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Alumna stories: Elmina Fors, knitwear designer

25 March 2017 by Roger Tredre

Swedish knitwear designer Elmina Fors has built her own small business following her experience at Texprint in 2014. And small can be very beautiful.

She comes from a town where daylight never happens for three weeks in December and temperatures plummet to -30 degrees centigrade. No surprise perhaps that knitwear designer Elmina Fors likes to make what she describes as “warming clothes”.

© Elmina Fors 2017

The Swede, who was a Texprint designer in 2014, grew up in Kiruna, the northernmost town in Sweden. “You wear wool garments most of the year. I do like to use natural fibres and good quality yarns that feel good on the body.”

Elmina Fors Knitwear designs, makes and sells knitted accessories including scarves, hats, socks and wrist warmers, as well as soft throws and cushions. Her teal and orange Artisk scarf, available in teal and orange, or black and white, is a typical example of her work, the pattern inspired by age-old Northern Scandinavian patterns used on jumpers, made in a soft slightly felted Merino lambswool, wide and long to wrap over the shoulders. For the Spring/Summer season, she’s working with some new natural yarns including cotton/lambswool for her oversized Trekant jumpers and a lovely Swedish linen yarn from Vaxbo Lin for linen jumpers and scarves. 

© Elmina Fors 2017

A sense of tradition and connection with the past runs through all her work. “I like the history of patterns. Everyone has a connection to repeated patterns and geometric shapes because people have been doing them for a very long time. There is such a wealth of patterns that have travelled across the world.”

At home in Kiruna, handknitting was a family matter. “My mum taught me how to knit, and her mum taught her. It’s always something that people do there – people make things for themselves or family members. You fix things in your own home. I like that idea of DIY. You don’t have to buy new all the time.”

Saying Scarf: only wear clothes you can dance in  © Elmina Fors 2017

And there was a joyous communal aspect to it too. “Only wear clothes you can dance in” are the words stitched into her Saying Scarf, taking the words from a favourite saying of a friend. (See Fors’ video with the same title, created with R&A Collaborations).

Only Wear Clothes You Can Dance In - Elmina Fors from R&A Collaborations on Vimeo.

She first came to the south coast of England to study knitwear design at Brighton University, expanding her skill sets to machine knitting and developing her own design aesthetic. Then came the breakthrough with Texprint, which gave her the platform to present her work on an international stage in Paris.

© Elmina Fors 2017

Fors made her home in nearby Hove, coincidentally not far from Texprint honorary chairman Barbara Kennington. The designer now plans to relocate back to her home country, where she has identified a studio in Stockholm, ready for occupation in July, but she intends to maintain her strong links with the UK.

She has good memories of Texprint. “It was really useful, all the support and advice, and meeting other designers. I looked at all the big labels and design houses at Première Vision Designs and asked myself whether it was possible to have your own business and keep it very small and local. So it started as a kind of experiment.”

The experiment has worked out well, although it’s hard work, as Fors acknowledges. “I have always wanted to work hard and I’ve learned to make decisions on my own. I think many makers are quite introvert personalities, and we have to be focused and organised. Yes, it’s hard but it can be so rewarding.”

Texprint’s Barbara Kennington says: “I love Elmina’s work and admire her desire to ‘do her own thing’. Setting up on your own is not for every designer. It can be tough as you learn to multi-task all the essentials - from marketing to organising production, finance management to deciding on retail options (pop ups, fairs or selling to buyers).”

She adds: “To run your own business, you need to be willing to work hard, call in friends and family to help, and put up with limited studio space and often working on your own. Participating in the Texprint programme certainly helps young designers to prepare for this.”

www.elminafors.uk

© Elmina Fors 2017

Surface View: the 2017 EDITS collection

16 February 2017 by Roger Tredre

Collection curated by leading interiors, food and still life stylist Sania Pell

A delightful new home textiles collection from Surface View is titled Abstraction | Edit – and every designer involved is from Texprint.

The artwork is inspired by drawing and mark making, while the colour palette is delicious – teal, terracotta, peach, mint, neutral shades of grey from pale to dark, with flashes of jewel-like emerald green and sapphire.

Texprint 'Abstraction' EDITS collection for Surface View © Mikey Womack 2016

Six of the 2016 Texprint designers participated in the collection, which was developed in collaboration with Surface View, the bespoke interior decoration company. Curated by leading interiors, food and still life stylist Sania Pell, it’s a real treat.

Designers participating include Chloe Frost (winner of the 2016 Texprint Colour Award), Mikey Womack, Grace Lomas (Texprint Fashion Award winner), Irene Infantes, Isla Middleton (Texprint Interiors Award winner) and Emmeline Kellett.

The new collection is now available to view and buy on the Surface View website. The designers receive important publicity and recognition as well as royalties on all sales. Products include printed cushions, lampshades, window films and large-scale canvases.

Texprint 'Abstraction' EDITS collection for Surface View

This is the latest annual installment in an ongoing, acclaimed series of curated collaborations (EDITS) developed by Surface View with a different curator every year. For 2017, it’s the turn of Pell, a London-based interiors stylist perhaps best known for her long-term association with Elle Decoration magazine (regularly styling interior trend stories and covers). “It’s always such a pleasure looking through new designers’ work,” says Pell. “It’s the part of my work I enjoy the most, and I always seek to include as much new work as possible in my styling.”

She was instantly drawn to the free mark-making style of Mikey Womack, with its hint of graffiti. “It really captured my attention. His drawing is so fresh. It’s interesting to see how it can be explored through home products, such as on a cushion.”

How does she find inspiration in her work? “It’s a feeling, isn’t it? It’s a hunch with trends – something out there in the ether.”

You can tell that Pell has the right hunches. On the day we meet, she’s wearing a zesty green top that is a dead ringer for Pantone’s 2017 Colour of the Year (the exact colour name is Greenery 15-0343), but it’s most certainly not a case of her copying Pantone!

One of her favourite jobs last year was styling product for Tate Modern In the museum’s new extension just before it opened. “We really pared it back and presented the product as hero in the amazing architectural space. I felt like one of the luckiest people in the world.”

Sania Pell for the Tate Modern

Pell herself trained as a textile designer at the Edinburgh College of Art, and it remains her first love. She enjoyed working for London studios for six years before deciding to try her hand at styling and shifting into a new career. Fast forward to the present – and she’s a popular and highly respected name in the interiors styling world, with two books to her name (as well as two children).

She laughs as she explains how she was put forward for Texprint some 20 years ago, but didn’t make the final award-winning cut. “I thought I had a chance at the Colour Award, but when they were reviewing my portfolio they skipped past the colour and were drawn to my black and white drawings instead.” So it’s a pleasure for her to return in style for the Surface View collaboration.

Founded nine years ago, Surface View is part of digital print company VGL. It uses state-of-the-art print technology for application to a wide variety of interior products, building a reputation for being able to print images on virtually anything.

Based in Reading, Berkshire, the company already has a long association with Texprint, producing the signage for events in London, Paris and Shanghai. The collaboration came about as a result of conversations with managing director Michael Ayerst following a visit to the Texprint exhibition in London in 2014.

Alissa Sequeira of the Surface View marketing team says: “This year’s Texprint Edit takes on an entirely different identity. Mixing the designers’ diverse styles, Sania has curated an exciting selection of work that brings a fresh offering to our Edits. Supporting upcoming talent is always a pleasure for us and we are thrilled to continue the collaboration with Texprint. It has been wonderful to work with Sania – her expansive experience in both design and styling is evident in her considered approach to the curation of the Edit. We’re delighted with the final choices and are looking forward to working with these superb products.”

www.saniapell.com 

www.surfaceview.co.uk

Texprint 'Abstraction' EDITS collection for Surface View © Chloe Frost 2016

 

Texprint 'Abstraction' EDITS collection for Surface View © Emmeline Kellett 2016

Alumna Stories: Sarah Podlesny, The Aviary Studio

24 January 2017 by Elli Weir

Texprint alumna Sarah Podlesny has worked at Zara Home and designed for many famous names. Now she has set up her own weaving and design consultancy, The Aviary Studio.

She only launched The Aviary Studio in 2016, but it’s already built an impressive list of clients from Gap to Calvin Klein. British weave designer Sarah Podlesny has particularly caught the eye of the American market – and now has an agent in New York selling her designs.

On a chilly morning in January, she takes the train from her studio in Essex to meet us at Central Saint Martins, the college where she studied textiles. Her years there were a rush of creativity and technical innovation culminating in an eye-catching graduate collection.

However it wasn't until after Central Saint Martins, with the help of Texprint, that she started to focus her career. She won the Breaking New Ground Award at Texprint back in 2010 – though starting her own business has been a long time coming. "It was always the plan, but it’s difficult to start a business. You need money behind you and experience, so I waited until after I’d had the Spanish experience. During that time I was able to save up enoughmoney.”

The “Spanish experience” was her spell at Zara Home as a weave specialist, lasting two years. ”I’d only ever worked for a very small, creative company, and I knew that if I wanted to start my own business I first needed to see what it was like at the other end of the spectrum, to get an all-round view of the industry."

Before Zara Home, she spent four years working in London at WOVEN Studio,started by another star Texprint alumna, Laura Miles, who recognised Podlesny’s talent.

At Zara Home, the learning curve stretched from understanding the technicalities of fabric structure to dealing with large-scale production. Another takeaway from Zara Home was the process of research. "I was spending a lot of time gathering information on trends, from the runway, from various exhibitions, books, artists, and from visiting antique markets.’’

This research process helped curate Podlesny's unique style, such an important part of The Aviary's success. "Everything that’s going on in the world informs the fashion industry. I know that the clients I’m selling to are taking inspiration from so many things other than textiles."

Weaving a length commissioned by Rare Thread www.rarethread.co.uk

Podlesny notes the importance of maintaining a balance between inspiration and practicality. "I have to try to make swatches that can be easily reproduced, because the way that fabrics are woven by hand is totally different to how they are produced at a mill. Then there are other clients who buy purely for inspiration – they might put the swatches on their mood boards and then design their collection around them.’’

Making it on your own is no small feat in a hugely competitive field. Podlesny's advice? "If you want to start your own business, don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t happen straightaway. It’s taken me years of planning, years of saving, and of acquiring experience in different job roles. Nothing is going to happen overnight, it takes a lot of work."

That may be an understatement. Hand weaving is a time-consuming craft. Podlesny’s method straddles a line between the old and the new. "The loom is operated by a pedal underneath which lifts the correct sequence of warp yarns. I insert each weft manually, one by one, beating in each row as I go. It’s quite basic and slow but the difference is that the weave structures are fed into the loom via computer, which helps a lot."

Sampling on the loom

Crafting is in Podlesny’s blood. Her family’s weaving connections go back four generations. And she puts huge passion and energy into her work. "With commission work, there’s often quite a tight deadline, and your blood, sweat and tears really do go into it in the most literal way. When I hand the work over to the client, it’s like they’re taking away all of my stress!”

Working under her own brand remains a dream for Podlesny. “I’m still right at the beginning, but I can see that things are progressing and that’s good enough for me right now."

Where would she like to end up? "I would really love to make fabrics for Balmain,” she admits. “But also I have an interest in companies that are using smart materials, such as Nike.”

the-aviary-studio.com

Sampling on the loom

ComOn 2016: the designer’s view from Como

10 December 2016 by Editor

The Italian trade organisation Unindustria Como represents a core of 300 Como-based textile companies and is responsible for organising the ComON programme, now in its tenth year.

Unindustria Como’s continued sponsorship of Texprint again provided the opportunity for seven talented Texprint 2016 designers to participate in seven-week internships this autumn in the heart of Como with some of the finest textile companies in Italy. More than ever supporting graduate designers through properly structured internships is proving invaluable in helping them fast track their experience and commercial understanding.

Laura Sofia Clerici and Andrea Taborelli talk with designer Alice Timmis

Laura Sofia Clerici and Andrea Taborelli, who are both on the ComOn select committee, came to Texprint London earlier this year to personally select the seven short listed.

Short listed designers at Texprint London with Laura Sofia and Andrea, and on the right, Peter Ring-Lefevre, Texprint creative director

Texprint designer Alice Timmis says: “During my placement in Como, I was given complete freedom to design my own collection of jacquard fabrics, and the opportunity to have some of my designs realised into actual cloth too. The mill where I was placed, Tessitura Taborelli, offers so many options to the fashion industry due to its size and range of different production looms. My time in Como has been really inspiring, living in a new culture whilst engaging with its impressive textile industry.”

Designer Amy Smith adds: “I’ve had such an amazing time in Italy and want to thank Texprint for giving me the opportunity. I've learnt so much and now understand better industry standards and what clients and producers will expect of me as a designer.”

“My mill (Lisa) and my tutor, senior designer Letizia Rodilosso, have been great. The studio designers all speak really good English taking the pressure off my (very basic) Italian! I was assisting them with general tasks such as putting designs into repeat and doing colour separations, while also working on my own client briefs and designs for the new collection to be shown at PV in February. Mainly on childrenswear conversational prints which is a new area for me, but I have really enjoyed the fun, colours and prints. Also I have been drawing straight into Photoshop with a graphics tablet which has been a fantastic skill to learn and will help my design work moving forward. Letizia was really helpful with feedback and pointers on what helps designs sell better such as avoiding lines and directional prints.”

Another Texprint designer, Esther Rigg, enjoyed herself too: “While working at Teseo, I visited Como Crea with the design team.  It was especially interesting to see how the mill chooses prints, and after exhibiting at Première Vision Designs, to understand how the process works from a buyers perspective. It has been a great opportunity to design to a brief and expand my digital skills, putting designs into repeat and preparing files for weaving and printing.

The inspiring research studio at Erica

The ComON Creative Sharing programme included visits to the Como Silk Museum, Antonio Ratti Foundation archives, Centro Tessile Serico to talk about their fabric testing laboratory, Textile Solution Centre, a major centre for improving and mastering ink-jet production, and Arte Miniartextil for a fine art exhibition. Also visits to see the state-of-the-art printing facilities and highly regarded textile archives at Ratti and Canepa, to find out how these impressive mills are adapting their production methods to reduce water use and remove toxic chemicals. Designer Jacob Monk worked at the Clerici Tessuto mill where the designers were shown high-end archive designs as well as the production processes.  

The designers also spent a day with Como-based swim/resort wear printers, and attended a lifelstyle and consumer presentation by renowned trend specialist David Shah.  Designer Melissa Ougham visited the swimwear fair Mare di Moda in Cannes with her mill Taiana.

Design archives at Erica

Italian companies that generously invited Texprint designers included Tessile Erica SpA, Seterie Argenti SpA, Clerici Tessuti SpA, Taiana, Lisa SpA, Tessitura Taborelli, and Tesseo SpA.

A final comment from designer Megan Clarke: “Overall the experience was really great. The ComOn team were lovely and very helpful with any problems we had. The mill I was at, Erica, was fantastic! They allowed me to produce a mini collection for them to demonstrate their fabrics on as well as working on briefs for fashion clients. If I ever needed different art supplies they would order them which meant nothing was off limits with regards to painting and mark making etc.  I would definitely recommend Como to anyone who wishes to find out more about the Italian production industry - but would suggest learning more Italian before going!”

 

London Transport Museum: Weaving Futures In The Studio

01 December 2016 by Editor

Between now and February 2017 (the programme started in November), London Transport Musuem are hosting an event called Weaving Futures In The Studio, part of their year-long public programme of events, and situated in the ‘pop-up’ designer’s Studio integrated into LTM's temporary Designology exhibition.  It is a three-month focus on digital jacquard woven textile design and moquette concepts, exploring process and making, and is curated in partnership with research and design industry experts Philippa Brock and Samuel Plant Dempsey.

Philippa Brock X-Form

Weaving Futures explores the importance and potential of woven textiles to the London Transport System and features a state of the art TC2 digital jacquard loom. The idea is to actively explore how good design makes life in London better, through residencies and participatory workshops. The work does not exist currently and as the exhibition progresses this will be made and will be displayed. It also examines the process of designing for and production of woven textiles.

Camira - transport loom

Wallace Sewell - overground weaving

Each week there are different weave designers, researchers, artists and industry designers resident in the studio, with each resident responding to the same design brief, relating to data and transport. The residents will be working with Studio weavers, Rosie Green and Hanna Vinlöf–Nylen (Texprint alumna), to realise their final design on the digital loom. Outcomes and final designs will be displayed in the Studio and shared during the Museum’s Late Debate and Friday Late events.

Priti Veja - double reverse furry with LED

Residents: Assemble, Beatwoven, Philippa Brock, Camira, Central Saint Martins, BA Textile students, Samuel Dempsey, Linda Florence, Gainsborough Weaving Company, Eleanor Pritchard, Rare Thread (aka Kirsty McDougall and Laura Miles), Josephine OrtegaIsmini Samanidou, Studio Houndstooth, Takram & Priti Veja

Samuel Plant Dempsey

Drop into London Transport Museum’s pop-up Studio for a unique behind the scenes chance to experience contemporary transport design innovation through a year-long programme of events. The studio is open to the general public and one entry ticket gets you in for a year. The programme is part of this exciting Designology exhibition and includes:

·      one-day workshops with London’s best known transport designers

·      design residencies, briefs and challenges

·      intellectual late debates, workshops and talks

The workshop programme includes among others:

25, 26, 30 January 2017 – Research Collaboration with Brock, Dempsey and Veja - Designers Philippa Brock, Samuel Plant Dempsey & Dr. Priti Veja will be coming together in the studio to work collaboratively on a brief, combining their expertise in design thinking, with Brock on 3D woven jacquard and haptics, Dempsey on product design and 3D printing, and Veja on woven e-textiles. Find out how electronics can be constructed in woven structures to make integrated soft circuits, wearable technology and smart textiles. philippabrock.com I design-plant.co.uk I weft-lab.com

9,10 February 2017 – Weaving Music with BeatWoven®  - Meet award winning, avant-garde textiles label BeatWoven® and find out how they use songs and sounds to visualise and orchestrate pattern formations in textile design, particularly through the technique of weaving. Watch live as they work with our weavers to interpret a brief on the Digital Loom. beatwoven.co.uk

17, 18 February – Upholster and Accessorise with Eleanor Pritchard - Meet hands-on London weave studio; Eleanor Pritchard (Texprint alumna), designers and manufactures of upholstery and interior accessories. Find out about using geometrics and graphic reversible patterns to create clean, contemporary design and observe their approach to our transport brief. eleanorpritchard.com

BeatWoven® Cool Tone Fabric 4

 

 

 

Texprint at Intertextile Shanghai, October 2016

25 November 2016 by Editor

Amy Smith and Jacob Monk on The Bund against the iconic Shanghai skyline

October 2016 saw Texprint exhibit for the fourth time at Intertextile Shanghai Apparel Fabrics sponsored by Messe Frankfurt (HK), and again it was an incredibly positive experience for two winning Texprint designers.

Busy Texprint stand in Verve for Design section (Amy Smith's design can be seen on the overhead banner)

Over-and-above the small stand allocated, the Messe Frankfurt (HK) travel award again provided an additional metre of stand space plus flight and accommodation for the designer whose work was selected to create a visual identity for the show’s ‘Verve for Design’ section.  This year that designer was Amy Smith.

A further metre of stand space was generously sponsored by The Woolmark Company for the winner of the 2016 Woolmark Company Texprint Award, Jacob Monk, to show his collection. The result was that two designers were able to show their collections and experience the Asian market first hand. The majority of visitors were from China and Asia although the designers also met with visitors from Australia, Middle East, Russia and Eastern Europe.

Sarah Cheyne, Texprint project coordinator, who accompanied Amy and Jacob, says:“This was a very positive show for Texprint - we had many compliments on our stand and it was good to be showing alongside UK studios Circle Line, Whiston & Wright, Design Union, Acornand Amanda Kelly.  It was also good to see Texprint alumni, Jane Han Zhang and Tali Furman, successfully exhibiting.”

Student helpers Xiaojian Zheng(Scarlet) and Qi Wang (Cookie)

Two enthusiastic students, Xiaojian Zheng(Scarlet) and Qi Wang (Cookie), provided by Zhejiang University with the help of Course Director Xi Chen, acted as helpers and translators. Jacob says: “The show was very exciting but also very difficult. I just assumed that at a business event more people would speak English and this wasn’t the case. However I learnt a lot just from being there and observing others - how different studios display their collections, and what style of work they bring to Asia. I have learnt the importance of knowing your market, and it was interesting to see the style they like in Asia.”

Busy Texprint stand in Verve for Design section

Neither of the designers sold work on this visit however both say that they found the experience invaluable and that even in a few days they learned so much about the Asian textile industry.

“The trip was very inspiring,” says Jacob, “Shanghai is an amazing city, there’s so much to explore and experience – the many cultural differences, the food and markets - even the things you really don’t see in UK, like scaffolding made of bamboo! And the mix of the new with the old, such as the Yuyuan Garden hidden in the middle of the city.”

Amy continues: “It was good to see what designs people were interested in compared to London and Paris, and so inspiring for my new collection – I loved it all, from the beautiful gardens we visited, to the paving on the streets. In future I would also consider designing different collections for different markets worldwide.”

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