A few months ago, a group of 5th-year architecture students at the University Of Southern California (USC) were given an unusual challenge: select two materials to design and construct… a Mao jacket.
The assignment from Associate Professor Lee Olvera was clear and brief: “Select two materials maximum. Experiment with joinery, creating a skin or ‘fabric’, testing all potential material properties. After two weeks of speculating about how the materials will perform, select your materials. Once committed, you may not switch. Print out the studio-selected pattern for a Mao jacket, chosen for its conformity and lack of detail. Construct a wearable jacket. You have five weeks, start to finish.”
It took about 10 hours for Nick Tedesco to hand-sew a square foot of his jacket – formed of 12,244 pencil erasers, sewn one by one in a colorful chevron pattern.
Some surprises were happy ones. Tamar Partamian, who laboriously wove the strands from seven cassette tapes, found that the resulting fabric was much silkier and shinier than expected.
Corey Koczarski started with Rockite, a substance used for patching cracks in concrete. He cast Rockite in silicon molds, experimenting with thicknesses and profile to come up a shape that could be reproduced 4,948 times and linked together.
At the exhibition, the designers happily spent hours explaining their projects to onlookers. Several tried on their jackets, proving they could be worn. Calvin Lee, whose lightweight garment of crocheted electronics wire had the most tailoring details (four working pockets with flaps, a pointed collar and buttons), said he was considering wearing his jacket to graduation.
Now doesn’t sewing with fabric and thread seem a whole lot less intimidating?
Read an interesting interview with the challenge creator, Associate Professor Lee Olvera here.
(All images from University of South California Flickr Page and videos from the USC YouTube channel)