Catch up with Keely Russell, Evie Venables and Sarah Willcocks
CMYUK’s Creatives in Residence Live initiative began in September this year. Since then, the three surface designers have worked through a comprehensive educational and skills-based programme, been tutored by production technology experts, and mentored by luminaries working in textiles, fashion and interiors. Now, with 11 weeks behind them, we find out how the experience has stacked up so far…
Q1: You’ve been on this project now for 11 weeks, how would you describe your journey to date?
Keely Russell: I've had an amazing experience so far. I've made so many industry connections in such a short space of time. I specialised in printing at university and loved that pathway, so working in a company like CMYUK that is a leader in wide format digital print has been a really good starting place.
Evie Venables: It’s been really interesting working on different briefs because it’s pushed me to approach my designs in different ways and experiment with new styles that I wouldn’t have done on my own.
Sarah Willcocks: I’ve seen how important digital printing is to the future of textile design and been exposed to cutting-edge production technology. Visiting the Mentors in their own studios has made me even more passionate about what I want to do.
Q2: How has your approach to the second brief differed from your first?
KR: This second brief has been graphic and shape orientated because obviously, it’s about geometrics. In the initial brief, we used photographs to manipulate and produce designs to create a more photorealistic outcome – similar to how I used to work at university – so this latest brief is a completely new experience for me.
EV: The first brief was all about photography, scanning images, manipulating and deconstructing them – a different approach for me as I’ve never designed a collection purely on digital input. With the second brief I took a hands-on approach drawing with Indian inks and fine liners to create my geometric shapes.
SW: I have more clarity on my end products and what styles I'm drawn to. Adam Slade, a mentor from Standfast and Barracks gave me some really useful feedback that helped me narrow down my themes for this current brief to Art Nouveau styles. The pace of the project has really challenged my creative process in a good way, stopping my tendency to overthink and helping my more playful ideas come to the fore.
Q3: What are the things you’ve found most insightful, challenging, and/or enjoyable?
KR: The different industry visits have been very insightful as we’ve been behind a lot of closed doors. Our design work has been punctuated with lots of visits making turnaround times faster than I’m used to, which is a really good introduction to the industry. Getting to use all the technology at CMYUK to test, sample and print to my heart’s content has definitely been one of the most enjoyable aspects.
EV: The visits and industry mentoring have been both insightful and enjoyable. We’ve got to see how different designers work and how they run their businesses. The most challenging aspect has been learning to use all the different RIP software as there’s a lot to take in. Up until now, I’ve focussed on the design side of things, so it’s really good to think about the end product.
SW: The challenge has definitely been the time pressure and finding the best methods to execute ideas.
The insights I’ve gained by seeing the technology behind bespoke printing and the ethical side of fashion has really helped to solidify my interests. The most enjoyable aspect has been the diversity of work that I have done.
Q4: How has the way you approach a project changed?
KR: I'm think much more about the end result. The CMYUK demo and training facility provides opportunities for an expanded spectrum of applications. This has pushed me to broaden my whole approach.
EV: I now think about the design and the production as a continuous process that are entirely interlinked. The way fabrics, inks and printer technology combine to produce the look, feel and practical use of a printed product.
SW: For me, its’s been about approaching the brief as a unified whole and considering all aspects of the project beyond the design element. All the various processes are as important as one another.
Q5: How has becoming more familiar with different digital print technologies helped your practice?
KR: I’m thinking much more about the end product, the fabrics I’ll be using and what ink technology is most suitable for the job in hand. Just knowing about the technology has really help broaden my ideas. I’ve also been looking at printing onto hard surfaces. At university I printed onto a lot of textiles but never onto the variety of surfaces that CMYUK offers here.
EV: Working with an array of digital technology has made me think about the finished product and what I can or can’t achieve with different technologies.
SW: It’s been good to understand the reach of certain technologies and also what type of ink you might need to use depending on the application. It’s been really useful understanding how long the various processes take and what this might mean to a large volume order with a quick turnaround.
Q6: How are you incorporating Earth-friendly considerations into your designs?
KR: Digital printing is perfect for short-run production. Designs can be sampled at small scale and produced immediately on-site. We had a CAD session on dropping designs onto garment patterns that reduces wastage. There’s also a great deal of organic and recycled materials to choose from the CMYUK textile binders, which I’ve been looking at as a first choice for my designs.
EV: Accuracy and efficiency of print onto natural and recyclable materials, minimising waste, and only using what you need.
SW: Talking to the Pattern Room really bought home how much waste there is in the fashion industry. I am being mindful of that and conscious of the type of base materials I use. I am also looking more closely at the textile manufacturing processes and the lifecycles of all materials both natural and man-made. Also, understanding that sustainability is dependent on a number of factors and working out what would be the best-case scenario.
Q7: Have your perceptions around digital textiles and affiliated industries changed due to your mentoring sessions?
KR: Talking to designers and industry experts has really deepened my understanding of digital print. I'm excited by the fashion and interior businesses that we've been mentored by and the digital methods they use in-house, which obviously opens up a lot more opportunities for print designers in the industry.
EV: I was already aware of the high demand and time pressures of the textile design industry but it's definitely been highlighted even further. You can't spend too long on a design even if you want to because you will just end up wasting money and making no profit. I’m just a lot more aware now of the commercial aspect of design.
SW: I have become aware of the rise in demand of personalised products and the new business models that have come to the fore due to digital processes and the Internet.
Q8: How are you enjoying your internship at CMYUK and how inspiring has the CIRL project been for you so far?
KR: I think it's exceeded expectations. I didn't realise that we'd be able to design and print as much as we've been able to. I feel really lucky to be able to tap into such great opportunities in the industry straight after graduating.
EV: It's been really good and I can't believe that it’s happening in Shrewsbury where I live, which is an added bonus. It’s been a good learning experience so far and I'm excited for the upcoming briefs. The mentors and the trips have been most inspiring, it’s given a glimpse into the future, where I could be and what I could achieve.
SW: It’s been the best job ever. I’ve been able to explore so many areas of digital textiles where I could base my future career. This experience has certainly provided a context of everything that goes on in the background. Meeting the mentors, seeing how they’ve set up their business and understanding that good design on its own isn’t enough for commercial success.
Q9: What are your future career hopes?
KR: I love reading interior design magazines. It would be a dream to be able to have my work featured in these magazines either through a brand or my own designs.
EV: I would love to gain more experience in both a fashion and interior design studio to help me decide what I’m best suited to, or possibly break the boundaries and do both. I would love to run my own business one day and see my products commercially available.
SW: I am gravitating towards the décor market, it’s definitely an area where I can see myself developing a full-on career.
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