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Amelia Ayerst

MA Textiles (Mixed Media), 2015–

What were you doing before you came to the RCA?

I studied Fashion Design Womenswear at Leeds University, which was quite an academic course. The fabrication process and experimenting with different media were the things I enjoyed most, so that’s why I wanted to study Textiles. I spent a year travelling after graduation which really gave me time to understand what I wanted to go on to do. I applied while I was away and got a place.

How did studying here compare to your expectations?

I knew that lots of people on the programme would have textiles backgrounds, but mine was in fashion and that was a bit daunting. In fact, it’s been great to explore all the textiles facilities and machines that I’ve never used before, and I think I’m able to take an open approach to them in a way someone who has spent years studying textiles might not. 

I came to the College thinking I would do textiles for fashion, but I used the first year to explore everything. I learned that Colour, Material and Finish (known as CMF) is my real area of interest, and my work has naturally progressed down that route.

Was there a particular project that set you on that new path?

The open nature of the RCA means you have so many opportunities to work with other students and that was one of the main reasons I wanted to study here, to make connections and meet people. I took part in a project with Hitachi and Vehicle Design students around the London Underground. It was really exciting and took me out of my comfort zone and far away from fashion.

We developed textiles with colours and shapes that were new for me. I moved on from the project and only looked back to it in second year when I was reviewing my work; it really stood out and became key to the direction I’ve taken, so that project helped me focus and gave me onward direction. It was also really interesting and productively difficult to work with other kinds of designers and makers.

What’s the working environment like in Textiles?

We have a really relaxed and friendly studio, with everyone bouncing ideas around. In Mixed Media we have crits with tutors as well as informal ones we arrange amongst ourselves. I love working in the studio because people can see each other’s work. There’s so much variety and everyone has something to say, so you get many new ideas. It pushes you to do more work and investigate new things every day.

At first I was worried about not knowing about how to use all the equipment, but with the mix of backgrounds among the students I wasn’t the only one. The tutors are so good at helping you get started, and now I feel confident in loads of different areas. And even if you’re on the Textiles programme, and especially in Mixed Media, you don’t have to focus on, say, embroidery, you can also use the shared workshops, like resin, plastics, woodwork, metal and all sorts. You can get stuck into everything, and it’s really interesting to not limit yourself.

What are you working on at the moment?

My work now is based around illusions and how movement of fabric can implement change, which really grew out of the Vehicle Design collaboration I mentioned. I am currently working on designing shoes but would love to work for a sportswear company or have my own brand for fashion sportswear.

Amelia Ayerst
Amelia Ayerst