Shiftworks to Columbia College, Chicago

Posted on November 13, 2017

  by Joy Merron   Shiftworks is a travelling exhibition created and curated by Seam, a contemporary textile collective, founded by Bath Spa alumni. In 2015 it began its journey around the UK, being shown at many locations including Eastville Project, Yeovil, during Somerset Arts Week, Devon Guild of Craftsmen, SIT Select and The National Centre for Craft and Design in Sleaford. shiftworks 3

Following several trips to Chicago to visit a personal friend and Associate Professor Virginia Heaven (Fashion Studies) at Columbia College, I wanted to see if we could include students from both sides of the Atlantic to work together and share the experience of being part of a travelling exhibition.  And so the Chicago patchwork dress was created and introduced into the latter half of the Shiftworks journey.

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The Bath Spa 1st year (2016) Textile students then made the ‘city skyline’ dress to be shown alongside.  They were exhibited together for the first time at Sion Hill Gallery earlier this year. Columbia College then offered to host the exhibition in their South Michigan Avenue display windows. This was an exciting proposition so I set about to see if it would be possible.   It has taken a considerable amount of planning and time to achieve and there were times when I wondered whether it would all come together but thanks to GALA Outreach funding it has all fallen into place.   shiftworks 6

Once the date was set, the task was to organise shipping and pare down some of the components of the exhibition to fit within affordable shipping costs. We had been using our own clear mannequins and now I needed to work with members of staff at Columbia to see if there were enough mannequins of the right size that would be suitable.  The exhibition management was passed on to Kate Schaefer who sourced these and sent photos and measurements for approval. Once this was done, the date for shipping was planned.

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Flight booked, exhibition content sent and accommodation provided by Virginia, everything was in place. I arrived Wednesday afternoon and went straight to the College to check all was ok for install on Thursday. I was delighted to find the mannequins ready dressed and lined up in the corridor.  Kate Schaefer and the marketing students had them ready in preparation.

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Bright and early on Thursday morning, I spent time with Virginia’s students before meeting up with the team of students who had volunteered to help install – a big thank you to Amit, Hannah, Allie and Milan for their professional attitude. They made the installation effortless and all ran smoothly.  All was done within just 2 ½ hours.  There was exactly the right number of dresses to fit perfectly in the long showcase window on South Michigan Avenue.

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Since then the response has been fantastic – so many people have been complimentary about the display, staff, students and visitors.

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The exhibition was due to be up for a month but has now been extended by an extra week. This is a fantastic ending to the Shiftworks touring exhibition and has opened up opportunities on both sides of the Atlantic for future creative collaboration.