Recently, I have reconnected with many of my RISD Textile Department classmates on Instagram. Memories flood my mind of those endless days and nights in the weaving studio, and I am loving seeing what all my friends are doing. Now colleagues! My years at RISD were priceless. It was a place of creativity for sure, but even more importantly a time of discovery and growth. I had just come from a year of law school, quite traumatized, to discover that one could have a career in Textile Design.
I was like a kid in a candy shop and never wanted to leave. My classmates were incredible, talent I’d never encountered before. Everyone was just like me-had color memory, loved yarn, drew and sketched and made their own clothes for fun. I felt incredibly proud to be a part of this small class, and certainly felt I had found my people. Together we learned to be objective about our work and to survive critiques. There were certainly tears, but now I’m so thankful as these tears taught me to be strong, objective and removed from my designs. It simply comes down to “what works and what doesn’t work”, and it’s a strength and skill I credit to my RISD training daily.
I have been dusting off my old portfolio cases from my introductory Weaving Knitting classes. My focus in textiles was wovens and knits. We all started on basic 8 harness looms and from there moved onto dobby and jacquard. Regardless of the woven structure’s complexity, we had to mat all of our work up for our weekly critiques (crits) and tell our story. Presenting to our classmates and professors (sometimes guest critics) the reasoning and methodology behind our choice of materials, structure and colors. I remember most of the comments still….
I found a few basic knits and wovens for an apparel project in my portfolio. Looks like early days with the color copier! I remember trudging up the snowy hill in Providence to the copy center, paying $1.50/page to color copy my hand woven samples. There was no photoshop at the time, so I had to scale down the pattern to be appropriate for the torn out magazine model. This was stressful and copying was expensive!
I don’t remember this exact assignment but clearly I was dabbling in apparel. I know these textiles were inspired by the interior cross sections of red and white cabbage, and I remember seeking out materials such as gauze, fabric, sequins, paper, and even straw to weave instead of just yarn to create dimension and texture. I don’t know what my story was, but this was my vision!
I can actually these knits or wovens as apparel fabrics, but my guess is the critique brought up the point that this material would be quite itchy. Pretty sure that was noted! But hey, I did achieve my goal, cabbage in the form of a dress, although an itchy impractical unrefined fabric. If I were to be my own critic today, I’d ask about the rest of the collection? I’d want to see some knit pants that incorporated some of that stretch and sparkle, adding contour to the figure complementing the natural curves of the design. I’d want to know if I envisioned translating this fabric to interior applications, and if so how the materials would and should change. I’d want to know what the plan for production would be, how would this be made in the industry?
All questions that are clearly skewed by my working experience in the industry now. At RISD we were intentionally shielded from this aspect, which really let us explore and experiment with new materials and creative ideas that pushed the limits in the best possible way. We dabbled and I think this project was a good exercise. In the meantime, the purple is great vision for a holiday dress this time of year!