Last year I met a lovely lady called Anne. Anne is a Technical Tutor on the Textiles: Innovation and Design degree course at Loughborough University and has been sewing for work and pleasure for most of her life. When she invited me to view the textiles exhibition in the University Arts Degree Show 2017 I couldn't resist. A morning ogling fabric created by the bright young things set to become the designers of the future? Yes please.
The Degree Course
As we walked from the foyer to the exhibition Anne gave me a basic understanding of how the course is structured. In the first year all students complete modules in four areas: print, weave, integrated digital pathway and multi media textiles. By the second year the students opt to specialise in one of these subject areas.
The department is incredibly proud to have been awarded first place for Fashion and Textiles in the Guardian's University Guide four years running. When you see the incredible work produced, meet the fiercely passionate staff and hear about the world renowned companies the students visit on placements it is easy to see how this was achieved. Students benefit from placements in companies including Matthew Williamson, Alexander McQueen and Moschino.
East African Explorer: Printed Textiles
As we walked into the first room I was blown away by the visual feast I encountered. Wall hangings of fabrics expertly hand painted with the most beautiful exotic birds and plants and bursting with colour. Sumptuous velvet cushions that I wanted to pick up and run away with. I could just imagine this collection in a high end interiors store with a justifiably high end price tag.
The designer, Tana Pither, was inspired by photographs and paintings her grandfather created when he first visited the East African coast in 1937.
I could have stayed all day in that exotic paradise. Anne had to practically drag me away whilst explaining there were several other rooms for us to visit!
Botanical Fusion: Printed Textiles
Every fibre in my body wanted this womenswear collection of fabrics in my wardrobe and on the shelves at Sew Essential. The large scale designs and photo realism style used were so current and appealing not to mention the beautiful silks they were printed on. Once again the use of colour was so powerful and emotive. I loved the contrast between the vibrant and muted tones.
The designer Katy Perrin used digital and screen printing to create these stunning designs.
Blossoming Aquatics: Multi-Media Textiles
The combinations of colours, patterns and textures in this collection were so striking. I felt the embroidered and leather cut-work decorated clutch bags were particularly captivating and unique.
Philippa Martin, the designer, used the movement of underwater life as her inspiration and I loved her unconventional choice of colour palette for this theme.
Flourishing Paradise: Multi-Media Textiles
Another super vibrant collection inspired by nature, I could not get enough of these pieces! I loved the stark contrast of the bright colours against the dark background and experimentation with different materials. The digital print and laser cut designs translated beautifully onto metal, leather and the lightweight fabrics used.
The designer, Louisa Holm, drew upon her photography from Kew Gardens and the Natural History Museum to create her intricate paintings and drawings.
The Shoreline: Woven Textiles
Reflective, mirrored and elasticated yarns were used alongside stainless steel silk and cut shiny viscose to create this shimmering collection. The combination of different textures worked so well together and would bring a contemporary edge to any interior.
Zoe Cook focused on the glistening and colourful surface qualities of fish and sea foliage to create her project.
Layered Fragility: Multi-Media Textiles
Time spent in a Design School in Denmark influenced Isobel Cross to focus on the concept of 'hygge' in her collection. Textures and patterns from nature combined with shiny surfaces work to create a comforting interior.
I was especially fond of the leather cut-work in this collection, which also featured in a number of other collections. The designers have access to cut-work machines at the University and Anne and I discussed how it would be impossible to achieve results like these by hand.
Metamorphosis of the Human Form: Multi-Media Textiles
I was simply overwhelmed by the ingenuity of this project. I was immediately drawn to the embroidered faux furs. The bold colours and inspired designs were like a flame to a moth. Then my practical sewing brain took over and I had to ask Anne how they created these pieces. Traditional and digital embroidery methods were used. We talked about the desire to experiment in the name of producing such exquisite work outweighing any concerns over how the embroidery machine would cope!
Sheer and lightweight fabrics were also used in this collection. Japanese Shibori, traditional and digital printing and fabric distressing processes were used with stunning results.
James Bowen's collection explores the natural animal process of shedding old skin and physically redeveloping. This is also considered in terms of the metamorphosis of the human psychological and mental state shedding old fears and anxieties. The distressed sheer and lightweight fabrics representing the old and the embroidered fabrics representing the evolution of the new.
Tectonic Illusions:Multi-Media Textiles
This collection, inspired by architectural imagery from around the world, was so distinctive. I couldn't believe my ears when Anne told me the exquisite pleated bodice was made from stainless steel (see image below)! It was wonderful to see how the combination of print and manipulation of different materials had been used to create such unique pieces.
The designer, Linnea Duckworth studied abroad in Tokyo and was awarded first prize in a Bradford Textile Society Competition for her innovative designs.
Designer Sophie Harrison developed this collection of concept materials for the cars of the future. It is expected that driver-less cars will be on the market by 2030. Clearly this will change the way we use and view our cars. Drivers will perhaps desire a more relaxed and comfortable interior with cushioned and aesthetically pleasing materials.
Sophie worked with a number of different materials such as copper, leather and wood to create her pieces. It was exciting to see the different textures and effects achieved through the manipulation and contrast of materials and colours. If I ever own a car with an interior as impressive and contemporary as this I would be absolutely thrilled!
There were so many other collections on display that were equally as impressive. I was quite simply amazed by the sheer volume of talent in just one year group. It struck me that just three years ago these designers would have been finishing their A Levels and now they were producing work at industry standard.
Where the Magic Happens
I was also lucky enough to visit the print and loom rooms to see where these masterpieces were created. I was desperate to get stuck in and have a go!
The Print Rooms.
The Loom Rooms.
Anne's Role & Background
I chatted with Anne about her role, which sounds like a dream come true! She studied a Fashion degree under the watchful eye of Winifred Aldridge, author of 'Metric Pattern Cutting for Womenswear' and has worked in theatre, on BBC productions and in her role at the University to name but a few. Sitting in her office it was clear to see how incredibly varied Anne's dressmaking career has been. Photographs of friends and productions, postcards and other inspiration adorned the walls. Projects past and present hung neatly in the corner. It felt like a buzzing hive of creativity and I could have stayed all day.
When students begin their textiles degree Anne runs six to eight workshops on different sewing skills including applique, 3D sewing and fabric manipulation. Following these initial sessions the students come to Anne with their ideas so she can help to make them a reality. Often their ideas are completely original and Anne has to apply whatever relevant experience she has and work with them and experiment to produce the desired results.
One example Anne gave was a student who wanted to make an embroidered jug. She helped them to develop the pattern to create the shape and guided them in creating the decorative elements. There was once a severe shortage of toilet roll in the department after Anne taught one of her students to knit with it for his project! Every year brings new ideas and challenges, which Anne clearly relishes.
I hope you've enjoyed my attempt at conveying the utter brilliance I experienced at the exhibition, which is open to the public every year. Thank you once again for inviting me Anne, it was an absolute pleasure spending a few hours in your world.
Have fun sewing!
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