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Kieu Vu - You are not Alone

Close up of Kieu's work
You Are Not Alone, Kieu Vu. Photo: Bruce Basudde

BA Textiles: Weave runner up Kieu Vu tells us about the special social purpose of her fabric collection.

"My project is dedicated to the cancer community, particularly teenagers and young adults...I wanted to represent a community of some of the strongest people who are facing both mental and physical challenges every day of their journey."

My embroidered and woven collection has a social purpose - it is designed to be curtain fabric for cancer treatment centres and hospitals. The drape of my embroidered fabrics could suggest that they can be used for tapestry too, or as an art piece to be hung on ceilings in scan rooms and treatment areas.

I have created a 'map' of organisations that specialise in helping young cancer patients in every way, whether it is focused on lifestyle, confidence-building, finances or wellbeing. Each crystal's colour represents a different charity and the 3D embroidered 'houses' represent the charity’s buildings or treatment centres soon to be built. Metaphorically they are there to remind everyone that there are others going through similar experiences.

You Are Not Alone

"I have used [crystals] in my work to make an unpleasant experience more bearable..."

In my design I considered the possibility of enabling materials to be reused. This is why I chose to work only with beads and without using iron ons - it is very simple to retrieve the crystals after cutting the threads and dismantling the 3D embroidery. I wove mainly with cotton and polyester threads - I want to avoid this in my future work as I am now aware of more sustainable alternatives such as recycled polyester and organic cotton. Linen would be a strong alternative too as the curtain fabric quality will improve after each wash.

I intend to conduct further research into post-fabric treatments too since fabrics would need to be sterilised for hospital use. I would also like to do more research into natural dyeing methods since this will be a healthier option than dyrect and acid dyes which contain harmful chemicals.

Crystals have often been used for healing purposes and ultimately they are very pleasant and attractive objects. I have used them in my work to make an unpleasant experience more bearable as hospitals can be very uninviting and uncomfortable especially when you are not feeling well.

Image of the Proton Beam Therapy Centre construction site for UCLH alongside Kieu's work inspired by the site
Image: Kieu Vu
The image above shows the construction site for University College London Hospital's new Proton Beam Therapy Centre alongside Kieu's work inspired by the site.

What is the inspiration behind your project?

My project stems from my personal experiences and is dedicated to the cancer community, particularly teenagers and young adults. It is easy to feel alone even when you are surrounded by others who are in the same boat as you. I wanted to represent a community of some of the strongest people who are facing both mental and physical challenges every day of their journey.

Whats does conscious design means to you?

Conscious design means to be aware of every component that goes into a textile - how it is made, how it influences the people who interact with it and, essentially, how it contributes to the future of design.

As a designer would you say you’re consciously minded or do you put more emphasis on the creative process?

I am a bit of both. I tend to find ways of creating a narrative in my work, by which I mean putting forward concepts that I believe are important. Simultaneously I enjoy pushing myself in the creative process and exploring unconventional methods in textiles and challenging the limits of the materials I use.

What is your creative process, do you usually have a vague idea in mind and work towards that or do you just let your creative research guide you?

I usually have a vague idea in mind - a very rough concept - and then once I start researching further I begin to see where I can take it. I develop the project from there.

How was it working with Swarovski crystals? Is it a material you have worked with before?

I have never worked with crystals before so the collaboration with Swarovski has definitely given me an opportunity to explore hand embroidery and bead weaving. Working with the crystals has also opened my mind to ways of using light and shadows in my fabrics, as well as using the crystal colours and shine to their full potential.

Further research

Teenage Cancer Trust logo

Teenage Cancer Trust

Hospital facilities for younger cancer patients

Screenshot for the University College London Hospital's Proton Beam Therapy Centre website

University College London Hospital

Find out why Proton Beam Therapy is so important

CLIC Sargent logo

Clic Seargent

Find out how CLIC Sargent works to stop cancer from destroying young lives