Please Leave on the Seat After Use

Textiles embody personal and culturally conditioned behaviours, they respond to their environment – capturing and releasing stories. The project materialises personal narratives through textile explorations, focusing on its engagement with people and the everyday spaces they occupy. Susie Cho’s autoethnographic study Please Leave on Seat After Use: Crafting Personal Narrative Through Machine Knitting investigates machine crafted textiles as responsive artefacts. The following is an edited interview with Cho.

“My Master’s research explored different ways of looking at computerized knitting outcomes. I used machine knitting to examine ideas of the pictorial and tried to subvert the traditions associated with hand and machine-made knits. I materialized personal narratives and explored the narrative capability of knitted textiles and why it is important to depict personal narratives in using Shima Seiki knitting machines.

“I think it always went back to a personal narrative, it’s all the things that you soak up in your upbringing and you don’t really think about. I think textiles can embody personal and culturally conditioned behaviours which I hoped would be activated through the engagement with people and the everyday spaces they occupy.

“For me, undergrad was about getting familiarised with technical skills and my aesthetic as a ‘designer’. I could definitely just make pretty blankets for a commercial context but there was something lacking in that and I felt disconnected, so with my Master’s it was about challenging what it means to make right now.

“It is important to consider the point of making anything. I thought a lot about the narratives I wanted to share and whether or not it is greedy to be using materials to create more materials and waste especially in the current climate. The good thing about the knitting machine is that you can plan things like how much yarn is required and what it will look like before it is knitted using digital simulations in the software, so there is very little waste.

“I started thinking about how to suggest other ways to engage with textiles like collaging or layering or stacking pieces together, how it could offer different ways of interacting with textiles overall. For example, I was hand sewing a small knitted window on to like a separate knitted window and it just allowed me to think about how people can interact with it further as well by suggesting familiar actions of the everyday, opening a window, inviting the person to want to turn over the knitted window to uncover another knitted scape.

“I think it’s about figuring out what or how I can contribute alongside other makers who explore their design and personal identity within a making practice. I’ve always wondered what is the point of making from my perspective, especially in my case, a machine-produced knit practice. It seems redundant not to make anything and to just reject the effort. I want to know why I make, or why it is important to make and why it is important to share personal narratives within any kind of work.

“I enjoy both aspects of postgraduate study, the making and the research. Working in the textile and research field you get a bit of both. I came into the Master of Design programme thinking about commercial, fully-finished knitted garments as outcomes. My supervisor really encouraged me to think about developing the creative process rather than the final outcome, I didn’t need to aim for perfect patterning and industry level technical skills, it was more I ended up going down a route where I was making knitted pieces that would exist as both standalone narrative textiles and conceptual wearable pieces.

“I put pressure on myself to make something ‘meaningful’. As a designer or maker, you may never be completely happy with what you make and I questioned my design identity even more after I finished my Master’s. I’m working on getting over it and accepting that there doesn’t need to be a solution for that. Textiles are so interesting because there is just so much you can tell from what someone wears or why they choose to wear something or why they choose to decorate their house with that particular blanket or cushion or design. I think I was always interested in everyone’s relationship with textiles. A textile can be both a representation and an extension of someone and they are everywhere.

“I want to collaborate more with other creatives and work out how we can exist in this current climate where at times there is such a resistance and lack of support in this field outside of academia. I would like to keep myself interested and productive. This project gave me time, support and a space to help me understand how and why I make textiles in a contemporary context. I wished this project gave me closure but it hasn’t. I have more questions now than I did at the beginning and that’s okay.”

Centre for Design Research
Te Kura Toi a Hoahoa
School of Art and Design

Te Wānanga Aronui o Tāmaki Makau Rau,
Auckland University of Technology


Susan Hedges
Mandy Smith

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© Centre for Design Research, AUT University 2021