I was recently invited back into the print room at Bridgwater and Taunton College – University Campus Somerset. I say back, as this is where I studied for my degree in Textile Design and also worked before opening Number Seven in Dulverton.

Number Seven was to be the ‘outside’ client for the BA(Hons)Textiles & Surface Design students, their brief was to choose a book which was to inspire a repeating design and a possible product suitable for our customers. It was the kind of project I would have just loved as a student and was intrigued to see what titles they would select and where the design process would take them. It was interesting to note that Alice in wonderland had been banned by the lecturers (I remember hearts being a no go when I was studying!).  No doubt a popular title that if undertaken would need an innovative and creative student to push its boundaries to impress those assessing the final outcome.

Among the titles selected were The Butterfly Ball, The Miniaturist and The Bees – which has been added to my ‘to be read’ list!

The students had five weeks to complete the project, which is quite a tall order when being asked to create a design from scratch, which was to then be transferred onto screens to be printed as a fabric length. The preparation of screens, selecting suitable material, dyes, inks and printing process all need careful consideration with time for experimentation, testing and room for inevitable error.

Butterfly Ball inspiration boards

transferring design on to ‘Seri Trace’ to create a positive

I visited the college on three occasions, the first was very much like a book club, quite relaxed, with the students sharing the books that they had read and visualising how the narrative could kick start their design development. The second was a mid ‘crit’ to see how their work was evolving and guide their progress. Then finally, a more business like session where they were to make their final presentations.

playing with layout

detail from final print hand finished with gold pigment

a combination of processes to evoke ice

Technology has greatly changed design practice in many ways since I graduated and I felt there was an over reliance on computers to produce images and colour palettes that could end up looking flat if not handled with sensitivity. I hope the students time in the print room has inspired them to experiment more with the array of processes available, and to combine the beauty and signature marks associated with traditional methods with the newer ever advancing tech. If they do, then in my mind, they will achieve some incredible, eye catching designs.

The students produced some interesting designs, some struggled with creating a product suitable for Number seven, focusing on a more corporate look than the unique craft aspect of what we sell. Others devised great motifs with multiple applications from cards to gift wrap, notebooks and book marks as well as furnishing fabric.

multiple applications

The print room in The Arts House at Bridgwater and Taunton College is one of the best equipped in the country and I would just like to say thank you to the current lecturers, Merry Roberts and Gary Mills, for inviting me to be back to such an inspiring environment.

Somerset Art Works has been a creative partner with the college campus in Taunton over the years and plans are currently being developed to continue this alliance as the college embarks on its exciting new future as University Somerset.

Prospectus Young People, is due to start this month, Beccy Swaine has planned a succession of artist led workshops which aims to engage young adults with the college environment via a more informal and less traditional route, providing them with a positive engagement with education, improving their employability and enabling them to personally recognise value in their own worth and potential.  You will be able to observe the students’ artistic development via a dedicated project blog which is to be written by Natalie Parsley and the hope is to showcase the work at Taunton Flower show this coming August.

In May, June time The University Campus will also host a series of artists talks that will have evolved from the current Prospectus project curated by Zoe Li and led by artist Anna Best. Prospectus grew from a SAW artist development day held last Spring when initial ideas were sparked for an ‘imaginary art school.’

Somerset certainly seems to be an exciting and creative region to be at present and SAW is very much at the heart of it, there are so many projects in the pipeline for this year’s forthcoming festival, it promises to be one of the best yet – have you registered to be part of it all?


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WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY by Davina Jelley


Published on March 7, 2017 // Davina Jelley