2022 Hot New Things: Amie Simpson, UCOL
Each summer DA profiles a selection of the top design graduates coming out of our tertiary institutions. We welcome these talented emerging professionals to our industry, learn about their passions, final projects, developing creative confidence and ambitions for the future.
Today we speak with one of UCOL’s creative graduates – you can find out more about Aotearoa NZ creative study options by visiting our design schools page.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am a widowed parent to three teenage children. I have always loved the creative industries but my life’s journey has been such that it has taken me into adulthood before I was in a position to be able to pursue a career in the creative industries. For the past three years I have studied full time while working part time in order to achieve my education goals. I always strive to go above what is required to achieve my goals, this is exemplified when just weeks before starting my degree at UCOL I completed one of the worlds longest running multisport events – the iconic Coast to Coast. Covering 243 kilometers across the South Island takes mental toughness and is an achievement I am hugely proud of. I am a long standing member of the local Whanganui Multisport Club where my community interests involve volunteering for club sports events.
What did your graduating project focus on?
My final collection originates from the research question “How Can Fashion Be Used To Display Or Mask Identity?” It is this culture of how we hide our authentic self behind a façade made of clothing that has led me to investigate the complexity of identity and the associated norms. The association with façade has been a focus of discussion in my work and draws strongly on the way our identities have been imagined and shaped through societal interpretations. The idea that identity can be read from the surface makes my designs a prime vehicle to construct my own narrative. This project is a complex layering of stories, identities and is the language of ‘me’ revealing the contradictions inherent in my life.
Restriction and limited movement are the key concepts that have heavily influenced my body of work. Feelings of the weight of the world and having limited or restricted movement are emphasized through the body adornment pieces. These pieces are central to the collection and act like the uncompromising outer façade reminiscent of architecture. The use of materials in my work is calculated. I am often looking for non conventional and unexpected materials or the combination of both to help express the conceptual ideas. The body adornment pieces made from fine porcelain represent restriction and rigidity while also appearing very fragile.
Behind the outer façade of the body adornment pieces lies what could be interpreted as the wearer’s internal imagined self. Soft, ethereal and uninhibited by movement, these garments are in stark contrast to their body adornment counterparts. The colour palette is kept neutral and materials minimal representing the innermost layer of our identities, peeled back and left bare. While the freedom in movement is a crucial design element for these garments, they also incorporate similar themes that have carried over from the body adornment pieces. Exaggerated sleeve length again emphasises restriction, not in movement but in the ability to use the hands. The wearer is essentially left with her hands tied.
At the culmination of this collection is the emphasis on restriction and making the hidden visible. As a result, the collection represents identity alienation and confinement. The garments in this collection explore the varying relationships between the internal self and projected representation of the self to the world through fashion. I see the façade as an act of creating and recreating our identities through our clothing and accessories.
Why did you choose to study at UCOL?
I choose to study at UCOL primarily because of its location. Living in Whanganui meant that I could afford to study without the added cost of accommodation or having to relocate my family. Whanganui has recently been named New Zealand’s only UNESCO City of Design and has a reputation for being a creative center and the home of artists. UCOL and the courses they provide add to the vibrant creative atmosphere here in Whanganui.
What did you enjoy most about your course, or what do you feel you can take away now that you’ve completed it?
The connections I have made with my fellow classmates and lecturers has to be what I have enjoyed most. Building relationships and the friendships made has been the highlight from the past three years and is something I can take with me.
What’s next for you?
I plan to further my study at Massey University where I will work towards a Graduate Diploma in Learning and Teaching (Secondary) to reach my goal of becoming a qualified Art and Textiles Teacher. Earlier this year I had the opportunity to intern at Whanganui Girls College where I assisted with the year 10 and 11 textile classes. This has been a valuable experience and has confirmed my commitment to becoming a secondary school teacher.
What was your biggest challenge while studying and how did you overcome it?
Being a widowed parent to my three teenage children while working part time, as well as studying full time presented a huge challenge and while it is one I was fully committed to, it did present considerable financial strain. I did my utmost to not let this affect my participation and concentration required to gain as much as I could from the programme. Applying for scholarships became a regular pastime, with some success. I believe the sacrifices made now will begin to pay off in the future, I will be working very hard to make this a reality.
What’s the most valuable lesson you learned during your studies?
The most valuable lesson I learned during my studies is that learning is a lifelong process and it is never too late to start. Start from where you are, showing up is the first step.
How do you see your work and practice developing, and what are your main aspirations?
In the process of researching for my final collection I came across two interesting and unique concepts to pattern drafting – Kinetic Garment Construction and Subtraction Cutting. I would really like to push these ideas further, research more and continue to develop my own pattern drafting skills. In addition, I would like to continue to pursue my new love of porcelain and ceramics. This was an area new to me and one I found extremely enjoyable. At the end of my final year at UCOL I am left with more questions and more ideas to try, a completely satisfactory outcome! I have been inspired to continue to develop my practice as my aspirations continue to grow.
How can people get in touch or see more of your work?
My final collection can be viewed at https://issuu.com/amie.romine/