Friday, 8 October 2010

Friday 8th October: "Fashion Designer's Sketchbook" by Hwyell Davies

Here is a photo of "The Designer's Sketchbook" anthology open at the page of my entry that Hywel Davies asked me to contribute to. The book focuses on the preparatory scribbles and scrawls of 50+ international fashion designers. Here are some images I submitted for the publication and the full interview which has been edited in the final volume available now!

Q: How would you describe your design process?

A: I have a certain vision of something in my head and try to replicate it in 3D, firstly trying the materials I think most suitable. This can be a surface texture or a shape / silhouette. I start experimenting with prototypes and joining segments together to then fit onto the body. Happy accidents occur and I discover new techniques. I take photos of the pieces pinned to my mannequin to refine and outline the final design. I may then print out that photo and draw over of it to make notes.

Q: What part does research play in the process and can you describe your research process?

A: Research for me is very haphazard. I still do prop work and through those commissions, I come across inspiration. Being forced to source unusual materials and make strange objects sparks off ideas for my own line. The two channels of work interlink and coexist in a very fortuitous way in that respect.

Q: Does your design process involve photography / drawing / reading?

A: My design process is predominantly collecting materials and playing with them!
However I do like to treat myself to a week of going to exhibitions. I have to make a break from my commission work and focus on the collection. To make that divide and conscious switch, I try to dedicate a week to unadulterated tourist activities. I regularly miss out on what’s going on at museums and galleries as I’m always too busy, so this is my one chance to indulge and catch up. It doesn’t directly influence my work but is a vehicule to getting my creative juices flowing.

Q: What is the most enjoyable part of this process? And is there a part you don’t like or find difficult?

A: The most enjoyable part is the buzz from producing something you didn’t know you had in you. I think that something else channels through my body and I never know what is going to happen.
For the very same reason it can be terrifying. When I’m under a tight deadline I have to cross my fingers that my subconscious feels like being creative. Other wise it can be agonising, which makes the situation worse!

Q: What fuels your design process? Do you have sources of inspiration that you always re-visit?

A: I usually pick something that I have made in the past as a starting point. If I kept a little maquette from a previous project that was sidelined, then I’ll dig it out for a chance to rediscover it and push the boundaries of what it can do.
I’m also very instinctive and just follow feelings that I can’t exactly quantify. Its really fascinating seeing how your unconscious tallies up with all the other collections each season.

Q: What resources do you use as sources of inspiration – e.g. films / books

A: Its different every season. Last S/S “Dahlia Fantasia” I went to my family’s allotment and picked some pom pom shaped Dahlias. I dissected them on the kitchen table and cut a pattern from the petal to work out the formation of the bloom. I definitely refer to objects rather than 2D imagery. I’m always preoccupied with how things are constructed.
I also like to experiment with craft techniques and collect 2nd hand reference books. I love finding charity books shops and raiding the “hobbies” section.

Q: What materials are essential to your design process? (specific pens / certain paper etc)

A: The majority of the time, I mock- up tests with paper, as it’s my most familiar tool. Its cheap and throwaway, but can soon be transformed into a beautiful object. It’s great having left – over trial pieces to send in the post as fun mementos to friends.
Materials are very specific so each time I use something different; it dictates its own destiny. You can’t force something and I like the way a design can be governed purely by the fabrication.

Q: Does your design process always follow the same path? Is there a method to it?

A: It’s all in my fingers. Until they start twitching away, I only have a very basic outline of what I want to achieve. I am totally at the mercy of the magic in my hands. I personally can’t fathom other designers that sketch and pass on a 2D drawing. For me, it’s all about playing around with random things and then latterly seeing how it can be integrated with the body. I like to make miniature sculptures that just happen to have the end purpose to be worn. That’s what I love most because of the element of surprise.

Q: Do you experience a ‘eureka’ moment when you know a design is working?

A: Absolutely. Its very adrenalin driven. There is no accounting for when the divine inspiration will strike. But when it does, its very exciting and you don’t notice the clock ticking away because its so much fun.
I’m quite geeky and get very involved in detail and the order of how to get to the end result. The process of working out each stage and then identifying what needs to be done next, is very satisfying.
My main objective is to create surfaces and textures that have never been seen before. This involves layering up different labour intensive techniques. It’s a bit like cooking I guess. You can have a recipe to follow but it’s when you have an instinct to try adding unexpected elements, the result is refreshingly exquisite.

Q: Do you have a favourite place to work and what is the best environment for your creativity?

A: I pretty much live, breath, eat and occasionally (don’t) sleep at my studio. I’m lucky enough to share a beautiful space with dear friends and the novelty has never worn off. We are in an incredible old warehouse in Islington that is full with a myriad of different practitioners and artists. It’s a charity that has been here for 15 years and totally stuck in a time warp. This in itself is very inspiring to be part of, with neighbours in different crafts and the energy that radiates from the heritage of the building.
When your working for someone else, it seems crazy to spend so much time within the same 4 walls. But when it’s your own space it all makes sense!

Q: Is there a specific time of day that you are most creative?

A: I’m an early bird who likes to catch the worm. I’ve never identified with artists who thrive on late night creativity. I’m stagnated, exhausted and usually terror stricken by the end of the day and least likely to produce anything good. In the early morning when not much is moving, it feels like my very own special time and I have room to relax and create without the relentless attack of emails and phone calls.

Q: Do you have a team that is involved in the design process? If so what do they do?

A: Fundamentally I am a meglomaniac and I find it difficult to communicate my vision purely because I can’t really understand it myself. However, I do have a very utopian stance and allow my interns freedom to mess around and give quite unspecific direction. I want them to have fun and test their initiative and problem solving skills. It’s not always the best tactic for each individual, as most people need some degree of direction. But I am very easy going and a leopard cannot change its spots. It is a weird combination that I’m totally against ordering instruction but at the same time have very specific expectations of how things should look. I probably drive my team insane!

Q: When and how does your research and design work change from 2D to 3D

A: I am always 3D. I do not keep a sketchbook or do much drawing. I make experiments and pin them to a wall. It turns into a gigantic moodboard which I then edit. I like to be able to see everything out and wouldn’t want things hidden away stuck in pages.
When a collection is finished, I finally take the pieces down and put them in a box. I have an uncontrollable flaw of giving away presents and these boxes do fall prey to being raided for donations. For instance last collection I turned most of the samples into a wall hanging for my assistant Laura McDougall as a thanks for helping me out / being a legend.

Fashion Designers Sketchbook on amazon