DESIS Place-Based Grad Collective

The Emily Carr DESIS Lab is pleased to announce a 2021 award to a group of students for the formation and initiative of the Place-Based Grad Collective.

Place-Based Grad Collective

Melanie Camman, Christa Clay, Angela Dione, Avi Farber, Marcia Higuchi, Shankar Padmanabhan, Chiara Schmitt, Charles Simon, Garima Sood, Pat Vera, Julie Van Oyen; facilitated by Laura Kozak and Jean Chisholm

Formed in 2021, the Place-Based Grad Collective is a flexible network of design researchers assembling around a shared set of approaches to place-based design research. Specifically, this work looks at our responsibilities, reciprocities and commitments to the land that we live on, and forms emergent projects that actively respond to the needs of the people and systems around us.

In trying to understand what kind of infrastructure is useful or necessary to support this work, we aim to explore a model that can coalesce and disperse when needed, embracing the spirit of a collective: a flexible network of people with independent practices converging to respond to and create a shared experience or intervention. Through exploring, enacting, and connecting place-based approaches to collaboration, we are attempting to move from scattered fragments of siloed disciplines and projects, and black-boxed, bureaucratic hierarchies, towards a networked mesh of emergent grassroots relationships, knowledge and capacity sharing, and action. Together we are asking:

How can we as individuals and also as a collective take up the responsibility of contributing to the places where we are?

What needs to be done, and what can each of us offer?

This collective came together as a part of the research project Place-Based Responsibility.

Melanie Camman is an interdisciplinary service designer and researcher. She has 3 years of experience working alongside social service providers, anthropologists, and social scientists to rethink programming and delivery of social services, as well as, the structures of service organizations. Researching social issues and working alongside people who have been marginalized led her to return to school as a masters student to study coloniality and decolonization in design research and ethnography. Her current explorations include using textiles, making and workshops as a way to tell and share stories and create community engagement. Melanie currently works as a Research Assistant for the Fibreshed Feild School through the Shumka Centre. Outside of school you will find Melanie snowboarding in the local mountains, growing food and plants for textiles in backyard and gardens, or curled up on the red chair with a podcast and a knitting project.

Jean Chisholm (BA, BDes, MDes) is a designer, researcher, and educator. Her research explores place-based design practices and community collaborations that work towards relational, ecological and equitable ways of living, and has most recently been published through PDC 2020: Participation(s) Otherwise. She has experience as a graphic designer and art director, designing and overseeing production for printed, spatial, and digital touch points. Jean currently teaches at Emily Carr University.

Christa Clay is an MDes student, research assistant, and co-founder of the Place-Based Materials Lab at Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver, BC. She lives, works, and plays on the unceded, ancestral lands of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. Her practice is place-based, incorporating her experience in food, farming, and ceramics with natural material research that prioritizes the role of communities and their economic self-reliance. Christa is originally from the land of the Tonkwa, Lipan Apache, and Comanche peoples, known also as the state of Texas, USA. She graduated from the University of Texas with a B.L.A., focusing on International Relations and Global Studies (2017). Christa has called British Columbia home since 2018. 

Angela Dione is a mother, designer, researcher and maker situated on the unceded Coast Salish Territory of the Tsawwassen, W̱SÁNEĆ, the Stz’uminus and the Hul’qumi’num Treaty. Her research and practice-based explorations focus on natural materiality in craft and design with an additional interest in working with children in a place-based approach. With her background in woodworking and ceramics, Angela investigates the act of making within the context of natural materiality. Through this work, she uses traditional techniques as a connective tool between human and non-human living co-design and as an investigation of our connection to place. Angela studied at the Högskolan för Design och Konsthantverk – The Academy of Design and Craft at the University of Gothenburg (Sweden) where she was completing her MFA in Child Culture Design. She is now pursuing her MDes at Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver, Canada.

Marcia Higuchi is a communication designer and researcher from UNESP, Brazil. Her research is focused on which ways design can empower children’s ecological wisdom and political agency as future stewards in the environmental crisis. 

Through a dialogical and reflexive approach, she aims to investigate the importance of storytelling, sharing how our own personal experiences brought into a broader understanding of our social relations, can affect our sense of interdependence and belonging to nature. 

In her first year at Emily Carr, Marcia developed a series of cross-DESIS workshops that included participants in both the Emily Carr DESIS Lab (Vancouver), and the Rio DESIS Lab (Rio de Janeiro) who were invited to engage in a activity with their children and register their experience trying to listen to a more-than-human being.

Laura Kozak is a designer, educator, organizer and mother living and working on unceded territory Coast Salish territory. With a focus on relational ways of working, she has built partnerships and collaborated on projects with artists, designers and organizations since 2005, including Access Gallery, 221A, the Aboriginal Housing Society of Prince George, the Vancouver Park Board, and the City of Vancouver. A core interest in place-based design, systems of reciprocity and exchange and locality informs her research and teaching practice. She holds a Master of Advanced Studies in Architecture from UBC (2012) and a BFA from Emily Carr (2005). She currently teaches design in the Jake Kerr Faculty of Graduate Studies and is a Research Associate of the DESIS Lab and Shumka Centre at Emily Carr University of Art + Design.

Morgan Martino is an interdisciplinary designer, researcher and facilitator, whose work focuses on building and supporting communities that can foster caring relationships, critical learning, and informed social change. Morgan’s current research practice explores how everyday material culture and designed systems inform and reflect our complex relationships to care. 

During her career as a student of Industrial Design and Social Practice + Community Engagement (SPACE) at Emily Carr, Morgan has had many opportunities to foster her community practices. Through the creation of small communities such as the Mixtape Collective and Vintage Digicam Club, Morgan aimed to recontextualise perceived obsolete technologies as tools for artistic expression and alternative media engagement. 

In 2020, Morgan collaborated with Naomi Boyd to be a part of the Shumka X DESIS Satellite residency, where she was able to co-develop Pocket Change; a series of workshops centering the pocket as a lens to help unpack wicked design problems. Most recently, Morgan created the Roving Designers, a place based design collective exploring how to engage in design work outside of traditional studio contexts. This year, Morgan has acted as the Undergraduate Coordinator for DESIS, helping to communicate the values and goals of the lab and invite other students to become involved in its work.

Chiara Schmitt is a product designer, maker and design researcher focussing on material-driven explorations in craft and design. Through her work, she explores areas of sustainability by dealing with natural materials and resources in the field of material speculations. With a strong interest lying in their perception and sensation, her practice touches on the agency of social responsibility and sustainable behavior. Having completed her BA at the University of Applied Sciences Schwäbisch Gmünd in Germany, Chiara is now pursuing an MDes at Emily Carr University of Art and Design.

Pat Vera is an architect, designer and researcher whose work focuses in incorporating Indigenous knowledge and alternative epistemologies into land-based design and pedagogy as a way of building sustainable futures with practices that already manifested in an equitable, respectful and balanced relationship with the earth.

Pat’s current research promotes the Pluriverse as the space in which to converse among different worldviews, creating community-oriented design practices that can work towards healing from the systemic damage caused by the colonial matrix of domination.