Beginning ‘Virtual Reality’, I was incredibly excited. The module brief described the connection with a student from a university in Egypt. We would set each other a brief and carry it out to deadline, communicating virtually to updated each other on progress with the project and receive feedback. On a personal level, I understood that the main area where I was lacking with my design work was confidence. I felt that this project would be a great opportunity to gain confidence, as I would have to present my own work to a complete stranger, someone who would potentially hate and criticise my work. This is a step I know I will face at some point in the future and so I thought this would be a great chance to gain confidence in speaking, presenting myself and my work and being proud of what I have achieved, as well as taking advice and criticism and changing my work accordingly. I was also excited by the prospect of becoming the client, and giving feedback to someone half way across the world on the work they were doing for me.
The module was not at all what had been described, and so was utterly disappointing. I felt disheartened; I had chosen a module in which I knew no other people nor any of the tutors, and I was ready to step outside of the graphics studio and learn something new. It had appeared to be an individual project (apart from the Egyptian student) which was something I specifically chose. I could have easily chosen the module lead by the graphic communication tutor, and now wish I had, but I didn’t because I felt that defeated the point of field. Field to me meant working outside your discipline and outside your comfort zone to learn new skills you never would have before. However, this was not at all the case. In terms of working individually, this was incorrect. We spent one whole session being given our groups – two people were missing from mine on the first day and continued to not attend. I ended up forming a group with fellow graphic communication student Connor Redding and Egyptian exchange student Mahira Abd El Ghany, who studies architecture. It was essentially an architecture project, and so Mahira was a godsend. We were expected to be able to use software we had never used, without any inductions or workshops and so there was a lot of teaching ourselves and heaving that work onto Mahira. We learned that we were essentially carrying out a site analysis of a chosen site in Cardiff to send to Egypt. The Egyptian students would then design a piece of art, design, an instillation etc for this site, having never been there. We were told the Egyptian students would be doing the same, and we would design something for their site in Egypt. I could see where ‘Virtual Collaboration’ has come from here, and despite the rocky start I was excited to proceed. We carried out our site analysis over 6 weeks allotted weeks. In all honesty, it took us 2 weeks. Meanwhile, John, our lead tutor, was in Egypt.
Animation tutor Owen took over in John’s absence and was brilliant. We had to fill him in on the brief (and that last 6 weeks of chaos and disorganisation) and he helped us all as if he had been there the whole time. With 3 weeks left until the presentation and formative deadline and no sign of John or contact from Egypt, we visited the architecture department to ask for advice. They advised we send John an email asking for the site analysis from the Egyptian students, and tell him we were going to move ahead of his schedule and carry on, as we were concerned about the remaining time until deadline. Mahira, the Egyptian student and gift from god on our team chose a site in her home place, Cairo for our installation. She described it to us and showed us photos, giving us an amazing insight into the place. John responded to our email saying that it was fine for us to carry on and do our own thing.
We chose two sites from Mahira’s descriptions: one being a bridge over a busy highway in Cairo, the other being a pedestrian only pathway through the stalls and souqs of a touristy region. For the highway, we designed an installation which was textured and coloured blues and greens, so that as you drove past, it looked like a wave rolling up the shore. When speaking to Mahira, she spoke about how this is an incredibly busy road far from a beach. We wanted to bring an element of the beach to this area.
For the walking speed sight we designed an installation in which tourists and locals alike can participate in without leaving a permanent mark. Mahira spoke about how graffiti is treated in Egypt, and how it is far less criminalised than in the UK. She spoke about Egyptian culture and a yearning to leave your mark wherever you go. She also spoke about an obsession with places celebrities have been, for example when Princess Diana visited, there is a mark of remembrance to this day. We wanted to utilise one stone wall along the path and create some sort of situation in which people could print their hand print onto the wall and sign their name. We decided the best option for this was to use chalk. We wanted to use a medium which would wash away in the rain to reveal a blank canvas to be used again by more tourists/locals, so there was always room for more.
With little time left of the term, John posted videos and a map of two sites he visited on his holiday for us to design installations for. Other teams used these however we kept our original sites. We worked as a team to put our presentation together and presented it to John and Owen. We received positive feedback and overall, I felt proud of what we had achieved especially considering the circumstances of the whole project. I don’t feel that I learnt new skills, however I do feel that I applied the ones that I already had to a new kind of project. Our team worked brilliantly together and we handled every hurdle well. We played to everyone’s skills, utilising everyone’s strengths within the project. I am thankful for this experience because I got to meet Mahira, who is one of the loveliest people I’ve ever met. She taught me a lot about culture, and I think her bravery to come to Wales from Egypt and work on a group project is admirable. Before she left, she gave me a watercolour painting of her home town and a pair of earrings she hand made. I hope I will always keep in contact with her.
Second term field was amazing. Through first year, I was torn about choosing to study abroad for a term or a year. For many reasons, I chose to stay in Cardiff, though sometimes I doubted this decision. When the opportunity to travel arose in June of first year, when selecting field modules for the following year, I jumped at it. I decided to go to Morocco – somewhere I had never been before and would perhaps not prioritise as somewhere to go, but had always wanted to. I didn’t know anyone else going, but I signed up for it and told myself I would make friends on the trip.
As it got closer to January, I was terrified. Hearing and reading things about Marrakech made me nervous – just going somewhere with such a stark contrast in culture to my own was nerve-wracking and I was scared to unintentionally offend. However, this was an immersive experience, a study trip to learn about both the culture of Morocco and also my own. Living in the UK and rarely never venturing further than close European countries, it is difficult to identify your own culture. You cannot tell how it differs to other cultures, as you have never experienced any others. The project was essentially to learn about another culture; absorb the qualities of Moroccan life and allow the experience to bleed into our work. It was a trip meant to inspire us, inject vibrance and depth into our work and for me, it definitely did.
The brief was very flexible. We were essentially allowed to create whatever we wanted as long as it was (obviously) relevant to and inspired by somehow, the week in Morocco.
Marrakech was amazing. It was an experience I will never forget. Everything about the whole week was an incredible experience: I met amazing people both on the trip and in Morocco, our hotel was beautiful and we were treated perfectly, the food was delicious, the weather warm and everywhere was stunning.
Upon our return to Cardiff I was completely overwhelmed by the experience – I couldn’t believe I had been! I felt inspired and was excited to get on with the project. Previous to to trip, we had weekly workshops with Steve using the heat press, silk painting and digital printing designs. I instantly loved the heat press and was keen to get back using it armed with the patterns I had seen and collected in Marrakech. My favourite part of the week in Morocco was our visit to the Yves San Laurent Majorelle Gardens. It was one of the places I researched before we want on the trip and I knew it was somewhere I definitely wanted to visit. Everything about the gardens was stunning and it was probably the most beautiful day of the week, which definitely helped. I had heard about the ‘light’ in Morocco and how the light and shade made the colours burst more than they would anywhere else. It was as if Morocco had it’s own type of light that complimented the blue of the house so it just shone, exerting vibrance and colour. I couldn’t believe there existed a paint so blue. I knew I wanted to use this blue in my work. I also fell in love with the idea of ‘The Pink City’. Everywhere we went the buildings were pink. We learnt this was because of the clay used in construction in Morocco. Pink was another colour I wanted to use in my work.
At the Majorelle Gardens there was a small gallery called the ‘LOVE’ gallery, a room showcasing posters made by YSL as a New Year gift to his employees. He made one each year, up until his death in 2008. I decided my project would be to make the remaining posters to bring the collection up to present day. YSL’s posters were inspired by things he loved and enjoyed. I decided I would explore two ideas – a series of posters inspired by an event which represents love from each of the remaining years, and a series of posters inspired by my time in Marrakech. I worked on the heat press printing some of my designs onto fabric and scanning them onto Photoshop. I liked the texture the fabric gave on screen and so kept this within my work.
I loved second term’s field. I enjoyed meeting and working with new people, learning new skills and applying them to my work and, of course, Marrakech. I am so grateful for the opportunity to visit Morocco and have culturally immersive experiences that I don’t think I otherwise would have had. I loved the freedom that I had with this project, both in Morocco and at home, though I never felt abandoned or alone. I was consistently supported by staff and given the help I needed when I needed it, and left alone to explore my own ideas when appropriate too. I enjoyed working in an interdisciplinary way. From graphics, there was only myself and one other student, and so I was forced to make friends and socialise in other circles. I learnt a lot from the people on this course – I learnt about digital stitch, fabrics, welding, soldiering, repeat pattern amongst other things. I would like to think I shared some of my knowledge in return.
Overall, my experience of field this year has been positive. I am glad that Morocco came in second term, as I look over the whole year with fondness and it is far enough from first term that I can see positives in Virtual Collaboration. I met and worked with amazing people on both projects and learned a lot about both Egyptian and Moroccan culture. This has definitely inspired me in my work to use more colour and pattern and to be experimental. Through both modules I learnt more about my own culture; something which was was hard to identify before having never experienced a culture different to my own. I learnt new skills that I wouldn’t have if I had chosen other projects, such as the heat press, and I hope to bring these skills back into my subject work. Through ‘Virtual Collaboration’ I strengthened my teamwork skills my directly and distributing work roles between our three-person team. In both projects there was a lot of self directed work. I improved my organisation, self motivation and time management through these projects, as I had a deadline to work towards and had to direct my time myself in order to get the work done. Though there were things I would improve about elements of this years field module, I enjoyed and learnt a lot from the experience looking back.