Here we are! The Explore stage of our brand new area, Textiles & Surface Design, mentored by the wonderful Charlotte Liddle. Since this is a brand new area for this year, you may have a few questions in mind. What will they see, do and meet in this creative sector? One thing is for sure. If one of your tours involves a company with a name beginning with ‘Mushroom’, that is already sounding like a fun start to an insightful couple of days…

Day 1: Cleveland College of Art and Design

First up, our TICE students of Churchill Community College took a good ol’ fashioned #TICETour to Hartlepool to visit Cleveland College of Art and Design, otherwise known as CCAD. The college has an outstanding community of creatives, has facilities that are often used by the highest professionals and offer the highest quality of teaching in various courses (A-Level, Diplomas, BA Hons, FDA and more). This was the place to be for exploring options both in industry and academia.

All were warmly welcomed by the staff at CCAD and they were kind enough to host a print-making workshop, where students had the opportunity to explore a range of heat transfer printing techniques. They were also able to experiment with different coloured pigments, creating printed self-portraits and testing out different resist method of printing using plants, flowers and trims.

They were also lucky enough to have a thorough tour of the textiles department and even had the chance to meet current degree students, who were delighted to share some advice on their next steps post-16. Also, they gathered around the student’s workspaces and chatted with them about their own work, inspiration and aspirations for the future. Even Charly herself was in complete awe: “I for one found it very interesting and I left feeling inspired, I think it’s safe to say we all did.”


Day 2: Northumbria University & Mushroom Works

Our wonderful member of the work experience team, Mia Malone, filled us in…

After joining the work experience team, I met the students as they entered their final day at the ever-so-wonderful Design school at Northumbria University. Once students were cosy and comfortable, we made our way along to the workroom where the students arranged themselves into pairs with a sewing machine.
Charly gave the students a quick demonstration on how to thread the sewing machines and fill a bobbin before setting to work on some stitch samples. They were asked to use their previous practice with experimentation to create a straight stitch and adjust the length before having a go at sewing around sharp corners and curves. A few people commented on how much harder it was to sew a curve than a straight line, but they persisted nonetheless! Once they felt comfortable with using the sewing machine, Charly explained how to use the zigzag stitch to create an applique.

And it didn’t stop there. Their next challenge was going to be free-motion embroidery. They were shown how to change the machine foot and how the fabric could be manipulated on the machine. I chatted with the students about the prints they had created at CCAD and which piece they would prefer to embellish.

We also showed them some basic hand embroidery stitches that could be applied to enhance areas of their work. One student commented how her sample was just “too green” however when she began adding the free-motion embroidery it began to change and develop. It was wonderful seeing how they didn’t feel the prints had come out as they had perhaps hoped but as they began adding the embroidery their outlook changed and they seemed much happier.

After a spot of lunch, Charlotte asked the group to do some research into the artists in residence at the Mushroom Works, which was exactly where they visited in the afternoon. Mushroom Works host regular exhibitions, workshops and classes in the North East – it’s an incredible hub filled with many experienced designers in the field of Textiles & Surface Design. It only felt right to visit for a little inspiration from industry! We were met by the owner, Nick James, who gave us a very insightful tour of the building and told his story of success.

Students were then introduced to various studios based in Mushroom Works including Pier 74, Bethan Laker and Joanne Wishart – just some of the many wonderful people there who were happy to share their story and pass on their wisdom to our TICE students.

So, after a very packed couple of days of exploring the possibilities, despite its difficulties, the students exceeded expectations and walked away with new contacts and skills. It was particularly lovely to see the interaction of the students with the artists, asking them what inspires them and how they started their chosen career. It seems fitting, considering they had just collated the practical tools needed to kickstart their own career paths. I can’t wait to see how they further develop and what they will produce in the final stage of their journey…

It will offer me lots of different opportunities to gain access to multiple jobs and it will give me a boost in confidence to take GCSE textiles. I can gain new skills such as learning how to operate sewing machines and the option to work with new people, gaining team building skills.

– Alicia Wright, Churchill Community College.

Thank you to all of the special venues and guests involved in this year’s Explore Stage!