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I began weaving in my second year at Glasgow School of Art having chosen Embroidered and Woven Textiles as my specialisation.
Both disciplines are very different. Embroidery feels free whilst weaving feels controlled, or so it seemed in my first year of proper weaving on a loom. The very nature of the weaving process which is constrained within the wooden framework of the loom, the planning ahead which must be thought through before you even reach the warping stacks, all of it feels like a slow process. I am a quick and responsive personality and in my early years of weaving it felt like drudgery. Back then the process seemed exhausting and I felt bogged down in rules. Where is the freedom in the weaving process to express my individuality?
In my third year, as my personal signature for textiles emerged, my confidence grew for weaving. I understood the rules and worked out my way to break them whilst still creating a fabric which would be viable to work with for garment construction, or for the use in interiors.
My Degree Show showed examples of the use of my innovative weaving.
I received a number of commissions for my woven fabrics at the start of my career but as the years rolled on so I found it hard to make a living from my weaving. My embroidered fabrics took front seat although I was still weaving for myself in order not to lose this very important skill.
In 2009, I was commissioned to design The Michie Tartan by Scottish Television for the programme ‘Made in Scotland’. This commission was filmed for the programme over a period of 6 months and it was a wonderfully stimulating process. However, up until this point, I had only made hand woven fabric on a bespoke scale and this tartan was being manufactured in a mill in Scotland. The TV personality John Michie was the presenter of this programme and he wore his kilt and tartan for the first time at the Homecoming Parade in Edinburgh in 2009.
My next high profile tartan commission was not woven but printed. I was commissioned by ‘Glasgow Life’ to be the Director of Costume for the Commonwealth Games Flag Handover Ceremony in Delhi in 2010. There were a number of reasons behind the decision to print rather than to weave the tartan. I dressed 350 cast members although the two prominent individuals, known as the ‘Hero Pipers’, wore bespoke Jilli Blackwood outfits.
It was very important that this 8 minute performance by the cast had a contemporary Scottish look. The colour had to be intense, modern, look great on high definition TV, but also be reflective of a Scottish tartan. The ‘Red Tartan’ was an embroidered design which picked up on the aspects of a traditional tartan. The cast wore kilts, waistcoats, embellished embroidered tops and customized Balmoral bonnets.
In 2013, I was commissioned by Commonwealth Games Scotland to design the official tartan and parade uniform for the 2015 Scottish Team. This project began by working with the committee to discuss the look of the parade uniform and the tartan, following which I hand wove a collection of 8 different colour stories and tartan designs. The colour of the tartan was chosen from the first set of designs. Next I put on another warp and looked again at the different proportion of colours to create a further body of tartan designs in their chosen colour palette. The amber coloured background with bold accent colours of turquoise and fuchsia with a narrow navy stripe are reflective of the way I see the Scottish landscape as it changes throughout the seasons.
I weave regularly now, as I feel that I need both disciplines, embroidery and weave, to feel like a fully rounded artist and designer. I find that working on one process gives me the space and time to think about the other.