A seminar day, organised by Laura Thomas, introduced by Lizzi Walton under the auspices of the Stroud International Textiles Festival is one not to be missed and I’m so glad I was there! Laura had gathered together 5 disparate weavers, each with a fascinating story of their creative paths and output. To start off with, Laura talked about her work, especially the acrylic resin work she is probably best known for. Maybe not so well known, but very appropriate, is the double cloth ‘blanket’ work that she designs for Melin Tregwynt, possibly the best known weaving mill in Wales, and the work that she is doing as Artist in Residence at the Ruthin Craft Centre. Laura is an ambassador not only for weaving, but also for Wales!
Her first invited speaker was Asha Peta Thompson. Asha is my sort of woman – bubbly, whacky, with a lovely depracating sense of humour, and obvious enjoyment, understanding and imagination in her work. What started out as a masters project developing multi-sensorial pieces for special educational needs in line with the National Curriculum, has now grown in many diverse ways, and Asha is now co-founder of Intelligent Textiles, a company that has developed soft switching for electronics and data management which now works closely with several military departments both in the UK and beyond, looking to reduce the burden of weight and ease of equipment usage for on-the-ground soldiers in the field of battle. As the mother of a young man just about to go into the forces, I felt such a range of emotions seeing Asha talk about and demonstrate the amazing technology that they have managed to integrate into the very fabric of the soldier’s kit. I just hope the British military hurries up and incorporates this into the uniforms of our soldiers quickly. It is cheaper and much more efficient than much of the heavy kit and wiring the soldiers have to deal with currently (pun intended!)
After Asha’s presentation, we were all incredibly buzzed and lunch was a time to marvel and meet up with new people, and catch up with old friends. Weavers from all spectrums were there – industrial designers, university lecturers and students, practising weavers, and enthusiasts alike – all absorbing and being inspired by the presentations.
After lunch, Kirsty McDougal, the weaving half of Dashing Tweeds, presented the story of Dashing Tweeds, the company that gives a contemporary twist to bespoke men’s tweeds with amazing colourways, unusual yanrs (including reflective) and a sense of fun. Kirsty originally came from the Outer Hebrides and tried to move away from her tweed heritage after university (Duncan of Jordanstone), working as a jacquard designer for the likes of Louis Vuitton, Biba, and Jaegar, but it seems she was destined to come back to it in order to revamp and revolutionize it! Kirsty has always been interested in science and maths, and is working on a project called Seismic Shifts – structural health monitoring systems for earthquake zones – in collaboration with architecture and Nanoforce. I would have loved to have heard more about that, but she can’t say much at the moment….. Ah – tantalising!
Kirsty was then followed by Melissa French – one of the Puff & Flock collective created by the members of Central St Martin’s Textiles Future MA programme. Melissa talked about her MA project – partial upholstering of outdoor furniture, using cotton warps with silver, iron and copper wefts – which was intriguing, and then about the creation and development of Puff & Flock.
After a short break, the final speaker was Ptolemy Mann. Ptolemy is well known for her ikat-woven pieces with their jewel colour fields, and she has recently been working on a series of Monoliths. But she was there, hotfoot from Collect, to talk about the colour consultancy work she does with architects and how that is closely related to her weaving. I found her whole approach fascinating and logical, and it gives me hope that our public buildings can be transformed by imaginative use of colour right from the start, with integrated thinking between the teams responsible for external cladding and internal decoration. It was clear from the very professional appearance of all the design work that Ptolemy is an expert in putting her ideas across and she speaks the language of the architects, which is the only way that such strides are made in public works.
After the seminars, there was just time to squeeze in two open studio visits to Tim Parry-Williams and Matthew Harris, both of whom live in Stroud and had kept their studios open late for us to get the chance to see them.
A really stimulating day…..