My final outcome for this project is essentially a training exercise for an alien, preparing them for a formal dinner with the Queen.
It consists of a tablecloth, laid out with six place settings, which have been drawn directly onto the tablecloth using a black marker. The idea being that the alien would start the training exercise by sitting in front of the place setting labelled First Course. The cutlery that is required for that course, i.e. the soup spoon and butter knife, are the only items of cutlery not drawn directly on to the cloth, instead I drew them on to a separate piece of fabric and created a dip dyed effect on the handles using water colour, so that it stands out from the rest.
Likewise the liquid in the glasses which are in use for that course, namely water and champagne for the initial toast, are represented by additional pieces of fabric sewn on top of the tablecloth. I found that painting directly on to the fabric using watercolours created a washed out pastel palette which I felt was reminiscent of the way Deborah Bowness has used colour in her wallpaper. So once the alien has identified the cutlery and glassware used for that course, he can move position to the next course and so on around the table for all six courses.
For the crockery I experimented with a variety of different printing techniques, some more successfully than others. Initially I tried transferring images of a Vera Wang Wedgewood crockery pattern to fabric using pva glue painted on to the image, left to dry and then washed away. However the images were probably too pale in tone to transfer effectively, and the results were dreadful. Feeding fabric through the printer and printing the image directly on to it, was far more successful, but the photographic style outcome jarred with the hand drawn nature of the rest of the piece. So in the end I replicated the style of the crockery, by using a preset stitch on my sewing machine, and sewing in a circular pattern.
The imagery I have used within this project has played on the Royal associations with tradition, formality and grandeur. So I have created packaging for it which acknowledges the fact that it is designed for an alien. I envisage the tablecloth being packaged in a transparent plastic wrapper with a thick card insert wrapping around the front and back.
For this insert I have played on fonts and imagery one would associate with the film Alien, and computer game Space Invaders.
In a similar style I have also created a letter to accompany the pack, addressed to the alien, and written from the Alien Assimilation Team responsible for trying to prepare the Alien for life on earth.
Reviewing this project, I think some aspects worked better than others. I still like the idea of incorporating the guide with the tablecloth, but I think this did make it very difficult to photograph the final outcome, and the photos don’t really do it justice.
It was pretty time consuming drawing all the cutlery on to the tablecloth, but reasonably effective, and I think the cutlery which was dip dyed and then sewn on worked pretty well, as did the colours representing the liquids in the glasses.
I think the plates were much less successful, possibly creating them with more layers to control the spreading out of the watercolour would have worked better.
I found it frustrating minimising the imagery put on to the tablecloth, I would have liked to have added drawings depicting random objects that one might leave on a table, like a mobile phone, or crumpled up napkin. I think this would have given a playful feel to the finished piece, but it would also have confused the point of it being a educative tool, so I refrained.
The packaging was a fairly last minute addition, and could probably be improved with a little bit more time, but does at least put the guide into context with its intended audience.