12 July 2018
Each year Trend Bible attend New Designers, The UK’s biggest design graduate show, as it offers a unique insight into the ideas that are inspiring young graduates. We award our ‘Trend Bible Selects’ cards to standout graduates who we feel are delivering something really fresh, interesting and innovative. This year, we’ve chosen a designer from each week to showcase in an in-depth interview.
Our standout graduate from Part 1 of New Designers is Hannah Rumsey who studied a Masters in Textiles at Edinburgh College of Art. She specialises in the use of natural dyes and in the creation of toxin-free textiles.
Here we speak to Hannah about her Natural Lifestyle Collection:
Hannah Rumsey, Edinburgh College of Art
Tell us a little bit about your work
By using only natural materials, each product is much more environmentally friendly, is biodegradable, and has received limited exposure to chemicals. The natural dyes that I use are also 100% plant-based: natural dyes are primarily fixed with a metal salt, but I have used specific plants instead to create a truly natural dye. Besides making products which celebrate all things natural, I have also used medicinal plants as dyes. By working with practicing herbalists I was able to create herbal dyes. These dyes consist of medicinal plants which are used in the topical treatment of specific conditions, such as eczema. As our bodies can absorb some of the dye from our clothes, I decided to replace the chemicals with medicinal blends which in turn replaces negative allergic reactions with positive ones. Alongside my main practice, I also try and reduce waste to an absolute minimum: larger scraps of fabric are made into unique children’s toys, while any smaller scraps and snippets of yarn are collected up and made into bespoke pieces of felt.
Hannah Rumsey, Edinburgh College of Art
How did you come up with your final concept?
My whole project stemmed from wanting to explore, and use, natural dyes in a modern way. It was during my research that I discovered the possibilities behind natural materials and dyes in regard to textiles for health, wellbeing and medical applications. Through this research I decided to explore herbal dyes and their positive effect on the body. Besides natural dyeing, I also wanted to be able to work for myself, so with this in mind I wanted to develop and make products that I could make and sell myself. Each item was also designed so that they could be made without the need for a studio: the natural dyes that I use, in conjunction with the plant-based fixatives, can be used even within my kitchen as there are no heavy metals or chemicals that require specific disposal. As well as using techniques that I had already been taught, such as screen-printing and weaving, I also learnt how to spin yarn and how to knit by hand and machine. Therefore, a large amount of my work consiste of knitwear: by combining my design style with the natural colours and their chemical-free nature, the end result was a perfect fit for childrenswear.
What’s your favourite part of the design process?
The making process is by far my favourite part. Natural dyes are much more involved and more interesting to use than chemical dyes. For starters, the colours can vary dramatically depending on even the smallest conditions, such as what time of year they were harvested or the weather during the growing season. They can also change shade and colour under different pH conditions, meaning a more acidic water will produce different colour results compared with an alkaline water. These inconsistencies allow me to design and work in a much more organic way, with many of the designs growing from a small experiment or idea caused by something unexpected. However, besides the dyeing, I love to physically make textile products, especially if it means that I get to learn a new technique.
What did you enjoy most about New Designers?
My favourite part of New Designers is being able to meet new people. It’s a great platform to introduce you to the people that you wouldn’t necessarily meet in day to day life such as businesses or even just other likeminded people. It’s also great to catch up with old friends and acquaintances from across the country. I had a great time this year talking to a variety of people, as well as meeting other natural dyers or fellow designers with similar interests.
I’m hoping to begin making! However, first of all I will be looking into where I can source the best and most local materials that I can find, which have received limited exposure to chemical treatments. There are a few technical issues I need to combat too, so I am also hoping to learn a little more about knitwear sizing and pattern design, but I would also like to investigate the possibilities for micro-manufacture. However, I’d really love to get going as soon as I can so that I can make everything a reality. Until then, I am also hoping to gain a little more experience within industry as well as being able to work on a couple of collaborations too.
To see more of our highlights from New Designers follow our social channels; Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest or read our guide to the show. Our New Designers Part 2 Spotlight blog post will follow in the coming weeks.
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