Material Explorers

Oliver Thomas Lipp

These designers focus their work on the sophisticated exploration of material. In the process of investigating the creative potential of stuff, the material explorer often finds new applications for matter or even invents a new material. The material explorers are at the forefront of the reinvention of craft, taking a term that used to have backward-looking connotations into completely new areas.

Oliver Thomas Lipp, devoted material explorer and BA Textile Design graduate will be exhibiting his project ‘Extending the Body, Skin and Hair’. We spoke to Oliver about the future of textiles, his investigation into unconventional materials and the importance of innovating design. 

Tells us about your collection and what inspired you.

The skin, the body and hair inspired the whole collection. I was really interested in how you can take something that you usually apply textile to and use that as the main focus of inspiration. I wanted to look at different structures and different textures and reapply them back on to the body in abstract forms to distort the silhouette or change the structure of the skin. 

What sort of research did you carry out in order to learn more about these aspects of the body? 

It is a difficult one because as a designer myself I have to work from my own imagery and I have to work from my own objects. I did kind of look into close ups of skin cells and microscopic but I didn’t want it to be a traditional project where you look at structures of skin and then you copy them. 

I worked on developing my own image archive, collecting images and making my own imagery and from there I started to play around with materials. I made models using wax, plaster, hair, silicone, gelatine and I continually experimented with those. I’d then take photos of the models and build the project from that. 

That process allowed my fabrics in the end to be truly original and heavily tactile. I enjoyed the challenge of taking something like a block of silicon with some hair in it and try to make it into a fabric that can be worn in someway. It really was a long process of material exploration. 

When did you first realise your interest in material exploration? 

I’ve always been interested in experimenting with materials. At CSM you are pushed, especially in Textiles, it is the nature of the course that you experiment as much as possible. I’ve always been interested in using materials that you wouldn’t necessarily see in fabrics. Sometimes it’s successful and sometimes it’s not but it’s something that has always inspired me. All the experiments that I have done now, have acted like a springboard for me to carry on experimenting. I think it is something that I will continually do and have been doing for a while now. 

Do you think that material exploration is important for the future of textiles?

It is really important to innovate the knitting industry, especially the British knitting industry because British design is known all around the world for its creativity. I think it is important when you say you’re a knitwear designer that you are actually pushing something. It doesn’t have to be crazy but you have to be challenging the norm. I like to use elements of traditional garment making with a playful edge on materials. It really annoys me when you say that you are a textile designer or you studied knitwear and people assume that you just make jumpers. 

What are you hoping people will take away from your project? 

I want to change people’s views on design. Each of the graduates that are in the exhibition, within their specialisms have pushed things a hell of a lot. I want people to take away that the future is about innovation and changing peoples perceptions. It is important to change peoples view on things, test the water and try things that are a little bit different. Some things you might like and some you might not but I don’t think that there is anything in the exhibition that you can dismiss. It shows that there is some potential for some really interesting design. 

Oliver will be talking about his project in more detail as part of The Intelligent Optimist event series. Visit the Eventbrite page to book your free ticket.