To celebrate National Careers Week we ask makers about their career path.
What I Do
I am a textile designer who creates hand screen-printed textiles. My work is all about exploring colour, drawing and pattern and how they come together on cloth through screen-printing processes. I produce a new printed design collection each year and show my work in the UK and Europe, at exhibitions and trade shows.
My fabrics are mostly used in people’s homes and are sold through stockists such as John Lewis.
Jobs in textiles
There are many fields within surface pattern and printed textile design. Textiles encompass print, weave, knit, and surface materials. All these specialisms can include jobs designing for interiors, fashion, vehicle, architectural and product design. Working as a surface pattern designer means you could develop design work for giftware, stationary or as an illustrator too.
Your job could include designing pattern digitally, using the computer, or by using traditional processes like screen printing and dying. Working with colour and drawing are always key skills when working as a textile designer. You might choose to work for yourself, a company or a mixture of both.
I have loved making things since I was very young. I loved drawing, colour and pattern and I spent a lot of time making things with textiles, sewing and stitching. Once I realised that I could do this as a job, I put all my efforts at school and college into making it happen. I remember going to see some textile degree shows when I was 16 and leaving school for art college feeling really inspired. I kept thinking that to do what you love for a living was achievable and I didn’t understand why you wouldn’t do what you loved for a career.
What I studied
I studied art and music for my GCSE options at school and at the time I was equally interested in both. I soon realised that art was my first passion. I decided that I wanted to spend my time learning about art and left school to study a National Diploma at Leeds College of Art. It was a two-year course that allowed me to specialise in my second year.
At GCSE I studied: English Language, English Literature, Double Science, Design Technology (Graphic Design), Music, Art, Maths.
At A Level I studied: English & BTEC National Diploma in Art and Design – specialising in textiles
I started at Leeds College of Art, and decided textiles was definitely the right track for me. I then applied for and received a place at Loughborough University on BA (Hons) Multimedia Textiles. This was based on my portfolio of work and my passion and dedication, which came across in the interview. At Loughborough I spent three years exploring drawing and colour, and developing my style as a designer. It was here I developed a passion for print. I spent lots of time learning about my craft and developing my skills. I gained knowledge of fabrics, dying and printing processes and learned how to adapt my drawing work for these processes. It took a lot of time, patience, risk taking and making mistakes to get to where I am now.
Following my degree, I recognised that I still needed time to develop what I wanted to do professionally. It was at this stage I applied for a Master’s degree to focus on my professionalism. I received a place at the Royal College of Art where I studied for two years to be ready to go out into the world as a textile designer. I studied for seven years in total: two years for the National Diploma, three years on a BA (Hons), two years for my MA.
My career path
I went through several years of formal education in the early stages of my career, which were essential in establishing my knowledge of the specialism and developing my practical skills. Working in craft is so much more than ‘just a job’. I spent a lot of time making the most of the opportunities on offer as well as making my own opportunities. Working alongside and creating strong links with other like-minded craftspeople has been essential in my practice. I have never taken opportunities for granted and always made the most of them. Research and evaluating my work has been a huge asset in continuing to make stronger, newer work that is relevant to what is happening within craft today. I also appreciate that I never stop learning as a maker and always want to fill gaps in my knowledge and skills. Not being afraid of challenges and being confident in talking about my work have also been essential.
The most important decision I made was to apply for my Masters at the Royal College of Art straight after my degree. I knew I didn’t want to stop developing my work so I discussed it with my tutor. She encouraged me to go for it and my family were also incredibly supportive of my choices. They knew how much I wanted to work with textiles as a career and were confident I had made the right choice.
When I first started developing my craft career I was always in a hurry to achieve professional success and wanted to rush to get my work out to people. In hindsight I realise time to develop and master your craft early in your career is essential in shaping a robust approach to how you continue to develop professionally.
My advice to others
Listen to your passions and the strength within your artistic practice. This is often where the longevity and patience will come from in your career. Be aware of the choices that are available to you to develop your craft, do your research and always evaluate what you do and what your next steps are.
Learning within a craft career never stops, so always be aware of how you can continue your development. Be an individual, carve your own path and be prepared to be dedicated and self-motivated in your work.