Jennifer is a co-founder of the design research collective Making Enhanced. Making Enhanced is a collective of designers and historians, interested in exploring the potential of cross-disciplinary collaboration between makers and writers with shared research interests.
The collective is made up of four pairs, representing a total of 12 individuals who come from architecture, design, jewellery, curation, writing, history and ceramics. Each pair has been matched through their common research interests, whether that’s the fetish of health, buildings, urbanism or decorative materials. Each individual has been recruited through a desire to break down boundaries across old-fashioned disciplines, to experiment and to work in close partnership. In this way, the group want to inspire others to skill-share and begin projects that challenge them to step outside their comfort zone. When it comes down to it, we are all researchers.
Making Enhanced’s first project was at the Saatchi Gallery during the annual international craft fair COLLECT. Making Enhanced was very proud to be one of eight projects selected by a high profile jury to be part of COLLECT Open 2015, the alternative exhibition at the heart of the fair.
To stay true their exploratory character, they wanted to lay bare the process within the white walls of the Saatchi Gallery. In sharp contrast to the polished looks of the famous fair, the installation was dynamic and open: a true work in progress show, where visitors saw behind the scenes and were able to comment and give feedback on our work, thereby shaping future outcomes.
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“Portrait of Marie Palluau”
Jennifer has been working with Design Historian Soersha Dyon on historical narrative, material displacement and object typologies in early modern France to reimagine domestic interiors.
In April 1548, Marie Palluau died in Paris. The wife of a successful merchant haberdasher, she passed away in her bedroom in their home on the rue Saint Denis, and an inventory of her belongings was drawn up a few days later, now in the Archives Nationales under the reference MC.ET.LXXXVI.94. Marie’s inventory gives us the layout and contents of the various rooms in her house and, unwittingly, a portrait of Marie Palluau herself, her interests, beliefs and social status.
This inventory, rich in materials and object, is the starting point of the project. Initially drawn to ideas of materiality, and to the incredible objects created and designed in the Early-Modern period, Dyon and Gray wanted to anchor themselves in the sixteenth-century through a series of inventories and primary sources. They hoped to extract typologies of objects and represent their forms and materials to reimagine what an interior from this period may have looked like, and to create an experience which echoes the inventory in a jumble of materials and object shapes from the period.
In order to reinterpret the surroundings of Marie Palluau using the list of objects materials, they started by researching these very objects and reaching an “average” of what a chair, for example, might have looked like. They also focused on reproducing the materials used in the period to encompass the material experience of the early French renaissance. Through utilising techniques used in the period, such as inlaying, and working with leather and tiles, which echo the decorative fabric of a renaissance domestic space, the pair sought to recreate the inventory in all of its implicit materiality. The project is therefore a design-based, practise-led reflection not only on Marie Palluau’s interior – and the objects that define her – but also an investigation in questions of authenticity in their respective disciplines.
Indeed the collaboration, in many ways, centres on the idea of authenticity. Though they look “real” the materials used in the display were contemporary recreations of the materials used in the inventory. As a historian, archival work is one of the building blocks of our discipline, and provides us with a window on ownership, social ties and material culture. Objects are often key to the research. However surviving objects tend to be exceptional pieces, and in some ways negate the authenticity they have as a testament to “everyday” material culture. Furthermore, how do we then explain and expose the breadth of artefacts and materials used in the Renaissance? Parallels with the period room spring to mind immediately, where the same challenge regarding authenticity emerges.
By recreating the interior described in the inventory, Dyon and Gray hope to launch a conversation on authenticity at the crossroads of design and history: how far can they stretch a recreation? How honest should a period room be? Is the essence of an object – of an interior – found in materials, in shapes or even in the spaces that articulate these? Are the objects we own our most honest portrait?