Becca Navin is a textiles designer who works with an array of embellishments to create colourful and detailed surface decoration. I spoke with her to find out where her influences come from, where she buys her embellishments and how she became a textiles designer.
How do you get into textiles?
I was always a creative kid, drawing or making something. Art was my favourite subject in school and when I got to year 11 I knew I didn’t want to go on to study English and Maths A Levels or anything like that. I wasn’t 100% sure what field I wanted to go into so I decided to apply to study a mixed media BTEC course called Design Crafts at Cleveland College of Art & Design at their college campus in Middlesbrough. I worked with ceramics, textiles, jewellery and glass. Most of the project outcomes I made were ceramic pieces mixed with textiles. From this course I went on to study textiles at University at CCAD’s Hartlepool campus.
How did you mix ceramics with textiles?
One of the projects in my first year of college was to make a bird of some sort using any materials. I chose to focus my research on peacocks and created a ceramic peacock with Angelina fibre and chiffon feathers. I made these from shaping the feathers using wire and hand dying chiffon covering the wire with it and then embellishing the feathers.
What was the name of your course you studied at university and how was your course set up?
I studied BA HONS Contemporary Textile Products. I explored making a variety of contemporary interior products and fashion accessories.The first half of first year was all about drawing and we drew in a 3D way using papier mache, wire and other things to create little 3D paper sculptures. The second half of first year I made an embroidered rainbow fish, a screen printed pop art fabric can of Campbell’s soup, a Lily neckpiece and a collection of cushions inspired by vintage finds. The second year was split into three, the first project was based on a sculpture for space with the theme of self-portrait. The second project was based on a sculpture for body in which we had to create an animal stole. Finally, for the third project we were asked to write our own brief as this would prepare us for third year. For this I chose to create an interior product collection based on the fairground. In third year we had to write our own brief for our final project which lasted the whole year.
What did you make in your third year?
I wanted to experiment with laser cutting and up cycling in my final year, I decided to focus on Stately Homes and combine aspects of kitsch influences to create an eclectic antique modern mix collection of embellished acrylic furniture products.
Was that physically hard to work with?
It was a bit different to working with fabric but not as hard as you would think. It’s just a firmer surface to work with but I was really intrigued of how it would turn out and that motivated me to keep trying with it. I also laser cut beads and sequins from acrylic to use as embellishments on fabric.
Tell me about the textiles you make now?
At the moment I am focussing more on embellishment; creating embellished wall art pieces. Throughout the last year of uni I was far too focussed on laser cutting as it was new and exciting to me and although I did stitch into the acrylic I don’t think I put enough time into embroidery and embellishment. It’s what I originally loved and was passionate about.
What else do you use in your work?
I like to take photos and enhance and manipulate them using Photoshop. I then digitally print them and embroider and embellish the fabric to create fun visually attractive outcomes.
Where do you get your fabric printed?
I won a competition with Design ME studio last year and they printed my last collection of images for me. I will carry on using them to print fabric in the future, the quality is amazing!
You mentioned before that you laser cut. Do you do that at home?
Not yet no, I’m looking into buying a machine shortly. I want a decent sized one so that I’m not as limited to what I can cut. I would love to make some more up cycled chairs mixed with acrylic!
Where do you normally buy your general materials from?
I normally buy them from local stores in my area but if I can’t find what I want, I order stuff online. I also like to stock up on materials and beads from the Knitting and Stitching Show. They have a lot of companies that exhibit and sell specialist craft supplies there. The selection is great! My favourite websites to buy from is Josy Rose; I love the quality of their sequins and they have a wide range of colours and a good selection of embellishments. A good place for beads is Spellbound. For acrylic I use Hindleys they have an amazing pastel range of colours.
I’m really curious to know what type of needles people use when they’re working with embellishments. What type of needles do you use?
I use really fine beading needles.
Have you always used them or was it through trial and error?
I used to use the thinnest normal needles I had but some of the tiny glass beads I was buying wouldn’t thread on. I asked the embroidery technician at uni and she told me to go and get beading needles!
What type of fabrics do you like to work on?
I really like silk, satin and organza. I love velvet too, it’s amazing to dye, and the colours always come out really well! I use cotton too, but it’s not the best to dye! I like to use iron on facing or stitch and tear to back my work.
What other ways do you apply your textiles?
I’ve actually got plans to make an embellished wedding accessories collection. Buttonholes, corsages etc. I also want to make a stationery collection. I’ve got notebooks full of ideas but I’m not sure what to start on first!
How do you normally plan what you’re going to make?
Sometimes I plan and draw my ideas out but other times like now with my wall art pieces I just go straight into it.
Is your work mainly inspired by nature?
No not always. I take inspiration from lots of different things and like to create collections of products based on different themes. For example, I made a collection on fairgrounds were I made a textile carousel horse’s head. I made fairground lettering that I digitally printed and embellished to go along with it. I made the head by creating a mould from a concrete sculpture using something called Modroc. I delved into marbling and digitally printed some of my hand rendered marble prints and embellished and covered the horses head with it. I then used felt to create the mane!
Would you ever go into set design or work with costumes?
Yeah I would, I do really like the idea of making props and costumes. There’s so much stuff that I want to do!
What other types of textiles would you like to explore?
I would like to try weaving again as I only briefly learnt how to do this in college. I’d like to expand my skills on that and as you just mentioned, I would love to explore embellishing for costumes and fashion at some point.
Do you have any interesting textiles books that inspire you?
I have a couple from a few of my favourite designers and makers which include, Carolyn Quartermaine, Matthew Williamson and Mister Finch. I’m more of a magazine person, I love collecting Mollie Makes, LivingEtc, and Elle Decoration. I love interior design!
What do you love most about textiles?
I love textiles that are colourful, embellished and intricate! I love that you can do anything with it, you can use any materials you want and combine materials together to create new and interesting outcomes. The possibilities are endless! I also love that it can take your mind off things and you can get in the zone and watch a piece come together with each stitch or sequin!