Donna Cooper – Guest Designer
Tell me a little bit about yourself, how you came to be interested in studying textiles, how you chose your course and why you chose it.
I’m a wife and mum of 3 children. I was approaching 40 years of age and was working for my husband’s joinery business. Unfortunately, he lost his main contract to a large chemical company which lead to the company folding. I was always fairly creative and one of my long term regrets in life was not going to university. I heard of a 1-year access to H.E course starting at Cleveland College of Art & Design and made the decision to enrol. It seemed like a now or never move. It was definitely a shock to my system returning to education after 24 years, but I soon knew I’d made the right decision. The access course went in a flash and before I knew it we were faced with applying for university places. Due to family commitments I didn’t have a huge choice as I had to commute daily. CCAD, Hartlepool it is the northern school of art. It is not only the leading provider of specialist creative art & design degrees in the north but one of the best across the UK. I was elated to be part of an exclusively creative uni it has such a relaxed, friendly feel I knew it was the right decision from the moment I walked through the door. I was initially drawn to 2 courses – ‘Textile & Surface Design’ & ‘Contemporary Textile Products’. The 2 courses were similar as in both learned similar techniques, but after weighing things up I decided I was most suited to Contemporary Textile Products as I’m more hands on and like to see a finished product.
What aspects of design particularly appeal to you?
I really enjoy experimenting with different techniques. I particularly enjoy making 3D paper models during development work. I like to screen print too. Below are some examples of my paper sculptures from over the last couple of years:
Who are your favourite designers and why?
I don’t limit my inspiration to one artist or designer as my work can vary from project to project, although I do find that I revert to inspiration from the likes of Audrey Lousie Reynolds, a contemporary designer and specialist in natural dyes and I think some of the sensitivity and innovation derives from looking at textile makers Priscilla Jones and Lyndie Dourthe.
What attracts you to natural dyeing?
It’s addictive! I find it so therapeutic, kind of like cooking with a surprise finish! I’m amazed by the stunning colours you can get from fruit, vegetables and flowers/plants! There’s also the fact you can never seem to get the exact same colours/shades again – I adore how unpredictable it is! I don’t always employ this technique, but it helps drive my work and influences my aesthetic. I create products for interiors/fashion that are either produced from natural sources or inspired by nature. Here are some examples of my second year work. I feel my final year products will be so much more exciting – watch this space…
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
Everywhere! I’m always looking for new inspiration. Often its related to nature and personal experience. I’ll share with you my very personal concept for my Final Major Project:
“Flowers and trees have a lifecycle that includes birth, growth, injury, disease, ageing, and death. Similarly, to human lifecycle. They start as a seed and if nourished and nurtured grow and blossom into beautiful, strong individuals with memories rooted. In time as they start to grow we witness stages of beauty and perfection. However not all changes along the way are beautiful, some events just happen and can’t be controlled. Some are painful and at the time hard to deal with, but inevitably will eventually make them grow stronger be it a plant or be it human.
The seasons inspire me to have patience; everything takes time to come to fruition. With trees the leaves grow back, but it takes time and a lot of energy. Right now, all those fallen leaves are mulch and rot over the winter months to enrich the earth to nurture new growth. Thus, like the patience of a mother living with a troubled teenager. The unfamiliar cycle of tensions and events have a profound effect. One of the most inspiring and beautiful things in life to me is the pure forgiveness represented in nature as it endeavours to adapt and continue regardless of how we treat it comparable to a mother’s love with a delicate, growing daughter.”
What are your hopes and plans once you’ve finished your course?
My intentions are to become a self-employed designer maker. Initially working from home with a long-term view of opening a boutique style shop selling work of lots of fabulous makers.
What would be your advice to anyone thinking of studying textiles? Something you wish you’d known when you started!
Be prepared for long hours. You only get out of it what you put in and time and commitment is key – everything takes longer than you think. I have struggled at times with this due to family commitments but I am a conscientious student and always manage to make up time even if it means getting up and putting on a dye bath at 5am! In depth research and strong concepts are also paramount for initiating a good body of work and kick start any project.
Don’t feel you have to answer all the questions and if you want to put something in there that isn’t immediately linked to a question but is important to you and your work, do include it!
Feel free to checkout my Instagram and Facebook pages. I will also have my website up and running soon, but at the moment its work in progress and not live. Over the coming weeks there will be lots more posts as I throw myself into FMP.
Here are my business cards with details of my pages.
Any further questions – fire away.