As I was growing up we never had a lot of money, my parents were self-employed, and I was the second eldest of four children. We all grew up with a built in notion that if you wanted something you figured out a way to do it yourself. We all agree that this is probably the most valuable trait that we all possess.
My mum taught me dressmaking from a young age, and the first outfit I remember making was a purple dress with a matching jacket. I think I was about 13. I chose to do fashion and clothing in college rather than A levels, but during my Foundation year began to rebel against textiles and work with hard materials, creating installation pieces instead.
I studied for my degree at Swansea Metropolitan - lured in by the opportunity to work with glass, laser cutters, resins and ceramics on the Surface Pattern Design course. But, over the three year course, my work slowly swung back round to the use of textiles, and my final pieces focussed on wearable textile art.
Textiles are an intrinsic part of our lives; from birth to death our skin is almost always in contact with textiles. I see the creation of textiles as a basic human skill -our ability to clothe ourselves sets us apart, as humans and as individuals. I am intrigued by the concept of clothing as a second skin –a fabric that protects you physically, psychologically and emotionally, but also ages with you, wears and changes, collecting marks of your life. Everyone has a favourite piece of clothing, perhaps chosen for comfort or aesthetics, but becoming more special the more we wear it. We become attached to certain textiles; they gather memories and reflect moments from our own lives back to us.
I am always awed and inspired by antique and tribal textiles. I find that often it is their simplicity that I admire as much as their complexity: the seemingly random construction of an old bag, using the selvedge edge of some linen, creates a subtle line that distorts the rectangle into a comfortable bulge. The mending of a tribal jacket inflicts some awkward stitching; puncturing the carefully hand loomed panels with a crude mess of work that becomes a wonderful, intrinsic part of the life of a unique textile and its wearer.
emily james - dresswear