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Study visit review: 2018 RCA Textiles summer show - The Open College of the Arts
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Study visit review: 2018 RCA Textiles summer show

The 2018 MA Textiles summer show at the Royal College of Art was a heady mix of product, experimentation and conceptual thinking. Having curated the show I took the opportunity to invite OCA students to view the work. The aim was to discuss the diversity in order to question the definition of the term ‘textiles’. 15 OCA students attended on a sunny summer Sunday to explore the galleries before meeting for a very lively discussion.
It was universally agreed that the show was exciting, dynamic and varied with work which challenged traditional definitions of textiles. Exhibits ranged from beautifully crafted weave, print, knit and mixed media textiles which had obvious commercial applications to equally beautifully crafted work using metal, plaster, resin, paper, smell, sound and reflections. The latter did not necessarily lean towards product applications but were very significant in their exploration of process, materials and the communication of ideas.
The introductory notes to the show included the comment “textiles offer uniquely fluid, flexible and infinitely adaptable ways of questioning, examining and solving some of the increasingly complex societal challenges we face now and in the future”. I would like OCA students to consider where their own work sits in relation to this statement.

The images included in this post are selected only because they came up in conversation; Below each image credit includes the web site or Instagram of the designer and it is well worth exploring the individual concepts further.
Here are a few key points from the discussion:

  • How can a work which does not include textiles be considered textiles? Several exhibits were non textile materials and also included explorations of the senses – touch, smell and sound. The notion of textiles as a way of thinking was considered and how the use of diverse materials is a positive force in developing new ways of thinking. A collection including hard and soft surfaces can be evolve from the same theme but offer very different potential applications.
  • What do we mean by commercial? In education, this term is often applied to works where there is a defined product, application or potential for mass production but our discussion considered the viability of conceptual works as equally commercial. The word commercial is defined in the dictionary as ‘making or intended to make a profit’ and this can be applied to any creative work by asking who the audience is and how to reach them with the work.
  • How important is the development of a theme in the final work? This question was more of an observation that the exhibitors had all thoroughly investigated a source of inspiration or idea to arrive at the resolved outcomes. Themes were in some cases about colour and pattern but equally could be political, environmental or responding to senses and feelings. In every case the depth of research was directly linked to the success of the outcome. It was agreed that the background research did not have to be visible or even comprehendible but that the originality and quality of the work made depended on it.

Image Credits: All photos by Neil Musson.
Alice Blackstock: aliceblackstock.com
Amber Yinjue Chen: iamberchen.com
Arun Sispal: arunsispal.com
Domenica Landin: @nikari_o
Jie Wu: jiewu.co.uk
Linglan Li: @linglan_li
Liu Ya: @liuya09 / Sadhvi Jawa: sadhvijawa.com (in same photo)
Marie Bach Holm: mariebach.com
Orla Lawn: orlalawn.com
Phoebe Corker-Marin: phoebecorkermarin.com
Ruby Smith: ruby-smith.co.uk
Sooyeaun Lee: @print_minister

Posted by author: Neil Musson
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4 thoughts on “Study visit review: 2018 RCA Textiles summer show

  • Really interesting post, thank you.
    “…textiles offer uniquely fluid, flexible and infinitely adaptable ways of questioning, examining and solving some of the increasingly complex societal challenges we face now and in the future”.
    I’m not sure that I see the purpose of my textile work (now or in the future) in relation to complex societal challenges. I would like to think of it more in terms of individual expression, and if it questions, examines or solves anything, I think that is much more likely to be at a personal, rather than societal, level. Of course those things are not entirely unrelated. Individual actions and choices affect society and society affects us as individuals. But I’m not sure why textiles as a discipline should necessarily be focussed on societal challenges rather than individual ones.

  • Hi Ros,
    I think you make a good point. That comment from the exhibition blurb is important in making us question the motivation behind our making – it also highlights the wider potential that textiles have to impact people. It is exciting to think that something which is usually experienced on an intimate textural level can also communicate to a much wider audience. Textiles should not necessarily be ‘focussed’ on societal challenges but we should be very aware of its potential. Thanks for your comment!

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