Design students inspired by Te Papa’s collections

Each year, the history curators take design students from Massey University though Te Papa’s collections behind the scenes. The students choose an item to inspire their own design and it’s around this time of year we see what they’ve created. Curator Claire Regnault shares some of the fabulous designs. 

Refashioning the national wardrobe

Each July students from Massey University’s second year fashion course visit Te Papa for an intensive, whirlwind tour of fashion history from 1800 to 1945.

The students are required to choose a garment as inspiration, and to reinterpret it through the lens of either modesty, technology, function or gender to create a contemporary garment.

In October we in turn are invited to the fashion school to see what the students have made of Te Papa’s collections. It is always an exciting visit, as we guess which garment inspired what. Sophie Ward chose to base her garment on a silk cape from the 1920s. The cape was made by the original owner from a no-longer fashionable skirt, and is embellished with Indian Zardozi embroidery in gold and silver metal threads.

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Not everyone chose a glamorous outfit. Rose Murdoch  found inspiration in Elizabeth Williams’ high functional overalls which were given to her when she served as a ‘Land Girl’ during the Second World War.

Rose abstracted the overalls, and created a two-piece, hard wearing, street inspired outfit.

Page from Rose Murdoch's design book.

Page from Rose Murdoch’s design book.

Much to our surprise and delight two students based their designs on the Right Honourable Richard Seddon’s coatee. The coatee was part of a Privy Counsellor’s First Class full dress uniform.

As Prime Minister of New Zealand, Seddon wore it to the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897 and the Coronation of Edward VII in June 1902. It was made specifically for his height (nearly 6 feet) and weight – nearly 20 stone.

Stored in the round on custom-made form, Seddon’s physical presence is still very much alive in the garment. Both students played with the wonderfully round nature of the form, and the notion of ‘shaping our history’.

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Botanical inspired embroidery

This year, the 4th year Textile Design students visited both the Botany Department and the Textile Store.

Imagining that they were working for Mary Katrantzou, Jakob Schlaepfer, or Peter Pilotto, the students had to create a botanical-inspired embroidery design that combined digital technology, alternative substrates, and traditional stitch techniques.

In the Botany department, they looked at John Buchanan’s botanical drawings. In the Textile store they looked at a wide range of botanical-inspired fabrics and embroideries, including Lady Jane Cory’s large scale works which had been the focus of the students’ visit in 2015.

Back at school, the students then realised their final embroidery designs on a simply constructed garment.

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Contemporary wallcoverings

This year we also hosted a group of design students exploring the world of wallcoverings for different types of environments, from the home to corporate foyer.

Te Papa holds 291 examples of wallpapers, including 11 sample books, rolls and cut lengths or fragments from houses.

This wallpaper sample from the 1930s is one of over 150 samples gifted to Te Papa by Ray and Betty Weeber, 2010. Ray Weeber, and his father before him, were in the home decorating business from 1920 until the 1970s.

Natalie McLeod, Lecturer, Design, Massey University said that:

‘Visiting the Te Papa Archives to see examples of historical wallpapers was a great start to our Contemporary Wallcoverings paper, where the students develop wallcovering designs in response to investigation of past, current and future trends.

‘Seeing a range of wallpapers from the collection, instead of seeing them only in books or online, gave us a valuable sense of material and scale.

‘It was also really exciting to see where the wallpapers are stored and to catch tantalising glimpses of other treasures stored behind the scenes of Te Papa!’

The students developed a diverse range of wall-coverings, including an interactive animated floral wallpaper by Sam Julian.

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In November, we are looking forward to delving into Te Papa’s footwear collection with a group of students studying shoe construction with Louise Clifton, a Dunedin-based shoe designer.

Shoes by Andrea Biani Shoes Limited, 1970s. Te Papa.

Shoes by Andrea Biani Shoes Limited, 1970s. Te Papa (GH007567)

If you are interested in viewing more of the students’ design work, you can visit Exposure, Massey University’s annual showcase for graduating creative arts students.

The exhibition also includes the popular catwalk fashion show on Saturday 12 November.

Exposure is open daily from 5 -19 November.

The exhibition is located in Fine Arts Block 2, The Engine Room Gallery and Te Ara Hihiko Block 12 on the Massey Wellington campus (entrance C off Wallace St or E off Tasman St).

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