The Rise Programme
As useful as structure in education is, to ensure suitable student progression is made, it can sometimes knock out the emerging adults’ sense of play and fun, which is needed in building creative businesses of the future. The Reimagining Project, part of the Rise Programme, run by Manchester Metropolitan University, was created by three creative Alumni, to combat this!
The three Alumni worked collaboratively to explore the recycling and reuse of plastic materials, through play and fun, developing new techniques and pieces of wearable art with current Manchester Metropolitan University undergraduates.
The Saturday Club Outreach Programme
The Reimaging Programme also had an end goal. Manchester Metropolitan University’s Saturday club were hosting a special event on International Women’s Day and they wanted the Reimagining Project to display their work there.
The Saturday Club provides opportunities for students aged 13-16 to join a free Saturday programme building their creative business skills, whilst introducing them to future careers and study programmes.
Working towards this day, the undergraduates and Alumni created various demonstration pieces, such as a shuffleboard made from plastic waste, to show off the results of their collaboration to the next generation, hoping to inspire them into a more sustainable use of plastics and into creative careers.
The three creative Alumni who lead these explorations are all neurodiverse. Because of their experiences, they wanted to open a more creative and playful exploration of materials and design to undergraduate students.
The three alumni all own their own creative businesses, working individually; however, they all have lots in common. All three are interested in public engagement, working on commissions, commercial products and teaching. The collaboration of their diverse skills to create co-learning experiences and create sustainability is also important to all of them.
Who are they?
Jamie-Lee Wainman, of Wainman Designs is a CREATE Education Ambassador. Jamie-Lee is a creator, facilitator, and educator who aims to make learning experiences more inclusive for different minds, using playful and creative thinking as a vehicle. Her passion for 3D printing and CAD/CAM allows her to create sustainable, unique and playful experiences for public engagement.
Caitlin, Co-director of Plastic Shed, fascination with plastic waste began at University where she studied Interactive Art. Knowing she wanted to create pieces that had an environmental impact she began focusing her work on creating educational pieces made from recycled plastic waste. Plastic Shed now creates educational workshops for all ages, have a 100% recycled plastic range of products and create art installations that are both made of plastic waste and educate on the issue.
Duggie, founder of Dundas Digital set up this laser cutting, sign making and CNC milling service after graduating from 3D Design. Dundas Digital offers digital design and manufacturing services across a broad client base, from individuals to local businesses.
Caitlin said of meeting the Alumni, “The whole experience from meeting my fellow alumni to working with the students has been amazing, we truly all learned together, I almost felt like I was a student again. What is brilliant about play being at the centre of this piece was that we went in not really knowing what we would come out with, would ideas work? Would we end up with a ball of plastic on fire? We had no way of knowing, and that was really exciting! “
The Reimagining Project
The Reimaging Project therefore ran over 3 weeks, with a core group of students coming to work with Jamie-Lee, Duggie and Caitlin.
The type of plastic that the project worked with was PLA.
Students first worked with Duggie to look at developing a plastic extruder. Working with a group called The Extrudeneers, they collaboratively engineered and built their own plastic extruder.
Students then worked with Caitlin, who explored the shedding and use of plastic. Caitlin has experience with HDPE (Bottle Lids), LDPE (plastic bags) and PVC (vinyl banners), but for her the shredding and experimenting with PLA was also a learning experience alongside the students.
Finally, the students moved on to work with Jamie-Lee, looking at using the plastic extruder they had designed. Students explored how we were going to get the plastic into the extruder and how a myriad of colours can be produced through creative play, adjusting speeds etc.
Than together with Jamie and Caitlin they also explored other methods of recycling PLA, such as kneading the plastic whilst warm to create marbled sheets or criss-crossing the ends of PLA filament from 3D printing to create a woven pattern.
From these explorations, students created wearables from these sheets and extrusions, such as jewellery and even a hat!
All three Alumni had set roles within the project, but their collaboration developed their creativity and practise too! Caitlin learnt more about 3D printing and now uses 3D printing, Duggie explored a new material and Jamie-Lee explored beyond 3D printing!
Cailtin said, “As a recycling plastic specialist I’m used to melting plastics and usually I can make a pretty good guess to how a mixture of plastics will look when they come out. However PLA, the plastic we used, is a brand new material for me. I found each step to be really interesting on a personal note. From shredding the plastic I realised that this plastic has a lower heating point as after a while of my machine being on, clumps on solid plastic would start to form from the shredded pieces, clearly being heated and crushed together, this is something I’ve never seen before with the type of plastic I use. It also almost broke my machine a few times, so I learned fast with that!
Then melting it in a mini hand built extruder. I’m used to an injection moulder machine, and usually the colours all squish and swirl together, which was what I was expecting to happen when we used the shredded PLA. What went in was a vibrant mix of colours, but what came out was a solid brown shade of all the colours melted and mixed together. I found this really interesting to see and myself and Jamie, with the students, went about experimenting with taking out certain colours from the mix to see how it affected the colour being produced, we now know that if we separated out the colours before the shredding process we would be able to mix and make our own unique shades of filament! This has inspired so many potential ideas already that we didn’t know before this project started!”
For the students, the lack of structure was the first creative hurdle they had to overcome!
Quite a different approach was taken in the delivery of the Reimagining Project than in their usual classroom explorations. The three Alumni wanted to make the project and explorations as creative as possible but, Jamie-Lee explained, “With education, the structure is set. All of your work has to have a definite outcome – it took [the students] a while to relax into the playful nature of the project.”
“The alumni understood why the students felt that way and we helped them by giving them context! When you leave education, and develop your own creative business, there are no boundaries! We explained our own journeys and gave them insights into how we developed our businesses. They then got it – in the world beyond education, there are no grades, no pressures and it’s easier to play around. Once they understood that, they felt free to explore!”
Best bits and breakthrough moments…!
When asked about the best bits, Jamie-Lee said, “The outreach day was a standout moment for us!”
It was a lot of fun! We had quite a lot of stress in the last session, getting samples made etc. but the core group of students that came got to know each other and worked well. On the day of the outreach programme, students were nervous! They all played to their strengths and it was a good opportunity to show people the outreach opportunities that they can do with art!”
“Another stand out moment was when we looked at sheet pressed plastic. I’m used to using filament and 3D printing so this was a different way of using plastic for me! We explored lots of different styles, using the ends of PLA from filament! I didn’t know if it was going to be too soft. I thought we were just going to shred PLA but finding there are lots of ways of using it was fascinating”
Jamie-Lee carried on, “It was also great to know that the students’ knowledge was expanding and this was a great feeling! We enjoyed the collaboration with the students so much that we have just applied to do a festival, using 3D printing, and we have asked this core group of students to help us as paid staff.”
Caitlin added, “Also on a 3D printing front, I’m amazed! Jamie is such a great teacher and has loads of knowledge with it. I found it so interesting to see her use the recycled filament and actually get it printing, all from a little machine that Duggie built with our team of students! I feel like this project was the beginning of so many even more amazing collaborations!”