Features: Alumni

Texprint connects industry to selected graduate designers just emerging from college or university - also to Texprint alumni, many of whom now enjoy high profile creative roles within the international textile, fashion and interior design industries. Their success in industry, and in many cases, the success of their own studios and brands, are testimony to the Texprint programme.  Many continue to support Texprint in a variety of ways.

If you are a Texprint alumnus, tell us what you're doing now, we would love to hear from you - info@texprint.org.uk


Sarah Podlesny’s whirlwind year after Texprint

05 June 2011

Sarah Podlesny, winner of Texprint’s Breaking New Ground prize last year, has had a momentous year. Her talent and skills were recognised during her participation at Texprint’s London showcase and she was offered a job by Laura Miles, a Texprint alumna who has created her own successful weave studio.

Sarah’s job with Laura Miles Studio is varied and exciting. Laura creates fabrics for many designer labels and produces a jacquard collection for Vanners, one of England’s last remaining silk weavers. As Laura’s assistant, Sarah says her day to day tasks can involve, “Anything from weaving samples for a New York trip, then maybe putting some designs in repeat for the Vanners collection. I could be testing out structures and colours on a woollen warp for the tweed collection. I thread up warps and create technical files for fabrics to send out with the designs. Some days are filled with appointments to show the collections in London, but sometimes we spend a whole day developing a fabric for a new project.”

Sarah explains, “I have been really lucky to land a full-time position doing something I absolutely love. My job is full of variety, I am learning constantly. The fabrics that Laura designs are varied too, so I never get bored. I travel a lot – I was in New York recently, and was able to see Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which was really inspiring. I get to meet a lot of interesting people. I am really happy with where I am now, I wouldn't change anything. It has been a massive learning curve- no two days are the same.”

Sarah has just bought a loom in order to develop her own work further, and is looking to try out some new techniques, such as ikat weave structures. In the future she wants to further explore interactive and ‘smart’ materials. She has this advice for new graduates; “Take something from every opportunity and experience and don't always play safe. Don't be afraid to try something a little different. You don't have to be commercial to guarantee yourself a job. If you have the creativity and work really, really hard then go for it with your idea! If you think there is nothing out there just keep looking.Get your work out there in as many ways as you can, start a blog for example. And don't worry if you have a creative block, it will go away”.



Kaleidoscope cushions

Margo Selby: colour, craft and commercial success

20 May 2011

Texprint alumna Margo Selby has fused her creative talent as a weaver with a savvy commercial awareness to build a successful business over the last 10 years. Her shop in central London, along with her on-line store, showcases a wide array of wonderfully colourful products. Her pieces range from affordable cushions, purses and ties through to elegant upholstered furniture and bespoke rugs.

For new graduates embarking on their careers, Margo has this advice: “Don’t be afraid of starting out – if you believe in yourself and what you do, you can go a long way! Don’t be afraid to take the odd risk in business either – If I hadn’t have taken risks along the way then I wouldn’t be where I am now.”

Margo’s passion for mixing colour is at the heart of her work, she explains: “I adored putting colours together from a very young age. I started weaving at Chelsea, and I realised that weaving was all about just that. I respond to colour - it’s an emotional thing for me.” Margo’s inspirations include “the dazzling, beautifully woven saris of Varanasi, India; fluorescent colours from the Mexican fabrics of San Cristobal de las Casas; and the refined structural qualities of contemporary Japanese weave”.

Despite commercial success with products for major retailers such as Habitat, Margo still sees herself as a craftsperson, first and foremost. Starting out, having honed her skills in weave at Chelsea College of Art and at the RCA, she spent 18 months at the Ann Sutton Foundation, a renowned research centre for woven textiles, where she was a founding fellow. During this time she worked on projects for industry as well as her own work, developing her understanding of how to translate hand-woven pieces into her commercial and accessible fabrics with their trademark 3D qualities.

The year ahead looks bright and busy for Margo: “I’ve an exciting collaborative exhibition planned later this year at my shop curated by fellow RCA graduate Alison Willoughby and ‘People Will Always Need Plates’. Right now I’m working on some new rug designs – I can’t wait to see what they look like in production – and also on my next interiors collection. There’s never a dull moment!”


Laura McPherson - new concepts in knitwear

13 May 2011

Laura McPherson, a Texprint alumna from 2009, recently exhibited some of her innovative knit pieces with Li Edelkoort’s Talking Textiles initiative at the Milan Furniture Fair. Laura’s work challenges perceptions of knitwear and her pieces regularly illustrate future trend forecasting publications. Most recently she has worked on concepts for spring summer 2013 for East Central Studios.

After completing her MA at the RCA, Laura worked for Missoni in Italy, before returning to the UK. She now divides her time between freelance design work and teaching. Laura says:“I love the versatility of knitting and pushing the properties of yarn and colour to create 3D forms. I’m also passionate about photography and use a lot of my own images as inspiration. My MA work began with looking at blurred and distorted images that show the breakdown of movement - the way that a moment in time is captured through photography. I explored the transcendence between solid and distorted forms, focusing on transparent layers, blurred edges and displaced pattern.”

Alongside her freelance work Laura has been a Teaching Fellow at the University of Leeds, and also teaches at Manchester Metropolitan University and Winchester School of Art, passing on her skills and insight to future knitwear designers. Her advice to new graduates is simple: “Be pro-active! Jobs will very rarely land on your lap and it is important to pursue (and follow up) all job or freelance possibilities in a confident and professional manner.”

She says: “After my BA I sent out many letters and CVs and just waited to receive responses. I regret not understanding how the industry works better and not having the confidence to pursue people. Now, I would certainly not expect a quick response from the first email or letter and I will always follow up, as many people are just genuinely too busy or have forgotten to reply. Also, having a year in industry between my BA and MA is definitely something that I would recommend. That experience made a big difference to me in way I studied and developed at the RCA. Doing an MA is a big commitment and it is very important that you do it when it’s the right time for you.”

Laura’s considerable array of accolades includes the Kay Cosserat Scholarship prize while at the RCA, as well as a trend prediction prize given by WGSN and she was a finalist of the Society of Dyers and Colourists’ colour award.

Wallace Sewell’s creative partnership

06 May 2011

Wallace Sewell is a design partnership – aka Harriet Wallace Jones and Emma Sewell – which has built a truly successful business while retaining the two designers’ creative integrity. With an impressive track record that spans 21 years, they are both friends and business partners.

Emma, a Texprint alumna, met Harriet at the RCA and they joined forces following their graduation in 2000. They each have complementary creative and business skills that have enabled their company to flourish, sharing the design work. Emma explains: “The diversity of our approaches continues still, yet because we trained together we understand each other inherently and can discuss our design work at great speed.” The shop and studio in London WC1 sells the company’s jewel- coloured woven products, throws, cushions, and scarves. Wallace Sewell also supplies a swathe of high-end retailers including Anthropologie, the Tate in London, and Barneys in New York.

The Wallace Sewell partnership champions British manufacturing - its textiles have always been made in UK mills. The product range spans womenswear, menswear and interior textiles. The company has also won prestigious commissions for Transport for London. Emma and Harriet have created iconic moquette fabrics for seating on London Tramlink, London Overground and East London Transit. Last year, the duo beat 350 entries from all over the world in a public competition to create a new fabric for the refurbishment of the Central Line trains. The tight design brief allowed the designers to use only four colours. But as Emma says of the experience: “It was so interesting and such a challenge – proper design.”

Emma credits Texprint with having been a great confidence boost in the early days, she says: “The chance to show and sell work internationally at Texprint was a great experience. Just two years later, we launched Wallace Sewell at Chelsea Crafts Fair and we took our first trade orders.”

Emma has this advice for emerging designers: “Be ambitious, aim to produce work that is always pushing forward and evolving, and that you believe in. Understand your strengths and also your market or niche. Charge correctly. Network, be open to advice - and always be aware that you do not stop learning after leaving college.”

Wallace Sewell will be showing new products at Pulse, Earls Court, London June 5-7, 2011.


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