Busy minds and hands during lockdown

Issue: Volume 99, Number 6

Posted: 7 May 2020
Reference #: 1HA7Kh

The Covid-19 lockdown has seen a flourishing of creative work and thinking for a group of Aotea College textile students and their teacher.

Catherine Dawson ensured her textile students had sewing machines at home so work could continue during the lockdown.

Catherine Dawson is visual art and technology teacher at Aotea College in Porirua. She teaches art, visual art painting, photography, jewellery, fashion and textiles and says she and her students planned for the lockdown the week beforehand.

She teaches one combined class consisting of Level 1 Jewellery and Level 1, 2 and 3 Fashion and Textiles at the same time and says the class was already well set up for online learning.

Exchange student Lilly was able to develop her bomber jacket at home with a borrowed school sewing machine.

“I’ve split this class into four different online classes during the lockdown, so the kids feel really comfortable – there’s a nice relaxed atmosphere that we have created.  

“I already had all the material for all my textiles classes online. That’s how I manage my classroom practice, so it wasn’t hard for me to make the jump and the kids are used to that. Especially with the four classes at the same time – I would normally set one up, tell them to see what’s online – for example, ‘look at the video and then I’ll come back to you’ – then set the next class up... so they were a bit used to working in that way,” she says.

Lilly’s designs were inspired by German Punk band Die Ärzte.

Before Aotea College closed, Catherine surveyed all her textile students to establish whether they needed or wanted a sewing machine at home. Lilly Kohler is an exchange student from Germany through Kiwi company, Your Education. She took up the offer of a machine and says it means she’s not behind the other students and she has been enjoying playing around with the design for a band bomber jacket.

“I pretty much changed the design for the bomber jacket for a concert. I researched band symbols and album covers for my band (German Punk band Die Ärzte) and arranged them and then I will hand-embroider them on to the jacket,” she says.

Passion projects continue

In planning for the lockdown, Catherine says her class of Year 13 textile students, who were in the middle of a project to develop and make a bomber jacket with a combination of an applied design and featuring two complex sewing procedures, discussed how they could continue their study and work remotely.

“They are each researching their own interests – a band that they love, and all the signs, symbols and imagery and they absolutely love that. The next natural phase was to start making the garment. Because they are very creative and have quite a high skill level, I put it to them, ‘would you rather do the theory?’ and they said, ‘no we’d like to have a break because everyone else is loading us with lots of theory’.

“Through the weeks they had done a bit of trialling and testing and really liked the idea of embroidery, maybe mixed with a bit of screenprinting. Then that turned into them not having the screenprinting or embroidery machine at home, but they can trial and test their own hand-embroidering and they are very happy to do that,” says Catherine.

At-home work

Catherine says it has been interesting to see what the students are working on at home, something she doesn’t always get to see at school and she was delighted by a behind the scenes view in an online meeting with a Level 2 student.

“I asked her what she was doing in the background and she said she was hand-stitching while she was talking to me and it blew my mind – she had the most amazing sculptural animal headpieces. 

“At the end of last year, I had sent her off to look up various designers and she had shown me photos of what she had been working on but I had never seen the actual pieces. There were five massive animal heads. They were inspired by one of the artist activists from the Honey Badger studio(external link).  

“I told her she’s already halfway there, why don’t I create the specific course for what she’s actually doing? I have basically rewritten the conceptual design and product design course for her,” says Catherine. 

Challenges and opportunities

While teaching and studying technology has allowed students the time and freedom to explore their passions, Catherine says she spent the school holidays rewriting the jewellery courses and adding new textile standards to make the course more manageable for students to do at home.

Erica Rowe will be using quilting, a technique her grandmother taught her: “I miss seeing her a lot during this lockdown and with each hexagon being hand-sewn together, it’s quite time-consuming. So it’s keeping me well occupied while I’m at home.”

“It’s hard not being able to show them the hands-on stuff at the time, and the kids not having the materials at home has made me reflect on my teaching practice. I’m creating new courses they can do at home and they also are being more creative, so the challenges are also blessings as well.

“I have a mixed bag of kids and the most difficult thing is just getting the kids to show up to the classes and keeping them engaged. I think that’s a worldwide thing – the kids have all this access to an online environment and it’s just them self-managing that. 

“I was impressed by the standard of work that they were completing at home. I knew they were independently working at home on their own creative projects, but now they have had the chance to dedicate more time to do their passion projects, they have excelled in taking their work to a higher level” she says. 

Year 12 student Jade Avison makes fur heads and suits as a hobby - they are mainly shown off at pop culture convention, Armageddon Expo.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 8:30 am, 7 May 2020

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