Studio Focus

Digital Tools for Textiles: How They Are Being Used by a New Generation of NBCCD Designers

May 18, 2017 | Studio Focus

Which kind of maker are you? Do you surround yourself with physical materials – bits of string, balls of clay, stones and metal? Or do you set yourself down in front of a computer – ready to skillfully use your powerful virtual tools? Or maybe, you lie somewhere in between…

Craft is turning toward the future, a shift that is clearly apparent in the Textile Design studio. This is good news for those of us who are equally enthralled with technology and traditional technique: students like Erin Colwell, who hand dyes all of her yarn with natural materials, and then uses the Computer-Aided Design (CAD) knitting machine to create and execute botanical patterns.

Knitted Wares by student Erin Colwell

It is a similar scene in the weaving room, where Emily Blair is using our CAD loom to transform a poem into an encrypted woven cloth. The loom helps to manage the complex patterns that Emily designs so she can focus on the enjoyment of weaving. This is a partnership, not an autonomous process. “I love it. It really facilitates sampling for complicated projects,” said Emily. “If you want to be making anything original you really need this technology to be able to design, especially in a project where there is no repeating pattern.”

Student Emily Blair on NBCCD's CAD loom

In the print design room, students continue to learn both block and screen printing, but they also learn to design and print patterns digitally. It is simple and efficient to send your original illustrations to companies who will print yardage of fabric and wallpaper with specialized inkjet printers and colourfast dyes. Some will even sell fabric for you, direct to client, without the need to get involved with shipping or printing.

Digitally Printed Cloth by alumna Allison Green

Textile Design alumna Allison Green uses this digital process to print photographic images or hand drawings onto cloth, which she then stitches, cuts, and paints to create installation artwork. Fellow alumna Dee Silkie collaborates with a local graphic designer so she can digitally print her designs and produce fun, wildly popular fashion like KINDNESS boxers.
“I use technology because it is just so much faster (and cleaner) than doing everything by hand. Mixing dyes and chemicals all the time is messy, time consuming, and bad for my health,” Dee says. “Being able to turn my prints into a digital format also means that I can put my designs onto more than just fabric.”

KINDNESS boxers by alumna Dee Silkie

Monica Memory, who creates enticing digital illustrations, prints them not on cloth but on pendants, pockets mirrors, and perfect little earrings. She has also had success licensing her repeat patterns by entering contests online.

Earring Design by alumna Monica Memory

Today, Textile Artists can send their artwork across the world to be considered for opportunities big and small. More than ever, Textile Designers are embracing podcasts, blogging, and other forms of social media. Savvy consumers purchase their patterns, tutorials, and unique hand-designed goods from the comfort of their living rooms.

Textile Design Book Page by student Tina Sharapova

Rather than watering down the handmade quality of craft, these new advancements have lead to an expansion of interest in the textile tradition. While Graphic Designers enjoy spending most of their time in the digital realm, the Textile Designer gets to move freely between two worlds. This is appealing to many budding designers who seek the excitement of technological innovation but who are still drawn to colourful, textural materials.

The NBCCD 2-year Diploma in Textile Design is NOT the route to a carbon copy, inside-the-box job. Our alumni are excelling in an incredible array of entirely unique careers that they have designed.  If you want to make a living doing something both innovative and individual, let us show you how.

– Allison Green, NBCCD Textile Design Alumna and Mixed Media Artist

New Brunswick College of Craft & Design

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