Inside

MA Programme Description

Textiles

Materiality is at the heart of the MA Textiles Programme and we recruit our students into making specialisms of Print, Knit, Mixed Media and Weave in order to develop the practical mastery essential to explore and express the contextual applications, conceptual questions and challenges that run across the cohort.

Students base their study within one of the making specialisms and develop their own creative language through a combination of working within their making specialism and positioning themselves within one of the contextual platforms of ‘Body’, ‘Space’, ‘Colour, Materials + Finish (CMF)’ or ‘Gallery’ that are delivered across the Programme. Students across all the specialisms develop their creativity through individual research and development of design ideas, concept development, material engagement and process, contextual application, presentation and communication of their work.

First Year

During the first year students take part in a range of technical induction and practical instruction programmes alongside their personal development.

Progress is monitored through tutorials, group critiques, progress reviews and seminars. All students must pass a formal Interim Examination to progress to the second year.

Second Year

The second year is devoted to the self-driven creation of a final project which challenges the boundaries of the subject and builds on the individual’s personal design philosophy.

Specialisms

Currently, Textiles offers 5 specialisms of Printed, Knitted, Woven, Mixed Media Textiles, and new for September 2017, Smart Surfaces, Structures and Digital Assemblies. Each of the specialisms have specific curricula content and are described below: 

Knitted Textiles 

Knitted Textiles is the exploration of textiles through an engagement with the structural, conceptual and technical possibilities offered by knitting and the use of soft, linked structures. Knitting is a process laden with cultural preconceptions and industrial expectations, students are expected to challenge these perceived boundaries alongside challenging themselves, their current knowledge, creativity and skills. Students are encouraged to take creative risks and are expected to be innovators in their field. Students are free to determine the context of their work; there are no limitations and no boundaries.

The specialism encompasses all forms of knitting processes and production spanning the range from hand-knitting and crochet, through to domestic and dubied machines to digital automated industrial machinery (Shima Seiki). The first year commences with technical projects covering hand, machine and digital knitting. Students learn how to undertake shaping and 3D knitted construction. Students are encouraged to explore the opportunities offered by collaborative practice and expected to make links with the appropriate audiences and industries for their work. 

Woven Textiles

Woven textiles is one of the largest and most vibrant textile industries globally, spanning the handmade to the cutting edge of new materials and manufacturing techniques and systems.

Within the Textiles Programme, the woven textiles specialism explores dynamic and varied methods of woven technique from handloom to industrial jacquard. The first year begins with an advanced technical project covering both hand and jacquard weaving. During the 1st year year students explore, research and innovate in terms of yarn, materials, dying techniques and finishing processes. Students are encouraged to explore the opportunities offered by collaborative practice and expected to make links with the appropriate audiences and industries for their work.

Mixed Media

Mixed Media represents an experimental and interdisciplinary approach to Textiles that links a broad range of practices, techniques, materials and methods of working. The history of the specialism lies with embroidery and stitched textiles and core technical skills in these areas continue to provide a valuable foundation in the first year of the programme. Students are introduced to hand, machine and digital processes alongside 3D modelling, sculptural and digital fabrication techniques. 

As a specialism we focus on radical experimentation, material testing and transformation. Students explore hard and soft materials; the organic and inorganic; the visible, invisible, immaterial and the elemental in their work. We encourage an exploratory, non-linear approach that embraces the conceptual and the magical, allowing a space for the incidental and accidental processes of discovery that foster a culture of research through making. Students are encouraged to explore the opportunities offered by collaborative practice and expected to make links with the appropriate audiences and industries for their work.

Printed Textiles

Printed textiles at the RCA captures a vast and varied cross-section of creativity within the design Industry. It is a method of thinking, making and manufacture that questions the notion of surface; its identity and purpose. This constant negotiation of the surface nurtures the breadth and exploration of both process and materials and students are encouraged to question and challenge the possibilities and pre-conceptions of print and textiles and redefine these by pushing these boundaries through experimentation

The first year includes building the skills and knowledge associated with the discipline including advanced making techniques, theories around colour, perception and line, alongside industry linked collaborations and continued development of personal lines of enquiry. Students are encouraged to explore the opportunities offered by collaborative practice and expected to make links with the appropriate audiences and industries for their work.

Smart Surfaces, Structures and Digital Assemblies

This new specialism places creative practice at the forefront of the innovation ecosystem to question the materiality of our lives and pioneer new ways of thinking and new ways of making that transcend digital and physical boundaries informed by a robust background in material knowledge and emerging fabrication technologies. 

Using a Design-STEM approach to explore the advances in material science, particularly those with a relevance to the flexibility and conformability of fibres, filaments, thin films and liquids, we use a creative experimental approach to propose and prototype new architectures for responsive and adaptive textiles.  During the first year students develop their knowledge of the classes and characterisation of materials through technical projects. Digital fabrication of and new technologies for processing materials are explored both theoretically and practically, alongside traditional textile processing platforms. Material experimentation focuses on aspects of e-textiles, physical computing, responsive properties and self-assembly with biomaterials.

A Design-STEM approach uses existing design + craft practice as point of departure and has at its core one or more of the following:

  • Designing + making with advanced materials
  • Designing  + making advanced material systems
  • Experimentation + Prototyping using advanced fabrication
  • Designing + making products with advanced functionalities

We see great scope to advance art and design education through an increased Textiles offer focused on new territories for material specialists, concentrating on the modelling and manufacturing of future ‘soft systems’. We aim to create a broader spectrum of design enquiry and generate designers who are able to navigate emerging developments from the STEM community to a level that enables understanding and knowledge of the new material properties, the skill set to facilitate absorption into the design ‘toolbox’ and the agility to identify, manage and contextualise innovation opportunities emerging from STEM developments.

The profiles of prospective applicants will be a mix of those that have existing textile design knowledge but wish to develop their technical and scientific knowledge, candidates from a technical textiles background wishing to develop context for their work and those from outside of textiles altogether who have a sound scientific background but wish to explore a design-led approach.

The potential destinations for these graduates include aspects of assistive healthcare, advanced sportswear, communication platforms, transportation and aviation, novel start-ups such as The Unseen and also to progress into further research and academic study.

Platforms

All Masters students across the specialisms identify, test and define their contextual position during the first year and we challenge this through the platforms of ‘Body’, ‘Space’, ‘Colour, Materials and Finish’ and ‘Gallery’. This framework allows for the development of relevant, complementary skills and approaches in addition to the core making skills acquired through the specialist study. In keeping with our spirit of creative restlessness we embrace the in-between spaces that don’t conform to the perceived boundaries of these platforms. The Programme endeavours to extend the students’ knowledge and experience of the breadth of Textiles throughout the first year using both individual and team project activities. These can be delivered in conjunction with external industry partners to offer opportunities for professional engagement and practice.

‘Body’

This contextual platform supports students who wish to direct their textile work towards fashion, show-pieces or accessory design. This might include the creation of garments, products, objects, surfaces or environments for the human body. This platform is aimed at students who wish to innovate and explore the properties and potential of materials and to challenge notions of functionality, aesthetic, tactility and adornment.

Alongside material investigation students are also supported in the development of skills in 3D rendering and visualisation, drawing, colour and structure. Students are expected to develop the professional skills needed to work as part of a design team alongside the development of their personal portfolios, often through the participation in industrial projects. 

‘Space’

This contextual platform supports students who want to direct their work in a design realm around the notion of lived space. This might include the creation of objects, surfaces, skins or environments for interior or exterior spaces, from the domestic to the architectural in scale. This platform is aimed at students who want to innovate and explore the properties and potential of materials and to challenge the notions of functionality and decoration. 

Alongside material investigation students are also supported in the development of skills in 3D rendering and visualisation, drawing and colour.

Students are expected to develop the professional skills needed to work as part of a design team alongside the development of their personal portfolios, often through the participation in industrial projects.

Colour, Materials and Finish (CMF)

This contextual platform supports students who want to innovate with different materials and push the materials’ capabilities to the maximum. A strong base in colour, pattern and texture is an advantage and students need to have a keen interest in process and be prepared to deal with the technical side of materials development. The platform is industrially orientated and includes consumer research and trend forecasting, colour palette creation, experimental approaches to material qualities and finishes, manufacturing processes, collaborative teamwork, analysis and presentation of colour and materials strategies.

Skills development include 3D modelling and printing, digital rendering and presentation.

Students are expected to develop the professional skills needed to work as part of a design team alongside the development of their personal portfolios, often through the participation in industrial projects.

‘Gallery’

This contextual platform is aimed at students who are working outside of a design context, employing textiles for its material and structural qualities, and its conceptual and technical possibilities. Students need to understand the role that textiles have played historically in craft and fine art but not to be bound by previous definitions or expectations. The platform is aimed at the exhibition of work in its broadest sense - inside and outside the gallery. Students will have the opportunity to explore and experience exhibiting through the curation and installation of their own work. Whilst students will be developing their own individual studio practice they will be encouraged to collaborate on projects, where appropriate, and to forge relationships with students on other programmes across the college.

Critical & Historical Studies

The RCA provides a unique environment for postgraduate art and design students to reflect upon their own practice, and to engage with students from their own and other disciplines. The role of Critical & Historical Studies (CHS) is to support the studio programmes in enabling these critical engagements to take place. The courses offered by CHS to first year studio-based MA students propose an intellectual framework within which they can begin to establish a coherent relationship between theory and practice.

In the autumn and spring terms there are a series of College-wide seminars and lectures. The autumn term series will relate to your particular discipline (though it is possible to elect to join a series being offered to students on other programmes) whereas the spring term series will be more broad-based and cross-disciplinary in nature.

In the spring and summer terms, a CHS tutor will give you individual tutorials to support the development of a dissertation which is submitted *at the end of the Summer Term.* The dissertation should be between 6,000–10,000 words in length – this is a major piece of work and you will be not be able to submit for the Final Examination until you have passed this assessment.

KEY DETAILS

240 credits
Two-year programme
Full-time study

Textiles Studio
Textiles Studio
Photographer: Richard Haughton