Studying textiles can be a very misunderstood specialism within the art context. The textile industry here has gone the way of cheaper production and further afield climes.

For my own part, I have a first-class degree in Textiles and Fashion at Winchester School of Art in Hampshire. I spent three years of my life, after a foundation art year, making and looking and learning all aspects of the constructed textiles field. I then challenged myself further to make, from the basic materials of cloth and yarn, a collection of clothes (winter and summer) for men and women.

It included hand-knitted garments, shirts, trousers and machine-knitted garments that had been embroidered afterwards. They were enhanced with small sculptural jewellery and artefacts. This training inspired me to set up a small business in London designing and making knitwear and jewellery while working for a design house that works for many of the big design houses.

It brought me to a Fulbright scholarship and art college in New York and the refusal of a job with Cavin Klein! I also got to work on costume design for dance in New York and in Zaragoza, Spain as well as partnering with two knitwear designers in Canada.

Less glamorous was developing a range of knitted throws for a company on the Donegal Road when there were tit-for-tat killings going on. Suddenly that walk to work took on a different feel. It was a very hard specialism to put on the back burner when I decided to use my creativity to help others and contribute to setting up and running development programmes on peace lines within the enterprise sector. But I always loved it when another creative walked through my door looking to set up in business.

Indeed, I see one of them in the news recently: Oliver Jeffers who has revealed his cosmic sculpture trail idea which part of the £120m UK festival jokingly called the Brexit festival. How’s that for an opportunity and a budget.

I bring up the issue of textile arts is to highlight an exhibition in the Craft NI space in Royal Avenue. Shuttles and Shafts goes back in time to find modern Irish Linen.
It’s a visual journey “into the archives of one of Northern Ireland’s most prominent linen manufacturers and an insight into the work of the design partnership that has brought some of their classic patterns into the 21st century”.
A unique collection of 1,600 photographic glass plates were discovered in 2007 when the Ewart-Liddell linen factory at Donacloney, Co Down was dismantled. Senior Research Fellow,Trish Belford and Professor of Design Barbara Dass of Ulster University have preserved, catalogued and digitised the plates for future generations.


Lisburn Linen Museum then developed new prints and weaves in collaboration with William Clark and Sons of Upperlands, In the form of the ‘The Donaghcloney collection', a range of decorative fabrics comprising vivid digital prints, new damask woven lace and co-ordinating screen prints that respects tradition while placing itself in a contemporary context.
It’s a great opportunity to see some results of these specialisms and gain an understanding and appreciation of the skill and inspiration that goes into making such textiles. 

Venue Craft NI, 115-119 Royal Ave, Belfast, retail opening hours 10- 5pm Tuesday to Saturday until 11 November.

The Textile and Fashion can be an interesting specialism in art on my recent visit to Coventry I caught up with a fellow graduate who now runs his own stair carpet weaving design and making company.  If you are interested in Fashion and Textiles there is also an opportunity to listen to Síofra Caherty in Belfast Design week on Monday 1 November 10-11 am. I have featured her before in my column. She is based in North Belfast where she has a sustainable design studio.