Thesis! It’s my senior year at MICA and I decided to focus on Death..yes Death. A fun way to end it right *Bah dum tish*, but in actuality I wanted to focus on Eco-Friendly Death and Burial. Our world is dying and so are we, and to add insult to injury we will soon run out of space to do traditional [U.S. standard] burial. So how can I use design to fix this problem? Can we make talking about death more fun or maybe even a cool conversation starter in order to solve the bigger problem, lack of space and pollution.
Our World’s On Fire How Bout Yours~
Why not have a conversation about it?
Why not have a conversation about it?
I dropped something pretty heavy so let me break it down.
Death is something that is inevitable, unless...you know...we somehow figure out how to make that immortality drug we see in those Sci-fi movies, but that’s very unlikely.
With this idea and curiorsity of death in mind, I started to dive deeper into the meaning of what death is and how it affects the things and people around us. Through my research I stumbled upon an amazing funeral director, Caitlin Doughty, also known as AskAMortician on her Youtube series. She is like the the Green Death and Body Rights Apostle of the funerary world. From watching her series of videos and reading some of her books on moturary practices, I began brainstorming an idea around Eco-friendly dying.
Through the loving care of MICA’s Center of Identity and Inclusion, I recieved a grant to fly to Texas to speak with the Dean of the Commonwealth Institute of Funeral Service, Christopher Layton. Mr. Layton was not only a pool a knowledge, but also had very instrinsic way of seeing death and funerals. He related the funeral process and planning as getting ready for “your final wedding.” Everyone wants to go out with a bang! People get dressed up and we all come to celebrate an individual, plus funerals can be very pricey. Funerals are both for the living and the dead, a celebration of death and the point of moving on. With this I knew I wanted my thesis to feel like an event, something my audience can relate to.
As if by fate, Houston Museum of Natural Science had a pop up exhibition called “Death by Natural Cause”...and let me tell you...it was amazing. Interactive, fun, exciting and comedic aren’t typically associated with death, but that is what this exhibition presented! I even got to see a mother comfort and explain death to her young child after he saw the corpse of a dead snake and somehow associated it to his mothers inevitable death. After he calmed down and a deeper understanding of the final sleep entered his young brain, he went on to joyfully sniff a display that allowed you to know what cynaide smelled like. Amazing. With this incite I knew I wanted my death design to be interactive, frank, and in your face.
After this amazing journey I began building out my ideas and discussing my thoughts with professors and fellow classmates. After many, many, many, many iterations and ideas, I finally landed on Cherubs! Yes, those fat baby angels.
Cherubs, was the name of my Eco-Friendly Death Fashion Line. As I stated before, I wanted the audience to connect with what I was presenting, so I focused my audience on those who were going to be affected by the growing problem of limited funerary space and the collapse of ecosystems from global warming. The future lies with Millennials and Gen Z, so they became my audience.
Cherubs was my way to be creative, get my hands dirty, and get people wanting to know more about their imminent death! I began by building out my brand starting with the obscure logo. My Cherub was created to look strange, abstract and a little odd, just like the topic I was focusing on. To correlate with this, I chose an even funkier typeface [Cheee Variable].
Everything I created for Cherubs was done by hand. Only buying the base necessities and having cool friends that let me borrow their sewing machine, I dyed, sewed, plastered, painted, and built everything from scratch. This was the most fun and stressful process I had been through in my 4 years in college, but was well worth it. The support from my friends, classmates and professors helped me bring this fashion line to life...or well death.
I created plaster molds to create death masks of dead youths, aka my awesome friends.
Death Masks are cool and all BUT a clothing line wouldn’t be a clothing line without actual clothes and apparel. So off to Amazon I went to purchase a body bag...my search history has never been the same....we’re not gonna talk about. Along with the body bag, I also bought garament bags and other items. From there I began the dying process. Since I dyed each item by hand you could see human flaw which brought more attention to Cherub’s clothing line being Eco-friendly.
Once the dying and molding was complete, I finished my Cherub line by creating the actual outfits, all made from 100% cotton, which is completely biodegrable. Again, wanting to highlight the idea of eco-friendly clothing and to show that the line urged the decay process, I created large, open panels that held flowers and other organic matter, which in theory would help speed up decomposition once placed in the ground. Similar to the mushroom suits.
Next followed capturing these outfits in their natural habits, which means many awkward calls to cemetries around Baltimore. Again my awesome friends came to the rescue and model in my clothes, in the middle of a cemetry, while vogueing in a thunderstorm...
Even with all the rain and sinking graves, my ideas were captured and my friends belonged on the front cover of Vogue Magazine.
After all the building was done, it was time to bring everything together for my thesis show. Solid, Liquid, Gas.
It got a lot of mix feelings, but also sparked various reactions, questions and interactions which I was very excited about. I even got a little notice from a local design studio [Inertia Studio].
If you would like to see the entirety of the exhibition, here is the link to the walkthrough.