Thursday, 22 March 2012

Meeting point: textiles, fibres - and building materials!

The middle of a building materials show is hardly the place you’d expect to meet a textile designer.  But my stoic progress around Ecobuild yesterday for the ‘day job’ was sharply arrested by a display of tremendous woven energy by Joby Lawlor, on the University of Huddersfield stand.  

The University was demonstrating its students’ prowess in sustainable materials design, and as a weaver myself Joby’s work immediately caught my eye.  Not only had she found a use for otherwise unwanted materials, but she’s used them to create fabric with the potential to be formed into shapes, and that changed its look with the colour of light flowing through its translucency.  It’s highly innovative work and more suited to an art installation than an exhibition display.  It cheered my day up no end!

Perhaps Joby will be one of the next generation of ‘Enterprising Women’ – a link shared with me by friend Lindi on Ravelry this week.  Sounds like the type of organisation that all of us businesswomen in the craft sector should belong to, especially as many of us work on our own.  Another highly enterprising woman’s work also stunned me by being present at Ecobuild:  that of Extreme Knitting inventor and one of my textile heroines, Rachel John.  Her  Extreme Knitting textiles were part of a huge display marking the Campaign For Wool stand - which was primarily promoting sheep wool insulation! 

Having been involved through the ‘day job’ in developing careers information for a business sector, talking to Joby made me wonder how young people are being attracted into crafts.  The National Occupational Standards for Craft, launched in 2010, seem to be a very high cut above other sectors in terms of the ingenuity and general intelligence levels expected of entrants.  The ‘Craft Blueprint’ produced by the sector skills council for the creative industries gave me a bit of a shock, though.  It said the sector’s employment demographic was predominantly male!  And here’s me thinking that crafters out there are predominantly female.  You live and learn. 

The good news for all craft workers from the ‘Blueprint’ research is that we contribute about £3 billion’s worth of value to the economy, and there’s potential for: “a further 63% growth within the UK contemporary craft market,” excluding export potential.  So here’s to Joby Lawlor and her fellow graduates in 2012:  may your creativity be matched by your ability to weave yourself a flexible and stable business future in your chosen field.

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