What is Textile Design?

People often ask me what “textile design” actually is and given the ubiquity and variety of the textiles that inhabit our daily lives it’s not a surprising question. We live in an age of mass-produced fabrics where our personal connection to the making of cloth - once common pre-industrial revolution, has all but disappeared. Textiles are all around us, from our clothing to our furniture to the interiors of cars, carpets, and the banners on our streets. It’s a complex field dealing with the highly technical materials and engineering concerns of industrial manufacture from space to healthcare and the obvious - fashion - to surface design, weaving and dyeing on a range of scales from massive factories to cottage industry.

It’s this incredible diversity that sustains my love affair with textiles. As a maker I’m interested in material and process-based hands-on exploration – and when it comes to making textiles I can be at my computer designing prints or researching materials, up to my elbows in an indigo vat, screen-printing samples or at my loom literally weaving the cloth (yes, even though there are indeed machines for that).

The possibilities are vast and for someone who gets bored easily, the field of textiles with its unique blend of the technical and the creative is a perfect occupation. But to answer the question more directly, in my practice textile design refers to:

  • designing surface prints in photoshop and/or illustrator either from hand-drawn marks, paintings or from original photographs, collages or a combination of all these things.
  • printing the designs using a variety of methods from digital and sublimation to block printing, hand painting or silk-screening.
  • hand dyeing using a wide variety of dyes from natural to fibre-reactive, acid or direct dyes with different techniques including shibori and other binding methods, solar dyeing or eco-printing.
  •  hand weaving on either my 8-shaft Le Clerc floor loom or a computer-controlled jacquard loom.

I don’t have a favorite process at this stage, perhaps I will at some point, but for now I feel really happy to be able to experiment freely and let each project dictate the best method for realization.