My art education journey began when I was little girl in India. I learned sewing and techniques and henna design from my mum and aunty. I enjoyed using all kinds of tools to draw and paint and just loved playing with colour. We had very little money, so I only owned one precious watercolour set. Despite this, I won several painting competitions in India, one for paintings of the floods in our area.
I didn’t continue my formal art education until I was married, with children and living in the UK. I completed my Level 2 City and Guilds in Textiles at Hinckley College, which has since merged to become Warwickshire and Hinckley College. I did the course part time in order to combine it with my work as a wife and mother, so it took me a bit longer than those who study as school leavers.
I thoroughly enjoyed learning about different skills, techniques and seeing the differences between British and Indian approach to textiles. For example, machine embroidery in India uses one needle, whereas in Britain there are multiple needles.
Everything I’d learned so far fuelled my passion to learn even more! So I enrolled on a BA in ‘Textiles: Innovation and Design ‘course at Loughborough University. This is a full time, three year long course and is best summarised by the university:
“This course enables students to gain high level practical skills in drawing, design and making, through specialist pathways in Print, Weave, Multi-Media or Digital Practice. The course combines traditional and hand processes with digital technologies, and has extensive links with industry.”
It was great to learn so many new techniques, like felt making and screen painting. I was fascinated by the transition from handwork to digital textiles, as I was introduced to the potential of Lilypad software.
I began my post graduate course at De Montford University in Leicester with a passion for exploring the use of lighting in textiles. But this time I wanted to combine a drawn print design that has a functioning lighting effect.
The amazing facilities, experts and academic atmosphere made it an amazing place to study and
extend my own knowledge in new and exciting ways. For example, digital weaving software that enables 1.5cm square of design to produce 1.5metres of fabric, all in perfect proportions.
As with any innovation, there was a lot of trial and error involved in the development of my lighting effect project. Many of my initial attempts were unsuccessful because they merely reflected light sources.
After some research, I found Chemistry Innovation Laboratory in Nottingham and here I experimented with different dyes which would cause different reactions depending on light or heat. Some dyes produced different effects in the day or night and others changed colour when the wearer’s body temperature changed. I found this tremendously interesting. Unfortunately, the University’s lab was not equipped to house chemicals of that strength, so I had to reconsider my solution.
It was quite a challenge to find a way to create the design and effect I wanted without the use of harmful chemicals. With support from my tutor I discovered that my next avenue of investigation should be a reflective yarn.
At this point, my MA journey had to be paused as I was diagnosed with cancer. The university was incredibly supportive and I deferred the rest of my course for a year. During my treatment, my husband passed away, adding grief to my recovery. This truly was the most difficult year of my life to date but, all though this, my excitement toreach my creative goal gave me the focus I needed.
I returned to complete my course with a new idea and totally different approach for my project. My aim became to use woven, reflective textiles to produce the material with my desired effect.
I successfully completed my project and graduated with my Fashion and Textiles MA in September 2017…my proudest personal achievement to date.
I haven’t finished yet…
I’ve used the results of my project to create a brand new Shakera Design product that I’m very excited to be sharing with you soon.
Keep an eye on my website…I can’t wait to see what you think!