Cynthia Huiwen Tan

My Exoskeleton

Class of: 2024

Major: Communication Design BFA

Medium: 12 and 24 gauge gold wire

Faculty: Aviva Shulem

Prompt: What is an exoskeleton to you? Is it a metaphor for our state of mind? Our emotions? Our physical being? How is it portrayed now when we as a community are asked to shelter in a space available to us and stay within? In this project, students are asked to develop a body part cover that is inspired by exoskeletons’ anatomy, and its forms of protecting ourselves from the outer world.

For this project, I was inspired by arthropods’ molting process and how it involves breaking out of its shell and emerging with the new exoskeleton. Their way of growing reminded me of my personal journey in the past few months, which ultimately became the creative intention behind this piece. Earlier this year, I was experiencing a wave of emotions due to the many changes happening in my life. I was fearful of the future and feeling stuck with where I was, which eventually got worse during the quarantine. After months of adjusting and reflection, I came to the conclusion to always keep growing to be a better version of myself. This mindset inspired me to create a headpiece that not only portrays the process of molting, but also showcases a physical change and the abandonment of the past self. I designed two asymmetrical pieces that will be attached around my face to depict the image of me breaking out of my “exoskeleton”. When choosing the materials, I thought about the versatility of wires. By layering and wrapping wires, they create a firm but rounded shape which mimics the outlook of an exoskeleton. When doing the round edges, I purposely added a “raw hem” with some loose strings to imitate the unrefined edges of a cracked shell.