‘Don’t dwell on negative emotions and rejection, it happens to us all; draw everyday or as often as time allows you.’ Gill Eggleson is one lady who understands the power the right fabric has in its ability to transform a room, a fashion line or a piece of furniture. With 22 years of experience under her belt, when we sit down to speak I’m aware Gill is one of our most qualified experts yet. Starting out as a printed textile designer for Dorma, the established soft furnishings brand in 1993, for the past two years Gill has been focusing on her own company. Speaking to me from her home in France, Gill was happy to share her words of wisdom with those striving to follow in her footsteps.
So Gill, how did you get here, where did your interest in textile design come from?
I actually had no specific interest in textiles during secondary school. I have always been a painter, doodler and generally creative person, but I actually did art (illustration), chemistry and biology at A-Level which is an odd mix. When I had my meeting with the head of sixth form he was a bit perplexed as to what to advise in terms of degree courses. It was during a chat and a look through the UCAS book that textiles cropped up.
After a bit of research I found a BSc Hons degree at University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology for textile design and design management, which suited my creative and non-creative qualifications. I applied and got an interview and from there was encouraged to do a one year art foundation course. I then went to UMIST for three years and got my degree.
What happened next?
I was told by the course leaders that it would be more or less impossible to get a design job with my degree and that it was more suited to retail buying. I am pleased to say I proved them wrong! I was fortunate to get a chance to write an article in a book on polyester cotton with the design director at Dorma during the second year of my degree. Based on the fact that I had got my foot in the door so to speak, I managed to get a design studio placement for the Christmas break which was great. During that period I was asked if I would be interested in a graduate placement and I said yes, so was more or less into a job as soon as I had completed my finals and end of year degree show.
What is the most interesting part of designing textiles?
The variety and breadth of products that textiles are used on is mind boggling. The market is enormous. The best feeling is when you sell a design.
What is the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge for any textile designer is being able to understand the market and trends, keeping ahead of the game and staying relevant. This is a very competitive industry and there are a lot of online short courses that are churning our loads of additional competition to those studying degrees in textiles. Also, gaining a good grounding in design parameters for your target market and for traditionally produced textiles (rather than digitally printed) is very important, but with so much produced off-shore nowadays getting that experience is a little bit harder. I was lucky; I worked in a vertically integrated company for six years so was able to see all processes in house.
Do you mostly design fabrics for fashion or interiors?
Interiors mostly, but some fashion as well. I also design for non-textile products.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
There’s no one source; I enjoy mooching on Pinterest, reading magazines, taking photographs of flowers and textures. I draw a lot and find travelling really inspiring.
What would you say has been the proudest moment of you career so far?
I think transitioning from being a paid employee to setting up my own business and selling work. It was a steep learning curve for me, as historically I had been a very traditional artist and use to working to client briefs. We didn’t use CAD very much in the early nineties. I did train to use Stork, an ink jet printer for textiles, but never actually got to use it. After this I digressed into design management, then product development so the need lessened. Once I made the decision to go it alone I realised how badly I needed to learn to use Photoshop and Illustrator from scratch. I have now done this to a level where I would say I am pretty competent.
In your opinion, what is the hardest thing for a beginner to get the hang of when learning the art of textile design?
Executing a client brief is challenging as you are trying to get inside someone else’s head or see their vision, but professionalism and understanding your market helps. Being able to accept critique and take it on the chin is very important. I have been in umpteen meetings over the years presenting designs to retailers and they have rubbished work and pooh-poohed ideas. You just have to keep your counsel and respond with new ideas.
What advice would you give to someone hoping to follow in your footsteps?
Go for it, but be warned there are up days and down days. Don’t dwell on negative emotions and rejection (it happens to us all) and draw everyday or as often as time allows. Price your work properly and never under sell your creative talents.
Finally then, which designers or artists most inspire you and why?
I really love Eugene Seguy’s work in terms of subject matter and colour. Also, anything vintage or ethnic generally floats my boat!
If Gill has inspired you to take your first steps into the world of textile design, a course is a good place to start. With plenty of different options available, take your time and remind yourself, every expert was once a beginner.