Thursday, 27 October 2011

Workshop practices at other universities

I have had an interesting conversation today with someone who has worked at various universities.  At Curtin, the technicians have an office down the corridor from the print workshop, which means students are often working unsupervised - and sloppy practice can result.  At Herts, my home university, the technicians office is a goldfish bowl at the side of the print and textile workshop, and the techs look out over the print area, so are generally quite aware of what is going on. 

A Curtin member of staff told me that on some courses, students are informed that the lecturer has academic authority and the technician has authority on workshop practice issues.  Strict workshop practice is applied, and the technician assesses students for 20% of marks on workshop practice.  So, if students apply sloppy practice, or don't clean tables, leave screens outside or damage equipment, potentially 20% of marks are lost.  The technician is credited for her specialist knowledge and the lecturer supports her staff member.

Another description that was given to me was how another university manages time on print tables.   There are about 100 students, sharing 3 x 8m tables!   First years are only allowed to use the tables on Saturday mornings.  Second years have a couple of days allocated to them, and third years share the remaining 3 days per week.  All testing is expected to be done outside of studio time.  Students are only allowed to book a table to print, once the technician has checked their design.  This requires the design to be agreed, test swatches completed, colour samples confirmed, trolley booked, binders made up, fabric prepared, cleaning rags, gloves, squeejees etc ready, and print buddy available.  Then the booking is confirmed, and the tech checks over all kit before access to workshop is allowed (!).  Because of the level of prep, no-one misses their booked session.  The technician checks the workshop for adequate cleaning and return of kit.  Because everything is run as a tight ship, huge quantities of fabric can be printed, and they have printed 50m multi-coloured hand print in a day.  The lecturer did say not everyone liked the rigidity of they system.

I don't think I've ever been that prepared for a session, and I thought I was quite good at anticipating my workload for my workshop time.  In fact I know I've not been that prepared.  This tight workshop style would need a clear induction and commitment from all staff.  One of the benefits apparently was that they had an extensive range of functioning kit - because all kit was signed out, and signed back in by a tech, and not loaned to other departments.  This led to kit being kept in good condition and therefore the equipment budget was not wasted replacing basic things like irons because they had been abused.  Health & safety practice was good, because students knew that sloppy practice would be noted and affect their marks.  Also every student was reminded of their duty of care to each other, and had the right to point out correct practice to other students. 

It was a very interesting, thought provoking conversation.  How much fabric could I print if I were that organised?  I keep wondering about whether I could design and print enough gum nut pattern to make 4 sets of curtains for our bungalow!  Hmmm!

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