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In my experience: Susie Foster
16 June 2012 by Joyce Thornton
Susie Foster (Texprint 2010) is a freelance textile designer, specialising in mixed media. Drawing is the foundation of her practice and her delicate, sensitive pencil studies are often snapped up in their own right. Here Susie shares her insights into launching a career in design:
I work on a lot of different projects at one time.
I’ve created new prints for the Surtex fabric exhibition in New York. I’m developing needle punched fabrics for the spring/summer 2012/13 collection for menswear designer Manish Bansal. And I am working on accessories ideas with Sandra Murray, a Scottish designer I met at [textile design show] Indigo, Paris. I’ve also just designed a greetings card for the Barbican shop.
Susie Foster pleated textile detail
Being a freelance designer isn’t an easy option.
I feel incredibly lucky to be doing something I enjoy. Although there are some low moments, there are great days too and that’s what keeps me going. It can be tough staying positive and motivated but I was prepared for that - it’s a really competitive industry.
It’s hard to switch off.
Working as a freelancer means there can be a lot of uncertainty, which can be stressful. I’m glad I’m not on the nine to five treadmill, but it can be really difficult to switch off and take a break, especially if you live and work in one location. There’s also all the non-creative work that comes with being self-employed, dealing with tax, chasing payments etc, luckily my sister is a tax adviser, which helps.
Susie Foster: printed and pleated textile.
A typical day is a varied mix of the creative and the necessary.
I try to get a balance of the less interesting bits (invoices, emails etc) and the creative side (drawing, making, research etc). I enjoy the freedom and variety; it’s great to be in charge of your own time and to work on a range of projects. I like new challenges and working with different people, it’s exciting - and keeps you moving forward.
I’m inspired by nature, artists and the unexpected.
My inspiration can come from something quite unexpected but most frequently it’s found in nature. I find the patterns, processes and structures of the natural world are a never-ending source of inspiration. Also, the work of artists such as Antony Gormley, Bridget Riley, Mark Rothko, Eva Hesse, Andy Goldsworthy, Louise Bourgeois… it’s an endless list!
Susie Foster insect drawing
I love drawing and experimenting with materials and varied techniques.
During my MA studies at the RCA I started to explore scale, creating larger pieces, considering new ways of making and thinking a lot more broadly. I also started working with needle punching and it’s remained a favourite technique. I think it has a lot of potential still to be explored and I like that process of continual discovery. I still try to draw every day - it’s crucial to my textile work but it would be great to start exhibiting and selling pieces as an artist.
My Texprint experience in 2010 was hugely beneficial.
It was fantastic being chosen for Texprint. Just from the interview I got some great feedback and advice and made a contact that led to the sale of two large pieces from my portfolio. To show at Indigo was invaluable; I sold four pieces and met people that I continue to work with now.
Susie Foster: embroidery design for menswear designer Manish Bansal. Far right: butterfly pencil study
My plan is to keep going and keep the variety in my work.
I want to continue with my collaborative work for fashion and also to sell print designs. It would be amazing to work at couture level, where practicality is less of an issue and there’s more opportunity for elaborate and experimental textiles. I’d love to see my fabrics on a McQueen or Vivienne Westwood catwalk!
I’m working on some more of my own interior art pieces and developing my origami collages for print. I’d love to work with the Rug Company to produce designs for interiors. I’d also like to devote more time to drawing as an end in itself. I’ve been involved with teaching and community arts projects too and that’s something I also want to do more of.
Textile graduates need to persevere.
New graduates need to realise that it might take a long time to get where you want to be - but you can enjoy the journey and learn a lot along the way.
Congratulations to Dashing Tweeds - Scottish Textile Brand of the Year
13 June 2012 by Editor
Hosted by British style icon Alexa Chung, the Scottish Fashion Awards saw Dashing Tweeds win Scottish Textile Brand of the Year (sponsored by House of Fraser). Deserved recognition for this exciting and creative textile company.
Christopher Kane picked up the crown for 'Scottish Fashion Designer of the Year' at the red carpet event held at the Clyde Auditorium in Glasgow in association with InStyle.
Dashing Tweeds, founded by photographer Guy Hills and woven textile designer Kirsty McDougall (Texprint 2002) is rapidly making a name for itself. By using the best British mills and workshops, and designing heritage tweeds with a contemporary, colourful and often humorous spin, they have created a truly original British brand. They will be showcasing their latest collection at London Collection: Men, 15-17 June, alongside other British brands at The Hospital Club in Covent Garden.
Dashing Tweeds collaborates with a diverse range of partners from fashion and interior designers to architects and scientists.
Palvinder Nangla: decorative textile art and design
04 June 2012 by Joyce Thornton
Images above: Palvinder Nangla, Bless This Home & White Indian
Texprint alumnus and creative maverick Palvinder Nangla talks to Texprint about his decorative and distinctive approach to textiles; the creative path of his career; and some timely tips for those about to graduate.
Your approach to textiles is highly individual - what drew you to embroidery and mixed media?
I come from a Punjabi background where embroidery plays a huge social role. My grandmother and I used to stitch for hours while chatting and drinking tea. The fusion of traditional hand embroidery with the elements of mixed media has given me new ways of expression.
Are there particular qualities needed for this discipline?
I guess it is very important to be patient. Stitching requires meticulous labour and it can take a lot of time. To be open-minded and passionate about your work helps too.
Palvinder Nangla: Self Portrait. Copyright Palvinder Nangla
How have you found working as a freelance designer?
Frankly, I find it quite difficult. It is a tough market out there and it is full of sharks!
What is the focus of your current work?
I have moved on to textile art and surface design. I still make fashion illustrations but now I draw my inspiration from haute couture. I have just finished a set of fashion illustrations made of up-cycled butterfly wings and I’m starting a new surface design project in collaboration with Cor Habeo, an ethical luxury shoe brand.
What inspires you in your work?
The creative process is the most inspiring thing of all.
What are the most enjoyable aspects of your work?
When I see ideas naturally grow and take shape until they are materialised and finished. I also love when others enjoy my work and it touches something inside them.
And the least enjoyable?
The financial part, I guess.
Palvinder Nangla: Freedom Pass & The Last Dance. Copyright Palvinder Nangla
You won the Texprint Chairman’s Prize in 2006 - what did this mean to you?
It felt great to have recognition from the textile industry. Texprint opens up a world of opportunities - but as I mentioned before, it is a shark’s world and I’m more of a guppy fish.
Highlights of your career since then?
I have shown with the British European Design Group at interior design shows ICFF, New York, IMM, Cologne and Maison & Objet, Paris. Through this connection, the tableware company Villeroy & Boch chose my work to exhibit at Salone Internazionale del Mobile, Milan in 2010. I also very much enjoyed collaborating with artist Hector de Gregorio who is also an RCA alumnus.
What are your plans for the future?
I plan to keep on working with Cor Habeo and to apply my surface design to bags and other fashion accessories. I’m also looking into organizing an exhibition to show my textile art.Long term, I would be happy to make a living out of my art and to be involved in haute couture with someone such as Christian Lacroix.
What is your advice for those about to graduate this year?
Don’t waste your time with egocentrism and work together as a team, collaborate, support each other. Unity makes strength. Keep it real, be humble and love what you do.
Tamasyn Gambell: dynamic prints and ethical practices
27 May 2012 by Joyce Thornton
Tamasyn Gambell (Texprint 2005) has turned her passion for printed textiles into a successful, rewarding and ethical business. Her dynamic prints are strong and versatile, and are relevant for both fashion and interiors. Based in London’s Clerkenwell, she hand prints much of her work herself. Tamasyn began her career in Paris, moving there shortly after exhibiting with Texprint at Indigo, Paris, where many of her initial contacts were made.
What drew you to specialise in print?
I have always been attracted to pattern and colour. The first time I screen-printed I was hooked. I love the physicality of it, and the way you can change a surface so instantly.
Are there particular qualities needed for this discipline?
You need a good sense of scale, colour, layout and pattern. You have to be patient as the set up can be a lengthy process and things often go wrong. It’s also quite mathematical when designing the repeat.
How have you found working as a designer running your own business?
I have really enjoyed it. It’s been a fantastic challenge and you are constantly learning things. There are definite pitfalls and financial struggles at times – down sides are the long hours and the late payers. But ultimately it’s really rewarding – to know you have been responsible for everything you achieve. I love having the freedom to explore my own designs. I found working for other people very limiting – I have a very clear idea of what I want to produce.
Tamasyn Gambell scarves
What are you working on now?
I am currently working on two collaborative projects. The first is with the accessory brand Cherchbi – I am designing and printing tweed for their beautifully hand-made bags [autumn/winter 2012 menswear range]. Also I have designed and printed the fabric for a range of re-upholstered mid-century Scandinavian furniture pieces, cushions and lampshades being sold in the wonderful new shop: Forest, London.
What inspires you?
I spent some time in Sweden and I was really inspired by the clean graphic prints, bold colours and shapes found in design and architecture. Their sense of balance, and form really made an impression on me. This way of working, combined with a love for strong tribal patterns really informs my design work.
Tamasyn Gambell notebooks
Favourite materials and techniques?
Screen-printing is my favourite technique. I love working with silks, wools and linens - really rich fabrics that absorb dyes and pigments and produce lovely radiant colours.
You are very committed to ethical practices - do you think it’s still slow progress in this area for fashion and textiles?
It’s definitely gaining momentum. People are so much more informed now than they were even five years ago. It’s going to be slow to reach all areas of the market - but high- and mid-end brands are making a lot of positive changes. I believe ethical practices will continue to be adopted and gain a powerful presence over the next decade.
Can you describe a typical day?
I cycle to the print studio in south London – usually arriving at 9am. I change into my boiler suit and begin preparing the screens and the table for a day of screen-printing. There are always new designs, fabrics or products to print. The space is shared with other print designers and small businesses so it’s great to be surrounded by creativity. I work with my assistant, usually printing until about 5pm - then I will cycle back east and continue to work on emails, planning, deliveries and orders until 7 or 8pm.
Highlights of your career so far?
Getting to see my work on the Sonia Rykiel catwalk. Selling my work at the Tate was also a massive highlight for me. My father and I used to love going to exhibitions there together - it was one of our little rituals. He passed away before I set up my own business, so having my work on sale in the Tate Gallery shop was a very poignant moment for me.
Plans for the future?
I am exhibiting at Tent, London and I’m planning some new homeware accessories for this exhibition. I would like to continue to collaborate with other designers, learning from each other and sharing ideas. Longer term, I would love to work with Ercol and design prints for their beautiful furniture!
Advice for those about to graduate?
Enjoy it! Experiment and take opportunities as and when they come. I’ve learned that it can be equally valuable to learn what you don’t want to do as much as what you do.