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Fish Inspiration

Following on from the trip to Llansteffan beach, I began to think about the inspiration of fish. I love animals and I always think about the possibility of including them in my work, but in terms of textiles I have always been inspired by architecture and structure. During a visit to a pet store, I saw a great deal of soft floating fish that I found inspiring, I could imagine them being created with interesting fringing or even as a soft watercolour painting in Procreate.

I found the colours in them very vibrant and interesting as well, I thought this would make for an interesting colour palette along with the blues of the water too. I know that I have an aquarium visit lined up next month too so this is something to think about.


Llansteffan Beach

Llansteffan beach is one of the closest to my house, although it is still an hour and a half at least away to drive, however it has always been a really nice place to go. This particular trip was with my boyfriend, to celebrate a month to the day where we last came to the beach on a first date, I loved the patterns and colours on the rocks and the sands, so I took advantage of the nice weather to get some interesting, textured photographs.

The seashells tend to wash up quite a lot on the beach and gather where the tide naturally washing them near the larger rocks and the gaps in the rocks. I also like the mixture of the natural colours of them, each shell individually has its own interesting texture as well the groups of them giving an interesting texture of their own, especially the further away you get from them.

The larger rocks were extremely textured and pretty, the unusual colours of the oranges and purples looked even better in person than they did in the photos, I think texture is definitely something I want to focus on more this time as I find my plain backgrounds to my patterns can be quite boring and even distracting as a plain block shape behind my detailed motifs.

The National Botanic Gardens of Wales

This is a place that is quite close to home for me, and I probably do not go often enough for how close it is. I do like going when they have craft fairs or exhibitions on there, but this visit was just a research trip to gather images.

The botanic gardens are a showcase of the best wildlife and plants from around the world, the pond at the front I thought was very inspiring, it was full of different plants and looked quite natural. As we walked further we found a lot of very interesting looking flowers and plants, especially when we got into the large domed glasshouse.

The flowers were so colourful and even the leaves presented really interesting and unique shapes and colours within them. I found some colours that I really thought were not able to be produced naturally such as very vibrant blues and pinks, traditionally colours that we do not associate with the earthy greens and warm browns we find in nature, so I did love this side of the research.

There was also a butterfly house and in full summer the bees were out collecting pollen as well, I managed to get a few photos of these before they flew off too which is something I found very difficult when I was trying to do the same by lakes and ponds with dragonflies.

We were lucky enough to witness a bird of prey flying show while we were there, I found it so interesting seeing the birds so up close and the different patterns in which they fly. I thought about how this could be translated into a pattern which I thought would be really interesting, such as adding spots behind the motif across the fabrics to show the pattern in which it flies.

Overall this was a very interesting visit for research, it gave me inspiration in nature and natural botanics, as well as insects and birds, so I knew I had a lot to think about as to which way i could like to take my research to focus down on one thing specifically.

Dinas Rock Research Trip

Another place close to home is Dinas Rock, a small woodland walk that changes into cliff faces halfway round, leading to the legendary Twm Sion Cati’s cave. Twm Sion Cati is described as the welsh Robin Hood, many welsh story books tell of his mischief and adventures, resulting in him seeking a hiding place in the welsh mountains, supposedly this cave.

I went with my friend Cody, studying a sound engineering course in USW but also with a keen interest in photography like myself. I focused on leaves and patterns within the nature that I found there, I thought these were really interesting parts of the walk. I was on the look out for insects or signs of wildlife but as this was a hot day during the summer holidays there were more children around than previous visits I have been on where I have seen badgers, squirrels and birds of prey.

Although on a drive later on in the night we saw a great deal of wildlife, including a fox, two baby hares, a barn owl and a hedgehog that needed moving out of the road.

Llyn Llech Owain Research Trip

Near where I was working, I knew there was a lake which I had been to before. With my friend from fashion design staying for a few days, I wanted to show her the best of what my countryside home had to offer, being from Bristol this was a big change of scene for her. I knew she wanted a woodland theme for her children’s wear collection and as I was toying with the ideas of insects and wildlife for my own third year projects this is something we could work on together.

We went to the lake on a very hot day, I loved the walk around it seeing all the lily pads on the edges of the lake, we also saw a number of dragonflies in a few different colours.

The photos I managed to get were very inspiring, I loved the shape and the colours in the lily pads, especially the ones that were dying and turning funny colours. The contrast of the bright green against the dark water was interesting, but where the sun was hitting the water in the shallows gave it an interesting orange quality which I thought was really textural and inspiring. Where I was capturing photos from on top of a platform, the lily pads were obviously further away and smaller, which I think creates an interesting pattern in itself because it is random.

Work Experience with Corgi

I started looking early on in second year for work experience but was having trouble around Cardiff finding places to go to, I inquired in a lot of places but as time went on, I began to think about going home for summer and what I could do in my own local area. I thought back to my time as a teaching assistant with the textiles department in my old school, where we visited a sock factory not far away, where they design, manufacture, package and send the products to various companies globally.

Corgi Hosiery produces a high quality of knitwear, namely socks, but also expanding to jumpers, cardigans, jackets, scarves, and many customised orders. I got in touch and they were happy to have me for two weeks during the summer.

I began my first day at 9AM, I was introduced to Penny, who had recently graduated herself and worked in the design office. I also met Lisa who owned the company with her brother, she again was in the design room that I spent a great deal of time in during the two weeks. I began with some admin office jobs, such as sorting out labels and scanning in some of the knitwear patterns that were being made digital, rather than having the two large filling cabinets full of them. I was amazed at how many different patterns they had for various products, literally into the thousands.

In the afternoon, I went down to the storeroom and began sorting through socks for Lisa to take to the Royal Welsh show the following week, the storeroom was full of a variety of mens, womens and childrens socks and a variety of patterns and colours were needed for variety. The prices were quite good for the show as they know they can sell such a large quantity of them. Overall the first day was really interesting getting to know the building and the various tasks that people do, it was a very friendly environment and catching glimpses of the making process as I walked around was amazing to see. There was sections where someone would just do a few final handstitches and seal the sock, there was a large section for steaming the socks before they are punched with a label and packaged. I finished my day at 4, as I was in a different area to my usual home, I took advantage and went on a couple of research trips into nature this week too.

The second day started early for me again, as I had to be there by 9AM, I would leave my house at around half 7 in the morning for the hour drive with enough time for traffic and ten minutes spare before I got in there. I was asked to bring some paint clothes with me today, and worked on painting the stand for the Royal Welsh which was made from a few palettes with bolts through it. After this I worked on some filing, which is something I have never done before in an office, and I thought was actually a good thing to learn about for business reasons. They use physical records to store knitting patterns so they can be easily passed around the knitting machines for the ladies to follow, although digitalizing them is a good idea to print new or multiple copies when they are needed. The other use of filing was for customer orders, upcoming ones and completed ones, this is useful as it allows them to look back over the previous orders if there is confusion with a style number or colour, and there is often something similar ordered before that means queries can be answered without bothering the Company. It also made me realise just how many large companies they work for in the UK and around the world, they had orders from many countries but I think the most notable was here in the UK, from the Royal palace. Corgi is known as the suppliers of Prince Charles’s personal socks, but the palace shop also make very large orders for socks with a corgi pattern on them, which apparently sell in thousands every week to the many tourists in London.

In the afternoon I went down the factory shop and arranged the children’s socks as the shop had not been sorted for a little while and needed restocking. I also then went to the storeroom again and continued packing for the Royal Welsh setup.

During the third day I started out by putting all the bolts into the palettes to allow the socks to be hung on them when they were needed at the show next week, again then I continued with some setup for the show, sorting the socks, in particular the welsh socks that we found were packed by the boxful, meeting a definite demand with the Welsh audience. I then went on to help with the packaging area, adding the stickers to the labels before they were added to the pair of socks.

On the fourth day I was shown into the boardroom, where potential clients and companies can come and discuss their needs, so the room is quite full of examples of projects as well as the histories of the family and great work they have produced in the past for TV and film. The room had a couple of messy boxes in a corner, which it turns out are all fabric samples that are used to show clients what the products will look and feel like in different colours and textures. These needed sorting through into thick and thin weaves, and then bordered to make them a little neater. This is of course something that we are asked to do with our own samples while in Uni so I was happy to do this task. I am not a weaver, so do not work with wool very often, but handling these samples it gave me more of an appreciation for texture that wool can produce and how versatile of a medium that it actually is.

After completing this and sorting them out, I spent some time looking around the room at some of the products and what they had done recently, including an outfit for Doctor Who’s Jodie Whittaker, including socks, a jumper and a scarf.

After this I helped to fill out some order cards, these show the ladies making the products how many of the items and in what wools to complete these in. I also did some filing and helped out with photographs of the Rugby socks they had currently in production, but needed photographs to put into the brochures.

The photography with the socks was fun as I do have experience in product photography from other jobs, after the flash photograph was taken, it is taken into Photoshop where I adjusted the colour until it appeared as a true colour match to the socks, cut around it and resized it to fit a template so all the socks look the same in the brochure. This completed my first week as I was working for four days a week, giving me the Friday and the weekend to myself, I had enjoyed my first week there a lot as it had been really informative and a chance to look into the small business world in a place very close to my own home.

My second week began quiet, Lisa was at the Royal Welsh, so this week I generally assisted Penny, James and Katie (the two designers) with whatever tasks needed doing. I started out Monday morning doing some filing until I was asked to help out on the factory floor with the sock pressing. This involved firstly sorting piles of socks straight from the washing machines into sized piles, then making sure if they were left and right socks specifically because of pattern that these were sorted as well. Then the socks were placed onto metal holders that were shaped like the right sized feet which were then run through the giant steamer, once they slowly came back out, I took the two socks off and Cian put two more on for the whole process to repeat. It was quite relaxing and rewarding to see the piles mounting up as there were hundreds of them to go through. I then spent some time back in the office putting stickers on the labels for the products again, something else that was repetitive and relaxing, I was glad to work in a few of the departments to see how many small jobs actually go into the process.

My next task was to take the customer orders and find the colours in the right material that the customer wants the socks to be completed in. It amazed me how many different shades they have in the wools, as well as cashmere. They were labelled rows with giant ladders, so I gathered up the correct shades of colours and boxed them up so there was definitely enough put away to complete the order. Finally, with the completed jumpers and jackets, I helped Katie to add tags onto them and we packaged them up to send to the right suppliers, such as Thom Browne.

Tuesday I spent the day on the sock press, which I have described previously, the whole day was spent getting through an order from the London palace shop, literally thousands of pairs of corgi patterned socks for children in a few different sizes.

Wednesday I continued working on the sock press for awhile, and while in the storeroom I found some boxes full of socks that basically were created as extras to large orders. I sorted through these and if I found six matching pairs in the same size I bagged them and these could be sold to companies. This was very time consuming but cleared out quite a few boxes, I also took notes on what styles and sizes were there.

My final day of work experience began with some sorting in the storeroom and some filing, tasks I was confident in doing independently at this point. This was also one of the hottest days of the year so the factory was incredibly hot, I spent my nights after work going on walks in nature for research photos, as well as regularly swimming. One of my final tasks was to take a order sample drawing from a company and try and best colour match it to the current colours that we had, some companies who use Corgi regularly send the exact colour names they want, and others like to allow Corgi to choose for them.

This is something I found very useful in terms of choosing colour palettes for my own work too, and learning more about industry and how they do it was interesting. I ended the day by tidying up and finishing little tasks I had done throughout the two weeks, just crushing and sorting some boxes finally before I was told to go and choose some socks as a thank you for my work.

Overall I really enjoyed my time here and I felt like I got a lot out of it in terms of working in a real design room as well as seeing the inside of a functioning small business.