Helga Matos was born in Brazil and grew up in the Amazon Rainforest. With such an incredible backdrop to her childhood, it is no wonder that it has greatly influenced her creative work. She says it is a constant source of inspiration for her woven textiles. She has also experienced life in Portugal, Norway, India and South Korea and is currently based in the south of England.
Helga Matos – 3D triangles – hand woven; nylon, viscose, upholstery piping (polyethylene)
As well as her own collections of fabrics and bespoke wall art pieces for the home, Helga also creates large works for public spaces, and collaborates with other artists, designers and engineers on a variety of projects.
Helga Matos – 3D illusion – jacquard; cotton, copper
It’s the textures that I find most intriguing. Although she uses traditional jacquard and dobby looms, she weaves using such diverse materials as copper wire, cassette tape, silk and upholstery piping, to create work that is quite experimental. I would love to experience these in real life – the play of light on the many shiny surfaces would constantly be changing, and would be so intriguing. Helga’s main focus is just this – to create surfaces that evoke curiosity and excitement, to make people stop and appreciate materials and craft, to make them want to touch.
Helga Matos – fabrics 1 – Jacquard; hand woven-wool, nylon
Helga Matos – soundworks – handwoven; bronze, tinned copper, polyurethane, viscose, cotton
Helga Matos recently exhibited at the prestigious Milan Furniture Fair. You can find more of her work on her own website, helgamatos.com.
Lithuanian felter Agne Audejiene has immersed herself in the world of handmade ever since she was a small child, learning much from her mother and grandmother.
agnesfelt – felted red bird brooch
agnesfelt – felted flower brooch
She loves the process of making, and feels very fortunate that she now has the opportunity to pass those skills on to her daughters and friends.
agnesfelt – wool and silk scarf
agnesfelt – red and green infinity scarf
Felting is an ancient craft, having been practised for thousands of years by many cultures. Agne’s work comes from this traditional base, but her control over form and attention to detail in decoration adds a lovely lightness to its soft bulkiness.
agnesfelt – process (1)
agnesfelt – process (2)
agnesfelt – process (3)
agnesfelt – process (4)
Agne told me her English wasn’t very good, and for now she could only send me pictures of her process and work. But really, I think the work speaks for itself, don’t you think?
agnesfelt – natural beige wool slippers
You can find more of Agne’s work in her Etsy shop, AgnesFelt.
Shelly Kent is pretty fresh to the world of small biz, starting Orange Owl Textiles only about 18 months ago, while she was still studying textile design at uni.
orange owl – avery (tangerine)
After graduating from RMIT in 2011 and undertaking the NEIS program for new small businesses, she then went about setting up her studio, taking over the home garage and building a 4 metre print table. “I also took over the shed and laundry, as well as the only spare room in the house! The space where I print needed some urgent repairs, so my partner and I did some crash courses in plastering and concreting. It looks more like a studio now, especially since we moved the lawnmower out. I like to have the garage door up while I print so I can look out onto the street and chat with my neighbours when they come past.”
orange owl – vintage fan (black on denim)
Shelly takes the raw materials from cloth and ink right through to the finished product. She usually draws out her designs on pencil and paper, before scanning and working on them in Illustrator and Photoshop. “Depending on the pattern I may expose this onto screens ready for hand printing or send it off for digital printing. The fabric is then made up into homeware items or clothing.”
To give you an idea of what’s involved in screenprinting a length of fabric, Shelly sent me this fascinating short video of her printing a four colour length.
Four-colour printing from Orange Owl Textiles
“Screen printing in repeat with multiple colours can be challenging at times and quite a few things can go wrong. It’s a matter of testing, and testing again and more testing…”
“Apart from lack of time I would have to say the hardest thing is lack of funds. I know a lot of artists who work in a variety of art forms – photographers, machine knitters, musicians – and we all agree that one of the toughest obstacles is finding regular cash to sustain the art practice, especially when you’re starting out. Screen printing requires a lot of materials on an ongoing basis: equipment, inks and of course fabric. Many artists that I know need to also work part time, usually in unrelated fields. I admire anyone that takes the plunge to give up financial security to follow what they believe in.”
Her best piece of advice is to “‘Just try it!’. I went back to school to study at uni when I was 32 yrs old and I really didn’t know if I would enjoy it or not – not to mention being nervous about the concept of going back to study after 15 yrs! I’m so glad I listened to my friends.”
orange owl – full bloom
Inspiration comes from many places, including botanicals, popular culture, classic movies and music; and loves the work of Florence Broadhurst, Hannah Bertram, Louise Bourgeois and Banksy. “I’ve always loved fabrics. In my teens I never followed fashion trends and found it difficult to buy clothes that I liked. I remember going to the op-shops and purchasing bed quilts, curtains, sheets, hankies and even some over-the-top dresses. I would take them home, cut them up and make some pretty ‘interesting’ garments. As much as I enjoyed the sewing I really loved the fabrics.”
Shelly also counts herself lucky enough to be part of the Olive Grove Collective, a studio & retail space in Brunswick, Melbourne, operated by 7 designer/makers. “The collective has been operating for about 13 years. We supply the shop with our items and take it in turns operating the retail side. It’s such a fantastic space, and besides being a great support network, it’s wonderful being surrounded by talented lovely people who have such great passion. I find it truly inspiring. If you’re ever in Sydney Rd, Brunswick drop in, and say hi; you’ll usually find one of us working away.”
You can find more of Shelly’s work on her Facebook page and her own website, and you can find more about The Olive Grove Studios on their Facebook page.
Welcome to the next lot of How-tos. I’ll doing a few of these posts looking at different materials, but this one focuses on fabric – which, by the way, was always called “material” when I was growing up – confusing, no?
Materials? I love them. Give me a piece of paper/fabric/metal/justaboutanything to play with, and I’m a happy girl.
It almost goes without saying that you need to choose the right material for the job – but with so many people joining in the crafting revolution for the first time, I am feeling the need to say it again.
(You can find out more of my thoughts on this here).
I know how it feels. You’ve got a scathingly brilliant idea in your head, you’ve got the images/pattern/plan in front of you. You know exactly what it’s going to look like when it’s finished. But you’ve never made anything quite like this before. You need to start with this vital truth – if you want your work to turn out the way you intend it to, you need to choose the appropriate stuffs to make it with.
Suffice to say, there are so many fabric choices out there, it’s important to understand a few fundamental things about them. The performance of the fabric – its drape, how it feels to touch, its breathability, strength and durability – are all dependent on the fibres it is made from, its weight, and its weave.
So what do you want your fabric to do? Sheer and floating for lingerie, or sturdy and hard-wearing for upholstery? Do you want it to drape? Does it need to be absorbent? Natural fibres such as wool, silk, and cotton are generally more breathable than synthetics. How much does it need to stretch? Or do you need it to hold its shape? Very light fabrics such as chiffon, slippery fabrics like satin, or thick and heavy fabrics such as velvet and canvas can be tricky to sew, so perhaps leave them until you have a bit more experience.
The vast majority of commercial patterns come with fabric suggestions for you to follow. Go into the fabric shop with your pattern and ask the sales assistant to help you if you’re unsure of what something is – it’s their job. And when you’re looking at fabric in the shop, you also need to check the care label on the bolt – if it recommends ‘Dry Clean only’ or ‘hand wash’ you need to think about whether you can cope with that kind of maintenance.
ritanotiara – jacket – cotton, silk voile
This soft and billowy jacket uses a soft and very lightweight voile, in a cotton and silk blend. Tightly gathered sections give nice frilly drapes, and the fabric crushes well too (enhanced by twisting and rolling when wet), which adds to its texture. The artist has then used a cold water dyeing method, resulting in a delicately mottled look.
ritanotiara – jacket (detail)
ddreamcloset – long black wrap – cotton jersey
Cotton is a very versatile fibre, and comes in a wide variety of weights and weaves. It is generally not as expensive as wool or silk, and is usually easy to care for. Jersey is a finely knitted fabric which drapes well, but is less inclined to crush than a plain weave. Because it comes in a variety of weights you can choose whether you want a lightweight cotton for t-shirt, or heavier for a full dress. Here, they have chosen a medium-weight cotton jersey, which would be super-comfy, and drapes beautifully.
yellowcake – driving coat – gabardine
Gabardine is a tightly woven twill-weave fabric, often made from wool. It is sturdy and holds its shape well. For this reason it is often used for tailored clothing, such as suits, or where a crisp finish is required. In this driving jacket, it has enough body to hold the silhouette of this beautifully shaped A-line, and to create interest at the neckline.
karlita – felted scarf
Felt is made from wool and is thick and soft. It is suited best to bold and chunky designs, which may be structured or unstructured, depending on the thickness of the felt. Its bulk means it is not often used for general clothing, but is more suited to accessories such as hats, scarves, and slippers. It can be either hand-made (as in this scarf) or machine-made, which is smoother and more uniform in texture.
Blends of fibres are often used to enhance certain qualities in a fabric, and the percentage of each fibre in the fabric has an effect on those qualities. For instance, polyester is often blended with cotton to create a material that is more durable and easier to launder and iron than cotton alone. The more polyester the fabric contains, the less absorbent it is, which is a consideration when the weather is particularly hot and/or humid. Linen may also be blended with synthetics to make something that still looks and feels like linen, but is easier to care for. Cotton is blended with elastane to provide extra stretch. Silk might be blended with wool to give it a soft sheen. And on it goes – blends can be found for just about any given requirement.
Once you’ve chosen your material, then you have to know how to handle it. There are general techniques for any major grouping of material (e.g fabric or metal or clay), and lots of information is freely available on the internet. But there are also endless amounts of subtleties to learn about each, and the best way to learn about them is through experience. Be prepared for things not turning out exactly how you want the first time. This is also worth saying again.
Most of all, it is experience that will get you the result you want.
Now, get to it and have a go!
Camille Condon loves bacon and milo (although not together) and has trouble enjoying her vegies.
CurlyPops – Go Granny Fabric
Much better known around the interwebs as CurlyPops, Camille says she’s been called that since she was small. “It’s a moniker that my father gave me when I was a wee little one because I had straight hair (obviously a dad joke). He still calls me CurlyPops to this very day, and since I’ve started blogging, a whole lot more people call me CurlyPops!”
It’s the perfect name for her label – bright, fun and eclectic. Camille not only designs for fabric yardage, she also designs her own panels for use in cushions, babies bibs, sunglasses pouches and more.
CurlyPops – Spring Bouquet Fabric
I asked her how she ended up here.
“My business sort of came about purely by accident! Somewhere around 2005, my younger sister was getting rid of her old sewing machine that she never used, and so I put my hand up and slowly taught myself to sew in my spare time. Then In 2007, as I was about to retire from my career for health reasons (I’m currently on the waiting list for a double lung transplant), one of my colleagues gave me a newspaper article about craft blogs.
“Craft blogs were a whole new world of creativity! I was quickly addicted to reading them every day, and then in January 2008, I decided to take the plunge and start my very own, and the first name that came to mind was CurlyPops. Once I started blogging my creations, people started asking whether they could buy them, and that was the early beginnings of my little home-based business.”
Prior to starting CurlyPops, Camille studied Manufacturing Technology at Uni, and then worked in manufacturing for more than eleven years. She says she chose manufacturing “because I’m really fascinated with how things are made. I’ve always loved to make stuff. Some of my earliest memories are from Kinder – especially the smell of Clag glue! If there was ever cutting up paper, paint, or glue involved, I was there. I remember making my mum a pen holder out of toilet rolls in primary school. I painted it red and added black stripes as she barracked for Essendon. She still has it.”
Cam also worked for Nicole Mallalieu from You Sew Girl for a few years, and said it was wonderful training. “I may have just been packing the patterns and hardware, but over those couple of years, I learned so much about better sewing techniques, different types of interfacings, and visual merchandising.”
CurlyPops – mini fabrics
Cam is inspired by myriad things, but seems especially fond of the 70s, and bright, rich colour. “Most of my ideas pop into my head when I least expect, especially when I’m lying in bed at night. I try to have notepads stashed around the place in different locations as I have a terrible memory. When it comes to designing fabric, I use a mix of hand drawn and digital design techniques. I try to only colour digitally so that I can colour match accurately. I print some of my designs through Spoonflower, and others through Frankie and Swiss in Melbourne. It all depends on the basecloth / colour / delivery time. For my handmade items, they usually just start as an idea. I then sketch out what the finished product should look like, add dimensions, and then draw a fabric cutting plan. As I’m not a technically taught pattern maker, I just use the method that works for me.”
She has immense admiration for artists who have built a strong business based around what they love. “I really admire Nicole Mallalieu from You Sew Girl, and Nic James from Yardage Design. They’re both really hardworking and love what they do. I really admire my great artist friend Cathy Kirwan from Tinniegirl. I’ve learned a lot from her about confidence in what you do, and pushing yourself, and making big ideas a reality. There are a lot of fabric designers whom I love, but I’d probably choose Jennifer Paganelli from Sis Boom, and Heather Bailey.
“From a design/learning point of view, I’m currently doing an online course The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design [ABSPD] with Rachael Taylor and I’ve been completely inspired by her work too.”
CurlyPops – cushions
CurlyPops – bib designs
I asked about her worst and best experiences for CurlyPops.
“I’ve been quite lucky not to have too many bad experiences. But, I think the worst thing is when you work really hard on a new design, and you’ve fallen in love with it, and then you release it into the world, and no-one wants to buy it. Ouch.
“I’ve learned not to take it personally. I have a very definite design aesthetic, and not everyone is going to love it all the time.
“And the icing on the cake? Gosh that would definitely have to be the day that I spent at the Frankie and Swiss Studio in Melbourne, watching my first lot of yardage being printed. It was so exciting, and the start of a whole new world of design.”
CurlyPops – sketches for ABSPD
CurlyPops – workspace
“The hardest single obstacle to everything at the moment is being on the transplant waiting list. I would love to be able to move forward with my design business and start marketing myself more, but I can’t because I’m waiting for one phone call that will not only save my life, but will also require me to take a long break from the business while I recover. I have big plans. They’re just waiting in the wings at the moment.”
So, her best piece of advice? “Do what makes you happy.”
You can find CurlyPops in lots of places, including her own website, her MadeIt store, and her blog.