Leatherworking as Part of the Curriculum
Woodbridge School is one of only a few Schools in the region to offer Leatherworking as part of the curriculum for Design students. In Year 12, 3D Design students are given the opportunity to learn traditional leatherworking craft skills, the aim being to create a high quality product to produce in a small batch run.
For our Graphic Communication students, it presents the chance to conceive and develop brand identity, design logos and packaging for products, as well as understand the entire life cycle of a product from conception through to sale. Students work in collaboration with one another from concept through to delivery.
Design Students’ Concepts and Creation
In terms of the physical design, students have access to a variety of materials including not only leather, but metals, threads and other materials that can be incorporated into the design to increase aesthetic appearance; they’re able to personalise their own leatherwork creating individuality.
Skills learned include those required to use appropriate tools in a safe and effective way, as well as using traditional handmade techniques they might not have had to opportunity to experiment with or implement before. These include forming templates, cutting accurately, saddle stitching and cleaning edges; techniques specific to leatherworking; these skills are transferrable to many careers in the design industry.
“Graphic communication students are encouraged to explore ideas that are interesting to them and they utilise a range of various techniques to achieve the result they want.” Mrs Cracknell, Head of Design explained. She continued, “This could include either hand generated or digital solutions, or a combination of both. Most students work on Adobe Creative Suite and Pro Create. Furthermore, students learn to create packaging templates, which are then often programmed to be cut on our laser cutter for a highly accurate result. Another strand that graphic students explore is video editing and creating content for web and social media. For this project, the students will create a 20 second promotional video to advertise the leather product and brand.”
3D Design and Graphic Communication students were paired or put into small groups, and the overall brief given to each team:
As a team, you will design, plan, make and promote a product manufactured from leather. You will work together to decide upon your product, produce a small batch run which must also include packaging, design a brand for your company and promote the product and the brand using social media as your platform.
Mrs Cracknell, Head of Design explained, “This project is designed to widen the students’ experiences and skill sets. First of all, being put in a group or pair means you have to communicate, compromise, encourage and support each other through the process, which is often the set up expected in most workplaces or even at university. Furthermore, there are many aspects to cover, from the initial design stages, through to development and manufacture, so the students have to multi-task, and carefully plan their work loads. And finally, it gives each student a chance to get hands on and help each other to meet the final deadline. Towards the final days it will be likely that 3D students will need to work on graphic tasks and vice versa.”
We recently spent time with Year 12 3D Design students Havannah, Rosie, Amelie, and Ted as well as Year 12 Graphic Communication students Alina, Amelia and Imogen, approximately mid-way through their Leatherworking Project at school which provides opportunities for skill development and enrichment of their learning experience.
Meet Year 12’s Havannah, Rosie, Amelia and Ted – 3D Design Students
Speaking with the students it was clear that they were all enjoying the individuality and freedom the project allowed, many commenting that this was the best part of the process, that it was about them, their preferences and their trial, sometimes error and definitely success.
Havannah described the bracelet she had designed and was beginning to make, explaining how she was enjoying the work,
“I’m not the kind of person who can decide absolutely everything on paper, so it’s been really good to have the time and freedom to explore ideas, figure out what was going to work – and what wasn’t – and let the style and design develop as I experimented.” She continued, “Working with the different materials, as well as the leather, has been really interesting, figuring out ways to make something that’s individual and desirable, that I think other people might like too, because at the end of the day the outcome is that we create something that could be sold.”
Choosing to create luggage tags, Rosie told us,
“I chose to make these as I could not only create something that I and other people would find useful, but I could use a variety of different colours and textures of leather. It’s been great to use the different tools and develop skills needed to work with leather – it’s not as easy as you, or rather I, thought!” She also said, “I’m about half way through this project now, having just finished an architecture project which I also loved doing – that’s the thing about Design there is so much variety, freedom and creativity encouraged, it’s so enjoyable. I’ve particularly enjoyed looking at and learning about the considerations needed for the lifecycle of a product. Through from thought to design and creation, marketing and selling. It’s so great to think that this product has come from me, I’m already really pleased with it.”
Talking about her bracelet, Amelia commented on how she’s differentiating her design from others with the use of thread as an additional material,
“I’m chosen to embroider my leather bracelet, so it’s completely unique and special. It’s something I would like to buy or receive, definitely something I would wear – and that part of the thought process was really interesting and meant we had so much freedom in terms of designing and creation.” Talking about the process, interestingly she also mentioned, “I’ve changed my mind a few times during the process actually! It’s actually quite hard when you know you could do anything, making a decision and sticking to it and following that through is difficult as you do worry if you’ve chosen the right one, what would have happened if you’d chosen another -there are as many issues as if it had been a prescribed design, just in different ways. It really makes you realise and appreciate the journey products take from design to shop!”
Ted has chosen to make a bracelet too, but his design incorporates a metal too,
“My bracelet is designed using brass, I wanted a special and individual clasp to feature as part of the overall design and finish, so it’s different to something you might have seen before. The learning process is certainly interesting working with a metal, it doesn’t always go the way you think it will as it can be unpredictable when using heat to manipulate it into shape and design intended.” He also added, “I’ve really enjoyed the freedom we’ve been allowed on this project, and the trust – but knowing Mrs Cracknell is there for advice and guidance when you need it is brilliant, you can talk through your thought process and get ideas on different methods to use, and taught how to use particular tools needed – as well as safety when using them. I’ve loved experimenting.”
Graphic Communication Students, Development of Brand Identity Through to Delivery
While our Design students are literally creating their products, our 3D Graphics students have been briefed throughout the process as part of the project, collaborating in order to conceive brand identity, logos, marketing material and packaging – and will also produce a promotional video which will be presented, alongside everything else including concepts, packaging, finished articles etc. to Miss Norman at the end.
Mrs Cracknell, Head of Design explained, “Essentially the role of the graphic students is to set the tone in creating a brand identity for the product and hypothetical company. This also includes designing the packaging and promo video. This process reflects what the actual product is, considers its appeal, its customer and target audience. It’s a vital part of the journey of a product beyond physical creation.”
Meet Year 12’s Alina and Amelia – Graphics Communication Students
Alina was creating the logo when we caught up with her, and she talked us through her thought process and creativity,
“I wanted to keep it very simple and sleek. I’m experimenting with different ways of doing this but haven’t made my decision on the final design as yet. I’m considering using gold leaf to make the boxes completely unique, but I’ve lots of other ideas too, so I don’t want to decide on one single thing just yet.”
Alongside her fellow students, she’s also been working on packaging and producing prototypes for boxing, with considerations made for those sold in person (in shops perhaps) as well as those online; thought being given to how well they will transport and the client’s expectation and experience – all vital elements of the process.
Amelia talked about what she’s currently working on, as well as her previous work on packaging also,
“We work as a team with the Design students, take our brief and develop the different elements required. We have to communicate effectively and make sure we’ve got all the information we need, it’s such an important part of the process because if something is missed it could change the entire brand identity.” She added, “I’ve particularly enjoyed learning to use the laser cutter to produce possible packaging options, I’ve looked at what other brands do online, as well as those I come into contact with myself in shops and from online stores, taking time to first of all sketches then draw out possible designs using the computer, it’s amazing how it comes to life in front of your eyes! I’ve loved working on this.”
Mrs Cracknell commented on the overall process and the journey towards completion for all of the students we met and spoke with today, “The students are only half way through their project right now, so there is still time and opportunity for their creativity and skills to develop much further, and it will be really interesting to sit with Miss Norman and hear them present their finished products, packaging, logos and other marketing materials at the end of this part of the course. I’m excited to see what they achieve, and I think they are too.”