Well, what can I say, it has been a rollercoaster ride. I find myself at the end of my studies (for now?) Degree is drawing to a close with the final collection of handwoven, naturally dyed samples made, submitted and exhibited. I know, it is not wool! This is the very strange thing about a degree that I have found. It certainly takes on a life of its own. I found myself examining the properties of natural fibres, asking questions; ultimately shifting my own perspectives. I arrived at what if linen challenged our perspectives…..what if it could stretch.
Woven on a 90cm AVL dobby loom in white high twist linen, initially, this piece, pictured above, had a unique character of its own, resembling lacy white curtains of a tuscan villa! The magic of energetically spinning a thread past a balance is in the interaction with water. Having been woven much more open, the fibres are allowed to move and do what comes naturally, wriggling, retracting seemingly shrinking to create a crepe, stretchy fabric. That 90 cms woven cloth becoming two thirds of its original size and stretchy. It is so exciting to create innovative cloth from changing the parameters of what we have come to expect.
I loved each process watching it transform before my eyes. Using a particular element of Shibori; the art of stitch resist, challenged the perception of embroidery and embellished stitch. Knowing the stitches were to be removed, allowed me to reflect on the lack of permanence to fashion items, here was a very old traditional craft resilient guiding my hand. Fashion trends come and go, and often work on a loop system, Craft skills handed down generation to generation are invaluable in providing a way to express ourselves to reflect the current thoughts whilst preserving our heritage. The challenge is to keep these crafts alive by continually creating contemporary craft deeply grounded in them. Giving cloth, in this case a sense of history, heritage ….a narrative to be cherished and ultimately a value not to be discarded lightly or irresponsibly.
I was warned of the unpredictable nature that work for your final graduate collection can take. It assumes a life of its own, consuming your ideas; running in abstract paths. How might you ask do I get from wool so carefully collected, scoured and prepared to a final collection working only with linen! The theme, marks of identity within the landscape, evolved to explore the properties of an unforgiving material, in extraordinary ways.
The desire to create garments that were sustainable, offering an alternative to fast fashion, led me to challenge perspectives in more ways than just visual interpretations of the marks that were in the landscape, into surface pattern or structural weaving. Thinking of materials – What if linen could stretch? Would that start to make you re evaluate its properties. its function in your wardrobe? What if you could grow, compost then regrow your clothes?
Being a horticulturalist, it is inevitable the growing process would feature heavily in my textile career. With that in mind, to define my core aesthetics, as a designer, has become part of the process too. Natural dyeing, intrinsic to the process, developed questions; how can I push this element to become an example of contemporary sustainable fashion, where celebrating the ‘bespoke’ one off shades, the fading and reinventing of the shades over time truly characterised a ‘living’ textile. Where natural dyeing became so much more than a hobby craft, but part of our wardrobes. There is a stigma attached to working with natural dyes that potentially could undermine the professional status of a garment. What does natural dyed cloth conjure up for you?
‘Shifting Perspectives’, the new title for the collection explores these questions. Challenging identity from all angles; professional, personal, materials, methods, processes, fashion and by theme. I am hoping visitors to the exhibition will each take away a unique perspective of the work, that challenges the way they think about an element individual to them.