Charlotte Bolton is a textiles designer with an obsession with unicorns and all things pink and sparkly. Aesthetics that are reflected through her youthful and playful approach to design, where she also aims to promote girl power and sass! She enjoys experimenting with screen-printing and embellishments.
How did you get into textiles?
From a very young age I have always been interested in textiles and I can remember my nanna teaching me how to knit, whilst I taught myself how to sew and always attempted to make my own clothes! I have always studied textiles throughout my time in education, but it was not until I saw an exhibition at Chesterfield College where I realised for certain that textiles was what I wanted to pursue. The exhibition showcased female textile artists who had graduated from various universities, but previously studied at my college. I had always struggled to choose between illustration and textiles, but this exhibition introduced me to surface pattern design, where the two practices go hand in hand. I had always had an idea of how I wanted to develop my work, but couldn’t quite pin point it until I saw the work of Ashley Thomas at the exhibition, and I thought OMG this is exactly what I want to do!!!
What kind of textiles do you work with?
My textile pieces are designed for fashion, so a lot of my work is purely fabric and print based. Particularly this year, because of my final major project at university, I’ve tried to play around with as many different materials as I can. I have been using a lot of synthetic fabrics from polyester sateen, to pleather and faux fur, and experimenting with embellishment using shop-bought sequins and beads, as well as developing my own with acrylic perspex and resin. I also do a lot of screen-printing, and enjoy combining all of these materials and processes together.
Where do you get your materials from?
I am a HUGE hoarder! I literally have bags and bags full of left over fabrics, trimmings, and embellishments, because they always come in handy eventually! Uni has scrap fabric boxes in our studio and the print room, which I always raid, because you can’t say no to free fabric and I’m amazed at some of the stuff people throw away! Depending on the project, I also visit charity shops for any clothes that I could cut up and reuse, and they often have a box full of random bits of fabric or embroidery thread. I once bought a huge box full of threads for something ridiculous like £2! When I do buy my materials, I go to Samuel Taylors in Leeds, which was basically my second home during the last few weeks of uni as I spent so much time and money there. I also purchase a lot from various sellers on eBay, particularly for things like beads, sequins, acrylic perspex etc.
What’s your favourite textiles to work with and why?
I really enjoy working with applique and embellishments and this was something I aimed to really push within my final module at university. All the fabrics I used were synthetic, which meant they were great to cut with the laser cutter and I could recreate my drawings and typography. I think synthetic fabrics are now my favourite choice of material, because there’s such a vast range to choose from and it’s relatively cheap, but I love the different textures and fabric feels that are attainable – I particularly enjoy using faux fur, pleather and glitter fabric! Using laser cutting techniques to create my applique elements allowed me to completely realise my initial ideas that inspired me to go to university in the first place, as I wanted to show how illustration can be used within textiles not only as print, but embellishment too!
What’s your least favourite?
This is a such a difficult question! Because I’m always up for trying new things, and if I can’t do something or don’t like something, I’ll find ways around it so I end up enjoying it in the end. I suppose in terms of process I try to steer away from digital printing, but not because I don’t like it, it’s purely because I love making things by hand! I’d never actually tried digi printing before my final module, so I forced myself to do it and I actually loved the digital prints so much! I just feel as though I get more self-satisfaction from completely creating something by hand.
What other kind of textiles would you like to explore?
I really really want to get into crochet, so I can start making those adorable amigurumi toys! I tried to learn crochet a couple of years ago, but I found it so difficult and gave up in the end because I felt like I didn’t have the time to learn amongst doing my uni work too. Now that I’ve finished uni, I’m definitely going to give it another go and I’m not going to give up so easily this time!
What are your plans now that you’ve graduated?
I’ve been studying Printed Textiles and Surface Pattern Design at Leeds College of Art for the past three years; a course that I discovered from the exhibition at Chesterfield College I mentioned earlier! Before seeing that exhibition, I was so against going to university and then I found the course of my dreams and I’ve had the best three years ever! I’m heading to New Designers in London on June 28 – July 1, where I will be exhibiting a selection of my degree show work. I’m hoping for an opportunity to arise from this, but either way I’m so excited! In the mean time, I’m currently looking for a job in a design studio, but alongside this I aim to start developing my own business as I hope to have my own fashion brand. I need to fit a break in between all this too, because I still feel like I need to catch up on sleep!
Do you know what paths to take in finding a job in textiles?
I believe internships are a really good place to start, because you discover the reality of working within industry, as well as building contacts and relationships (who you should try stay in contact with too!). I’ve done a few work placements which were really great and have definitely given me a good idea about working in industry; I had a placement on the design teams with George Home at Asda and Tesco Hallmark, which were both invaluable and really fun. I’m currently quite open to the design sector I wish to work in, as I’d be happy to find a job within greetings, homeware, fashion or accessories! Print and Pattern has a jobs section on their blog, which I find really helpful and I always use Fashion Workie too. If no jobs come up, then I think I might try and do some internships in companies that I love and send my digital portfolio out like crazy!
Who would you love to collaborate with?
Ugh, I have such a (super ambitious) dream to collaborate with Lazy Oaf or Skinny Dip London! I love both brands so much and I find them so relatable in terms of their market and aesthetic. I loved Lazy Oaf’s collaboration with Esther Loves You and current collection with Hello Kitty, and Skinny Dip’s collab with Clio Peppiatt and The Simpsons. I do a lot of character design, and it’s a dream of mine to use that in collaboration with a brand.
Lastly, what do you love about textiles?
I love the versatility! There’s so many areas you could delve into, whether it’s different techniques and processes, or designing for fashion or interiors – it’s great for me, because I love to try new things and learn new skills. I am also super passionate about creating things by hand and I think textiles gives you the best opportunity to relish in handcraft!
While you’re there, are you free Wednesday 5 July, interested in learning a new skill? Come to Embellished Talk’s embroidery workshop at WeWork in London Fields Hackney. During the two hour workshop you’ll get to embroider a t-shirt. Free food and drink and a goody bag to take away. Book a ticket HERE.