bé mụ́ : realigning
self-care



This project was a collaboration between Carla Schleicher and myself. As a duo, we worked together on the production of the objects but our articulation of the outcome and it’s reasoning differs at points.


“The notion of self care as almost like a battle ground, like these things, these practices come before food sometimes. As a way to be able to face being out in the street…this is warfare, they really are talking about putting on armor to be able to face the world which is you know, systematically oppressive to women and women and people of color…”
- Barby Asante












My thesis can be found here, which delves deeper into the research and articulation of this project.

This project explores the relationship between design and mental health for the African and Caribbean woman living in the diaspora in the United Kingdom. The role of design in this project is to be a disruptor of the current practice that tries to deal with the mental health within this community. This project pulls from the fundamentals of Pan Africanism which believes in “a diaspora united by a common ancestry, common land and a common destiny.” It acknowledges the connections of persons of African descent share through shared experience and culture.

In the UK there is a problem, the NHS has reported that “Research suggests that women of African-Caribbean heritage living in the UK are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, panic attacks and OCD than white women.” It is not known precisely why women of African and Caribbean heritage are known to live with more mental health issues but many people assume it is due to the perceptions of black women in everyday life, such as the strong black woman stereotype. These limited perceptions of black women occur at work, home and in every aspect of their lives and over time is incredibly damaging to the psyche. This stereotype is rooted in being serious, never complaining and rising above any of life’s difficulties no matter how difficult or painful. In addition to this, in the workplace, there are known to be stressors like microaggressions and code-switching, which allows for a lot of negative dilapidating exchanges to exist and also go unchecked and unresolved for these women. By acknowledging that these struggles exist, this project also talks about current practices of self-care and critiques why certain practices as they stand today are not easily accessible to many communities due to representation, financial and time constraints.








My sister with her first hair brush

Thus, this project strives to build self-care into this community by utilizing behaviours that already exist and objects that are easily accessible.






Through our research, Carla and I decided to focus on hair accessories as a way to tackle this issue. We acknowledged the therapeutic nature of hair salons as places of refuge for this group of women. Thus, we began to think about how we could alter already existing aspects of this experience. We decided to focus on hair beads, they were chosen because they celebrate the Black hair experience which is commonly challenged. We then decided to think about ways you could alter the hair bead and while ideating we thought about the power of scent and its ability to comfort and transport people. So we began to prototype a hair bead with the added functionality of holding scents associated with home and comfort, whatever and wherever that may be.

We ran a workshop and invited our network to create their own scented oils based off of memories of home and experiences that brought these women comfort. The oils and hair beads work together, by soaking the hair beads in the essential oils, the women are then able to wear them in their hair as a form of self-care. Through the creation of the oils, we used a combination of traditional essential oils and foods and products from the wider African Diaspora found in local corner shops like plantain, Du Du Osun, scotch bonnet peppers and golden apples. We asked each woman to talk about their decision about the type of scent they created. Giving more meaning to their choices.  We created the hair beads with a variety of materials but eventually used wood and clay as our primary materials because of their porous characteristics. 

The object designed is a tool and response to the lives of these women. It doesn’t present it itself as a solution to the many problems they face but as an outlet for them to explore their emotions, experience forms of healing and acknowledge their own struggles in everyday life. It was created as a response to try and develop material strategies of self-care as a way to help combat the stressors of mental health.

We exhibited the scents of the women in our workshop with the hair bead in a home setting as we believe this object could be used in everyday life. More information on the entire project, workshops, surveys and research can be found in my thesis above.










toy extensions



This project was a collaboration between Molly Wei and myself.


“We have an inherent desire to go beyond our capabilities, to push beyond our limits. We study to increase knowledge, make machines to produce more than we can with our own hands, create devices to go faster, see further, speak louder and, when our bodies refuse to do what we think they should, we find ways to supplement them and exceed our corporeal boundaries.”
-  Lisa Le Feuvre, Extending bodies









The Wind Catcher



Toy Extensions began as the merge of two standards, “How to Apply False Strip Eyelashes at Home” and “Toy Safety”.   Through research, a workshop, ideation, materialization and a short film we were able to bring together a set of nine objects and a catalogue zine. We see the connection between the toy and the social prosthetic as cyclical, one constantly influencing the other from child to adulthood.





Some of the sketches of our concepts for this project


Our exploration of the link between both our topics began with us looking at the ways toys influence children. When researching this topic we read articles, spoke to parents and children and we saw how children could be highly influenced by the toys they were given. Toy Safety regulations focus on the physcial safety of people, in turn, omitting looking at how toys  might affect a person’s mental well being, self image etc. The influence toys have on persons using them can be profound. Steering them in specific career paths, altering their personalities and interests and shaping their lives in unexpected ways. Through our merging and materialization we wanted to think about the wider repercussions of toys.
In adulthood, we see the emergence of the social prosthetic. We use the term social prosthetic to represent objects like hair extensions, false nails, and false eyelashes etc. These objects are complex and multifaceted, they can be empowering, used for self-expression and self-care but they also represent the unobtainable beauty standards persons strive to reach. Physical objects that represent an attempt to reach aesthetic “perfection”.  Today, the beauty industry is worth 445 billion dollars, for many companies their marketing strategy is based on promoting unrealistic standards so then persons feel the need to buy their products.

Our objects attempt to alter people’s interpretation of the social prosthetics by making them more playful. We imagine a different world were these altered social prosthetics are used by persons to understand the world around them, just as children use toys to understand their world. They aim is disrupt beauty standards by utilizing playful techniques inspired by toys. We also speculate about the future where these objects are utilized and how this might in turn influence toy design and ultimately again social prosthetic design.



The Workshop


Our workshop was with children aged between 3-4 years old. We gave them a series of social prosthetics as well as craft materials to allow them to create their own extensions. It was important for us to get a chid’s perspective on the topic because we realised that both the social prosthetic and the toy were both dictated by the adult.  Find out more about the workshop in the catalogue, they are also some images below showing their work.






Products & the catalogue


Take a look at the catalouge to learn more about our products and what they do HERE! In our catalogue you can also see more about our workshop and what the children made. 









BSI Standards Forum & Awards 2018


This work was also shown at the annual BSI Standards Forum & Awards 2018 at the Park Plaza London Riverbank. We were invited by the BSI to talk about o work with the guests of this event.




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social inclusion brick council


This project was a collaboration between Fivos Avgerinos, Nick Banning, Ludovica Galletta, Bahar Kaplan, Carla Schleicher and myself.

SIBC Website


The Social Inclusion Brick Council is a proposal that hopes to help encourage public participation in urban planning. It utilizes workshops to help foster conversations about the future of built environment in any given place. We believe that public participation is an integral part of successful urban planning.








The inspiration for the design of this workshop began as an exloration into the brick making industry of Rhyl’s past. The industry was once a thriving set of businesses, with multiple clay ponds. The clay was harvested in Rhyl with brickwork factories on site. During this time, Rhyl’s golden coast beach began to spark the interest of many tourists. Soon, the tourist industry was bustling in Rhyl and overtime it took precedent over the brickworks industry, leaving many of the factories and clay ponds abandoned or demolished. Today, Rhyl has been named one of the worst places in the UK to live. People’s ability to find cheap flights to travel to many different holiday destinations has left Rhyl struggling to keep afloat. The town received over 22 million pounds to help fund their regeneration form the EU. With many buildings being knocked down and new buildings and businesses being created, we believe better engagement with the public for these future structures will foster a better relationship with the council. Creating a more positive outlook on Rhyl from its inhabitants with a multitude possible benefits such as, job creation, mental health improvement, population retention and many others.

During our research phase of this project, it was evident that the people of Rhyl felt disengaged from the future of their town. We used multiple forms of research to help shape and form our proposal, in hopes of creating an experience that was able to bring to light unique insights, thoughts and concerns about the built environment. In 1958, Henry A. Landsberger coined the phrase “Hawthorne Effect”. Elton Mayo conducted research a the Western Electric’s factory at Hawthorne in the late 1920s to early 1930s. The experiment was done with two groups of people working in two separate work areas. In one work area the lighting was improved and in the other work area, the lightning stayed the same. In the area that the lightning was improved, there were a series of dramatic changes in the productivity of the workers. Even when the lights returned to the way it was before, productivity still improved. It was said that this increase in productivity was due to the opportunities it gave the workers to discuss changes occurring in their workplace before they occurred. They were a part of the decision-making process and that helped them feel better and more connected to the outcome. We believe this to be an integral lesson that can be applied to urban planning. Especially when thinking about the possible benefits of creating a system that takes the public’s opinions more seriously in urban planning.



The Workshop


The workshop we held a workshop over the course of two days in Rhyl, where we experimented with our workshop before refining it and preparing it for our first pilot project at the Royal Alexandra Hospital.  During our two day workshop sessions we made over 12 bricks with the community of Rhyl, as we spoke to them about the past, present and future of Rhyl.
Royal Alexandra Hospital We are currently in the process of planning our workshop to be run in Rhyl, where we are working with the redevelopment and expansion of Rhyl’s Royal Alexandra Hospital. To help them gain insight and have our bricks be apart of the structure. To find out more about how that is going please refer to our policy report, here.




The Toolkit


In the kit:
• Wooden SIBC Mould
• Wire clay cutters
• Rubber bands
• Clay
• SIBC Policy Report Manual

The Toolkit gives members of the community the ability to participate in the urban planning that is happening around them. We chose bricks because of their cultural significance to the UK and also because of their physical properties as a building material. The purpose of our workshop is to gain insight through making and asking pointed questions from a cross section of said community. This process allows people the ability to dream bigger and really think more critically about their answers, needs and wants. All the bricks we create are then placed in the buildings that the workshop is focused on and the information we learn is transcribed and recorded in a report and via video and shared with the delvopera council members etc.
If you would like to read more about our process and how to run your own workshop please refer to our webiste or policy report,  here .







“… So everything we did, we brought the community with us. As you probably know, if you’re involved with something. Then, you feel part of it. You look after it.”
-Garry Davies, a Countryside Officer, Denbighshire Countryside Service







The Bricks


The bricks below are images are some of the participants with their bricks. We are currently in the process of planning to redo the workshop in Rhyl at a larger scale with the help of Rhyl’s MP Chris Davies. The bricks will also be displayed at an exhibition happening in Wales later this year. This project continues to be ongoing.











T.S.P.C


This was a group project between Molly Wei, Tine Ohlau, Thomas Sandahl Christensen and myself.

Introduction


The Society for Participatory Conservation imagines a museum that breaks free of the archetypical brick and mortar institution. The society is unfolded through a gift shop with the leitmotif conservation through gifting. We believe that the gift shop as a space has the opportunity to be something more than a place of postcards, souvenirs and other commodities.
In our gift shop we invite the user to engage in museological practices. In particular the activity of conservation. For many people conservation conjures images of experts wearing white gloves while handling priceless artifacts in a sterile environment. We refuse this as the only viable form of conservation and question the subjective nature of any conservation activity.

Our response is materialized through two separate tool kits that allow the user to participate in The Society for Participatory Conservation. The kits refuse the museum as an institution tied to singular geographical location and moves the museum out into the world in the hands and homes of the members of the society. In that process we aim to challenge the notion that conservation is only about keeping artifacts and living practices static, pristine and controlled within an institution.

Gifting lies at the heart of The Society for Participatory Conservation. Each kit is only in the hands of a single member until they have used it to create their contribution to conservation. After that the kit is gifted onto an aspiring member of the society. This way the kits journey from person to person through the act of gifting leaving behind a trace of artifacts that become the museum out in the world. We see the gift shop as an introduction into thinking critically about the ways museum conserve cultural practices and artifacts. And maybe even more importantly, the things that cannot be conserved within a brick and mortar museum.














The Sourdough Kit


In the kit:
• Sourdough container
• Measuring cup
• Stirring mechanism
• Map and stickers

In The Sourdough Kit we explore the subject of alternative gifting cultures through the practice of making and sharing sourdough. By conserving cultures outside of the museum we hope to bring to light the many aspects of cultural life that cannot be conserved by using traditional conservation methods. Our practice challenges the notion that conservation is only about keeping an artifact and living practices static, pristine and controlled within an institution. We see this kit as an introduction into thinking critically about the ways the museum conserve cultural practices through the exploration of gifting cultures.

In this kit we look at dama, a gifting culture from Mali in West Africa. Practicing dama helps build bridges between individuals, strengthening the foundation of communities by using their gifting culture as a tool to tie people closer together.One study done in Bamako in Mali showed that on average persons gave 1.5 gifts per day. In dama gifts can come in all forms, a glass of water, a meal, a nice gesture and positive advice. When gifting in dama no attention is given to comparing of gifts given or received. There is no expectation that when receiving a gift you must a give one in return. Persons practicing dama believe that gifts return to you through your community.

The Society for Participatory Conservation gives you the tools to help you begin to practice dama, we use sourdough as a metaphor to represent the variety of gifts that can be giving in dama. Like dama we believe that the gifting process should between more than two people. We encourage you to practice dama by gifting the sourdough kit onto members of your community.
:Read our complete introduction into the Sourdough Kit below, in it we delve deeper into our reasoning and critique of conservation.






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The David Kit


In the kit:
• Mould
• Conservation tool
• Materials for casting
• Map and stickers

In the David Kit we critique conservation methods by giving the privilege of conserving David to the masses. We hope that by actively participating in this conservation practice and by sharing the kit with the others you will begin to understand the complexities that lie within the practice of conservation. By allowing you to engage in the act of conserving David we hope to shed light on the subjective choices involved in conservation and dismiss the idea that objective conservation exists. Any act of conservation, however scientifically sound, will always be a matter of choices and preferences whether by you or an expert conservator. Our practice challenges the notion that conservation is only about keeping an artifact and living practices static, pristine and controlled within an institution. We see this kit as an introduction into thinking critically about the ways museum conserve artifacts by actively engaging in conserving David.
:Read our complete introduction into the David Tool kit below, in it we delve deeper into our reasoning and critique of conservation
.













Better Office


Huge Inc is a digital design agency with clients such as Google, Nike, and Target. This project was created as final project for the program. All data shown is fictional and does not represent the demographics or policies of Huge Inc. The Better Office prompt was given to myself and three other team members Jacqueline Pifer, Kevin Magic Lam and Kelsey Kong.





The Prompt : Make a Better Office

We were given 5 weeks to make a better office. This theme encompassed many possible results and after many hours of research we decided to focus on gender bias in the workplace. Through our research we found the glaring problems gender bias creates in the workplace.










The Problem: How do you reduce gender discrimination?

When researching it became obvious to us that in many cases companies and people did not intend to be biased in their hiring practices, retention rate and promotion of women. Often it was unconscious and it can be very difficult to manage if the person is unaware of their actions. We realized through data we could erase all the subjectivity and give people the information to act and change policies when they see disturbing trends in the numbers.
Currently many companies collect the data of people's genders in spreadsheets but much of it isn't available to employees. In some companies they will have data analyst share these sets of information to head of departments, policy makers and recruiters. Even though this information is being shared it can be difficult for the parties involved to pull insight from the pages of spreadsheets being handed to them. So, we decided to build a tool that would help bridge the gap between insight and action.






Insight

In order to bridge the gap between insightful trends and policy change, we start with the data. By collecting gender identity from applicants when they apply, we can track gender throughout the employee life cycle - from application to promotion to exit. We can parse this data though algorithms that can flag negative and positive trends and pull them out to users in a way that is understandable.
Quantitative data and insights allow for us to:
1. Measure effectiveness of policy changes.
2. Predict and address problems
3. Have the power to start conversations based on facts



Users and Needs






We sought to understand the roles of people who had the power to make decisions in hiring and policy. Interviews with HR and department showed us that data needed to have context, be comparable and trackable, and understandable (in natural language).



Prototype



Better Office from Morgan Thorne on Vimeo.