MDES 22 - Spring Break is for Thesis Writing

Edible Packaging
Photo by Sara Martí

Part 1: Spring Break OR testing edible packaging at Carrefour Numerique²

Last week was spring break for PCA students.
But for me it was also the end of a 2 week artist residency at Carrefour Numerique² at Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie. My small exhibit space at their event “Au Fil du Plastique” let me share my project with around 200 people. I did roughly 80 presentations and 42 separate workshop tests which accelerated my edible packaging concept into a stronger and higher appealing design.

Just a quick background – Carrefour Numerique² is in Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie and they host many different events and exhibits throughout the year. They have an open living lab space with 3D printers, laser cutters, and they host maker talks and science exhibits. Luck was on my side this year because they were hosting an event relating to plastic.

I got in touch with them last semester thanks to PCA Associate Dean Klaus Fruchtnis who suggested reaching out. I emailed them a blurb about my anti-plastic packaging thesis project. A couple email exchanges later, a formal presentation (see Week 14) got me a small part in their planned event called “Au Fil du Plastique.” The project revolved around plastic – my thesis on plastic packaging and eco-alternatives packaging design fit in nicely.

Win for them because it’s an interactive experience for museum-goers to taste-test prototypes. Win for me because I needed lots of opinions to guide me in developing a better prototype.

The whole event was a three tiered process:
A) I made a stand out of boxes, tubes, cardboard, and alligator clips, entertaining for children (belly-button down) and information dense for adults (head space up).
B) Opening event presentation (all in french – woot!) to share my work with other like-minded makers.
Then C) In the days that followed I did mini-presentations with all kinds of families visiting and did taste-testing workshops with volunteers.

Results? Overall, over 72% of respondents enjoyed the edible sample, 60% understood the edible packaging concept, although over 68% had traditional hesitations about it (e.g. hygiene, sanitation, purpose.) Only 10% of respondents could point to edible packaging concepts existing in France (ice cream cones.) While everyone had different taste, a smooth flax-meal blend with carrot food scrap use ranking highest. The best part was hearing from the younger participants who had wild and fun encouragement to give me about making packaging out of chocolate, rice, savory flavors, and even designing dishes with walking legs, etc.

My advice to future student/artists wanting to do a residency at Living Lab:
1) Have a project that needs public testing
2) Make your visuals big and durable and have physical things to lure them in (I used spoons molded from sugarcane and potato to pass around and then physically walked people into my exhibit space)
3) Set your schedule early for workshop days
4) Brush up your french (intermediate level at the least)
5) Prep a volunteer release form for permission for photos/videos/workshop participation.

Thank you to all who came and volunteered to taste-test my crazy idea.
And a big shout out to Carrefour Numerique² for giving me a chance!

Part 2: Midterm week, 3D printing, and first draft thesis submissions

So fast-forward to this week. Post Spring Break. Monday started it all off with our thesis writing class where everyone debriefed their difficulties. Lilian covered the requirements for the writing and the bibliography. We each had particular misgivings and questions but the overall attitude was just to get it done.

Rica Amaral’s 3D Print

Tuesday: Rica and I went to 3D printing class to see how the equipment in 303 worked and didn’t work… and then worked again. These 3D printers are quite fickle. It reminds me of when the internet was a thing and loading one page could take an entire day. After 3 hours Rica managed to print a mock-up of his final project. He was pretty chuffed!

Later that night we had a makeup class on Ethic and Social Responsibility. Half of the lecture was wrapping up arguments about how capitalism takes the shine, drains the drive and can sometimes warp design. How does one work in legitimate projects without playing the fiddle to capitalism? The other half of the lecture was an intro to Man vs. Nature with a William McDonough TedTalk about circular design. Oh cradle to cradle for the win! I wish we had started here since THIS is what tugs on my mind.

Wednesday we had a visit with Sabine about our individual projects. [I do a skype call since Wednesdays are my workshop days and I’m normally testing prototypes at PCA.] By the end of the day messages on whatsapp slowed way down and keyboard tacking sped up. Tackity-tap-tap. We all worked to spiffy up our thesis drafts in time for the Thursday submission.

Thursday the Sprout Workshop hosted the final lecture. Our group presented a future forecast of Ikea becoming IKEA-gro in the future scenario where we all live in solar punk communities and IKEA provides a nature consultant for in-house gardening and biomimicry products. Other teams present on Uber, IBM, and even H&M. Who knew that we could all future forecast something beyond Black Mirror dystopias? [Hang tight for final presentations and posters at end-of-year show!] The future looks bright and green.

Thursday night the lecture series brought in a leader from the social business sector. Her name is Caroline Delboy and she is the Global Happy Team Leader for the social business accelerator MakeSense. Her lecture was mostly about her personal journey. She started with a business background but new opportunities brought Disco Soup, makers movement, and finally into joining MakeSense community where she switched careers. She gave advice to all of the artists/photographers/social-impact-designers in the room to be true to your passions (what makes your heart break) and try to sync it with how you work best (when do you find yourself in the flow.) Crossing my fingers we are all that lucky!

After the lecture there was an exhibit in the PCA gallery Espace F15 where our colleagues in Transdisciplinary New Media were presenting their work in a show called “Sound/Speech/Noise” with students from ESAT (Escuela Superior de Arte y Tecnologia) in Valencia. So we got to walk through, talk with our friends, hear their ideas and see folded paper dresses, cubes for communicatio,n and gestural sound emotions.

Friday morning was another round of edits and visits with Lilian for the thesis drafts. It’s a safe space in a meeting with Lilian and she gives great advice for writer’s block.

Afterwards the weekend finally drifted into view. I pounced on a real escape from non-stop studies, prototypes and work. It’s time to see an exhibit, take in a movie (Black Panther!), and take a walk outside – it’s almost springtime!