thinking out of the box
I've a poor man a fish and he'll not go hungry for a day. Teach him how to fish and he'll never go hungry again. That was probably the essence of what British Council's New Silk Route project was trying to do when they held a five-day design workshop at the IJSG Bhaban starting March 12.
New Silk Route is British Council's regional design project that focuses on Central and South Asia (Uzbekistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Pakistan and Bangladesh). It is drawn on the theme of the famous string of inter-connected ancient roads that wind themselves through those parts of Asia. China, Mesopotamia, Persia, India and Rome reaped the benefits of trade on the Silk Route and assisted in laying the
foundations for the modern world.
The goal of this project is to tap into the creativity of young designers in the UK, South Asia and Central Asia, predominantly in crafts and fashion through collaborative fashion activities. In Bangladesh the workshop focused on jute and bamboo. It helped local designers learn basic design skills which will, in future, allow them to create products out of these materials that are likely to have potential in the local and foreign markets.
The workshop was arranged in partnership with the Jute Diversification and Promotion Centre (JDPC) and Ministry of Textiles and Jute. Twenty five designers from sixteen organisations were invited to participate. And three designers from the UK, Michael Marriott, Simon Jones and Emily Campbell, visited Bangladesh to lead the workshop.
One of the workshop leaders, furniture designer Michael Marriott explained that people in Bangladesh have a very structured education- a method that doesn't allow them to explore much beyond the realms of convention. This workshop was intended to make them think out of the box and consequently use that same creative perspective while creating new products.
Accordingly the workshop first dealt with ideas theoretically and then put them to practice. On one particular day of the five-day training, the trainees were given a mixed bunch of random objects such as a chair, an egg, a watermelon, a tyre, etc. They spent a good part of the day discussing physical aspects of these objects and then drew them from various angles. Marriot explained that the aim was not to simply come and teach them how to make new things, as some of the trainees had initially expected. The aim was to teach them, how to come up with their own creative ideas so that it became an on-going process. To that end, the practical part of the workshop involved the trainees using raw materials (such as jute) to create objects that were not necessarily marketable but allowed these trainees to think beyond what they had normally been doing for so long.
Emily Campbell who leads Design and Architecture of the British Council's Arts Group explained that the aim of New Silk Route is to transform heritage and create a contemporary language through a country's own indigenous products. To that end, for this workshop, they chose jute and bamboo, two materials that are indigenous to Bangladesh. She also briefly described their work in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Pakistan, where they used the same approach while conducting workshops.
A new concept, a new workshop and a new way of thinking. That is what the New Silk Route Design Workshop was all about. And while five days only tapped the tip of the iceberg, it certainly set the ball in motion. What is now a mere beginning to out-of-the-box thinking might some day be adopted into the norm by our local designers. And we applaud the British Council for setting out on this educating endeavour.