention Cape Farewell (as an example of an organisation working at the cross-section of art, culture and science), but also to learn that Paul had designed their logo! Small world…

Cape Farewell states that their remit is to work internationally, bringing together creativesscientists and informers to stimulate a cultural narrative that will engage and inspire a sustainable and vibrant future society. Using creativity to innovate, we engage artists for their ability to evolve and amplify a creative language, communicating on a human scale the urgency of the global climate challenge.” (Cape Farewell n. d.)


Workshop Challenge

For this week’s challenge, I have chosen to interview Lara McGowan, a young entrepreneur and undergraduate business student, to get her opinions and discuss the topic of improving mental health for young adults. At age 19, she is a young adult herself and I hoped she would have some insights on some of the issues people her age currently face.

I also wanted to interview her because along with her mum, Emily McGowan, she is the co-founder of Advancing Eve, a multi-generational Community Interest Company which aims to provide a platform for women and girls of all ages that enables them to get (and give) support in achieving their goals. Lara and Emily host a podcast themselves, called Asking Eve, where they regularly invite women to talk on a variety of topics.


Podcast

We discussed mental health in the context of education and how this can impact on life as a student, and the challenges presented by the effects of studying during a pandemic. As stated on the NUS website, “over recent years, a mental health crisis amongst UK students has emerged. According to a 2019 government report, the number of students in higher education experiencing mental health problems has doubled since 2014/2015. The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated this issue, with over half of students saying that their mental health has deteriorated as a result.”

Below is a summary of our discussion – click the Soundcloud embedded audio below to listen.

A brief summary/edited version of the podcast.

I also felt that there was merit in the wider discussion we had on the topic, in which we covered some of the the barriers to improving mental health, useful resources that are available to young people which can support their mental wellbeing, a bit about how Advancing Eve supports female wellbeing, having a support network, and the effects of the pandemic on student life, as well as managing how you consume social media, so I may also put together a longer edit with the full podcast as a supplemental addition at some point.


Mental Health in Young Adults

A few key points came up in the conversation. Some things that could help improve mental health for young adults:

  • Better education on how to look after your own mental health is needed (within the education system itself, e.g. in a school or higher education environment)
  • Signposting of mental health services are available to young people could be improved (it’s not always easy to find information and support, or to know where to find it)
  • Lack of speed in accessing mental health resources (people are often placed on long waiting lists – though I know this is true across all age groups, from talking to a range of people who have needed support)

Potential barriers to improving the wellbeing of young adults included:

  • High demand/competition for the limited public/free mental health resources that are available
  • Lack of finances means they can’t afford to access expensive private mental health services
  • A fear of opening up and talking about how they’re feeling
  • A lack of awareness/knowledge about when to seek help (for example when a mental health issue becomes really serious)
  • Not having easy access to a support network of people who have been through the mental health issues they might currently be facing

I also reflected on what action could be taken to improve mental health in young adults:

  • Better funding for mental health services (both NHS and third sector organisations)
  • Better communication & signposting of the services available
  • Creating some kind of hub to get information and facilitate accessing mental health support
  • Educating young adults on mental health and what they can do for themselves to help look after it, as well as when and where to go for professional help
  • A more tailored, individual approach (vs generic) and support that’s more specifically geared towards their age group

There was also an interesting point that came up, on how our consumption of social media and other media can impact mental health – being more conscious of who you follow, as well as what you watch or read can make a big difference to how you feel.

The New Economic Foundation suggests 5 things that can help improve wellbeing:

  • Connect (with friends/family/socialising)
  • Be active (physical activity)
  • Take notice (mindfulness)
  • Learn (something new, or rediscovering something you perhaps used to enjoy)
  • Give (e.g. volunteering/helping/fundraising for charity)

Production Process

Editing the raw audio in Adobe Premiere Pro.

I already knew how to edit sound with Adobe Premiere Pro software (as I have some experience of video editing), so I felt it would be the quickest way to do this for my podcast. It was also useful to do so because I recorded the podcast with two microphones – being able to link the two audio tracks and edit them in tandem massively sped up the editing process. I additionally recorded an audio backup on my phone using the voice memo feature, which proved to be advantageous when it came to listening back and selecting which sections of audio to use.


Reflection on the week

I found the challenge this week an interesting one – it absolutely pushed me outside my comfort zone, but I was surprised (once I got over the initial jitters) how much I enjoyed the podcast format. I definitely think it’s a useful way to explore ideas with someone. One of the biggest issues was editing it down to a more concise snapshot of the discussion – I felt it was a very rich topic of conversation!

The act of producing the podcast was in itself a very collaborative process – Lara kindly let me use her podcasting equipment to record our conversation and gave me some useful advice and insights on working with it, for which I am extremely grateful. It definitely meant that the sound quality on the resulting audio was high. I also took Ben’s advice to record a backup, which proved very useful when it came to the reviewing and editing process.

It’s clear that there is definitely a lot of room for improvement when it comes to supporting and improving the mental health of young adults too, and the discussion highlighted some of the issues they encounter as well as a few ideas about ways to address it.


References

Advancing Eve. Available at https://advancingeve.com/ [accessed 12/07/2021]

Breathing Space Scotland. Available at https://breathingspace.scot/ [accessed 13/07/2021]

Cape Farewell. ‘About.’ Available at https://capefarewell.com/about.html [accessed 08/07/2021]

Cape Farewell. 2012. ‘Bird Yarns.’ Available at https://www.capefarewell.com/seachange/bird-yarns-2/ [accessed 08/07/2021]

Designers on Holiday. 2019. Available at https://www.amazing-designers-holiday-on-the-wonderful-island-of-gotland.com/ [accessed 11/07/2021]

Louize Harries. ‘Digital Encounters.’ Available at https://louizeharries.com/Digital-Encounters [accessed 10/07/2021]

National Union of Students (NUS). ‘Mental Health.’ Available at https://www.nus.org.uk/articles/mental-health [accessed 13/07/2021]

Samaritans. ‘Samaritans Scotland.’ Available at https://www.samaritans.org/scotland/samaritans-in-scotland/ [accessed 12/07/2021]

Scottish Association for Mental Health. Available at https://www.samh.org.uk/ [accessed 12/07/2021]

Scottish Association for Mental Health. ‘Five Ways To Better Mental Health.’ Available at https://www.samh.org.uk/about-mental-health/self-help-and-wellbeing/five-ways-to-better-mental-health [accessed 12/07/2021]

Tate. ‘Bauhaus.’ Available at https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/b/bauhaus [accessed 23/08/2021]

The Blurt Foundation. Available at https://www.blurtitout.org/ [accessed 12/07/2021]