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Meet the Alumna: Alice Selwood, digital embroideries

21 November 2017 by Emanuela Potorti in Alumni Stories, Home, Interiors & Auto

When she’s not surfing the cold waters of the British coastline or walking in the countryside, Texprint alumna Alice Selwood spends her days creating digital embroideries at a small studio in a farm in Cornwall.

Alice Selwood first became interested in textiles when she was considering studying chemistry at university but instead decided to take a year off to pursue a foundation degree in art. At the time she reflected that she could do “something scientific and academic – or something I really love: textiles and embroidery.”

Alice Selwood – textural piece

Selwood went on to study Textile Design at Falmouth University – and since then she’s never looked back. After being shortlisted in 2015 for the Texprint Pattern Award, she won the New Designers Wilcom Associate Prize. The embroidery manufacturer gave Alice software and a six-month loan on a machine to kickstart her solo career. “I don’t think I would have gone into freelance so quickly if it wasn’t for that initial boost,” she acknowledges.

Now she runs her own label, selling beautifully hand crafted cushions and bags digitally embroidered with multi-layer stitchings. With a little crowdfunding help, she was able to acquire for her studio a digital embroidery machine that she has nicknamed Happy. “Sometimes it is, sometimes it’s not,” she jokes.

Digital embroidery machine Happy at work

Since her Texprint experience, Selwood has built up a significant following for her work. Most recently, she become a Harrods Art Partner through a partnership with Gingerlily, one of 20 names including the likes of Wedgwood, Dolce & Gabbana and Missoni. She says: “I met Deborah, the owner of Gingerlily, at a street exhibition whilst she was on holiday in Cornwall. She spotted the cushions and fell in love with the embroidery. From there, we explored different design possibilities and played around with the layering and replicating hand embroidery in digital. At this point Harrods became interested and invited us to join them as an Art Partner – I have to admit at this point I thought I was heading to a showcase evening by Gingerlily, not realising Harrods was hosting and definitely surprised when I walked into a room full of all my favourite and legendary designers. I even asked if I was in the right room. So far we have worked on the one collaboration project, but who knows what the future holds.”

Harrods Art Partner project 

An important part of her business philosophy is to employ local makers.  Selwood works closely with a seamstress and lampshade producer, both from Cornwall, to create interior and illumination products. She says: “With digital embroidery, I could easily send it out to India or China, but I really want to use the people around me so that my work is British made.”

And her creative work is also hugely influenced by Cornwall. “My graduation project was based on Cornish mining, looking at the structures and engineering in mining and how it affected the culture of Cornwall. This was the collection I brought to Texprint and also the collection that started it all.”

While still very much at the beginning of her career, Selwood is taking every opportunity that comes her way. She acknowledges the struggles of starting out, noting the pressure and instability. But, she says, “the freedom to be able to design my own stuff and actually have my name attached to my design is a really big thing for me. In the design market it’s so easy to get lost. For me, I just take each day as it comes and hope that it will keep going.”

Alice Selwood studio

One project she is enjoying is a collaboration with a shoe designer. “Caplait is a start-up shoe company, I was approached by the owner to digitise the pattern work on the Pakistani-styled sandals. It has been a really interesting project learning how to apply embroidery to wearable items. The curves of the body and the consideration of wear with everyday use makes a fantastic challenge – I’ve learnt a lot with this project and I get to have a pair of shoes by the end of it!”

Caplait footwear project

How does she see embroidery and textiles evolving? “Hopefully towards intuitive digital embroidery,” she says. “I really struggle with quick stitch logos found on t-shirts and hats. So to advance what we have seen before and look at embroidery as art — almost as you would with a paintbrush – that would be amazing. For myself, I love experimenting with layering and creating works that are over 10 cm deep, and seeing how far I can push the machine.”

Even though much of her own work is digitised, Alice makes it clear that finding a balance with traditional embroidery and craft is her goal. She says: “A lot of my design work starts off by hand. To make it more commercial, I produce it as a digital file. To be able to do digital — yes, which is a little mass produced but you can sort of watch your embroidery grow. And with my high-end clients, I get to play with hand embroidery: it’s nice to have the contrast.”

Her final advice is for young designers wanting to start out in the industry. “If you have something that you are really passionate about and something that you absolutely love to do, just go with it. And open any door that comes your way. Your career may not start out the way mine did, which was incredibly quick, but you never know for sure how things will evolve. Keep going — enjoy what you do.”

Alice Selwood collection of Home Accessories

Alice Selwood collection of Home Accessories

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