Assignment Two (Option 2): Exercise 2.3: Opening thoughts and initial artist research to inform my practice

Project 4 Designing printed textiles

To recap, within my previous exercises, I have been working on a few different themes, including:

–          Bee prints

–          Mums photograph with Liberty Print dress work

–          Florals

I added the middle theme, as I felt I did not have a body of work I truly believed in.  It was for this reason, that through the previous exercises, you can observe a lot of experimentation around making new work based on my mum, rather than dragging the florals forward.  This actually too courage to realise, as the less time consuming thing to do, would have been to carry on with the florals alone and produce work quicker.  Yes this went against my conscience as an artist, as I knew I could do more…better…stronger..

Thus as you can see from the previous exercises, I now have a lot of work which I can pare down and revisit.  I can plan how to use it within this project.

You will see that I do already have some ideas from the sketchbook work and notes.  However within this project, I would like to look at my work from a professional angle.

–          Choose work which could be printed onto fabric

–          Develop the above to connect to the stage of printing

–          Research how other artists and designers have been successful in fabric printing work and within a confined space, such as a brooch or scarf.  For example, repeat and half drops are fine, but what would work on a scarf, which has an end and beginning, unlike a roll of fabric or wallpaper?

–          How can I personally make my designs marketable? This will take market research on my part.  I have been in touch with an Edinburgh printers called BeFabBeCreative.  They have a great Instagram resource page, on which they feature artists who have printed work through them.  A great showcase which links you to the artist’s website or work online.  Thus I can really perceive how this process works – that of selling and printing work successfully.

–          Pricing and cost effective sources.  How can I make this a sustainable practice?

–          Research on fabric costs and printing costs.  Thinking about the future…does it pay to get my designs printed onto fabric and made into a scarf for me?  Or should I do the scarves edges, hand rolling etc.

To begin, I will now do some specific research on a few designer/artists who have become successful within the printed textiles market.  I hope that this will inform me well as to how I myself can develop my practice in this regard.  As mentioned above, I have found BeFabBeCreative to have a helpful Instagram page.  I can use this to find artists and will list them below.  However, practically speaking, I need to be focused here as to what I want to find out within my glance at each artist / designer.  I also need to be aware that points will come up which are of interest which I had not planned to look at or think about.  I will not waver these, I need to keep thinking outside the box.  Initial points to consider:

–          How each designer has created a sustainable practice

–          General working methods

–          What has inspired them 

Wilful North

This artist’s company statement is this:

Created in 2015 by textile designer Holly Picthall, Wilful North aims to create gorgeous and unique heirloom scarves and accessories.

Wilful North celebrates and explores the diverse traditions and customs of the UK and beyond. Taking inspiration from renewed interest in Pagan worship, clog dancing and folk traditions taken in a broader context.

Colours are spring like and fresh with a gritty edge, reflecting the figurative, strange imagery created by folk costumes and complicated dances. Shapes are simple and clean, moving away from the tailored sci-fi look of the last season to return to a more grass roots approach, featuring large, quirky, prints.

It doesn’t tell us much, however, they do have an ongoing blog.  I found this particularly of interest, as it documents what has inspired them.  For example, a few years ago I was able to visit The Royal Academy to see Joseph Cornell’s work.  They collaborated with him and Etsy, to produce one off pieces.  This was not something I had thought of before, as in thinking of doing it myself.  However I can see how artists can bounce off each other and enhance / complement each other.

The artist tells us:

I was recently lucky enough to be contacted by Etsy to create a piece inspired by the Joseph Cornell exhibit at the Royal Academy London, along with 6 other creatives.

Needless to say, I was ridiculously excited to take part!!

For my piece I looked at Cornell’s piece “Pharmacy”…The small filled bottles were so intricate and full of colour that I knew they had to be my starting point! They reminded me of my own collections of vintage postcards, cigarette cards and pill boxes.

Cornell created pieces inspired by trips he never made, rarely venturing outside of New York he was a self taught artists and a pioneer of assemblage art.

My piece takes in the spirit of assemblage, combining blind contour drawings of Cornell’s Pharmacy with scans of Edwardian post markings, letters and cigarette cards. I used classic Wilful North colours alongside pop’s of Cornell like tones to create a unique and inspiring piece.’.

When reflecting on this, I can see that it doesn’t have to be the artist themselves who collaborate in person together.  It could be myself say, who has been inspired by a particular artist and have decided to use their work in some way within my work.  (With permission of course)  This was a new thought to myself, as I always thought of including another artists with such intent in work, was copying too much.  This opened my eyes to collaborations, even when the artist (in this case Joseph Cornell) is no longer with us.

This was the artwork by Joseph which she was inspired by and her subsequent outcome:

I love the makeup of this piece.  The bottles are all filled differently and the case it is set in is very vintage, historical in style.  We immediately hark back to chemists in times gone by.  This is key “findy outy” work for myself.  The more I can understand where an artists has found their resources, the more I can talk and show a deeper understanding of their work, rather than surface reflections.

This image above is a close up of her Artisan inspired Joseph Cornell collection.  I love the ink like drawings of the bottles, merged with squares of photo like objects which they may contain.  Really well done.  The writing is also beautiful.  I have not as yet used writing in my work, printed work that is.  I love the way this feels like a letter…some ones hand writing.  She has created a wide range of prices within her shop, in order to attract a wide range of budgets. 

What can I learn from this artist / designer?

  • – When creating a shop. Make sure all imagery looks professional. This is actually worth the money.
  • – Blog v website? Personally I do not like the blog idea as much.  It takes time to scroll and find what you are looking for.  This disinterest is often found before much reading. It is very time worthy, in other words, fine if you read her blog every day, you will keep up to date. However not so good if you want to find something in particular.
  • – Artist collaboration. She does not document the exact story and links between her work and Joseph Cornell’s. It would seem that she was asked to do this, thus why we note the difference between the professional photos of this and not of her other work.  Maybe she got a budget to do this. What was clever, was her response…inspired by his work, yet entirely within her own practice realm.
  • – The words ‘Made to order’ made me realize that once you know what a print looks like, you don’t have to keep a great stock of them (which would be expensive) as long as you have one to show. Companies would make them up for you on order.  This may be more expensive, but this way would work if you were an artist starting out, who did not have a large bulk to spend.


Emily May Designs

‘From 365 days of drawing, to contemporary art installation and print and graphic design, Emily’s work takes many forms. Her distinctive illustrations have led her to work with major brands such as Ted Baker, Speedo, and Lacoste, and her award winning silk scarves have been exhibited in galleries across the country.

Originally from Hertfordshire, Emily has strong links with both Cornwall and London, and draws on her passion for the narrative and humour of the everyday to influence everything she creates.’

Her website is very easy to use, her work moving in a few different directions.  For example, she doesn’t just look at printing onto fabric, but has worked her practice into illustration too. Thus a larger chance of getting work contracts I guess.

Points I like about her work:

  • – Very much drawing/painting on fabric – a straight reflection of what she had on paper.
  • – She is prolific with her designs.  For example this one:y14To be perfectly honest, her style is lovely, but not something that appeals to me as such.  However I feel she is a really god example of someone who has taken an idea and led it to print.  It has also opened my eyes to subject choices.  I love the tins vintage idea and weaving drawings from these into her work.  I am now imagining still life set ups and visits to the V and A in order to see beautiful things and draw them.

I do like how she conveys her progress through her blog and use of social media:


Seeing how other artists produce, does help me to visualise progress within my own practice.  I will continue to weave in artist research as I develop this project.


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