From Lichen to the Loom: Textile Design Seniors Debut Collections
By Sarah Stone
Through upholstered furniture, fabric swatches, sleepwear, tapestries and life-sized art installations, graduating seniors put four years of textile design education on display at the FTD Emerging Designers Showcase.
Every spring, seniors earning their B.S. in Fashion and Textile Design at the Wilson College of Textiles spend an entire semester developing their collections. Each student in the textile design (TD) concentration creates between 10 and 12 new designs that can be incorporated into larger pieces or stand alone as fabric samples.
“By the time they get to this course, it’s like teaching as many separate classes as there are students because each collection is completely different,” Professor and TD Program Director Traci Lamar says. “This is the one class where they are free to choose any technologies that they have learned throughout their four years. I try to give them as much flexibility as I can so they can pick their own concept and pursue that, leveraging their own unique design voice and skill set.”
A three-day-long showcase in NC State’s Talley Student Union gives designers an opportunity to share their concepts and collections with the public; each student works with an event planner to customize their booth to their collection. But before that, they put in nearly 150 hours in class time alone perfecting their work in studios and labs.
“I definitely think sampling and taking my time to think about the functionality and pieces has really helped me grow as a designer,” Tia Rogers says.
Creative direction for textile designers’ collections ranges from artistic and expressive to marketable and consumer-driven.
Preparing for her job as a surface designer at Abercrombie & Fitch, Brianne Haas put her own spin on classic American textile patterns for “Picnic Remix.”
“It’s about what patterns I grew up seeing a lot of that were inspiring to me,” she says.
“Picnic Remix” | Brianne Haas
Click image thumbnail to expand.
Maggie Kimmett went in the opposite direction, creating an art installation. A hike at the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in Idaho inspired her to use lichen to represent the value of perspective.
“A bunch of volcanoes erupted and left black ash everywhere. But if you look up close at the ground, you see this very neon yellow and orange lichen growing. So it’s this perspective of, ‘Wow, there’s this whole little literal ecosystem growing here and with the perfect conditions to make crazy structures, and I wish I could see what was happening in that little Earth,” Kimmett says. “Then, when you zoom out of that complex little world, there’s our whole other world and the world we’ve created through technology.”
A grant from the Office of Undergraduate Research provided her with the opportunity to learn more about these organisms as she created “Microbes Meet the Digital World.”
“I researched all different kinds of lichen and saw what they looked like under a microscope,” she says. “And I feel like that is what helped me start figuring out what I wanted to do with different textiles to really mimic that.”
“Microbes Meet the Digital World” | Maggie Kimmett
Labs and Technology
Each TD course leading up to the Emerging Designers semester aims to prepare students for this capstone course by giving them projects focused on specific techniques and technologies.
“I’ve been able to utilize the techniques that we’ve learned over the past four years to my advantage and have learned how to get what I want through those techniques,” Hayley Ludwigsen says.
With 68 labs within the Textiles Complex, student designers have nearly unlimited options to create diverse, professional-caliber pieces.
See the range of techniques, studios and labs the 2022 FTD Emerging Designers used to develop their textile design collections:
Knitting Lab | Burnout Printing
Traditional, By-Hand Techniques | Tufting
The designers will head to graduate school and careers in both home textiles and apparel for brands like Kohl’s and Glen Raven.
“I think just the scope of the project alone has made me grow,” Lara Rabinowitz, now interning for Hunter Douglas, says. “Doing something so large from start to finish in a condensed time period is something I’ve never done. It’s been challenging but also really rewarding to learn that I can do that.”