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One year on: Israel Parra-Zanabria is making waves in Mexico City
17 December 2013 by Editor
One year on, we talk to Texprint 2012 alumnus Israel Parra who was born in Mexico, trained in Scotland, and is now making waves back in his hometown Mexico City.
Israel’s highly distinctive design work is inspired by diverse influences – from manmade objects to nature finds, from brutalist architecture to his recollection of flowers - always altering conventional notions of what will work for fashion or interiors.
Multilingual, passionate and a highly focused textile designer, he says: “My design practice is driven by the combination of traditional silkscreen techniques and digital printing processes to ensure innovation and uniqueness.”
Do you work from home or studio? What inspires you?
I work from both at home and at a studio that I have started to build up very close to my home in Mexico City. I find inspiration in Mexico’s vibrant lifestyle as I cycle around the city with my camera and sketchbooks always on hand to document and record new inspirations.
I have been always drawn to nature and work both from life as well as from photographs to capture as much information as possible. Hence, my work is fused and digitally hand crafted to obtain best results.
What have been the key challenges?
Working on my own means everything is a challenge! From researching and exploring the creative process to developing a new collection, to then finding contacts, places to exhibit and sales points. Then of course organising and managing my accounts, social networks, making connections with national and international manufacturers etc etc.
However, as I lived in the UK and Europe for nearly 5 years, the most challenging thing has been returning to Mexico City. The entire metropolis has changed so dramatically that at the beginning I found myself immersed in a city I no longer recognized; but gradually I’ve been invited to participate in a broad range of opportunities and design platforms that are now blooming in Mexico City and feel settled here again.
What new projects have you been working on?
I have made contact with Mexican fashion companies such as Pineda Covalin http://www.pinedacovalin.com/_eng/ - whose design signature highlights Mexican culture and folklore, and received very good feedback on my latest project This City after being exhibiting at Cultura Colectiva (I’m now establishing sales points in Mexico City and possibly in San Diego, which is great).
Also I’ve worked with Richard Ward’s furniture design studio Wawa and Anne Tyrrell’s design consultancy, both based in London.
Again in Mexico I have exhibited at Zona MACO, one of Latin America’s most important platforms for Contemporary Art and Design, and have taken part Mexican Design competition Quorum 2013.
How important is your website and social media activity?
Digital media is critical as it helps me present my work to people around the world. Via my website I have been contacted by studios and clients - I know that if I don’t post or give updates then I won’t receive feedback or contacts from future clients.
What are your plans for the future?
I am currently developing new skills, in particular, tailoring, as I want to learn more about using textiles on the human body, and I’m considering returning to the UK to take an MA degree in Fashion. With that in mind, I am starting to research for funding and scholarships as international tuition fees are so expensive!
In what ways was Texprint a help to you?
Texprint helped in so many different ways, helping me to see how I could develop my work, to evaluate myself and my ambitions, and, most importantly, to always challenge myself – and thanks to Texprint I exhibited at Indigo/Première Visionin Paris and made great contacts there which was invaluable.
Israel showing his work to buyers at Indigo, Paris, October 2012
What do you love most about what you're doing, and like least?
I am always amused by how an idea evolves and it is then transformed into a physical object - an idea transformed into a drawing, then into a design, then into fabric for a fashion or interiors collection, to finally be exhibited - to follow this entire process is very rewarding. I am sometimes disappointed with myself if I make mistakes or miss details, however after each project is finished I find those mistakes have been key learning points for self-development, so I always look forward!
Below: cushions from Israel's Audubon Collection developed for a private client in Mexico City.
WGSN Global Fashion Awards, Emerging Fashion Brand: Emma J Shipley
07 November 2013 by Editor
The WGSN Global Fashion Awards held 5th November saw Texprint alumna Emma J Shipley winning the prestigious Avery Dennison Emerging Fashion Brand Award.
Speaking from the awards venue, the V&A museum, London, Tim Voegele-Downing, Global Creative Director at Avery Dennison RBIS commented: “While we saw phenomenal entries from all finalists, Emma J Shipley ultimately stood out. She created not just an electrifying collection but also a powerful brand that helps differentiate her products". The award includes a €12,000 prize from Avery Dennison to help elevate the brand.
Emma Shipley (centre), with Tim Voegele-Downing and Susie Lau / photo: Dave Benett
Since graduating from the Royal College of Art in 2011 Emma has won great respect, not only for her highly skilled and imaginative drawings transposed so beautifully onto silk, wool and cashmere scarves, but for her careful and creative brand development.
From the outset Emma has used social media to connect with fans and buyers - including guest editing the Browns London blog in May 2011 - and just a few months ago she launched her online shop.
Her business has also been built on smart thinking. Collaborations with Anthroplogie, Nicholas Kirkwood, Camira and Osborne & Little have opened new avenues and audiences for her extraordinary work. She has also exhibited at London Fashion Week. Retailers for her scarves include Liberty, Fortnum & Mason, Harvey Nichols and independent retailer Wolf & Badger.
Emma Shipley with Anne Tyrrell MBE
Confindustria Como annually supports six Texprint designers to participate in a programme of internships with leading Italian mills in Como to see the Italian textile industry in action, and in October 2011 Emma worked her internship with Ratti SpA, one of the leading Como-based companies in the international luxury textiles industry. The bulk of her production is now printed in Italy and stems from this early relationship building and experience of the production process.
In May 2013 Emma was also awarded the RISE Newcomer Award at the UK Fashion & Textile Awards 2013, presented by HRH the Princess Royal at One Mayfair in London.
WGSN, Confindustria Como and Ratti are all valued sponsors of Texprint.
Sophie Manners: One Year On, now based at Cockpit Arts
29 August 2013 by Editor
Philippa Watkins, journalist, Texprint council member and recently retired RCA senior tutor specialising in weave, catches up with Texprint alumni weaver Sophie Manners.
It has been a busy year for Sophie - since showing with Texprint at Indigo September 2012 (where she was selected for the Woolmark Texprint Award), as well as showing with Texprint in Hong Kong and enjoying a two and half month internship in Italy working with Como silk weaver Taroni, she recently moved into her own studio space at Cockpit Arts Holborn in London.
Woolmark Texprint Award judges examine Sophie's work at Indigo 2013
This was for her an absolute joy. To have been selected for a studio place and bursary, which Cockpit Arts offer on their incubator programme to help talented designer-makers - just being there is a recognised benchmark of quality craftsmanship and designer excellence - has given her a huge confidence boost and a solid base from where she can further develop her own very distinctive design work.
Sophie's studio at cockpit Arts
Moving in her computerised Harris loom, her hank winder and dyeing equipment, thanks to a grant from the Worshipful Company of Weavers, Sophie is now exploring again her distinctly structured woven designs, including the velvet techniques she developed as a student at the RCA. Currently she is working on new ideas for HodgeSellers Design Consultancy, a leading textile design consultancywhich works on developing materials and ways of processing new ideas to bring a distinctive edge to fabrics for their international clients, among whom are some of Europe’s leading luxury brands.
As well as commissioned design work Sophie is producing her own woven products prompted by the opportunity offered by the Cockpit Arts Open Studios. New and distinctive designs for scarves and cushions include tie dyed warps and a novel ‘marbled’ technique which she applies to the warp before weaving, thus producing a beautiful, uniquely coloured effect for scarves. sophiemanners.tumblr.com
But none of this might have happened if it hadn’t been for Texprint. “Texprint opened up so many opportunities” she says, “it really was the best thing I could have done after graduating. And I sold quite a few designs at Texprint in Indigo, which was so gratifying - just to know people appreciated my work.”
It was through Texprint and ComOn in Italy, which set up the opportunity for six Texprint designer internships in Italy, that she was selected to work with Taroni Spa, one the oldest silk mills (founded in 1880) in Como, in the production of superb quality silks, including jacquards and prints for fashion and furnishing. The experience she says was invaluable - to observe at first hand how the industry works, as well as getting some of her own designs into work. And it has provided her with a sense of how to approach commissioned briefs for clients and how to market her work.
Cockpit Arts is an award winning social enterprise and the UK’s only creative-business incubator for designer-makers, whosemission it is to support and promote talented designer-makers from all backgrounds through all stages of their career. Their incubator studios in Holborn, WC1, close to the Hatton Garden jewellery quarter, and in Deptford SE8, are the centre of an exciting community of artists and craftspeople, both established designer-makers and those who are just starting out.
Texprint 2013 Selection Interviews: how, why, who and what
23 July 2013 by Editor
With Texprint 2013 well underway this seems a timely opportunity to track back to the first stage of the selection process as we catch up with Texprint’s creative director Peter Ring-Lefevre to discuss the how, why, who and what of the Texprint interviews.
Peter, over 190 graduates are interviewed over a three-week period – quite a schedule, how does it all work?
Shortly after Easter Texprint approaches all the UK’s design colleges and universities, inviting textile course leaders and tutors to put forward their most talented designers who are about to graduate, and who they feel are most likely to benefit from the Texprint experience. That they are Trained in Britain is the key, the designers are international as well as British-born, and can be graduating from BA or MA degree courses (though can only be selected once for Texprint, if at BA then not again at MA).
Photo left: Keighley Sheperdly, Sarah Cheyne / Photo right: Neil Bamford, Claire Whiston, Emma Shipley (hidden)
This is an intense time for the Texprint team as tutors are contacted, queries answered, designers telephoned and emailed to establish when they can come to London (as they hail from all corners of the UK!) and interview timetables are scheduled, changed and scheduled again!
Well over 240 designers were put forward this year by 37 UK colleges, which is fantastic. However as we are only able to interview around 190 designers over our planned three weeks, already decisions need to be made!
Prior to this I am in touch with our network of industry contacts, all amazing champions of Texprint each of whom give up time in their busy schedules to get involved and interview for at least one day. I also aim to invite several course leaders to participate as this is the best way to illustrate what Texprint is looking for and I know they find the experience very helpful.
JO PIERCE: “It’s great to be asked. As a senior lecturer and someone putting forward students for Texprint it’s a great opportunity to see first hand what Texprint is looking for, also to see the benchmark. It’s useful to meet with others in the industry and hear their views on students, and to see what they’re looking for.”
Angela cassidy, Noel Chapman, Jessica Quinton
Why is it important to conduct individual face-to-face interviews and who does the interviewing?
This is one of the unique aspects of the Texprint programme. It is only by interviewing each designer, looking in detail at their portfolios and asking probing questions, that one can discover where their true potential lies.
It’s a rigorous process and the first stage of mentoring. Our interviewers are all experts in one or more textile discipline, they are all professionals and working in industry, have their own studios or textile-based businesses, and in some cases they are alumni. Given their wealth of experience the interviewers can quickly assess where a designer is coming from, what their interests and skills are and what potential they offer if given the best opportunities to showcase their work.
The face-to-face interview and the knowledge we build up of the selected designers also means that we can wholeheartedly recommend these designers to potential employers, not just for their design skills but for their confidence, work ethic, desire to succeed etc.
CLAIRE WHISTON: “I love spending a day immersing myself with students and their portfolios. Often at degree and MA shows you do not get to see the back up research or hear directly from the students what their work is about. Something new and refreshing always crops up and new trends emerge. The mix of colleges allows me to overview the current year and points me to new emerging courses.”
And every designer benefits from this opportunity - for many, even if not selected for Texprint, the interview itself is a revelation. The interviewers are able to swiftly highlight aspects of their work or suggest next steps that the designers may not have even considered.
JANE KELLOCK: “It’s exciting to be part of an initiative that supports British design and helps graduates reach the next level after completing their education. I find it very inspiring, being involved helps keep me in touch with what’s inspiring young people - and I feel passionate about helping young designers and want to give something back.”
Jane Kellock, David Edmond, Jeremy Somers
What are the interview panels looking for in each designer’s portfolio?
In September the selected designers will exhibit as professional designers at Indigo/Première Vision. Indigo is central to the Texprint programme and experience - however as Texprint is increasingly seen as a design source for all creative industries – fashion, interiors, product, accessories, automotive, graphics among others - it is important that we think beyond fashion when considering the work.
JEREMY SOMERS: “I’m looking for originality, great colour and creativity, thoughtfulness, exceptional drawing skills and technical ability, plus confidence and conviction – and ultimately whether the graduate will gain from the Texprint experience.”
Primarily we are looking for 24 designers whose work pushes the boundaries! Collections of work that demonstrate innovation, creativity, skill and commercial awareness. It is also important to assess not just the work shown, but whether the designer has more ideas that can be developed in the future.
DAVID EDMOND: “Helping out with Texprint is a joy for me. It is great to see new designers’ potential and be able to help them with insight and directional advice.”
ELEANOR PRITCHARD: “I really enjoy seeing a snapshot of the work coming out of British textile courses. It’s a real privilege to be shown and talk through the sketchbooks, the journey and process behind a collection. I got a huge amount from Texprint when I graduated and am very happy to contribute to helping the next generation of designers.”
The interviews are also a unique opportunity to track how standards across the UK are changing or developing. In some cases one is disappointed if standards seem weaker than previous years, in other cases, you can be completely overawed by the extraordinary work of many of today’s most talented graduates.
SARAH CHEYNE: “As I work in the more commercial sector of textiles it is refreshing to see portfolios of work which are not necessarily constrained by feasibility or production costs.”
Wrapping up, Peter says the key is to evaluate whether the interviewee is really ready for the opportunities Texprint can open up for them – is the designer focused and determined, do they understand the skills they need to be successful – not just to be talented, that’s a given, but also do they show enthusiasm, confidence and a willingness to learn, fast!
NEIL BAMFORD: “Texprint showcases our textile design graduates to the international industry. Being an ‘ex-Texprinter’ I am acutely aware of the support and springboard it gave me, so it’s important for me to give back and in turn support this great charity.”
Chris Judge, Helen Palmer
Texprint 2013 Interview Panels:
Texprint would like to take this opportunity to warmly thank all the professionals who participated in the 2013 Selection Interviews - your time, energy and experience is hugely appreciated as always.
Kim Avella: tutor Royal College of Art, freelance designer
Neil Bamford: Mint design studio
Joanna Bowring: sponsorship director Texprint, president British Textile Colour Group
Angela Cassidy: own studio, Texprint alumna
Noel Chapman: own studio
Sarah Cheyne: Johnson Cheyne design studio
Fiona Coleman: global head of colour WGSN
Isabel Dodd: tutor Chelsea College of Art & Design
Katie Dominy: founder Arts Thread
David Edmond: own studio
Katie Ellis: studio manager Circle Line Design
Philippa George: The Collection design studio
Gill Gledhill: GGHQ
Alison Grant: textile designer
Ruth Greany: fabric editor WGSN
Janet Holbrook: Holbrook Studio, Peclers
Chris Judge: own Studio
Jane Kellock: consultant Stylus and Debenhams, member British Textile Colour Group
Barbara Kennington: chairman Texprint
Jaqui Lewis: Lewis & Lewis design studio
Jaine McCormack: interiors textile design
Shane McCoubrey: McCoubrey art & design
Kirsty McDougall: tutor Brighton, Dashing Tweeds
Helen Palmer: head of materials and knitwear WGSN
Gregory Parsons: Halcyon Days, museum curator
Gina Pierce: course leader London Metropolitan
Jo Pierce: senior lecturer Central St Martins
Eleanor Pritchard: own weave studio
Jessica Quinton: Quinton Chadwick
Emma Sewell: Wallace Sewell
Keighley Shepherdly: designer Liberty Art Fabrics
Emma Shipley: own studio, Texprint alumna
Alison Smart: RA Smart Ltd
Jeremy Somers: Circle Line Design
Angela Swan: own studio, Worshipful Company of Weavers
Anne Tyrrell MBE: CEO Anne Tyrrell Design
Claire Whiston: Whiston & Wright design studio
Jane Coffey: passing on her studio-building experience
20 June 2013 by Editor
Working on the assumption that learning from someone else’s experience can both fast track success and help avoid costly mistakes, Texprint is piloting a new Hero Mentor initiative in 2013. This informal scheme will link successful Texprint alumni with those Texprint 2013 designers who wish to work freelance or establish their own businesses.
One shining example of a successful textile-based business is screen printer Jane Coffey. Sadly Jane won’t be participating in the Hero Mentor scheme as for some years now she has lived in Australia!
Jane graduated from the RCA and was selected for Texprint in 1999. She says: “Being selected for Texprint took me by surprise, it was such an amazing opportunity to show my work at Indigo. Now as a business owner I look back and realise that due to inexperience I probably didn't fully maximise the opportunity. So my message to all Texprint designers is to work hard and develop your portfolio of work because if successful at Indigo the contacts made can really help in launching your own studio.”
What happened next?
When I left the Royal College of Art I had a lot of money to pay back! My first job was with a CAD/CAM textile company (now Lectra) where I learnt how to use software and drew illustrations of clothing and accessories for Burberry - dog coats and lots of checks! As it turns out I loved working with technology and ended up teaching other designers how to use the CAD systems, taking my new skills into different workplaces and meeting many different designers - invaluable later for my own business where knowledge of digital printers and systems became really important.
I then worked as a designer for Peagreen Studio who exhibit and sell at Indigo and other trade shows.
However I always hankered after running my own business. I met my husband Adam, an engineer, in Winchester and we moved to Australia in 2005. There weren't many design companies in Perth so we decided to set up our own – our first studio was called Little Design Horse. Australia has grants for export development and we travelled around the world selling our design work.
We always wanted to create our own products so we gradually started buying machines. Every year a certain amount of profit from selling textile design went into buying new equipment. Our first was a 4-colour rotary screen printer for printing T-shirts – as our studio had a shop space at the front, so we opened the doors and started selling T-shirts that we'd printed (in the garage!). We had our first child in 2008 and that prompted us to start making more of our own products and we've never looked back.
Exhibiting and selling our products at local markets was a really important step for us and helped us find our customers. The website came later.
In the UK we're noting a move towards smaller designer/makers buying machinery and setting up their own businesses. Is this a because of the web, that it's now easier to become an e-tailer rather than suffer rent costs? Is it about independence and flexibility? Is it about provenance and customers wanting local product?
Yes to all these points. What I would point out though is that while the web allows you to sell overseas more easily, never underestimate your local market. Over time we've come to realise that we have a strong local following and these are the really important people. As is being inspired by what's around you. People like to buy something that makes them feel proud of where they live or to show off where they have visited. Selling independently means you don't have to follow trends or answer to big department stores. That's a huge freedom that you have to take advantage of.
As for retail costs, our shop/workshop Future Shelter is under one roof so is more economical. We made the move from textile studio to retailer very slowly over four years allowing time for our shop to be discovered without solely relying on a retail income. We have a bench behind the counter where we make or package products while the customer decides to buy - customers actually love this and it means our overheads are lower.
What is your set up in the studio?
In our workshop we currently have a large format digital printer, 4-colour rotary T-shirt press and screen printing facilities, a laser cutter, industrial sewing machines, a woodworking section with lots of tools big and small including a CNC cutter, and many custom built machines to make different products such as the coasters. Our latest machine is a digital ceramic decal printer and a kiln. I’m so lucky that Adam is an engineer who loves to work with all these things!
What are the difficulties you've encountered - what are the pluses?
The big plus is that I have my dream set up. We love the design and manufacturing sides, and bringing these under one roof allows us to learn about waste and test products in small batches before committing to bigger runs. This means we can be more experimental with design and not be frozen by feeling the need to follow the current trend.
Our main difficulties have been with outsourcing sewing or sometimes finding the ideal raw materials. Other difficulties have been keeping up with demand. We have purposely kept marketing to a minimum to allow us to grow slowly. This has been a really important as even with this idea of 'slow cooking' a brand and letting it naturally grow, we have a crunch time around Christmas getting orders out the door in time.
Scaling up too quickly can be a big problem if you don't plan it properly. We are right on the borderline of needed a bigger industrial space which means leasing two spaces, one retail and one industrial. Having a spilt site means needing more staff to cover the shop and production, finding the right space at the right price near public transport for your staff etc. So our next move will be a big one – and that has to be timed just right!
Another big difficulty has to be running your business with a small family - it's not easy juggling everything. I have a portable workspace in my sketchbook!
Many thanks Jane, and finally, what does the future hold?
We do a small amount of commission work for architects and private homes which is fun, so who knows where that will take us.
We need a bigger workshop and ultimately we’d like to build a workshop with a residence above or nearby - oh, and a fabric printer would complete our array of machines very nicely!
Marie Parsons: My first year at Jaguar
10 June 2013 by Editor
Marie Parsons (Texprint 2011) writes for Texprint about her experience of working with auto manufacturer and heritage brand Jaguar:
Jaguar is synonymous with great British design, luxury, and honesty in materials. I have long felt an emotional attachment to the brand: my dad owned Jags and being driven in his car always gave me a real sense of occasion. So when I was approached at my RCA show in 2011 about a role in the company’s Advanced Design team as a Colour and Materials Designer, I was understandably delighted.
Marie Parsons, left, with Jaguar creative specialist Siobhan Hughes
‘Jaguars are a perfect blend of luxury and performance in a very contemporary and emotional product. We believe our design teams are leaders in not just car design, but also in defining the luxury experience. We endeavor to find the best design talent from across the world, not just car designers but people who have the best insight into fashion, materials and product design. More often than not these sorts of talents are found in abundance at the Royal College of Art.’ Julian Thomson Advanced Design Director-Jaguar Cars
In my experience, working in the automotive industry is rarely considered as a likely option for textile designers. I specialised in mixed media at the RCA and in stitch at Chelsea College of Art & Design. During that time I sold freelance work to the New York market; to DKNY, Calvin Klein, Kenneth Cole, DVF and Armani Exchange, and later to NIKE when showing at Indigo as part of Texprint.
While the fashion industry was always my target, and continues to be my richest source of inspiration, at the RCA I concluded it was materials, their capabilities, restrictions, unexpected application and combinations that really excite me. I saw the opportunity to work for Jaguar as a challenging and welcome progression, an environment in which I could continue to explore new materials and processes in a more considered, luxurious and sophisticated manner.
At the RCA, my work was about reinterpreting traditional hand embroidery techniques in innovative ways, through digital machine embroidery and laser cutting. My graduate project was a collection of digitally embroidered shoes and a luggage trunk both inspired by the depth of reverse applique and quilting, juxtaposing rigid plastics alongside tactile latex.
Left: Marie Parsons with Professor Clare Johnston RCA at Texprint Coutts dinner March 2013; Centre and right: ©Marie Parsons: RCA 2011 final collection
My work today continues to be inquisitive and innovative. In Jaguar’s advanced design department, we work five to 10 years ahead. As it takes typically four to five years to develop a car, our role is to discover and develop advanced material ideas for car interiors and exterior details. We define the colour and material strategy and design intent of pre-production and concept vehicles.
I work in a small team of three designers, all from non-automotive backgrounds, led by creative specialist Siobhan Hughes. Our diverse backgrounds make for a dynamic and well-informed team, each bringing something unique to the table - with an area of specialism and acting as project manager for our individual programme.
We explore the 'A' surface materials: these range from woods through to rubbers, flooring, specialist paints, plastics, metal, leather, fabrics and integrated technologies; and also the 'B' surface materials which take into account eco and sustainability issues, after life and lightweight material solutions. We work to recreate familiar techniques such as perforation and embossing, embroidery and quilting.
A typical day could involve anything from rendering material ideas on an interior sketch, trend and market research, analysing material lab results, presenting proposals to senior management, checking colour in the light box, or sampling new finishes and techniques with the painters and trimmers.
My favourite aspect of the job is the continual learning process. We have so much technology and expertise on one site - in a five minute walk you can observe a clay car being modelled to scale by hand, parts being 3D printed, seats being hand-stitched, and then interact with the finished product in a virtual reality pod.
I’ve had to take on board a vast amount of information to over the last 18 months. Cars are incredibly complex objects of design and engineering and there are many factors to consider when putting forward new ideas. Materials must be premium quality with the correct aesthetic values but the longevity to still look good in the vehicle in 10 years time.
Despite working in the advanced team, materials and colours must be fit for purpose. There is a skill to retaining creativity while working with restrictions and to budget. I have learnt to employ a different eye when researching, one that is Jaguar specific, and to consider feasibility, brand values and the customer in everything I do.
Being well informed and up to date with trends and technology is crucial. My role has involved a great deal of travel in the last year - visiting suppliers, trade shows, exhibitions, mills, factories and universities - with the highlight of 2012 being an extensive research trip to China.
It’s an exciting time to be at the company, Jaguar is investing in and nurturing young designers who are given real responsibility and the chance to work alongside experienced senior designers, modellers, and technicians; with exposure to the wider business, meeting with PR, marketing and purchasing, allowing for constant and fast paced development. This energy and spirit of community makes me feel integral to the future of a thriving iconic British brand.
Emma J Shipley: out of this world storytelling
12 May 2013 by Editor
The work of Emma J Shipley is very much rooted in skilled draftsmanship - her drawings intricate, her storytelling out of this world. These are certainly a great strength, but what has set Emma apart since graduating from the RCA and being selected for Texprint 2011, is her astute and instinctive grasp of what social networking can do to drive awareness of her brand.
Texprint caught up with Emma to find out more about her inspirations, her dynamic approach to creativity, and the third-party collaborations she has been working on since graduation.
©Emma J Shipley: autumn winter 2013
-Did you always plan to set up your own business?
After I graduated from my BA in Textile Design (from Birmingham City University) I worked for a print design studio in London. This was a great experience and taught me to work under pressure and to tight deadlines, but I also realised that I really wanted to carve out my own path rather than working for someone else. I went on to study MA Textiles at the Royal College of Art as I knew I needed to develop further and I wanted to have that platform to launch my label from.
-In what ways has Texprint been able to help or benefit you?
Being able to get my work in front of so many influential industry figures so soon after graduating was invaluable. The different exhibitions in London, Paris, Shanghai and Hong Kong brought income through sales and commissions, which was so important right at the start of my label. I also met suppliers who when they saw my work at the Texprint stand at Première Vision, wanted to support me in the early stages, one of which I'm still working with to produce my luxury scarves. Texprint has also been there when I've had business or legal issues I needed advice on.
At retail, from left: Bon Marche, Fortnum & Mason, Liberty
-How helpful has it been to communicate online via Twitter etc - how essential is social media for someone setting up their own brand identity do you think?
I've used Twitter for quite a few years - since before graduating and starting my label. I've always found it to be an amazing tool for connecting with others and finding out information in the areas I'm interested in. So I still use it for these reasons, and for my label it's the most direct way of communicating with a wide audience. Being able to instantly share an image of what I'm working on at that time, or tell people about an event I'm doing is an amazing thing. The fact that it can be a conversation means that people do feel engaged with the brand and I also get feedback on what people are really responding to or what they get excited about.
I've also found Instagram great as it's purely image-based, which really suits the creative industries. I follow lots of other users (photographers, designers, magazines etc) - it brings me inspiration as well as letting me share my own images. I'm new to Vine and although I'm personally more engaged by still images, being able to create and share short video clips can be really useful for events or exhibitions.
London Fashion Week, February 2012
-Do you work from home or studio?
A space in a shared studio. I started working from home after I graduated from the RCA but I much prefer having a workspace separate to home, and I really enjoy sharing with others who are working in creative fields. The RCA was quite an intense experience - being in the studio surrounded by other designers all the time - but it's very inspiring and I really missed that when I was working from home on my own.
-What have been the key challenges - managing accounts, space to work, finding manufacturers, contacts?
There have been major challenges in all areas to be honest. It's been important to find people I can go to for advice… As I'm experiencing all these things for the first time there are bound to be issues and hurdles to overcome. I've also roped in my dad to help with a lot of the business side to enable me to still have time to design for my own label as well as commissions for big companies that I've been working on.
©Emma J Shipley: autumn winter 2013
-How do you find it working on your own, is it sometimes hard to motivate yourself? Or do you have help, an assistant?
I haven't found it hard to motivate myself at all as I've been so busy since graduating. Also as I'm in a shared studio it's a nice balance between being able to focus on my own work and also having a social and creative environment. Commissions for other companies always have short deadlines (they want everything yesterday) so I just get on with them. Designing for my own label can get pushed back if I'm working on commissions, so then when I do have time to work on my own designs I'm rearing to go. Obviously I'm passionate about my work so it's not a chore. I get excited about starting new designs and collections. I do take on students to assist me part-time, more on the sales, marketing and events side, and it's great to have a fresh look and input on what I'm doing.
©Emma J Shipley: autumn winter 2013
-Where are your scarves printed - in the UK or abroad?
The scarves are printed in Como, Italy, with a supplier I found through Texprint. I started out manufacturing in the UK, but unfortunately I found the suppliers unreliable and the end product ended up being too expensive even in the luxury market. The quality is better in Italy as they have a long history of silk printing - buyers from stores often comment on the amazing quality of the final pieces and I'm always pleased with them, too.
-Has anything you've worked on gone into production under license? With which companies?
Yes - I've worked on a project with Camira Fabrics, it produces textiles for commercial interiors. This will launch at Clerkenwell Design Week in May as Emma J Shipley x Camira. I've also recently launched a collection of wallpaper and interior fabric with Osborne & Little called Kayyam.
Collaborations with Anthropologie (wallpaper) and Camira (two new fabric designs)
Collaboration with Osborne & Little
-What captures your imagination - as your drawn work is quite naturalistic, do you draw from life or photos?
Inspiration comes from all over the place, but my main visual inspiration is always the natural world. This can come from trips I take (I recently went on safari in South Africa which was hugely inspiring for me), photographs, films, artists and so on. I'm also inspired by ideas and books - especially Richard Dawkins’ book on evolution and Ian Stewart’s on chaos theory. My drawings can take days and weeks, and are never an exact replication of something but are a combination of different inspirations as well as coming from my imagination. So I always work in my studio, using lots of different images and photographs.
-What do you love most about what you're doing, and like least?
I love the drawing and design process the most… I enjoy the business aspects too as its all part of it, but there is a lot of admin, which isn't always thrilling.
-What are your plans for the future?
To continue to grow my label in the UK and overseas, and to work on some interesting collaborations with bigger companies that will raise my brand profile.
Emma has been nominated for the UKFT Rise Newcomer Awards (2013 UK Fashion and Textile Association awards) due to take place on 23 May 2013. We wish her success in this and in the future.
Sample sale, April 2012
©Emma J Shipley: spring summer 2013
Texprint talks: Emma Mawston of Liberty Art Fabrics
25 April 2013 by Editor
Emma Mawston, head of design for Liberty Art Fabrics, is not surprisingly passionate about prints and the Liberty heritage. She is also a long-time supporter of Texprint and regularly gives time to participate in the Texprint interview panels that take place each June.
As a creative company focused on design excellence Liberty understands just how important it is to look to their future heritage and drive innovation by supporting the next generation of young designers; Liberty Art Fabrics sponsors the Texprint Pattern Award.
-Emma, how long have you worked at Liberty Art Fabrics and what were you doing before?
I have worked at Liberty for nearly twenty-one years – in fact the same amount of time as Alexandra Shulman has been editor at Vogue!
While at college I had a great work placement with Nina Campbell, I then won an RSA Bursary which led to a placement with Cavendish Textiles – both invaluable experiences. On graduating I went freelance, exhibiting at numerous exhibitions, working freelance in-house at Nigel French (design consultancy), and designing for a variety of markets under my own name.
When I applied for the Liberty role, I found out that they had asked my to interview because they liked my handwriting on the letter accompanying my CV!
-Tell us about the team at Liberty Art Fabrics?
The designers at Liberty Art Fabrics are Sheona, Sally, Polly, Robin, Keighley, Laura-Maria and Carrie. At any one time the team are working across three areas - fashion, furnishing and lifestyle art fabrics - on different briefs, and often for different seasons. We often go on drawing research trips, have drawing days and spend time hand drawing and painting original artwork.
Also in the team are Rupal who works on special projects, and Lauren who backs us all up on everything plus creates the presentation Powerpoints, keeps the fent book*, and makes sure all design and colour files are organised at the end of every season. Holly is our studio co-ordinator who keeps things running smoothly!
(NB: each design is archived in various swatch and fent books*; artwork, fabric bases, colourways, promotional and sales material are all recorded).
Spring/summer 2013 inspired by The Chelsea Flower Show
-What is the process that takes a design idea into production and retail?
At the moment we are about to start creating sketches for spring/summer 2015.
I love coming up with the design briefs, it’s one of the most inspirational aspects of my job. One of my favourite tasks is to thoroughly research an idea and come up with something original each season.
Liberty Art Fabrics is a design-led company, which we pride ourselves on. While we listen to feedback from customers, agents and our sales team our design briefs are created two to three years before a collection is launched at retail so it is really important that the collections are design-led and retain the heritage and originality which makes our prints so successful.
Each season the studio creates around 43 designs in 8 colourways. We then present our work at a number of selection meetings, working very closely with Kirstie (Kirstie Carey MD of Liberty Design) who reviews the new ideas. We whittle these down to 40 designs, all of which will be printed onto Liberty’s iconic Tana Lawn. We also create capsule collections on a number of different base fabrics using the designs most relevant to each base.
While we aim to think as creatively as possible at this stage, there may also be other considerations – it is important that our collections are successful worldwide, so we occasionally work on special projects that cater for specific design and colour requests. We also work on childrenswear design and colour.
-Tell us about your recent travels for inspiration and research?
While researching spring/summer 2013 we went to Tresco (Scilly Isles) – in fact nearly all the best sellers in this collection were inspired by that trip - we also went to Vienna for design research, to the Chelsea Flower Show and on the trail of Guerrilla Gardeners in London!
More recently we’ve been to Glasgow and The Isle of Bute, both wonderful. However my favourite research trip was to Iceland for autumn/winter 2013, a truly inspirational place that will stay with me forever.
Spring/summer 2013 inspired by Tresco
Spring/summer 2013 inspired by The Chelsea Flower Show
Spring/summer 2013 inspired by Vienna
-Do you ever refer back to the Liberty archives?
Yes, the Liberty Archive is amazing. It is hidden away in a warehouse in Bermondsey - a treasure trove of archived Liberty prints and sketches. Every design, from tana lawn to silk satin, is documented with as much information as possible and stored safely in a digital database.
But most exciting of course are the collections themselves - oversized books bursting to the brim with swatches, piles of neatly labeled boxes and paintings as bright as the day they were painted.
The Liberty archives
-What are your favourite inspirations right now?
Gosh, almost everything inspires me, but mainly it is my daughters Mauve and Rose Xanthe who make me laugh so much and look at the world from such a variety of different and wonderful perspectives.
-In what ways do you work with students and what would you look for in a graduate designer joining your team?
We work on an annual collaboration with the textile design students at Central Saint Martins, and have also worked with another MA course creating colour for a recent collection. We always have work experience students in the studio, working from one week to three months at a time.
I would look for the same thing in a graduate as any designer – diversity of ideas, great sketchbooks with lots of original hand drawing, and a beautiful and varied sense of colour. Personality is important too - someone who is very lovely and very inspiring – it is so important that they spend time in the studio and for the team to bond with them. They would also need relevant computer skills!
Spring/summer 2013 inspired by Tresco
Coutts Texprint dinner celebrates textile innovation
16 April 2013 by Editor
As a dedicated supporter of the arts, private bank Coutts again demonstrated its interest in the worlds of fashion and textiles by hosting an elegant dinner in support of textile design excellence.
Held on Thursday 21 March 2013, it was the second Texprint dinner to be hosted by the historic bank at its head office on the Strand, London. Following a champagne reception in the boardroom, which is lined with hand-painted Chinese wallpaper c.1793, the guests were guided to its beautifully appointed private dining room for a sumptuous dinner.
Alan Marshall, executive director of Coutts, welcomed the guests, saying: “Coutts is thrilled to be a sponsor of the Texprint 2013 dinner. It reinforces our commitment to the world of contemporary creative industries and our relationship with young entrepreneurs.The UK is a world leader at creating art, fashion and textiles and Coutts' support of Texprint enables emerging talent to access our experience of working with entrepreneurs in addition to providing mentoring schemes and financial advice."
Left: Marie Parsons (Jaguar Land Rover), Professor Clare Johnston (RCA) Centre: Katrina Burroughs (Sunday Times Home), Katie Greenyer (Pentland Brands) Right: Neisha Crosland, Susanna Kempe (Flying Trumpets)
Texprint’s chairman Barbara Kennington took the opportunity to thank the guests – including leading lights in fashion and textiles, the press and past alumni - for their continuing support for British-trained textile design graduates and without whom the Texprint programme would simply not exist. “Texprint’s programme of mentorship provides a vital bridge between university and the real world. Looking at the autumn/winter 13 fashion collections, particularly in London, what struck me was the increasing importance of textile innovation - an indication of just how important it is to encourage and support the next generation of textile creativity.”
Peter Ring-Lefevre (Texprint), Kate O’Connor (Creative Skillset)
John Snowdon (Worshipful Company of Weavers), Peter Ackroyd (Woolmark Company), Andrew Blessley (Clothworkers Foundation), Hugh Beevor (Texprint)
The Texprint programme has been selecting and mentoring graduate textile designers for over 40 years. And through Coutts’ gracious hospitality, the dinner provided the charity with a means of thanking those who make it possible, among them Kirstie Carey, managing director of Liberty Art Fabrics (sponsor of Texprint’s Pattern prize); Paul Graham, sales director of Pantone EMEA (sponsor of the Colour prize); and Texprint trustee Dominic Lowe represented The Sanderson Art in Industry Trust, which is a Foundation sponsor of the charity.
Italian textile producers and luxury fashion brands have long recognized the excellence of British-trained designers and regularly employ interns selected from the Texprint winners. Texprint was pleased to welcome Luigi Turconi of Ratti, part of the giant Marzotto group; Elena Alfani of luxury brand Salvatore Ferragamo; and Marco Taiana of Tessitura Taiana represented the Como-based creative initiative ComON with which Texprint has long been associated.
Left: Barbara Kennington (Texprint) Andrew Blessley (Clothworkers Foundation) Right: Peter Ring-Lefevre (Texprint), Elena Alfani (Salvatore Ferragamo)
Anne Tyrrell MBE, designer and member of Texprint's Council, said: "It’s a really special evening, so impressive, and it’s a huge compliment that so many visitors from Europe attended."
Marco Taiana (Taiana, ComON), Caryn Simonson (Chelsea College of Art & Design), Joanna Bowring (Texprint)
Katie Greenyer, creative director of the Pentland Group, was delighted to announce during the evening that Pentland would be increasing its sponsorship for 2013, which was fantastic news and greatly appreciated.
The Texprint management team also welcomed Catriona Macnab, creative director of Foundation sponsor WGSN; John Francis, director of sponsor Paul Smith; style director of the Telegraph magazine Tamsin Blanchard; and Michael Ayerst, managing director of wall coverings specialist Surface View, which has so generously provided the dramatic wall murals seen at the Texprint London event for the past two years.
And from Texprint’s alumni, guests included Michael Angove, Neil Bamford of Mint Design Studio, David Edmond, and Marie Parsons of Jaguar Land Rover.
Left: Julius Schofield MBE (InDesign), Philippa Brock (Central St Martins) Right: Anne Tyrrell MBE, Leanne Prichard (Coutts)
Left: Alison Murdoch (Haberdashers’ Company), Gill Gledhill (GGHQ), Terry Mansfield CBE Right: Neil Bamford (Mint Design), Michael Ayerst (Surface View)
The world of interiors has been an area of increased focus for many young textile designers. Neisha Crosland, a Texprint judge in 2012, and Mary Carroll, of luxury interior furnishings brand De le Cuona, attended the dinner, as did Katrina Burroughs, a renowned journalist specialising in interior design who is a regular contributor to the Sunday Times Home section.
The words of after dinner speaker Susanna Kempe, founder and CEO of Flying Trumpets, were greeted with much nodding of heads and agreement as she talked of too many businesses being run by accountants; too few by creatives, stating: “To change that, we have to finally, unequivocally, reject the false opposition between creativity and commercialism. We have to combine imaginative genius with disciplined execution; embrace create effectiveness and demonstrate commercial accountability. If we don’t businesses and boards will continue to be led by accountants most comfortable in a world of timid homogeneity. Businesses should be run by people for whom innovation, clients and brands are in their very DNA.”
Her thoughts were applauded by all – and especially by Kate O’Connor deputy managing director of Creative Skillset, and Anne Tyrrell who responded: “She was amazing. I must say I will attack my meetings with new energy as a result, what an impressive woman.”
Barbara wrapped up the evening, saying: “Our sincere thanks to Coutts for hosting such an enjoyable and hugely useful opportunity for people interested in supporting British design training and textile innovation to get together, to talk and to debate. Invaluable!”
Carlo Volpi at Pitti Filati, 23-25 January
23 February 2013 by Editor
Good to hear from Carlo Volpi (Texprint 2012) following his return from Pitti Filati, Florence, where Carlo was asked to create knitted garments for the Spazio Ricerca of Pitti Filati, the central research space dedicated to future vision, design and artisanal skills.
The inspiration for Carlo’s one-off pieces came from his research into cultural festivals: music festivals, folk/religious festivals like "El Dia de Los Muertos" (Day of The Dead) in Mexico, and sagras (traditional Italian food festivals). As always, the research area provided drama and focus for those visitors looking to be excited by new ideas and creativity; the mannequins lined up on the central runway, surrounded by colourful petals strewn on the floor, and screens to each side showed videos of the various festivals.
Read more on Carlo’s blog for the Knitting Industry website where he regularly posts on anything he finds inspiring - emerging or established designer’s work, new yarns and exciting stitches.
tel : +44 (0)7983 970703
Breaking boundaries: Texprint 2012’s mixed media specialists
24 November 2012 by
For a unique approach to textile design, many new designers are breaking down boundaries and embracing other media in their work. Texprint’s 2012 showcase revealed four young people who are taking this path to carve out a truly individual style.
Winner of the Texprint Space prize, Tania Knuckey explores the intersection between art and design. She uses many different types of media and techniques revealing a lively and playful attitude. Tania’s painterly and experimental work is often very graphic and evolves in an organic way, encompassing both installation and work for interiors.
Tania Knuckey: chair installation
Tania recently showed some of her chair pieces at The Stables Gallery in Richmond, Surrey: her installation changed on a weekly basis through wrapping new mixed media fabrics around the pieces. She also gave a recent talk on the subject of transforming textiles into animations at the Slow Textiles Group’s studio in Hampstead, London, as well as exhibiting a concept book, created in collaboration with RCA architecture graduate Joseph Deane, at the RCA’s Sustain show.
Neckpieces by Lily Kamper
The enormous BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Hindu temple in Neasden, North London, was one of the main inspirations for Lily Kamper’s distinctive work. The hand carved totem columns taken as a reference that she combined with softer elements in her multi-layered processes. Lily creates fresh ideas for fashion accessories, including fabulously futuristic statement jewellery pieces and bags.
Case with Perspex handle by Lily Kamper
She is fascinated by the possibilities of exploring texture and colour; a favourite theme is combining hard and soft materials to create unusual outcomes, as seen in her recent collaboration with men’s footwear designer, Tariq Mahmoud, where she created the Perspex heels. Lily also recently created the bespoke, hand-made trophies for WGSN’s recent Global Fashion Awards 2012.
Knitted textile by Sarah Burton.
Sarah Burton’s exciting contemporary pieces for fashion combine her passion for knitwear with modern embellishment. Sarah loves the process of knitting and constantly plays with construction techniques, continuing to develop her samples in unusual ways. Favourite materials include fine yet strong yarns such as viscose. Sarah’s inspirational research led her to study the traditions of the circus, looking closely at costume for performance, which demands a mix of the practical and the decorative. Sarah is taking up an exciting new position with Acorn Conceptual Textiles based in Nottingham, in addition to developing a small range of hand-made mixed media accessories.
Embellished woven textile by Alix Massieux.
Finally, fantasy and surrealism are aspects that inspired Alix Massieux’s fabric collection. Although a weave specialist, Alix is driven to mix techniques and experiment with embroidery. Targeting a high-end market, she uses fine yarns such as mercerised cotton and silk, but is also intent on injecting an element of fun into her work, using flashes of Lurex to create vibrant, light-hearted effects.
Genevieve Bennett: bespoke contemporary craft
18 October 2012 by
We were delighted to note recently that Texprint alumni Genevieve Bennett has been nominated for the second time for an Elle Decoration Design Award. Genevieve runs a bespoke leather design business creating beautifully crafted and individual pieces for interiors. She has an imaginative approach to her craft, using many traditional techniques such as embossing, engraving, sculpting and inlay work, in a refreshingly contemporary way. Genevieve spoke to Texprint about her exciting career path since winning the Texprint ‘Breaking New Ground’ prize in 2000.
Great news about your nomination for the Elle Decoration Design Awards – how does it feel to be included in this prestigious list again? (Genevieve won an award in 2006, and was nominated in 2007).
I was delighted - it’s a fantastic honour! Originally the awards were judged by eminent designers such as Terence Conran - a great opportunity to get their attention. Now they are judged by the public which in some ways seems fairer and makes for a more interesting contest. The awards are useful too for international recognition as there is so much press coverage.
What are the main projects that you are currently working on?
I have just finished two large commissions for an interior design firm in Hong Kong, three very large sculpted panels and 100 relief tiles for private residences. This was a great opportunity to work with established companies and gain international presence. I am currently building a relationship with a distributor in India for my leather tiles, and have just set up a relationship with an agent in New York for the bespoke sculpted panels, which will I hope lead to some interesting projects.
I am also selling and distributing the work I launched last year at the London Design Festival and will start new design work within the coming months for launch next year.
Genevieve Bennett: Damask
What inspires you in your work?
I am inspired both by pattern and 3D forms. The initial inspiration for my sculpted panels came from the wood carving of 17th century master craftsman Grinling Gibbons. Other 3D inspiration comes from paper engineering techniques. Pattern inspiration comes from anywhere - specific loves are ceramics by William De Morgan, Moorish lustreware, Art Deco embroideries, Chinese lattice screens, and patterned tiles of all kinds.
What drew you to working with leather?
I used to create sculptural forms in paper and card, but I really wanted my work to feel more permanent, for it to be longer lasting and not always reliant on framing for protection. I also wanted to move from panels to actual wall coverings thinking these would appeal to a wider audience. I chose leather as it can have similar sculptural qualities while is more durable and flexible in terms of possibilities of application.
Are there other materials/techniques that you like to work with?
Yes, I’m keen to work with a wider variety of materials. At the moment I’m thinking of working in felt - on its own and in combination with leather – and perhaps wood too.
You have been working as a freelance designer for over 10 years now – what are the advantages/drawbacks?
I enjoy being involved in the whole process, so on any new project I work in-house with the manufacturer for several days a week. I find this a more rewarding and collaborative approach. Freelance work offers you the opportunity to get involved with a variety of projects and ultimately to gain a wider experience. I tried selling designs on a one off basis but was not very successful!
The work I did at Habitat was fantastic; I worked freelance on pattern designs for a huge range of products. However, it was the full time design managers who were able to travel abroad, spending time in the factories and developing the products. I missed being involved in this aspect of the process.
Genevieve Bennett: Camellia
You have worked with some prestigious companies as a freelance designer – is there a particular project that has been a favourite?
The work I did for Wedgwood provided a very special opportunity to work with the 250 yr old pattern archive of a heritage British brand. One of their major markets is Japan, and I made regular visits to learn about the Japanese market. This was a very unique and exciting experience.
Can you describe a typical day?
I get to the studio at around 9am and start my day dealing with emails and admin - I find it hard to concentrate until this is under control. With any small business this can really take over, so I try to limit it to an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon.
I then focus on the current project, depending on the stage it is at; sculpting the leather shapes, preparing artwork or a layout, ordering leather, getting shipping quotes etc. I then try and spend part of the day creating new designs for my future work or for a new client. I usually leave at 5pm to collect my son but then continue working from home until around 10pm. I almost always have a sketchpad to hand!
What are the most enjoyable aspects of your work?
Creating new designs, drawing, testing out new ideas, and then, seeing a finished product in a shop, or in situ in someone’s home.
And the least enjoyable?
Legal contracts and negotiations. As small business I have to oversee all aspects from design, to sales, to contracts; sometimes these can seem confusing and daunting, but I am learning.
Genevieve Bennett: Deco
What are your plans for the near future?
New designs! New leather tile designs, maybe looking at screens and other applications other than wall. New sculpted designs, looking at introducing new materials into my work, such as felt. I would also like to develop the overseas distribution of the tiles and build on the existing business.
I would love to work with on more projects with interior designers - they always transform your work into something you could have never imagined!
Looking back, is there a significant moment in your career that stands out?
Developing my research and ideas at the RCA where I started to work with leather – and connecting with Spinneybeck, the North American leather specialists, was significant too - they really opened my eyes to the creative possibilities.
You won the Breaking New Ground Prize in 2000 at Texprint – what did this mean to you?
It was a fantastic confidence boost. I sold a lot of work at Indigo in Paris, which enabled me to establish a studio and buy equipment. Winning also encouraged me to believe that experimental ideas are important and can ultimately be developed into something commercial.
Advice for those graduating this year?
I feel I could perhaps have learnt more about manufacturing in a shorter period of time had I worked full time for a year or so with a major brand. Building experience by working freelance took longer, but at the same time working on a variety of projects was invaluable. I would say if you have a product ready to go and which you believe in, then don’t wait around, go for it!
In my experience: Grace Smith
01 August 2012 by
Grace Ink: Quirky Doll Family
Grace Smith (Texprint 2007) runs her own business, GraceInk Design in the Scottish Borders. A screen printing fanatic, she creates her own quirky textile and paper products, selling them online through her Etsy.com shop, as well as in small independent stores and at craft fairs. In addition, she helps to run screen-printing workshops and is chairperson of the Crossing Borders arts collective. Grace talks to Texprint about her hectic but fulfilling lifestyle as a designer-maker.
Running my own business is great - but I never switch off.
It’s amazing to do a job that is just part of life, that makes you smile and that you enjoy getting up for in the morning. But it isn’t without downsides. I seem to be working 365 days a year, even on holiday - it is like my baby. I have also started running screen printing workshops which are proving really popular.
Downsides include the dreaded Tax Return.
I try to keep on top of it all and not let administrative stuff build up. Hopefully one day, I’ll earn enough to employ other talented people to do it for me.
Grace Ink: 4 Dolls Paper Print
I’m chairperson of the Crossing Borders collective.
The organisation runs an Art Trail every September, which I’m involved with. Many artists and craftspeople in the Borders area open their studios to the public.
I’m inspired by my beautiful surroundings, travel and different cultures around the world.
Setting up my own business has been very time consuming, and financially difficult, so a lot of my travel is now a lot closer to home, but this still provides inspiration. Living in the Scottish Borders, around lovely, rolling green hills is very calming for the mind, and provides clarity when working on new ideas. It is very important for me to be in a creative environment and working alongside 13 other artists in a studio really helps me to get inspired.
I’m in love with the screen printing process.
Screen printing is very versatile, allowing very intricate hand drawn designs to be transferred to fabric and paper – most of the time without having to use a computer. Achieving brush strokes and pen lines on fabric really gives a special handmade quality, which can be lost with many modern processes. I love the first reveal of a new screen print - there is a real buzz of excitement.I’m also very fond of linen and linen mix fabrics, which I use a lot in my work. My birdcage design is a firm favourite – I created it at university, but it hasn’t lost any of its appeal in the five years since then. It’s ended up on pretty much every product I produce.
Grace Ink: Birdcage Print Bag detail
I’m passionate about my work and teaching.
I love to teach - it’s a great feeling when my students have learnt something and had an enjoyable time too. Meeting new people and talking about what I do for a living, is great - I can get quite over-excited at times!
Texprint was invaluable at the start of my career.
I remember receiving the phone call to say I’d been selected. It was a surreal moment where I believe I asked ‘are you sure?’ It made me realise that I had created a collection that was appreciated, and that all the hard work that I’d put into my time at university was finally paying off. I was given the fantastic opportunity to take up a work placement in New Delhi, India. This provided me with lots of new inspiration, and I doubt I would be on the path I am currently without this.
Grace Ink: printed cushions
I’m planning expansion for my business – and maybe a road trip around Scotland.
I’m currently looking into licensing certain designs and also expanding the scope of retail outlets that I work with. I’d love to do some more travelling at some point and possibly work alongside artisans in Australia or my ultimate goal - Japan. I also want to produce some work inspired by Scotland and do a road trip at some point. I have a map that my Gran produced when she was about my age, of a road trip she did around Scotland. I would love to recreate that.
My advice to new graduates is: get some experience, apply for everything and never say no.
(Well for the first few months anyway.) Then you can be pickier with what you agree to… When I first started out, I’d done a couple of years of exploring, trying different things, seeing what I wanted to do with my life. Just after graduation is the best time to do this. When I set up in business I just assumed that I would be successful but the last three years has taught me that this is definitely not an easy task. I’ve felt like giving up on countless occasions, but I’m lucky to have family and friends who pick me up when things don’t go the way I intend. Most of the time I love it - my days are busy, varied and interesting.
Alice Palmer: new frontiers for knitwear
24 June 2012 by
Knitwear specialist Alice Palmer (Texprint 2007) is renowned for her desirable, sculptural womenswear. Her bold, clever shapes skim and flatter the female form – shattering the safe, cosy image of knitwear. Her pieces are sexy and youthful and perfectly suit a modern, confident clientele. Alice works from her studio in Hackney Wick, London, and shows regularly at London Fashion Week.
What drew you to specialise in knit in the beginning?
I was fascinated by making something from scratch; developing ideas for colour, pattern and form.
What particular qualities are needed to specialise in knit?
An awful lot of patience!
Alice Palmer Autumn/Winter collection 2012. Photography by Christopher Dadey.
You quickly moved into fashion after graduation and show regularly at LFW – was this always your plan?
No, it wasn’t always my plan to have a fashion business. From a young age I thought about going into architecture or fine art painting. While I was studying for an MA at the RCA I started making garments and developing innovative construction techniques. This is when I saw the potential for starting a fashion label.
What inspires you in your work?
All of my surroundings, art, architecture, films and people.
Do you have favourite materials or techniques?
I love to work with silk and viscose as they drape nicely. I use a specific knitting technique, which I love to continue developing each season.
Alice Palmer Autumn/Winter collection 2012. Photography by Christopher Dadey.
Can you describe a typical day?
Emailing, stocktaking, working on production and designing are all part of my day - with meetings here and there.
What are the most enjoyable aspects of your work?
The satisfaction of a collection coming together. And seeing the garments being worn.
And the least enjoyable?
Some of the business side - such as accounts.
At Texprint in 2007 you won the Knit Prize – how did this help?
It was really encouraging and I had an incredible opportunity to exhibit in Paris and then in Hong Kong.
Alice Plamer Spring/Summer collection 2012. Photography by Christopher Dadey
Highlights of your career since then?
Showing in New York with Fashion Enter [a social enterprise organisation] and winning the Best Womenswear Award. Also being a finalist in the Fashion Fringe competition in 2010. The most recent highlight has been getting the chance to meet the Queen!This was at a recent event through the Fashion Capital organisation, celebrating 60 years of fashion at the start of the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations.
Soon I will be delving into knitted sculpture and have an exhibition coming up in London. I am exhibiting at Schwartz Gallery in Hackney Wick - from June 27 to August 18 2012 - in a group show called Allotments.
In the future, I plan to start a menswear line.
Anyone you’d ultimately love to work with?
I would love to collaborate with [milliner] Stephen Jones.
Any advice for those about to graduate this year?
Realise what your strengths are and try to find out specifically what you want to do and achieve with your career. Then target the right companies to arrange meetings or interviews. Keep designing, carry on learning and building up your CV and remember that perseverance is key.
In my experience: Susie Foster
16 June 2012 by
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.
Palvinder Nangla: decorative textile art and design
04 June 2012 by
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
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.
Anita Quansah: bespoke fashion jewellery
20 May 2012 by
Anita Quansah (Texprint 2006) has created a highly successful creative jewellery brand, harnessing her background in textiles. Now based in Buckinghamshire, Anita studied at Chelsea College of Art & Design, specialising in embroidery and fabric manipulation. She began to translate her techniques and unique mix of textures into jewellery, creating one-off distinctive pieces.
You set up Anita Quansah, London in 2006; did you always want your own business? Yes. I grew up in a family that is very business minded. I’m in the process of creating an on-line shop on my website. My late grandmother was a huge influence on me – she was a seamstress and a teacher who trained many women to use their skills to get back to work. She inspired many to make something of their lives – and she inspired me.
What inspires you in your work? My cultural heritage has a huge impact on my work. I come from a mixed African background - half Ghanaian and half Nigerian – through which I have been exposed to a lot of rich African traditions, particularly in the use of materials and textiles. The bold and vibrant colours from Africa are phenomenal. I incorporate rich African prints mixed with vintage elements and new materials such as chains, pearls and shells. I believe this mix creates a rare and vibrant new look. I am also influenced by things I see every day: music, art, people from diverse cultures and distinctive styles.
Many of your pieces are made up of unusual materials. Where do you source these from? My materials are from Africa, Europe and Asia as well as from flea markets, vintage fairs and stores in the UK. I love to use unexpected elements - reclaimed pieces from vintage jewellery; semiprecious stones; rare African beads; and colourful textiles. I weave them together to create strong, expressive, unusual, one-off statements.
What are the most enjoyable aspects of your work? Everything! I really look forward to working and it gives me great joy to take a design which was a concept and then translate that into a distinctive work of wearable art. Most of my day is spent beading and creating complex textures.
What did it mean to be part of Texprint in 2006? Being part of Texprint was amazing - it gave me a great platform to showcase my work and my skills immediately after I left university. Through exhibiting at Indigo, Paris, I had the amazing opportunity to collaborate with designer Christian Lacroix and I have gone on to sell my pieces to other prestigious design houses.
What are your plans for the future? I want to continue to maintain my craftsmanship and keep my creative spirit alive, making unique conversational pieces and continue to wow people. It gives me great joy to know that my pieces are appreciated by so many people, including celebrities.
I want to continue to raise awareness of re-cycling and up-cycling. I’m planning a bigger studio – I want to do workshops to start teaching others how to use their creative skills. I also want to take this idea to Africa. My ultimate ambition is to make my brand more accessible and eventually to be recognised across the world. I aspire to be stocked in stores such as Harrods, Selfridges, Liberty and Neiman Marcus. I would also love to work with more fashion design houses and couturiers such as Dior and Jean Paul Gaultier.
What is your advice for those about to graduate this year? Three words: dream, believe, achieve. This gets me through everything. Hard work and perseverance pays off in the end. In this industry there are a lot of hurdles but if you are focused and believe in yourself and your product you will stand out from the rest. Love every bit of what you do and enjoy the joy it gives to others too - that is priceless.
New Horizons: Karina Klucnika
15 May 2012 by
Knitwear specialist Karina Klucnika has been very pro-active in seeking new work experience, and is currently interning for Stuart Peters Ltd, one of the UK’s leading knitwear suppliers. She says: “My current role is really varied, from creating knitwear CADs and trend boards to booking in test samples from suppliers, through to attending meetings with fashion buyers. I have learned more about how to communicate my ideas more successfully through 2D drawings, and gained invaluable knowledge of the various stages of garment production - from drawing to stitch and from yarn development to manufacturing. It is a very fast paced environment and I am always creating new pieces.
Karina Klucnika, recent work
“I really like the dynamic of my job - always doing something different, working on various collections at the same time. It has helped to keep my ideas current. In my personal work, I continue to develop my own projects - however, I want to have more time to play around, explore design possibilities and experiment more with raw materials, as this is where my passion lies.”
Looking back on her Texprint experience, Karina says: “Being selected for Texprint gave me confidence and assured me that I was doing the right thing by following my love for textiles. My work has been featured in the media and I met some really great, very talented people along the way – it’s a great honour to be part of Texprint’s alumni.”
Karina Klucnika, recent work
Karina’s advice to new graduates is clear: “Try to do as much work experience as possible. It will help you to gain and develop skills you won't gather at university, and enable you to make new contacts within the industry. You have to be pro-active, keep a positive attitude and be disciplined to pursue your goals.”
New Horizons: Alydia Cooper, Holly Holmes and Georgia Dorey
22 April 2012 by
Embroidery and print specialist Alydia Cooper has been very busy since her time with Texprint in 2011. Alydia has created new work including her Under the Sea collection featuring a new range of sea animals depicted in her distinctive, decorative style. She says: “I exhibited at the Knitting and Stitching Shows in Harrogate and Dublin as part of their graduate showcase at the end of 2011. I decided to aim some of my collection towards the childrenswear market and have spent time contacting children’s nurseries and other outlets. More recently, I exhibited at [needlework show] L'Aiguille-en-Fête in Paris in February 2012, as well as continuing to work on special commissions – I’ve done bespoke chair covers and cushions for interiors.” Alydia found her Texprint experience beneficial in many ways, as she explains: “During Indigo, Paris, Agnes B bought three of my designs which gave me great confidence because it proved there was a place in the market for my work. Every part of the Texprint programme was amazing from the interview stage right through toshowing in Paris. I loved the Need to Know pack that we were all given. It has been extremely helpful with every bit of information we could need from sales to copyright terms etc. It was great to have the opportunity to talk to potential international clients and seeing how they would translate my designs.”
Holly Holmes print design work
Talented printed textile designer Holly Holmes was one of the first of 2011’s group to land a great first job. While exhibiting with Texprint, she was interviewed for a design position with Hodgesellers - a textile studio in London. Holly was selected for the job and says: “My current position as textile designer and screen printer within the studio is very satisfying. I have learnt so much already, since starting in September 2011 - I am really enjoying myself and I feel very lucky.” Holly’s fresh, vibrant style is defined by her confident use of colour and pattern. Successful under Texprint’s banner in Indigo, Paris, she sold some of her designs to both Italian and British fashion companies. Holly says: “It was such a privilege being part of Texprint, getting to meet lots of industry insiders as well as the other graduates. It was really great to get feedback on my work from so many different people – all the information given by the Texprint team was truly invaluable.”
Georgia Dorey, Texprint 2011
Finally, print specialist Georgia Dorey is continuing her studies – currently working towards her MA at the RCA. Georgia says: “My time at the RCA so far has been wonderful. Looking back on my Texprint experience, it was totally fantastic. Being chosen was a massive confidence boost for me at a time when I was just coming to the end of my degree and starting to feel quite scared about the future. Texprint London was a great opportunity to practice my networking skills and to build confidence when talking about my work to others. The time in between London and Indigo Paris was a fantastic incentive to carry on my creative work over the summer. Exhibiting in Paris was an amazing opportunity and I am so thankful for all the Texprint team for making it all possible. I found the first day of selling in Paris quite hard - it sometimes felt like everyone around you was selling design work and you weren’t. But then on the second day I sold nine design samples to Agnes B, as well as two samples and two illustrations to a Belgium-based company the following day, with both companies wanting me to continue to work for them in the future. Texprint taught me an invaluable amount – much of which will see me through the rest of my career.”