Skip to main content


A Textiles Selection

When I was asked to curate and comment on my selection of work designed by the graduates from 2020 created under extraordinary circumstances, I chose to look exclusively at the school of Textiles.

I immediately thought about the criteria that draws me to a piece of work and wrote down my thoughts quite spontaneously. Like in many creative fields, textiles has grown to embrace and deliver many big ideas.

But to me there is a fundamental essence that needs to be present, an ability to please and delight the eye while achieving the functionality that is intended.

Sne Tak’s concept of soft vessels that are adaptable to protect or store is very appealing. Her visual and technical flare is shown very well with organic forms in knitted structures that are pliable, morphing from one form to another, while the colour and pattern through its simplicity create a collection that has both beauty and function embracing the craft in a moment when we desire more simple things as well as radical thinking. Following a personal journey and family history of movement and travel from North Korea, I believe that this personal attachment to a project gives a sincerity and warmth to a body of work.

To me Shixiu Liu’s work touches the emotional sensors. It is presented beautifully and although I cannot touch it I can feel it’s softness and fragility. Her fabrics have an organic flow that is calming and soothing. She talks about the contrasts of insecure and secure with her work draping and enveloping to cocoon a body, her photography communicates this emotion in its minimalism and soft creamy colour palette with complex knitting techniques stripped bare of colour to appear effortless.

Now with the world moving so fast with technology evolving and always present I love that this is the opposite, natural fibres being simply beautiful, perfect to withdraw into for the silence and protection.

Mazlyn Ortiz’s world is a colourful one, full and brimming with ideas gathered and assembled into pieces that tell a personal story. I love the freedom of mixed media and there is something very childlike with Mazlyn’s work but very appealing. She has a story to tell and I like the randomness aesthetic that looks spontaneous but I can imagine is anything but! It is the curation of the found textiles, objects and how they are collaged to make each piece of work appealing on its own but then to view them as a collection or narrative is more powerful with the underlying text giving it another layer of intrigue.

For some reason I have been drawn to the projects this year that are almost stripped back to what is the essence of a beautiful cloth that we would wear or use in our everyday. I think Tess Whiting’s work falls into this realm. I am not resisting the bigger grander statements but often it is within the cloth where beauty lies. Taking this a step further with real consideration for the plight of our planet is essential in the present and future. Fibres that are natural, stripped of chemical process, biodegradable are qualities that we now desire. Referencing grass and city parklands with a palette of greens, summer burnt oranges and mustards as our cities become more concrete is a reminder of nature and how much we appreciate and enjoy it, no longer taking anything for granted.

Orla Kiely

Orla Kiely

Orla Kiely OBE, known for her colourful, graphic approach to print and pattern, most notably Stem which has adorned products from tea cups to cars graduated from the RCA in 1992 with her Master’s Degree and a master plan! She started her business shortly after applying her style of print to a collection of bags which, from a stand at London Fashion Week were immediately picked up by top stores such as Isetan, Selfridges and Saks Fifth Avenue. Establishing a recognisable house style, she has gone on to design and create products not just for fashion but also lifestyle with a range of home furnishings, wallpapers, bed and bath, kitchen and table top to name a few!

She was the subject and title of an exhibition “Orla Kiely, a Life in Pattern” curated by The Fashion and Textile Museum in London in 2018 which went on to travel to The Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh. Orla has written 3 books, one of which accompanied the exhibition published by Conran Octopus.

She remains a loyal supporter of the RCA, gifting the college with a bursary fund in 2011 to support a textile student financially through their course. She was also invited to sit on the selection committee of the Kay Cosserat Bursary fund founded by Kay, her friend and mentor before she died in 2003.

She was appointed Visiting Professor of the college from 2008 – 2013 and was awarded a Senior Fellowship in 2017.

Orla remains a loyal friend and champion of the college.

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • YouTube
Royal College of Art
Registered Office: Royal College of Art,
Kensington Gore, South Kensington,
London SW7 2EU
RCA™ Royal College of Art™ are trademarks
of the Royal College of Art