I was recently invited back into the print room at Bridgwater and Taunton College - University Campus Somerset. I say back, as this is where I studied for my degree in Textile Design and also worked before opening Number Seven in Dulverton.
Number Seven was to be the 'outside' client for the BA(Hons)Textiles & Surface Design students, their brief was to choose a book which was to inspire a repeating design and a possible product suitable for our customers. It was the kind of project I would have just loved as a student and was intrigued to see what titles they would select and where the design process would take them. It was interesting to note that Alice in wonderland had been banned by the lecturers (I remember hearts being a no go when I was studying!). No doubt a popular title that if undertaken would need an innovative and creative student to push its boundaries to impress those assessing the final outcome.
Among the titles selected were The Butterfly Ball, The Miniaturist and The Bees - which has been added to my 'to be read' list!
The students had five weeks to complete the project, which is quite a tall order when being asked to create a design which was then to be transferred onto screens to be printed as a fabric length. The preparation of screens, selecting suitable material, dyes, inks and printing process all need careful consideration with time for experimentation, testing and room for inevitable error.
Butterfly Ball inspiration boards
transferring design on to 'Seri Trace' to create a positive
I visited the college on three occasions, the first was very much like a book club, quite relaxed, with the students sharing the books that they had read and visualising how the narrative could kick start their design development. The second was a mid 'crit' to see how their work was evolving and guide their progress. Then finally, a more business like session where they were to make their final presentation.
playing with layout
detail from final print hand finished with gold pigment
a combination of processes to evoke ice
The students produced some interesting designs, some struggled with creating a product suitable for Number seven, focusing on a more corporate look than the unique craft aspect of what we sell. Others devised great motifs with multiple applications from cards to gift wrap, notebooks and book marks as well as furnishing fabric.
Technology has greatly changed design practice in many ways since I graduated and I felt there was an over reliance on computers to produce images and colour palettes that could end up looking flat if not handled with sensitivity. I hope the students time in the print room has inspired them to experiment more with the array of processes available, and to combine the beauty and signature marks associated with traditional methods with the newer ever advancing tech. If they do, then in my mind, they will achieve some incredible, eye catching designs.
In recent years the appreciation of print is enjoying quite a renaissance with contemporary artists being inspired by the likes of Eric Ravilious. Angela Harding, Angie Lewin and Mark Hearld are probably the most widely recognised as their work features on many of the cards that we stock at Number Seven. St Jude's have successfully transferred Lewin and Hearld's designs into fabric and wallpaper collections, and Angela Harding's signature birds now appear in repeat on a stunning new wrapping paper printed by Art Angels.
The print room in The Arts House at Bridgwater and Taunton College is one of the best equipped in the country and I would just like to say thank you to the current lecturers, Merry Roberts and Gary Mills, for inviting me to be back in such a creative workshop. Thank you also to the students for making me so welcome and for also visiting Number Seven as part of their research.
Being back in the print room has inspired me to learn a new print process and so I have enrolled on a woodcut workshop this coming May - I am really looking forward to getting inky!