BA Fashion Jewellery students take 'Lets Get Digital' to Munich Jewellery Week
A group of BA Fashion Jewellery students were supported in creating digital filters of conceptual jewellery and the results were shown in a digital exhibition as part of Munich Jewellery Week 2021. 'Let's get Digital' is an international collaborative project with LCF students and students from Estonian Academy of Arts (EKA) in Tallin, Estonia, conceived by LCF lecturer Mala Siamptani and Darja Popolitova of EKA.
The project was a means to explore and expand on the perceived boundaries of jewellery making, proposing experiences that exist exclusively digitally. We had a chat with Lecturer Mala Siamptani, along with BA Fashion Jewellery students, Dijun Sha and Meiyi Hu, for an interview on their experiences with the project, lightly edited for clarity.
Mala, which conversations or events caused you and Darja to initiate ‘Let’s Get Digital’?
Mala: I wanted to do something with the students for Munich Jewellery Week because I have taken part in this exhibition throughout the years, and I know how much of an event it is for our industry.
I wanted the come up with a project that could exist entirely digitally. After a few discussions with Darja, we agreed on the project, tweaked it together, and presented it to our students. The initial thoughts behind the project are linked to my PHD research, where I’m looking at how digital technologies are affecting creativity within our field. I thought it would be interesting to invite students from both universities and explore what they could potentially provide for the projects using this technology.
Sha and Meiyi, what encouraged you to participate in the project?
Sha: Due to the pandemic, lots of scheduled things changed. I decided to learn technologies which can make digital jewellery, with a view to a potential release.
Meiyi: Also because of the pandemic, as well as the new trend of interacting with Virtual Reality. I think possibly interacting with filters could be a nice choice to promote my concept to my viewers and also my tutors. You cannot touch the pieces, which is a shame, [but] we can express the experience with the filters which gives another view of my project. It’s really nice to try new things which are playful, I’d say.
What were the main challenges that you all faced with crafting an online jewellery collection?
Mala: This was the first time that the students had used Spark AR technology. They didn’t know how to use the software before. The students from both universities had a joint lecture about the technology and how to use it, then we gave a list of little tutorials that you can follow on the Spark AR website. It’s more of an independent learning project as well.
Sha: Emotions that I wished to have in the filter. First of all, I CAD modelled (Computer aided designed) my designs using Cinema 4D, and the workspace of using motion is quite different with Spark AR, which was a difficult starting point. The rendering of it is very important also.
Meiyi: Scaling and positioning [of objects]. Usually when making jewellery pieces, we need to make them into certain sizes because they interact with specific body parts. But now, these pieces are showing on screen. I need to consider the scales of the models shown on a device, and how the filter users will wear them. They might be thinking, for example, “where should they [the jewellery] be? Is that an earring, or is it a hairclip?” They’ll possibly have different options to play with. So, I had a hard time figuring out the placement and the sizes of my filters.
Because I made the model in Rhino CAD before, and it was an actual piece that I had printed out, I found that the details of the piece were not showing very well at its original size, and when I would place it on the screen, it would shrink the quality. So possibly, instead of a piece of jewellery, I can make it into an object, so I can play around and show its details and so it can play at 360 degrees, which is quite fun!
Sha and Meiyi, how did you find working with students and staff from the Estonia Academy of Arts?
Sha: I thought it was a great opportunity. People from different cultures give feedback from different angles. I actually got some great feedback from Darja; she pointed out a series related to my concept which helped me build a critical design philosophy.
Meiyi: I find it interesting and challenging working with people I’m not familiar with, because I know they have different cultures and different academic backgrounds which may cause issues while chatting and explaining concepts. I found I [had to be] friendly to go through the process. I also got a lot of advice from Darja and she gave some suggestions on movement and placement during my designs. She really gave lots of inspiration to me so I could finish my online jewellery pieces.
Were there any examples of help that the two of you received from students and staff from the Estonia Academy of Arts?
Sha: I wanted to achieve transparent design. This was difficult to render with different kinds of shadows and lights. Darja showed me how to do this, which was pretty helpful.
Meiyi: I focused on AI effect details in the working process. She gave my guidance on the effects and details which I could apply to my pieces. Then I wondered how I could render my pieces to certain textures and colours. This was similar to the way our tutors would pay attention to jewellery details and finishes. They gave me generous amounts of advice, which really helped with the final outcome.
What were some of your takeaways from the project, Mala?
Mala: It was fantastic. It worked well doing everything online and providing the students with very little support and realising how much they could do. I only gave them four lectures because I wanted to give them the freedom to be completely independent, since that’s what you’d do in industry; if someone gives you a project, you have to go and get it done.
Sha and Meiyi, are there any future plans you have to continue with creating digital clothing and accessories?
Sha: I want to release filters along with products. Giving customers an interactive experience before purchasing should be a good option for future markets. I’m still in the process of doing this; on the way but not finished.
Meiyi: I’m going to try and do it a lot more, as it’s now a trend in the fashion market. Last week, Gucci released a pair of shoes which are actually a filter, so you can buy the filter and try out the shoes, which is quite fun because you can’t really buy them in real life, but you can experience it with this new technology. This is really inspiring me to figure out if I want to create a new effect and apply it to actual pieces, allowing me to interact with technology and also with real life.
In games, we buy skins and outfits for characters which don’t exist in real life. It allows you to express your personality and characteristics. This gives me ideas on the kinds of things I can apply to both our real and online lives.