Using tasseography to co-design textile artworks
Part-funded by Arts Council England, the project has seen Becky work with 39 participants as she guides them through the generative design process, from a tea leaf reading (tasseography) analysed using Becky’s own Tea Leaf Dictionary all the way through to intuitively choosing a colour palette. This approach to design focuses on shared knowledge during the tea leaf process to arrive at a design outcome that explores an individual's spirit and wellbeing - an internal landscape.
The Tea Leaf Reading Process: Tea drunk - Tea analysed - Tea reading documented - Colour palette chosen - 3 designs created. © Rebecca Dodman Wainwright 2020
Becky said of the process: “The tea leaf reading design process gives participants the space to embrace the lesser-known aspects of themselves, removing preconceptions of what they may like designed for them, to design with them, encouraging them to explore an infinite number of ideas through a set of stimuli. In so doing I have wanted to focus less on the illustrative, representational self, and focus more on the abstract part of ourselves.”
So what is tasseography? Tasseography is the art of identifying symbols and interpreting messages found in the shapes and configurations of tea leaves. Through this practice, Becky has developed a participatory performance process that implements a new set of generative tools. These tools promote a shared language between Becky and her participants resulting in a collection of co-designed abstract textile artworks.
When she’s not busy at the loom or with a tufting gun or pair of knitting needles in her hands, Becky lectures on our BA (Hons) Textile Design course, imbuing her teaching with her artistic practice and advanced knowledge of technical knit developments, tapestry weaving, crochet for 3D forms, and tufting for rug outputs.
In 2020, Becky was selected by influential trend forecaster Li Edelkoort as one of 50 ‘top textile students from across the world’ in the international 'Talking Textiles ‘Generation 2020’ Magazine, based on the work she had been doing for her ‘Tasseography Textiles’ project. Filled with work by global graduates from international design institutions, it is possibly the most expansive gathering of contemporary textile talent ever.
Becky has also been shortlisted for ‘Making It’, Devon Guild of Craftsmen’s ambitious exhibition and development programme celebrating innovation, diversity and collaboration in craft and making in the South West. Her work will be showcased, alongside 29 other emerging artists, makers and designers, in an exhibition from 24 July to 12 September 2021 in the prestigious Jubilee Gallery at Devon Guild of Craftsmen - coinciding with their annual Craft Festival (10-12 September).
The success of this work only emphasises Becky’s exceptional skill and thought-provoking approach to textiles. Pushing the boundaries of textiles and its connection with those who engage with it, Becky’s participatory process encourages participants to reach for transcendence, to allow themselves to shake free of any preconceptions and represent their own abstract self through symbols, shapes and colour.
Her passion for colour and exploration of esoteric ideas is inspired by the work of Helma af Klint, particularly her codex of design, and Ithell Colquhoun’s surrealist approach to Taro Colour. Becky said of the experience: “The tasseography generative participatory design process establishes a ritualistic interaction, creates an air of intrigue, subverts the act of drinking tea, while synchronously facilitating a transparent, readable and inclusive approach to design.”
Dom Moore, Capturing the Generative Participatory Design Process. © Rebecca Dodman Wainwright, Dec 2019.
Each of the 39 participants has had a tufted artwork created for them which will be on display as a collective later this year. Becky has also just begun the Arts Council element of the project exploring ‘Tasseography Textiles’ through intergenerational family work; and will be designing and delivering workshops during her exhibition in September.
The ‘Tasseography Textiles’ exhibition runs from 23 September to 17 October 2021 at Ocean Studios (workshop dates to be released soon). Get a preview of the work at the Private View on the 24 September, 6-8pm.