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How a short course can enrich your textiles practice

  • Written byYusuf Tamanna
  • Published date16 June 2021

Our textiles and materials short courses touch on a wide range of specialties when it comes to using different fabrics and textures and how you can get the most out of them.

For east London based product designer Laura Croft, doing the Creating Textile Design Collections Online Short Course at Central Saint Martins presented the opportunity to both feed her passion for textiles as well as support her practice creating homeware items for her thriving online shop Letter & Brush.

“My work ranges from fun and fruity to abstract and geometric. I'm inspired by travel and in particular the architecture I've seen on my travels,” Laura explains.

“My background is actually in chemistry which is helping me out a lot as I learn about dyes and materials as a textile designer. I also love constructed textiles and this past year I have collaborated with a Portuguese brand Unwind Studio who create art-inspired needlepoint kits.”

Laura is no stranger to short courses. In 2018 she attended the Applied Surface Design Using Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop Short Course at Central Saint Martins and learned how to design repeat patterns using digital software. The experience put her on her path to designing her own printed textile designs.

Photo of Laura Croft

“My work ended up being displayed in the Central St Martins window display in July - August 2019 and through this I met Dominique L’Olive who teaches the Creating Textile Design Collections Online Short Course. I booked myself on to the course in 2020 to help broaden my own portfolio of work,” Laura tells me.

Sharing Laura’s passion for textiles is Katie Smart, who attended the Introduction to Textiles Online Short Course at London College of Fashion.

“I have always had a flair for crafts and started my own creative blog in March 2018. I was introduced to sewing a long time ago but have been further developing my sewing and pattern drafting skills in the last few years.”

Photo of Katie Smart

Though she primarily works in the classical musical industry – a sector that has been quiet over the last year due to the pandemic – Katie completed a diploma course at the British Academy of Fashion Design in 2020. Once she finished her studies, she wanted to know more about the fabrics she was using and looked to short courses for more information.

“I already had a little knowledge of how fabrics are produced, but the level of detail in the short course within just 4 weeks was fascinating!”

While for Katie and Laura, doing their short courses was a way to develop their skills and expand their understanding of textile design, Barcelona based Valentina Ricci looked to short courses to help her reconnect with art.

“My husband and I both work for the School of Performing Arts – it's where I mainly design and produce theatrical shows. Despite dedicating most of my time studying about theatre, my first love is decorative arts and art in general,” Valentina explains.

It has been so nice to become part of a community of amazing talented designers through these courses

— Laura Croft

“I’m trying to reconnect with that side of me that I lost and I’m actually hoping to change my profession in the future. I started to explore the different disciplines available and came to know about the short courses on offer and chose to study the Digital Textile Design Online Short Course.”

Another student who attended one of our textiles and materials short courses was Regina Perez Kamel. Originally from Mexico City, but now based in the Rio Grande Valley, close to the US/Mexico border in south Texas, Regina has always been passionate about fashion design, the environment and social justice.

“Studying in the US/Mexico border made me question the relationship between aesthetics and politics. I gravitate towards perspectives that understand the world through a multidisciplinary lens,” Regina explains.

A photo of Regina Perez

As a graduate student at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley currently undertaking a master degree in interdisciplinary studies with a focus on Art History, Regina attended the Fashion Textile Design Online Short Course simply because she wanted to know more about the field and how she could be a part of it.

With all students on their respective short courses, they each enjoyed different aspects of the experience. For Laura, the ability to network with other likeminded designers enabled her to learn from her peers and come together with people from across the world for the same reason.

“It has been so nice to become part of a community of amazing talented designers through these courses; these have been the people that I have turned to when I have questions, need feedback or support as someone new to the industry and I'm so grateful”, Laura tells me.

On the course we also touched upon the environmental factors related to textile production, and this really opened my eyes to the effects that a lot of everyday materials have on the world

— Katie Smart

Katie appreciated the positive and useful feedback she received from the tutor Paulette Colman. As her reasons for doing the short course were to learn more about the fabrics she was using, Katie appreciated finding out what goes on behind the scenes when it comes to creating and maintaining certain fabrics – something a lot of people don’t even think about.

“I really liked learning about the complexity of the processes that are behind creating certain fabrics, and therefore how it can be a piece of art in itself before even reaching the next stages of cutting it into garments or being used for home textiles.”

Likewise, it was the emphasis on speaking about your own work that Regina really liked during her course. It helped her communicate her ideas and get to grips with the creative process a lot better, especially as she attended the course without any background of experience in textiles. Regina says she was able to find and understand her voice during the course, which she calls ‘the best discovery of all’.

Image of Valentina's design work

Image of design work created by Valentina during her course

On the topic of discoveries, Valentina tells me that her short course taught her the importance of being focused on the entire creative process to produce a worthwhile and original design, but there’s is always room to experiment and dabble in alternative designs and ideas now and again.

“I’m not used to thinking in these terms. With theatre design, it’s based on collaboration – the drawing and sketches you create are for the actors, directors and for the play itself to be translated into theatrical form. You rely on so many other people to carry on the work you initially present. I like the freedom that textile design allows but I struggle to design things and run with it. When I compared my work with other students in the class, I felt trapped by my limitations – but that’s ultimately a great thing to discover!”

Since completing the course, Valentina is in the process of changing careers but found the course was a great way to identify the areas she needs to improve on before taking the plunge and becoming a textile designer full time.

“I found it really useful to talk with the tutor about my work and creating a portfolio to demonstrate my skills. As I have understood, a lot of work has to be done before I can even try to present myself as a textile designer. But through the course I was able to identify the areas I need to concentrate on in order to improve and achieve my goal.”

Doing the short course was pretty essential for the portfolio I submitted to apply for an MA in Textile Design. I was able to include work I made while on the course in my application as well as follow the same steps independently to make more pieces

— Regina Perez Kamel

Katie says she’s already actively using all that she’s learned on the course to help her decide what fabrics to use when working on her own personal sewing projects and her latest exciting venture. Threads & Lettering, where she’s selling little drawstring bags via Instagram. In addition to this, Katie has also become a lot more aware of the impact textile design has on the environment.

“On the course we also touched upon the environmental factors related to textile production, and this really opened my eyes to the effects that a lot of everyday materials have on the world, so I have become even more aware of what I am buying and sewing with.”

Laura has gone from strength to strength since completing her latest short course and it’s even sent her towards further full-time study.

“The experience on these UAL short courses has helped me develop designs for homeware which I sell online on Etsy and Letter & Brush. It has also set me on a path of further study. I am currently completing a Textile Foundation at Morley College and these short courses gave me the confidence to commit to this year of further education. I'm excited to see where this leads to!”

A black and white pattern scheme designed by Regina Perez

Similar to Laura, Regina is also looking to study textiles full time at university since completing her short course.

“I came to the course with little to no experience in textiles. Therefore, doing the short course was pretty essential for the portfolio I submitted to apply for an MA in Textile Design. I was able to include work I made while on the course in my application as well as follow the same steps independently to make more pieces.”

Sketches and illustrations by Valentina on different underwater plants

When asked what they would say to other students considering doing a short course, all four said they wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the experience.

“It is definitely worth taking the time to learn more about something that you're intrigued by, and you feel could provide that extra insight you might need for your career/personal interests,” Katie says.

Valentina believes doing a short course would prove beneficial to both younger and older students either needing some direction or a place to explore different creative outlets.

“The short courses are good for young students who are not sure about what path or career to follow. Short courses provide the perfect tools to explore. It’s also great for older students who want to change careers or want to experiment with their artistic skills.”

Both Laura and Regina agree doing a short course is a worthwhile investment. “Do it! You will meet some amazing people, learn new skills and it might lead to opportunities that you would not expect,” Laura says. Regina adds finally: “I would say that doing a short course is definitely worth it. I have taken two short courses at UAL already and both have been life changing experiences.”

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If you want a space to express your creative side and study alongside like-minded individuals, we offer short courses that touch on a range of subjects. These include fashion design, illustration, business and marketing and interior design. Visit our upcoming courses starting soon page to see where our short courses can take you!

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