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An Interview with Studio Houndstooth

An Interview with Studio Houndstooth

Jo Pierce and Philippa Brock


Studio Houndstooth is an experimental, multidisciplinary textile & materials design research studio, founded by Philippa Brock and Jo Pierce.

They investigate, interrogate and instigate innovative textile and material design processes and making methods that result in tangible design and craft artefacts.

Employing co-design, design thinking, process development, digital and future approaches to textile & materials design and research, their methods can be applied across various scales from architectural to the human body. They instigate their own projects, curate and also work to commission. The studio has been running since 2012 and in that time has trialled design methods and making processes through workshops, and after much research has launched in 2015.

NC: What inspired the creation of The Houndstooth Project?

SH: When setting up Studio Houndstooth, we were researching and experimenting methods of working together as co investigators, collaborators and designers. This involved running workshops between ourselves, where one of us would introduce a new concept or an idea and then both work on it through co design making processes, using a variety of media to help us develop our studio manifesto.

At all times we ensured this process was a ludic experience, a space for us to explore a risk taking approach to question our ideas, design thinking and have consequently researched, applied and are continuing to develop new methodologies to apply to our practice

During an annual research trip to Paris, we discovered a piece of houndstooth printed milliners sinamay (banana fibre), which both of us pounced on simultaneously. This fabric became our catalyst, leading to much dialogue and investigation, exploring the motifs’ ubiquity and the fact that most people recognise it, in industry it never goes out of trend and the motif is used on everything. This became our studios’ motif.

In the early days, we talked about the potential for a launch project for the studio and devised The Houndstooth Project based on the different methods we had applied to develop our design thinking. We discussed its potential with a variety of people including designers and non designers, industry, product designers, designer makers, educators and community groups and asked the question, if we set up this project would they get involved?

We have had resounding positive feedback and to date we have participants working on submissions including those from ceramic textile investigations, synthetic biology, automotive and fashion industries. We have also run and can be commissioned to run The Houndstooth Project workshops, using our developed ludic methodology. The methodology works for both makers and non-makers.

NC: You are both expert textile practitioners in both weave and print. How does working together bring value to your design research and making?

SH: The value brought to our research and making manifests itself in many ways – in the setting up of Studio Houndstooth & The Houndstooth Project, and in the workshops we run based on the effective method we have developed.

A print designer thinks quite differently to a weaver, but the potential to combine some of these processes or respond to each other’s making is exciting. So much about making and design now is dependant on collaboration and co-thinking. The opportunity to now develop co-design working methods in and beyond textiles allows us to innovate in different ways.

Working together has created a dialogue where we both explore each other’s approaches, research and making processes, learning from each other and banishing the idea of singular authorship to our outcomes.

As fractional research and teaching academics it can be difficult to balance pathway leadership and its associated demands, whilst also being able to consistently keep up to date on our own research projects. By working together we have been able to maintain the momentum in developing our research and outputs. We also set up and delivered a joint subject pathway, on the BA (Hons) Textile Design Course for a year’s trial. The results from this were excellent: they enabled us to work as joint weave/print pathway leaders to devise a curriculum that combined both aspects of the subject areas. It was a very successful pilot programme and we will be investigating it further.

With our recent documentation of phase 2 of The Brutalist Wallpaper Project, we have been able to share our knowledge base and approaches to develop a method of collecting information in a time efficient manner, ensuring that documenting occurs immediately as there is no possibility of the wallpaper remnants remaining.

NC: Co-design is central to The Houndstooth story. What have been the highlights so far of working with the motif in a way that brings community and design together?

SH: The Houndstoooth Project is an inclusive, egalitarian method, which allows all participants to start from the same point – learning the motifs layout in either singular and multiple repeats. The method of learning how to do the motif is a meditative approach, requires a certain amount of concentration, but also encourages dialogue. Once learnt, it allows the participant to then embrace whatever medium they wish to work in whether analogue, digital or text. We have discovered that the Houndstooth project methodological approach works for both makers and non-makers.

NC: Following the recent launch of the project at Central Saint Martins, can you tell us what’s on the agenda this year and how more people can all get involved?

SH: This year promises to be a very productive one! We are continuing to encourage people to engage and work on The Houndstooth Project taking their own, or a co-design approach. Participants can get involved by going to www.thehoundstoothproject.com, registering and then downloading the ‘how to’ leaflet and then taking their own methodology to the motif in whatever medium. All we ask is that you then up load your results and we will put them under your name in the collection galleries.

We have recently visited Tilburg Textile Museum on a Studio Houndstooth study trip to see the Building with Textiles Exhibition. We engaged stimulating discussions with the staff at the Museum and Textiel Lab about a potential future project and collaboration.

Phase 2 of the Brutalist Wallpaper Project has also begun, having been initiated two years ago. Documenting 1970’s wallpaper remnants in a social housing block just before its re-development, we are now in the process of recording the same in its sister block. Initial outcomes from this project include an image database and identification of dates and suppliers of these wallpapers with further research outputs likely to emerge from this body of work as we collate more photographs and information. Continuing on this urban theme, we have also been commissioned to do a feasibility study on developing a larger version of our Sustainable Graffiti Wall for the A12 road in London.

We are available to design and run ‘Houndstooth Project’ workshops for any type of groups, from industry through to community, and will deliver a Houndstooth Project workshop as part of SIT – Stroud International Textiles 2015. We are also being featured in the new SIT journal Vol 2 which comes out early march 2015.

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