Material Fantasies: Five Textiles Graduates from The Royal College of Art

2015
23rd July

The Royal College of Art could recently presented a new batch of innovative, eclectic and aspirational textile designers: class of 2015. Collectively, they are a manifestation of the impressive diversity that currently exists within the discipline, with practices engaging with everything from traditional Thai culture to digital tactility. Nonetheless, concepts such as sustainability, digital culture and mixed media seem to recur in the practice of tomorrow’s textile designer: here are five graduates that really stood out during their graduation show.

Georgia Kemball

Kemball’s ruffled-edged universe of fuschia, gold and earthy green have a particular age, value and affection attached to them – despite their actual life-span, her textiles seem old and passed down through generations. The London-born designer manually exposes threads and purposely frays edges, but her textiles maintain an elegance and contemporary stylishness. Internships include Studio Toogood: Faye Toogood’s interior and fashion design firm that created Selfridges’ gender-neutral pop-up.

Wuthigrai Siriphon

As a textile designer and Thai teacher, Wuthigrai investigates the way traditional cultural knowledge might inform and interact with today’s globalised society. He embraces almost-extinct hand weaving techniques of his native Thailand in his textile productions, making them out of recyclable PET bottle yarns and polyester, along with biodegradable silk, paper, cotton, mohair and wool. The result is a series of incredibly detailed and beautifully multi-dimensional patterns and textures, in which social and environmental sustainability is central. RCA provided the social and academic setting for him to understand the political potential of textiles: ”I somehow feel that as a designer, I can do so much for the world and society – more than I was aware of,” he tells us. “It makes you aware that you can really make the world a better place.”

Amelia Gibbs

Using a mix of embroidery, silks and feathers, Amelia Gibbs manages to translate the abstract imagery of flowing colours of ink in to very physical and textural materials. Her project Sacred Bodies: Transformations of the Soul explores symbols and themes of shamanism, animism and metamorphosis, and the spiritual visualisations of such myths. She proposes a textural response to the transforming half-human/half-bird via a series of sculptural pieces, easily imaginable as lavish costumes in a theatre version of Black Swan. She previously assisted graphic designer Emma J. Shipley, and have been sponsored by jewellery-giant Swarovski.

Stephanie Rolph

As we operate and understand the world through increasingly digital terms, textile design becomes an interesting ‘return to materiality’. That’s exactly what Stephanie Rolph, a self-proclaimed ‘design futurist’, explores with her furry, burnt, feathered and pointy textiles. She trained in Textiles Design at Central Saint Martins and did freelance weaving for Bonnie Kirkwood before embarking on an MA at the RCA Textiles course. Her graduate project, Tangible Impressions tries to bridge and translate the materiality of the Internet to actual samples of textiles kept in shades of off-white.

Bryony Bushe

Born and raised in East London, Bryony works with mixed media, jewellery and traditional embroidery to produce eclectic narratives through a range of textiles. As such, her pieces have both an artistic and commercial appeal, proven in her work experience that includes Jenny Peckham and an artist residency at DeMontfort University. Digital figurative embroidery is intermixed with traditional handmade tapestry, making the textiles in one way ready to transform into a dress, and in one way suitable to exhibit on the wall.

Words Jeppe Ugelvig

Georgia’s images: Photography Flora Maclean and Ruby Woodhouse

All images courtesy of the designers: StephanieBryonyAmeliaWuthigrai and Georgia