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Dissertation at Estonian Academy of Arts: Handbags as Design Items and Sources of Historical Research

03.12.2021       Kristina Jõekalda
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According to Päeva, the ‘recent decade has witnessed significant growth in the handbag market since handbags have become an essential everyday accessory, a portable manifestation rather than a functional product’. The doctoral thesis was done using the ‘research through design’ method, asking, how do handbags communicate and construct meaning, and how can designers generate specific meanings. Her approach was that of a practitioner, deeply informed by the past.

The historical part of Päeva’s research examined handbag design in Estonia from 1918 to 1940, a period ‘bursting with innovative designing and first social rules towards carrying handbags’, via museum collections and contemporary media coverage. This is the first time these topics in the history of local applied art have been thoroughly researched.

As part of the creative process of the theses Päeva designed three collections of handbags. The first case focused on the idea of novelty and innovation in bag design, the second on the classic traits of bags and their most enduring features, and the third case on the local specificities in Estonian design. The dissertation explains the principles of her design process in each case, presents the prototypes in detail, reflects on the making process, and analyses feedback on her handbags from respondents.

The supervisor of this PhD thesis was Dr Nithikul Nimkulrat (Ontario College of Art and Design University), the external reviewers Dr Rosita Nenno and Dr Malcolm Barnard (Loughborough University). The latter also acted as the opponent. The public defence took place on 9th September 2021.

The full text can be found here:

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