by Beth Chick
Third-year BA (Hons) Textile Design student
Myself, and 3 other Textile Design students were invited along with our tutor to the ‘Making it in Textiles’ conference in Bradford. The event was sponsored and organised by companies including Campaign for Wool, Clothworkers Company, Drapers’ Company and Weavers’ Company, for both students and tutors from different universities around the country that specialise in woven textiles.
The idea behind the event was for students to be able to learn about the textile industry first-hand, by talking face to face with manufacturers and witnessing the physical industrial production. There is a major talent gap in the industry today and young people are no longer learning the valuable technical skills needed to keep this industry alive. Throughout the whole event a large emphasis was put on the fact that the industry is bursting with job roles, from chain management to yarn design. There were even some jobs that I didn’t know existed, but are available to us as emerging textile designers.
During the visit, we heard from a number of experts who work in the industry, providing an insight into the broad opportunities within the textiles industry. We also had the chance to visit two functioning Yorkshire mills, which meant that we could experience what running a modern textile business was like today. There were over 120 students and tutors at this exciting event, meaning that we could also converse and meet others in the same position as us and gain an awareness of other courses and graduate possibilities.
On day 1 we arrived and were welcomed by one of the organisers with lunch before the day of industry talks began. The initial section of talks was all about setting up a business in textiles and the industry from a business point of view. The first talk was by Sheila-Mary Carruthers, a leading global Design Consultant and Professor. She went into a lot of detail and explained further about all of the different roles there are to be taken in the industry, from the yarn industry, to the business side, to the manufacturing side, and that there was a job for everyone, whether it was an ‘obvious’ role or not. After this, she went on to give us extremely helpful and critical advice about CV writing, applications for jobs in the industry and how to approach interviews in a professional way.
Speaking for all of us that went, I feel that this advice was crucial at this point in time as we will all be applying for jobs in the very near future. Being able to hear from a professional who carries out these kind of interviews herself helped us to see what she looks for in a potential candidate.
There were then two further talks about the business side of Textiles, from Margo Selby (Designer and Director), Guy Hills (Designer and Director) Dashing Tweeds. The second section of the talks came from a spinning, weaving and finishing point of view. This part was exceptionally interesting as it gave us all an insight in how these manufacturers actually work and how their businesses came about, which was a privilege to hear. The talks were given by Alan Thornber of Laxtons Specialist Yarns, Richard Humphries of Humphries Weaving, and Paul Johnson of W.T Johnson & Sons. To hear how all 3 areas of the manufacturing side worked from the initial yarn design and construction, to the weaving itself, to the final finishing stages of the cloth and how they all come together and work as a whole was incredible, as you would never think the process was that long. Even as a Textile Designer myself, I had no idea!
Later on we got the chance to speak to more students and I N D U S T R Y P R O F E S S I O N A L S as part of a fabulous dinner. We were greeted again by a drinks reception, which gave us the chance to talk to the earlier speakers and gain some more information about anything and everything. This part was really quite nerve-racking but it was worth it to be able to network, and in case we happen to encounter these people in the future, which is quite possible!
Even though we had to be up at 5:30am on day 2, it was well worth it for the day ahead. We were split into groups and sent off to 2 mills each to see first hand the manufacturing side of the Textile Industry and a step-by-step of how the process works from start to finish. The first mill I visited was Marton Mills in Otley. We were given a talk on how the company started, what they produced and who they produced for (they made the Harry Potter school uniforms which was very exciting!) and then the business/numbers side of it. We were given a guided tour of the mill and were able to get up close and personal to the looms, fabrics and finished produce. This gave us a great insight into the life cycle of the fabric and how much goes into creating one length of cloth. It really helped you appreciate the effort and time that is applied, which is a lot more than you’d ever expect.
Secondly we were taken to Roberts & Dyers Finishers. This was probably the most interesting part of the trip and where I learnt the most about the process. We were given a guided tour of the finishers, which was full of unusual looking machinery that carried out up to 13 steps of the process. This went from washing, to dying, to steaming, to scoring and so much more. We had the chance to ask questions and speak to the factory workers about their time in the trade and how they felt about the industry.
Overall, this trip was incredibly important to every student and showed us that we are in probably one of the best, if not the best industry! There is so much out there…whether that’s designing or manufacturing. Without our skills the trade is at risk of dying out. It was great to be able to interact with other students in the same position and to have the chance to network with industry experts and build up that ‘book of contacts’, which we will more than likely need in the future. I think I could speak for all of us, that we were so I N C R E D I B L Y grateful to be invited to an experience like this and we definitely took away a lot of valuable information and ideas for our futures in the textiles industry.