Chelsea Textile Design Show 2017

Maybe it’s the heat, or maybe it’s my age, but I was a bit disappointed with the Chelsea show this year.

I noted two years ago the increase in installation displays, and that trend continues. Lord knows I’m the last one to criticise adventurous use of materials – I’ve experimented with paper, plastic, metal, plaster, stone, wood and shells as well as fibre in my work. But then I’m not doing a degree in textile design. When a display includes nothing that could be remotely defined as a textile I start to think that maybe they just ran out of space in the fine art exhibition area opposite.

Also, as a visitor I like to know the story behind the work. What was the inspiration or theme? A sketchbook showing the development of ideas is always fascinating. Although many of the displays had “look books”, too often they didn’t add much information – just more images. And a table of apparently random samples is not really presenting work in its best light.

Still, enough of the gripes. Here are my favourites based on my personal prejudices.

Charlotte Hanford had one of the most coherent displays, including an explanation that she was inspired by launderettes, including the circular machine drums. Her weaving even included lint gathered from machines in various launderettes!

Another imaginative display by Tracy Chu consisted of stitched vessels made from glow-in-the-dark thread, which had to be viewed with torches in black boxes.

Image: Tracy Chu

Jessica Grace Adam was inspired by corals and sea urchins.

And Jee Yeon Yang’s structural stitched pieces had a similar feel.

I also liked Nadya Prajoga’s delicate stitchery on sheer fabric.

Cherry Moxon‘s sculptural knits in earthy colours spoke of decay and erosion…

…while Mengfan Zhou used more unconventional plastic tubing.

Given my own recent experience of working with metal, I was interested to see India Badby combining metal and textiles, and some of the techniques looked very familiar!

Alice Gordon combined print and pleat, including some origami techniques.

And Haewon Youn’s printed pieces represented measures of emotion.

The Chelsea textile design degree show runs until 24 June.

Chelsea Textile Design Summer Show 2015

It’s degree show time again. I missed Chelsea last year, so made sure I got there early this year.

As well as the large number of Chinese students, which I’ve commented on before, what struck me this time was the increase in the number of installation pieces, rather than textile samples or garments. Some were interesting, some considerably less so.

As usual, my personal highlights are influenced by my interest in form and texture.

Top prize for use of innovative materials must go to Lok ka Kong, aka Kristen Kong, whose collection of beautifully delicate organic forms was made from dried watermelon rind! She said she had experimented with apple and aubergine before settling on melon. These were also dyed with beetroot.

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The colour and texture reminded me of the extraordinary garments made by the Aleut in the Arctic from sea mammal gut – you can see some in the British Museum.

Talking of texture, Jing Tan incorporated plywood, rubber and stitch, among other things, in her display of work that seemed to have been inspired by coral and marine life.

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The texture of some of Qinrun Yu’s pieces brought to mind Dale Chihuly’s fantastical glasswork, so it was not a total surprise to learn that she used glass wax in combination with knitted wire or yarn – even though I’d never previously heard of glass wax. Yu says her work was inspired by sound waves and movement.

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Kuniko Maeda, too, was inspired by motion and its relation to emotion, assembling identically shaped pieces of neoprene into stunning multilayered adornments.

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Siying Sun also used layers of fabric connected with beads to decorate her white, green and orange garments.

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Having started off using lots of plastic bags in my own work, I loved Kloe Peart Price’s sugar-almond hued pieces of woven, knotted and stitched plastic bags – they were such fun.

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Plastic also featured in the work of Vanessa-lee Hamlett, whose punk-inspired prints were created from black bin bags and sacking, combined with a belt made from black plastic bags and jute fringing.

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The Chelsea Summer Show runs until 27 June 2015.

Chelsea MA Textile Design show 2013

Given its rich textile history, it’s no surprise that India was a common source of inspiration for this year’s MA students of textile design at the Chelsea College of  Art and Design Postgraduate Show.

The work of Kathryn Lewis particularly appealed, as her collaboration with Jabbar Khatri, an artisan based in Gujarat, used bandhani binding to shape garments, resulting in textures not dissimilar to nuno felting. Not very practical, perhaps, as the knots are left in, but a nice example of bandhani being used for form rather than pattern.

Kathryn Lewis

Kinza Foudil Mattoo displayed some contemporary adaptations of traditional ajrak block printed fabrics, based on a trefoil motif, using digital printing.

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Upcycling/using waste or found materials was another common theme. My favourite pieces here were by Kaixi Lin. Inspired by Japanese boro – heavily patched and repaired indigo cloth – she collected discarded clothing from her family, and unravelled and reused the yarns to weave new fabrics.

KAIXI LIN

Lucinda Chang combines textiles and ceramics. Inspired by coral after a visit to the London Aquarium, she knitted, crocheted or stitched waste textiles into underwater forms before dipping them into casting slip.

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Zahra Jaan went to the other extreme, producing disposable fashion that you wear two or three times and then throw away. Made from airlaid paper  (described as “fluff pulp bonded with air”), these boldly patterned garments and their packaging are completely biodegradable.

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Maria Afanador Leon‘s impossibly delicate crocheted pieces were stimulated by her concern for the fragility of culture and nature and the environmental issues related to consumption.

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Judging by the names, there was a big Chinese contingent on the course – around a third of the students by my reckoning. Yijin Sun focused on her Chinese heritage with a selection of monochrome garments with interesting pleats and prints that looked as if they had been created in a heat press.

Yijin Sun

Yuning Wang’s innovative weaving with a metal weft resulted in garments that wearers can shape themselves.

Yuning Wang

Finally, Lin Zhu‘s charming needlefelted creations gave a certain oriental twist to a technique that I don’t normally associate with China.

Lin Zhu

The Chelsea Postgraduate Summer Shows run until 12 September.

Chelsea degree show 2012

Lots of digital prints seemingly influenced by Peter Pilotto and Mary Katrantzou this year, though maybe that isn’t surprising, given how fashionable they are. I liked  Weiyi Liu’s prints, influenced by African textures and colours, shown with matching ceramic pieces.

Prints by Weiyi Liu

Sofia Drescher‘s shirts, scarves and jacket linings reminded me of looking at tissue samples under a microscope – there was something very cellular about them.

Shirt by Sofia Drescher

The highlight for me was one of the weavers. Katriona McKinnia’s pieces combined super-chunky wools and fine yarns in wonderfully textured and patterned pieces. Even better, her beautifully presented sketchbook contained samples and explained the thinking behind her work.

Weaving (close up) by Katriona McKinnia

Kirsty Jean Leadbetter’s upholstered chair was another fine example of weaving, in shades of earthy green and yellow.

Upholstery by Kirsty Jean Leadbetter (image courtesy of Kirsty Jean Leadbetter)

Kamonchanok Pookayaporn’s laser-cut garments reminded me of the work we did with paper cuts, and her use of puff binder to create  a textured dress was interesting.

Laser-cut dress by Kamonchanok Pookayaporn (image by Oing)

Kate Lawson‘s geometric dresses, inspired by reflections and patterns from London buildings, were also fascinating.

Dress by Kate Lawson

Cara Piazza showed a selection of pieces all dyed with organic matter sourced and foraged in London, including squid ink, onion skins, red wine, strawberries and blackberries.

Cara Piazza Graduate Collection from Cara Marie on Vimeo.

Finally, a couple of garments by Chloe Phelps appealed to me because she used itajime shibori techniques to dye knitted trousers and felt skirts.

Shibori knitted trousers by Chloe Phelps

The Chelsea College of Art and Design BA Show runs until Saturday 23 June.

Chelsea College MA Textile Design show

There seemed to be two dominant themes to the postgraduate textiles show at Chelsea this year: upcycling and working with textile workers in developing countries such as India and Thailand.

Here are a few of my favourites from the show. As usual, no photography was allowed, so images are from the students’ own websites or blogs or from the Chelsea College website.

Sahiba Rajar produced beautiful digital prints decorated with embroidery and applique, inspired by the Makli Tombs in Pakistan.

Kristel Erga recycles textile scraps into magnetic jigsaw pieces used as wall coverings – designs include felt fringes, and delicate butterflies and flowers.

Lisa Hawthorne takes remnants, vintage fabrics and locally sourced materials and transforms them using nuno felt, beading and other embellishments. Her work made me want to try experimenting with nuno felt on velvet.

Chia Shan Lee knits gorgeous garments with yarn made from newspaper, sometimes mixed with wool. I wonder what happens if you wear them in the rain?

Keely Butler’s wispy weed prints look like cyanotypes, but in fact she stains the fabric with blackberry, red cabbage, blueberry and cherry. Yum!

Finally, there is nothing new under the sun. Hanging on the outside of Chelsea College was a collection of coloured discs. As I got closer, it became apparent that they were crocheted out of plastic bags. Yes – they were (much) larger versions of the coasters  I crocheted earlier this year from plarn and then ironed. They were the work of Ji Na Sung, who had also extended the concept into making large boxes and plant holders.

Maybe I should sign up for an MA next year!