Phoebe Tims Multi

  • Tauira / Student
    Phoebe Tims
  • Kaiako / Lecturer
    Lisa Munnelly

Multi is a printed textile collection exploring my mixed cultural identity. Drawing on relevant stereotypical cultural motifs, I explore the nuanced and somewhat disconnected relationships I have to my Chinese, Irish and Dutch cultures.

I was raised here in Aotearoa by my second generation New-Zealand born Chinese father and first generation Kiwi mother who was born to Irish and Dutch immigrant parents. My mix of family heritage has meant an exposure to rich and diverse culture from both the East and West. Growing up, and occasionally even now, friends mention how lucky I am to have this “unique culture”, though how to be multicultural was not something taught or represented as I grew up.

Through textile making, this project examines what my multiculturalism could look like at its best, most positive, and most fulfilling? It explores how textiles can be used as a heuristic tool to gain and visualise a deeper understanding of my mixed cultural identity. Because of the highly subjective nature of this topic, drawing from my inner understanding felt essential. Guided by heuristic processes which are qualitative and prioritise personal experience over statistics, this collection was formed by iterative introspection and self dialogue through illustrative and visual exploration.

This collection centres around the satirical, introspective use of stereotypical motifs, used to highlight the complexities of my ‘insider’s outside-ness’ mindset and grappling with feelings of disconnectedness but which simultaneously allow me a bizarre, somewhat false sense of connection. Firecrackers, Chinese characters, Celtic knots, tulips and their stems are all stereotypes important to my diasporic multicultural identity by allowing me a kind of entry point.

Across this collection, Chinese motifs are most prominent in reflection of my connection with this culture, while smaller explorations of stereotypical Irish and Dutch motifs like the Celtic knots or tulips confront a lack of connection with these cultures.

Visual repetition signifies themes of reflection, understanding, and cultural identity learnings. This is echoed in the variety of illustrative media, depicting heuristic explorations into how to best capture the nuances of my multicultural experience. Materialising this research through surface textile design offered printed pattern thinking and its repetitive, meditative, methodical nature as a heuristic tool. Digital sublimation print then renders these colour, texture and mark intricacies on satin, alongside a palette of gold foil accents, ceramic and knotting. Contemporised culturally relevant colours capture energy, vibrance, confidence and a call to action in relation to understanding and claiming agency with your cultural identity.

These works are personal material and visual ponderings.

With the ever-increasing intersection of cultural communities, this collection and its themes will continue to be important topics of exploration. The unique opportunity to explore this topic through textile design research and making has allowed for insightful discoveries, realisations and understandings. Cultural identity is fluid, ever-changing and active, and therefore, this collection is a reflection of my identity in this moment; a timestamp in what will be a lifelong theme.