JANE ODARTEY’s unveiling how creativity and the pursuit of higher learning can fuel one other. While working to complete her thesis for an M.A. degree, Jane would take creative breaks and make new pieces for the Mawusi SS16 collection.
Suma (spirit in Ga, the language of people in the greater Accra region) is at the core a story about the designer’s relationship with her grandmother and also a study of patterns and textures exploring sin and love, industrial neighborhoods in Accra, desire and roads leading to foolishness and wisdom.
Below Jane takes us through her creative process for Suma.
The Suma collection is heavily influenced by my thesis topic for graduate school which focuses on examining sin through love, vis-à-vis Julian of Norwich. A medieval English mystic who dared to ask God why he did not prevent sin in the first place. But the foundation for the collection has to do with my relationship with my grandmother, hence the name Suma. Although it is my Sablãi (praise name), it is only my Nana who refers to me as such. The emphasis is the duality of habit from a center of true nature. For instance, being foolish can lead to wisdom. But it is possible that one’s true nature is neither foolish nor wise.
My first priority has been finishing up my M.A. However, I also wanted very much to make an SS16 collection. I was uncertain that I could manage both. But as I wrote, I was often driven to crochet when I found myself having difficulties with my writing and needed a distraction to help my mind untangle itself. So I did not really know what I wanted to make for this collection——I was not even certain this collection would materialize. But as my argument for my thesis became clearer, so too, did my ideas for Mawusi SS16.
The pattern is an abstract design of the original break down of my paper. I was talking to my advisor and he said something about the significance of the number three and I thought about the three aspects of the divine and also Julian’s way of viewing God as Father, Mother, and Holy Spirit. But the number three gained another perspective in my thoughts. It’s mid-point has merit. By this I mean the even number is more like “black and white,” where the odd number has a middle ground that is neither black nor white, or both black and white. This became an emphasis of my thesis paper and also seeped into my collection.
All the pieces can be viewed as naughty or nice, but they can also be viewed on a middle ground where they are neither of these description or both at once. I have been struggling with the concept of propriety for sometime now. Having been raised by my grandmother, I was taught never to expose too much skin. I still feel shame when I do. But as I try to understand Julian’s struggle with the concept of sin, and why it was not prevented in the first place. I also started to see the concept of virtue and vice in new lights. That these morals often have a lot in common, but what sets them apart is their aim, i.e. are they used for that which is actually Good, or that which seems good. Thus Suma is a sort of “self portrait.” It is good and can be bad,i.e, it has within it the ability to be bad but that does not necessarily make it less good. And that even when it is bad, the goal is often a desire for true wisdom.
In a sense I like to let the work happen spontaneously without any heavy guidelines. I am neither a control freak nor a perfectionist, but I am always hungry to make something that excites me. And the best way to go about this is to be open to new ideas even if it means more work. I do not mind challenges when I know I will be much happier with what it achieve than if I settle for what was easier which would produce less satisfactory work.
Sometimes a piece comes along quite quickly, and sometimes, it takes a long time to unfold. The Kasoa Blouse took only about six days to complete while the Tesano Brooch took three weeks to make.
Making something for the first time is quite a thrilling experience. And it is one of the reasons why I can’t bring myself to learn to read patterns. The concept often comes first as a feeling which I try to draw into an image in my mind and as the image become more concrete I either start making directly or make traces on paper so I do not forget.
Sometimes I finish a piece and see that it is not what I “felt” like making. This is what happened with both the Osu Hat and the Chorkor Bikini. And sometimes in the middle of making something, I get new ideas that are more exciting than the original idea, and this happened with the Pokoasi duster and the Mataheko bag.