The Textile Incubator Is Coming Into Existence

18 11 2009

On December 1st, Pocktorian Textiles, a textile incubator will be a very real thing. It will be located in two rooms of the first floor of the Loosis Building on Magdalene St.

There is already one prospective designer besides me who will be working in the studio / workshop along with me. Her name is Ruth Solomon and she is trained as a stitcher of costumes, how to make a garment for repeated use by people differing in size and how to make adjustments and repairs. I’ve seen some of her sketches and a little bit of her work.

She plans to do alterations and repair work while she develops her line and is realy looking forward to having enough space to really sew up a storm. It’s going to be very interesting to watch her line develop. I showed her the Desigual line in a local store and she found it very inspiring.

I’ve also started contacting everyone I know locally who designs and makes very special textiles, dresses, corsets, bags, hats, costume wear, even baskets. We will be selling their work along with our own.

If you are in Norfolk and design and make any kind of textile goods, or would like to start your own line, but lack space and equipment for it, please contact me.

The third part of my incubator that I want to start right away is including locally produced materials for making wonderful things. That means locally handspun yarn, locally produced alpaca yarn, wool and roving for spinning, locally produced natural dyestuffs, locally printed fabrics, and whatever else I can think of. So if you do any of these and would like to sell in our shop, again, contact me.

Last note: I have just transferred over a number of posts and pages from another blog I had when this wild idea of mine was in the imaginary development stages. Sometimes I went a bit off track, and I’ve eliminated those posts. Some things in those old posts may seem a bit off. I’m likely to be doing more editing. The ones I’ve left had something too do with the progress of my idea, and I’ve totally rewritten the first one explaining how I came to this point to begin with.

Please do look at the other pages I’ve attached with pictures of my work (assuming they made it through the transfer. If not I’ll be fixing that soon). I’ll add pictures of work from the other artists as soon as I acquire them.


My Business Model is Evolving

19 08 2009

Oh I still have every intention of reviving Norwich’s textile industry in a hi-tech cottage textile industry kind of way. My vision of what I’m building up to never changes, but my ideas of how I might get there, and my ideas of what I’m going to be doing with my time to bring in a living seem to be evolving in front of my eyes.

I’m not really surprised. One problem I’ve always had was with market research. Basically, the only way to know which of the things you want to offer people will actually spend money on is to put your offers out there and see what happens.

So far, I’ve found out that there’s apparently not much demand for bespoke interior textiles locally. At least I haven’t been able to locate it. Nor was there much demand for my handmade goods from the people who came into the Textile Centre, though at least one other person in the Centre seemed to be doing pretty well.

But I’m getting weaving students. And weaving and teaching weaving are probably the things I like doing the best of all the things I know how to do. Sometimes, the world decides to cooperate with you.

Considering the state of the UK’s textile industry, it would seem that setting myself the task of reviving it would be an unlikely career plan. But slow but surely, it just might be working.

So I’m not saying I’d turn down a commission of some sort. I’m just saying it begins to look like I’ll be doing a good deal of teaching (which pleases me mightily since I highly value all these handskills I have and it would be a pity not to pass them on) and some making of the really fine things I want to make (I’ve got a shadow-weave chenille scarf on the loom just now.) and about ten other ideas for how I might be able to bring in a little cash from one way or another.

And, recently, I’m really enjoying my life.

(All the sunshine we’ve had this summer has something to do with it. I make sure I get my hour in the sun every day there’s enough sun and heat for that. But the other things I’m doing have a lot to do with it too.)

Reviving Norwich's Textile Industry

4 08 2009

I know I’ve taken this blog in an entirely different direction than I origianlly intended. This is probably because what you really want to do WILL surface, if you let it. Close just doesn’t really count, no matter how “unrealistic” what you really want to do is.

I want to establish a contemporary kind of high-tech cottage textile industry, in Norwich, because Norwich should really have one. Schools and universities in the Norwich area graduate large numbers of folks with textile qualifications. Norwich University College of the Arts is even planning a fashion program. Many of those students would like to remain in Norfolk. In fact, they do, doing jobs they aren’t nearly as interested in as they are interested in textiles, and doing or selling a bit of what they would truly love to be doing on the side. I think that’s a real pity.

Wool and alpaca and a natural dye company are all present within the county. (I hear that farmers are burning the wool or giving it away to whoever will pay for the sheering, another real pity.) Linen and silk is produced in the EU, and if Turkey joins it, cotton will be too. High quality cotton.

The technology for taking fiber to  products has been automated and has shrunk to the point that all the equipment needed could fit into a room not much bigger than the average living room. And there is no need for the work to be near as punishing to the human body.

I envision a new kind of high-tech cottage textile industry.

Shoes, My Next Speech, and Items of Rooted Beauty

22 07 2009

Today was a good day. I definitely needed one because yesterday was not.

I spent most of the day in a business training meeting. The first part was on networking. I was surprised how little internet networking possibilities were mentioned. I have some notes on changes I want to make to my business card though, and I’ll be looking for some FREE local networking activities. I have a feeling they won’t be official networking activities. More likely are visits to exhibits, during which I keep in mind networking. Maybe just an effort toward constant awareness of networking possibilities, but hopefully more than that. Also, my elevator speech is now one that can be delivered on the elevator of a building of less than 75 stories. It’s actually down to 30 seconds flat and I like it.

The second half was about presentations. Considering that I’ve been active in Toastmasters for a good half a year now, it was not surprising that there wasn’t much advice and strategy of presentations I hadn’t heard of. But the timing was perfect. Tomorrow I give my second speech at Toastmasters. I’ve been turning different ideas over in my head, but hadn’t really sat down and worked on it yet.

So I used the opportunity to practise for tomorrow, and I’ll be darned, what I produced was highly praised. I do think my attendance at Toastmasters has produced noticeable results. It’s done wonders for my confidence about actually being able to make a business of this. The instructor said the kind of enthusiam I have for my business is a good predictor of success. I’m finding myself imagining how it might actually happen. Amazing!

The second thing I want to write about is a project that pays nothing, though it might produce some useful publicity, and it should make some money for a charity. I’ve been commissioned to review a book for a website (the commission being keeping the book). The book is about turning unattractive or dull shoes into some really impressive shoes. Since it’s an instructional book, I think trying out a project needs to be part of the review. I proposed making a deal with a charity shop to allow me to take some of their shoes and tart them up. The website liked the idea, and the very first charity shop I approached approved it on the spot and let me choose three pairs of shoes to transform. Then they’ll be featured in the window with an attribution. Dig it!

Ah yes. and “Items of Rooted Beauty”. An e-mail discussion group I subscribe to has been discussing how difficult it is to make a living in one of my favorite craft arts these days. It was partly that discussion that had me down yesterday. But it is also that discussion that led me to try to find a description of the difference between the types of items I make and all those mass market things that might fill some of the same purposes. What I make are:

Items of Rooted Beauty.

Pocktorian Textiles! TaDa!

10 06 2009

Hello. I’m a textile designer. I’ve loved textiles for as long as I can remember. I’ve been designing them at least since the time my kindergarden teacher gave me a picture of mittens to color. And I’ve been learning every textile skill I had access to for some time now. Finally, I went back to school (The Fashion Institute of Technology) and got a degree in it, then worked in New York City’s garment district for several years. Then I moved to Norwich, UK.

I chose Norwich, from all the cities in East Anglia having done my research. The whole area was famous for textiles and had been for close to a thousand years! In the 1500’s Norwich was England’s second largest city because of textiles. There was a particularly bright red color called Norwich Red. You’ve heard of worsted yarn? The town it’s named for is just down the road. And there is a whole book on the subject of Norwich shawls, which were handwoven paisley. Norwich’s textile history was deep and varied and long.

What about the present? I checked the local institutions of higher education and found several offering various degrees in textiles, including graduate degrees. This, I thought, was my kind of place. Surely there would be a job for me here.

There wasn’t. I had come a bit too late. Norwich’s textile industry was essentially defunct.

It took me a while, but I’ve now figured out a way to restart Norwich’s textile industry. I’ve learned a bit over the last few years. I’ve learned that East Anglians have tight ties to East Anglia and prefer to live here, even choosing it over practising what they studied. So there are a lot of people with a lot of textile knowledge practising those skills as best they can while doing other work. I’ve learned that there is no longer a good market for the wool of the sheep raised in the area, and therefore farmers don’t raise sheep for the wool, but you can have the wool if you’re willing to pay for the shearing. I’ve learned that there are local farmers raising alpacas, too, and another whole farm devoted to growing and prcessing natural dyes, woad (indigo blue) in particular. There are still textile treasures in Norfolk, and there are still people who would just love to earn their livings in textile businesses.

I want to help them start their own by establishing a textile incubator, a shared workroom studio containing all the equipment needed to take fibres to finished products, thus saving them the trouble of  establishing premises and buying a lot of equipment to start with. We’ll also share our knowledge with each other. We’ll collaborate. We’ll plan and purchase together. And we’ll sell our work together. And, I hope, Norwich’s textile industry will rise again via new kind of cottage industry.

A few weeks ago, I went to an exhibit of some very old pattern books from Norwich weavers. There was also a poem in the exhibit, and I have taken the name of my incubator from that poem. How could I not? Some of the lines went like this:

“One more, ye Pocktorians, shall your looks and back slums be made all alive by the clicks of your looms…Then success to the weaving and long may it flourish and bring trade and prosperity once more to old Norwich!”