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Five Questions with Janie Woodbridge

Janie Woodbridge

By Susan Fandel

In January, the Wilson College of Textiles welcomed Janie Woodbridge as assistant professor in the department of Textile and Apparel, Technology and Management (TATM). She holds an MFA with honors in Textile Design from the Rhode Island School of Design and a BFA in Fiber and Materials Studies from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

“I had a fantastic art teacher in high school who introduced me to many elements in the art world, but I hadn’t known much about textiles prior to college,” she said. “I had the opportunity to take an introductory textile and fiber course my freshman year…it was there that I was first introduced to weaving. Once I started weaving, I fell in love — it made sense with the way my brain worked.”

Woodbridge has worked in industry, most recently as a design lead for Triangle-area custom fabric printing company WeaveUp, and also as a freelance designer for companies such as Cotton Incorporated, Martha Stewart and Woolrich. She previously served as a lecturer at NC State for three years, both in the College of Design and the Wilson College of Textiles.

1) How would you describe your design aesthetic?

My design aesthetic comes from a desire to make things fit together harmoniously — like a puzzle. I love weave structure and am inspired by the work of the Bauhaus Textile artists Anni Albers and Gunta Stölzl. I also love fine art (all mediums) and get a lot of inspiration from the art world. I love Ellsworth Kelly, David Hockney, Joan Miró, Sonia Delaunay, Frank Stella, Andy Goldsworthy, Alex Katz…the list goes on.

2) What are your research interests or areas that you want to explore in future work?

I would very much like to focus on innovations in weaving. I am fascinated with the process of weaving and weave structures and I love that you can have many systems of yarn working together in the same cloth. Within that the possibilities are endless — from new innovations in design to smart e-textiles and performance textiles.

3) What do you love about teaching?

Teaching really gives you an opportunity to connect with people. It makes me really happy to see how the students I taught years ago have turned into successful, creative adults in the textiles industry. The most exciting thing for me about teaching is seeing the students discover and become engaged with a process. I love the moment when a concept or technique “clicks” and they explore possibilities they could not before.

4) What are some challenges and strengths of the Textiles program?

One of the challenges (and motivations) is in teaching students to maneuver the job market in an ever-changing textiles industry. This industry is always changing and it is important for us educators to be able to be on top of those changes to prepare students for the future.

Another challenge will be what to focus on! There is such a great opportunity at this school to explore many angles of textile design and innovation.

I love this program for how innovative it is. With its close ties to industry partners, it is always on the forefront with what is happening in industry. With access to the newest textile technologies, students get hands-on experience that really prepares them for their future.

5) What do you do when you’re not teaching? What are some of your favorite books, movies, podcasts, etc?

Much of my free time these days has been taken over by my 18 month-old son, who is a very busy boy! My husband and I spend a lot of time playing with him and encouraging his curiosity. We can often be found with him at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham. Other than that, I love being in nature and staying active (hiking, running, swimming). I love going to museums and seeing live music and comedy when I can.

My taste is very broad with entertainment — there is so much to watch, read and listen to! Most recently, I loved watching “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and I’m really enjoying some of the new documentary series that have been coming out.

In terms of books, my tastes are broad, too. I loved the autobiography “Just Kids” by Patti Smith, and I really enjoyed the “Devil in the White City” by Erik Larsen as well as the graphic novel “Relish” by Lucy Knisley. I am also a sucker for period historical novels like “Jane Eyre” and “Pride and Prejudice.”

With my new commute from Durham, I finally have time to catch up on some of my favorite podcasts. I love podcasts where I can learn about different things and experiences, such as “This American Life,” “Criminal,” “Radiolab,” “The Moth” and “99% Invisible.”