TEXTILE TALES: INTERVIEW WITH LEONIE EDMEAD
We caught up with former Turnbull & Asser design intern and finalist of this year's Kirstie's Handmade Christmas on Channel 4, the talented hands behind our luxurious applique blankets – Leonie Edmead. The final year Manchester Metropolitan textiles student discusses the processes behind our silk-appliqued blankets, her campaign work as part of the Creative Cultures Collective, an organisation she founded during the lockdown, and her aspirations for a creative future.
Turnbull: Please tell us a bit more about yourself. When did your interest in design and textiles begin? What led you to study Textiles in Practice at Manchester Met?
Leonie: I often take quite an abstract approach to my work which tends to revolve around pattern and colour. I learnt to knit and sew at an early age, and I have always had an interest in creative subjects throughout school. I took up studying textiles at GCSE, continued at A-level and went straight to university to continue with my studies. I am originally from Birmingham, so my choice to study in Manchester was based on the fact that the North was and still is known for its links to the textile industry.
In addition to your remote internship, which counts towards your coursework, we involved you in designing a series of traditional quilt-inspired blankets using our silks. Please talk us through the process, your research and experience in the Turnbull archives and workrooms.
I was given a lot of creative freedom with designing the blankets, so I started by looking at the work of Matisse, which led to me looking at positive and negative drawing and mark making. I translated the mark-making into a series of digital patterns which I then manipulated and simplified. Through research, I took inspiration from a group of quilters who go by the ‘Gee’s Bend Quiltmakers’ – this really helped me plan the composition of the designs.
I was able to speak to the team in the Turnbull workrooms who kindly sent some of the silks that I was able to sample. Working digitally was definitely a challenge, but the team were incredibly helpful in choosing some amazing silks to work with. The archives are amazing. There are so many incredible fabrics, I do not think I could have chosen a selection as easily without the help of the team. I refined the final selection of applique designs with the help of the design team, and I was finally able to visit the workroom in Sidcup where I mocked up the blanket layout to be translated into pattern pieces by the pattern cutter in the workroom.
With the festive season well and truly upon us, you recently featured on Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas. How was that experience? And what was it like watching yourself on TV?
Featuring on Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas was an amazing and unexpected experience. I was approached by the production team during the summer. Filming with all the restrictions was slightly daunting, but it went smoothly and was worth it. I was nervous to watch myself on TV, but I was happy with how it came out and more importantly, I was happy to highlight my crafting skills on such an incredible platform.
Please tell us more about the action group Creative Cultures Collective. What do they do? And why its work is so vital?
The Creative Cultures Collective is a platform led by students from the Manchester School of Art to promote and encourage diverse cultural representation in creative spaces. I started the collective during lockdown as it is something I am quite passionate about and I wanted to exist my university, so I finally made the time to start it up. Along with some other students, from different courses, we have hosted a couple of online events as well as an online exhibition all aimed at creating safe spaces for artists from diverse cultural backgrounds. Balancing running the platform alongside university work is a bit of a task; however, I have hopes of running more online events and campaigns soon.
Finally, what is on your vision board for 2021? And what are your hopes and dreams post-graduation?
I plan to continue building my portfolio, be experimental and make the most of my creative freedom in my final year. More importantly, I want to enjoy the rest of my university experience as best as I can, given these unprecedented times. Post-graduation, I would love to move to London and experience what the creative scene in the capital has to offer! I am quite interested in designing and making textiles for fashion, especially for menswear, so I would love to gain more experience with fashion brands. However, my internship with Turnbull has taught me to not be restrictive with my creativity and be open-minded with how I can apply my skills. I would also love to travel to other countries with my work and gain first-hand knowledge about textiles from across the world.
Watch Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas.