Final Major Project Research (week 3)


Tutors say my practical research to date has been a bit “light” and superficial. To discover more interesting lines of enquiry, I must take the experiments further and push myself to reach greater depths. I suppose this is what students often fail to do in their Final Major Projects and the results become things we’ve all seen before and perhaps lack originality. By now, they’re expecting us to have a couple of broad areas of focus and for material experimentation to be conducted within these. Overall, my work has not been very conclusive and doesn’t even point in a general direction. I am slightly concerned about this but not dwelling on it because I’m far too busy. Previously, we’ve always had certain boundaries and been given a detailed brief to work from. The scattergun approach has been fun but is entirely unhelpful in yielding good quality research.

I must decide what I’m interested in and what I’d love to be standing next to at the Degree Show and the New Designers exhibition. At this stage in my degree, nobody is advising me what to continue working on or to try and make. Who and what do I want to be? Reasons why? And what kind of work do I want to be associated with? I feel I’ve been given a serious talking to about my future. This is long overdue and I really should have been thinking it all through myself during the last 2 years. I honestly don’t know what I want and probably can’t be usefully helped until I can answer at least some of the questions.

We have 9 weeks of making until the 22nd May deadline. Aaaaarrghhhhhh!!!


A visiting lecturer said “ready mades can look a bit cheap” and suggested I find ways to create distance from the original material. The work must have some kind of added value for the public to engage with it. I see this as a really important aspect of my work to address now. Some of my peers have seen me struggle with filthy bike parts and gone further saying I should find a new waste material altogether. While I fully acknowledge the sentiment, these comments are making me increasingly stubborn and determined to stick with grimy greasy bicycle parts. I believe the shapes and variety of material hold a potentially wonderful outcome. I just need to keep working with them to find it. Knowing how I work, albeit quite irrationally, I’m trying to make this a key objective and turn the problem to my advantage. This is no easy task.

How can work not look like old bike parts? I’m looking for a new context and create different shapes/joints. In suggesting nature, avoiding bold circles and moving away from strong functional aesthetic will help. Using colour and texture is also a good possibility and anything to make it ‘softer’, more tactile and less about its former existence as an efficient machine. I’ve done some little experiments to scale work up/down/differently to see how it could come across. The next stage is to look at a mix of contrasting materials, introduce new elements. I’m drawn to the use of multiples and repeated shapes and would love to change the viewing angle and perspective, e.g. Ai Weiwei’s bicycle frames and sparkly links at the Royal Academy in London. I think he created new spaces with the viewer on the outside, forcing us to see his objects and shapes differently.




An important consideration at this early stage in the project, given my unconventional choice of materials for use in design, is getting away from the unattractive aesthetic of bike parts.

How can I imply/create/add value to what is generally considered rubbish?

  • Making a composite with other materials
  • Connecting with other fields of design, e.g. fashion and give it a completely new purpose
  • Use craft techniques/processes like weaving. Also shredding/stretching/ heating/compressing etc. not normally associated with bicycles. Try to stay away from anything industrial
  • Use it as a construction material. Give it a character and bring out different qualities, visual/practical/physical etc.


I bought a chain link tool and learned how to separate and reconnect the links by removing the fiddly pins. YouTube is brilliant for this but they don’t really tell you how to gauge when to stop turning the handle before the wretched pin pops completely out of the link. You just learn from making mistakes. I count 7 or 8 half turns of the handle and then make micro turns until I can see it has moved enough to pull apart with the pin still attached to the outer link. This tool has made a noticeable improvement in the aesthetic of my work with chains.

These are little circles of 8 links held together by cut up rubber inner tubes. The image of hanging circles in the window (below right) shows inconsistencies and sagging without holding much shape. By removing one link from each circle, I found they held their structure better as smaller 7 link circles and gained more material to use out of a single chain.


The chain circles are beautifully simple and the skinny rubber tubes allow them enough flexibility to curve really well. Wide inner tubes fell down and served no structural purpose at all, letting the circles sag on all sides. Long lengths of chain also worked with skinny tubes (images below) but retained a feel for the wire fencing that inspired it in the first place.

With all the working of chains, I gave myself a wrist injury and had to put them aside for a few days. I cut up old inner tubes and played around with attaching them to create new surfaces and textures.

While these inner tubes did create new tactile surfaces, the results looked quite fussy and decorative. This is not what I was after. The frilly net skin didn’t work at all because there was too much movement in every direction. Each 3x2cm section was small, lightweight and got jostled around by other sections around it. fullsizeoutput_2428Out of all my tests with rubber tubes this week, only one could be of possible interest for future development. A skinny inner tube cut into 1cm sections and stitched together as a tile (image above) inspired by coral formations. With minimal threading holding them next to each other, the whole tile could be wrapped around/over something or perhaps pushed into a recessed cavity or vessel. This has potential as a surface texture or lampshade.


Encasing objects in lace/skin e.g. Zaha Hadid‘s Morpheus Building

Geometry in design, Saloua Raouda Choucair





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