Whilst studying for my MA Textiles some years ago, I concentrated on conceptual textile art. Since then my day job has been as a designer for functional items, bags and cases for all types of products. I am also a tutor on all the OCA Textiles degree courses. When my dear auntie Frances died last year, I was lucky enough to inherit a large collection of her dressmaking remnants, hidden away for many years. Most are from the 1960s, some from the 70s and a few are even from the 50s. Looking through them is like a snapshot of the past, a rummage through time and space and memory. I was actually with her when she bought many of them and the memories came flooding back. Some were pieces left over from dresses I made for her in my spare time whilst at secondary school (she was single, a CEO, a successful career woman ahead of her time). The dresses have long gone; I wish I had some still, as its strangely often these personal items without financial value which have so much meaning in life. For an excellant discussion on just this subject I would direct you to My Mother's Wedding Dress - The Fabric of Our Lives by Justine Picardie. This book was recommended to me by Sarah Braddock-Clarke, a fellow OCA Textiles tutor earlier this year. You might in turn be familiar with her wondeful book, Techno Textiles which is a standard book for students nowadays.
But what to do with all those wondeful remnants? I was taught in art school to let the design process dictate the choice of materials and not the other way around. When I'm commissioned to a case for a medical product (to be worn on a patient in hospital) it needs to pass the necessary safety standards, be hygenically wipeable and to look appropriate. Handbags on the other hand, can be made out of almost anything- beautiful exotic fabrics for evening, strong cotton for summer, plastics, recycled packaging even. So the starting point to me suggests bags again, even if taking a more conceptual approach. I have to add that Auntie was also a handbag fanatic ahead of her time. We used to get the train from Ely to London on many a Saturday for a rummage around Libertys sale. The few I have also inherited are all in lavender, her favourite colour. I also found one very tatty dress pattern from the mid 60s, some now vintage cotton reels, some packs of bias binding and a few other notions which fell out of the remnants. Again this suggests a return to my textile roots in perhaps a more conceptual way than I would have used them whilst at secondary school. In the meantime if you've made any creative textiles from fabric personal to you, I would love to hear from you.