Dean introduced this cross-disciplinary, practice based research project that uses the documented creation of ten different pairs of shoes, as methodology to explore the critical relationships between material, maker, object and user. These four key ‘characters’ are used to form novel and innovative narratives of material culture that will explicate, map and convey complex, ethical, cultural and environmental issues whilst highlighting the progressive nature and role of craft, design and material practices as arbitrators and communicators within a consumer context.
She explained how the project informs new ‘meaning-ful’ objects, unearth hidden but relevant material ‘stories’ and devise new materials from seemingly worthless by-products. Rather than seeing these as waste, the project reveals by-products as potentially having enriched embodied histories, stories, meanings and experiences held within their materiality. The processing of these material substances into shoes unravels and exposes essential elements that instill meaning, integrity and value within creation and consumption chains and cycles, that typically lie hidden through one’s life, material and spiritual existence.
The project is not about shoe design, but employs the popular and cultural iconography of shoes as a vehicle to carry the content in an accessible way, whilst providing rudimentary function and ‘connection’ to the user and their activity.
Dean uses material experiments and samples, case studies and interviews that form the ‘stories’ as a medium for dissemination. By researching and documenting the story of how each pair of shoes is realised as a product, ‘Sole-Searching’ explicates the relationships and connections between the object and the subject, as facilitated by the material and the maker. This exercise demonstrates the potential and significance of the processing and design of the ‘by-product materials’ within this framework in establishing meaningful, valuable and authentic engagements in otherwise ‘inert’ product and material interactions. In doing so, the methodology simultaneously generates transferable models whilst demonstrating the value of craft, design and material practices in the mediation and reconciliation of unresolved and substantial issues of materiality and contemporary consumer culture.