When Art and Textiles Collide

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Ingrid Ching was born in Hong Kong and moved to Australia during middle school to later venture on to America. She has recently graduated from studying Fashion Design and a Minor in Textiles at Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia. On many occasions she travels back and forth from Philly to NY because the Big Apple satisfies her hunger for a wider range of resources to enable  her to create colourful, magical and inquisitive work. Within the first few seconds of speaking to Ingrid I knew the rest of our conversation would be a great pleasure as she’s positive, sweet and incredibly enthusiastic about textiles and art. Her Instagram account (as well as her website) not only showcases how prolific she is but also offers uplifting and motivating words to inspire you to dare to create. 

How and why did you get involved in textiles?

I got into art as a child as I wasn’t the best academic student. It came naturally to me and I found it a good way to avoid having to study. My fine arts background started in high school during my time living in Adelaide Australia, a very nice and calm place with a great beach. Making different types of patterns lead me towards textiles. During high school I drew a lot of motifs but never really knew what to do with them. So in my last year I decided to turn them into embroideries with paint. My senior college collection was created using my own designed fabrics; I felt it went well so I continued on with it. 

What types of textiles do you create?

I was really into making evening gowns so I started off with hand beading and later moved on to embroidery and print. I like working with embellishments, nothing over the top but just enough to creatively represent my skills.

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What type of embroideries do you make?

Usually handmade embroideries. I can’t really get into digital or machine embroidery because I like to get the actual feeling of how thick the stitches are when I’m working. I don’t enjoy seeing the machine doing all the work. I like being able to look at the back of my work too while I’m stitching. I enjoy taking my time creating surfaces myself because it’s relaxing and allows my mind to think and wander off.

Do you ever embroider something and it doesn’t come out the way you imagined?

Oh my god yes but I don’t regret spending my time embroidering even if it doesn’t quite come out the way I planned. It calms me down as I think I’m quite a hyper person!

Did you teach yourself how to bead?

Yes, I watched a lot of YouTube videos and my mum works in the fashion industry and is really good at hand embellishments too.

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 What other ways would you like to use your textiles?

Wall pieces would be great and I’d like to create embellishments. I’m interested in working on interiors especially upholstery for sofas and cushion covers. I’d love to work with a factory or company that could turn my prints into couch covers.

Where do you buy your materials from?

My mum hand picks most of my embellishment supplies from Hong Kong and ships them to me. This allows me to get some great things that I might not necessarily find here in the US. It’s much cheaper to buy from Hong Kong. The majority of fabric I buy is from Mood and Elegant fabrics. Most of my paints are from Blick and some are from Michael’s Craft.

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Seeing as you can make clothes do you still shop for yourself?

Yes because I like to see how garments are finished; my clothes are textiles focused but I still need to make sure that they’re well presented.

Do you have any favourite fashion designers that you look to for inspiration?

Alexander McQueen and Iris Van Herpen; they’re just so talented and never let boundaries get in their way. At the moment I’m really inspired by Gucci because of the colours and playfulness. What normally shouldn’t work manages to, they just go for it and it happens. I believe this is the new improved Gucci. I love where they’re going with their designs. Stella Jean and what she does with patterns from Africa is really thought provoking. Each of her designs tells a story using pictures found in African art or patterns, she takes us to another place where we can continue to learn about different cultures through fashion. Hermione De Paula’s embroidery and bridal designs are just so elegant and beautiful. At a young age I wanted to design bridal wear too but ended up going in a slightly different direction. I’ll keep it in the back of my mind and perhaps pursue it in the future, you never know.

I’m really intrigued by your artwork. Can you share your process?

I layer acrylic paint slowly to create a voluminous texture and height then add the embellishments on them while they’re still tacky.

How did the idea come about?

It all started with me wanting to combine fashion and art. It was really effortless and not planned. I just poured a lot of paint on one of my paintings and watched what happened next.

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What’s the biggest painting you’ve made?

I sold a painting to a lady in Australia that is 70 by 40 inches.

I think it’s really impressive that you can paint AND make clothes. Is your aim to be a womenswear fashion designer?

Yeah my aim is to make ready-to-wear high end womenswear.

Do you think you would have a runway show or a presentation to showcase your designs?

I thought about applying for NY fashion week but at the moment I have a lot of art commissions to complete so now isn’t the right time. I started my company two months ago and I’m trying to get my base in art established and from there I’ll move more into fashion and textiles.

Which one’s more important to you?

Fashion and art are both really important to me and my grand vision is both of them coming together as a whole.

Of course and whether you decide to do a runway show or a presentation you could simultaneously have a fashion and art show to showcase how skillful you are. You creatively get to kill two birds with one stone.

Yes! My dream would be to have my collection showcased and displayed in an art gallery.

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Where would you like to have this displayed?

My end goal would be any contemporary art museum but for now I’d like my art displayed in any ‘Mom and Pop’ coffee shop (independent cafes) or boutique window displays. In the future I want to own a brick and mortar store with my clothing surrounded by my paintings. I want people to be inspired and in awe of what they see. I feel that the point of making art is for it to be admired; I surely don’t want to hide it from the world.

What are your surroundings like where you work? Do you watch movies, listen to music or podcasts while creating … what’s your background noise?

I am always in my studio surrounded by paints, brushes, tools, fabric, beads, books and plenty of good lighting. I listen to Alternative and EDM (club music) constantly. I have been listening to Oh Wonder, Michi, and Lapsley a lot lately and it just helps me zone out. Sometimes I throw on one of my favourite shows that I have seen a million times. I can’t watch anything new because it can be distracting because I have to look at the screen to see what’s going on.

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Can you share any names of artists that use textiles as art?

Andreea Mandrescu uses a lot of non-traditional material to form pieces that look like second skin. Whenever I’m having a bad day or creative block I always look at her work to remind me why I do what I do. I could stare at her work for ages, it makes me drool! Lanny Bergner creates art on mesh wire and manipulates it to whatever he wants from standing art, a table or even just great beautiful shapes. 

Now that you’ve successfully graduated and you’re planning on moving to NY do you see yourself interning or working for any particular fashion companies?

That’s a really good question as I‘ve recently been questioning what I want to do with my career. I turned down a job with a really big corporate fashion company that offered me a position that all my friends said was great but deep down I didn’t feel the same. When I got the acceptance letter all of my friends congratulated me but I had doubts and wondered why I was being congratulated because I simply wasn’t feeling it. When it came to replying to the acceptance email I struggled as I was in the process of accepting the job but deleted my first response because I knew it wasn’t right for me.

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I know exactly what you mean and understand how you feel. It’s easy to take jobs to pay the rent and pay your bills but deep down you know it won’t make you happy and you feel like a phony because you’re not being true to yourself and your talents. It’s a scary decision turning down a big job, especially when everyone else thinks it’s an amazing opportunity.

I was really upset for a very long time because I thought I was going to find a balance of working for myself and being employed by someone else. I was recently talking to one of my close friends and she said “would you rather live your life happy or being miserable doing two things that you would normally love but aren’t bringing you any joy?” Talking to her was a wake-up call.

Putting it so bluntly definitely helps you gain perspective into following your own path.

Yeah showing my work on social media has been a boost for me. People have been so encouraging and positive about my work and it’s really uplifting.

I think it’s bold when people have to nerve to show creative extensions of themselves. It’s honourable to create a space for yourself to share your work as there’s so much work already out in the world. It takes guts.

What do you love most about textiles?

I would say that I love the freedom, you can do anything that you imagine. You can create textures from a flat to bumpy, glossy or matte texture; or even the mixture of two contrasting items or just anything!

You can see more of Ingrid’s work here and follow her here

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