Making It in Textiles
Bradford Textiles Conference (October 2018)
Written by Immediate Past Master Carolyn Boulter
Making It in Textiles is a conference for final year textile design degree students, which introduces them and their tutors to the UK textiles industry, encouraging them to consider a variety of career options explained by industry experts. Attendees receive the chance to visit two textile manufacturing establishments in the Bradford area and to talk about their future career plans.
This year, 50 guests from industry, education, City Livery Companies and the Campaign for Wool came to the event and networked with students; 118 students (including their tutors) registered, from the following 23 institutions:
Bath Spa University, Birmingham City University, Bradford School of Art, Central Saint Martins, Chelsea College of Art, Coleg Sir Gar, De Montfort University, Falmouth University, Glasgow School of Art, Hereford College of Art, Heriot Watt University, London Metropolitan University, Loughborough University, Manchester Metropolitan University, Middlesex University, Nottingham Trent University, Royal College of Art, UCA Farnham, University of Brighton, University of Derby, University of Huddersfield, University of Leeds, Winchester School of Art.
For some, it was their first experience of attending a conference, and they arrived quite anxious. But the organisers seated students at set places at tables to enhance discussion and soon the students were chatting and starting to network with those from other institutions and the experts from the textiles industry. This was extremely effective, with many commenting on the useful new contacts they had made. It was obvious that representatives from the industry were enthusiastic about meeting young people and encouraging them to enter the field. One student commented, ‘This is bringing us and the mills together, we can bring creativity into a conservative environment’. They learned that there is no formula for success, but there is a need for perseverance and the ability to be flexible and multi-skilled.
The conference – in its fifth year – is funded and organised through a collaboration of The Clothworkers', Weavers' and Drapers' Companies, as well as the Campaign for Wool. It is now attracting interest from other companies like The Dyers', Framework Knitters' and Broderers' Companies. The sessions were run by a series of student-orientated speakers, presenting opportunities, processes and reflections on careers in the textiles industry – much of which students don't get in their university courses. The final session, reviewing their futures in the industry, revealed that many of them now realise the scope and opportunity for working in the sector.
On the second morning, five coaches set off to visit pairs of mills and factories. For example, one coach went to Abraham Moon & Sons, Managing Director John Walsh is a Clothworker Liveryman. It was founded in 1837, and is a vertical mill near Harrogate taking in raw wool and outputting high-quality fabrics for clothing and furnishings. The mill is a heritage building, still going full tilt and pretty noisy in places. For some, it was the first time they had been in a mill. That group then proceeded to Laxtons Specialist Yarns, which provided a contrast. It’s in a new, purpose-built industrial unit in Guisley. It produces hand-knitting wools as well as yarns for the industry.
The experience of seeing the opportunities and constraints on designing finished textiles for the discerning market that are imposed by the manufacturing process was invaluable. One student group commented at the conclusion that to be a successful designer within the industry you need:
• Technical knowledge for the future
• Communication skills especially persuasion and problem solving
• Clear understanding of the design process
• To know your market
• A willingness to take opportunities and be open minded
Let’s hope many of these students will make it in textiles!