NICOLE AJIMAL CONTEMPORARY HANDMADE FABRIC

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HOW DID YOU GET INTO THE FABRIC/TEXTILE WORLD? IS THERE A FAMILY OR CULTURAL CONNECTION?

I started off by studying fine art at school, but when it came to choosing universities I wanted to use my creativity in a more practical way. So I pursued an Art foundation degree where I studied textiles, architecture, animation, graphics etc, which led me to graduate with a BA (hons) in Textile Design. Fabric and fashion have been a big part of my life from a young age. I was influenced by my parents passion for exhibitions and my aunt’s work (a weaver). From having an Asian and European background I’ve always been interested in the combination of Eastern and Western styles, which has been reflected in my current work with the mix of Japanese and British characteristics.

AND WHAT ABOUT YOUR UNIVERSITY PROJECT, CAN YOU QUICKLY EXPLAIN IT TO US?

My university project is inspired by antique Japanese workwear looking at repair and renewal techniques such as Boro and Sashiko, and combining it with British rudeboy and punk subcultures in the 1970s. I liked the idea of a piece of fabric having a history or story behind it and that repair and renewal is beneficial to society as well as beautiful.

LOOKING AT YOUR WORK THE IMPRESSION IS THAT YOU DRAW THE INSPIRATION FOR YOUR HANDWOVEN DENIMS SEEKING THE COLOURS, THE TECHNIQUES, THE TRADITIONAL COMPOSITIONS AND WITH THIS ELEMENTS YOU RECOMPOSE A COMPLETE NEW IMAGERY, COHERENT WITH A MORE CONTEMPORARY FEEL. CAN YOU TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT THE CREATIVE PROCESS BEHIND THIS APPROACH?

A lot of my work starts with either visiting an exhibition or by listening a particular type of music. For my recent project it started with a visit to an exhibition called ‘Return of the Rudeboy’ at the Somerset House. My parents grew up in the 1970s, as such my childhood was musically infused with the sounds of rudeboy/ska group The Specials and punk group The Sex Pistols. Music and fashion are so closely linked which meant I was able to collect all this amazing imagery and create my own artwork and develop those ideas into fabrics. The way I work is by having all those images and artwork around me, headphones in – playing music that relates to my work and then weave. I have an idea of what techniques I want to use but I don’t necessarily know how it’s going to come out. The proportions are all done by eye depending on what I’m making the fabric for.

CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT THE DIFFERENT TECHNIQUES IN DYEING AND WEAVING THAT YOU COMBINE TOGETHER AND WHICH ONES YOU USE?

I like to include hand tapestry techniques in with the weave structures I follow. I like the hands on process where I’m able to create something unhindered by the limitations of the loom. By using hand tapestry techniques you are able to create a 3D, textured, and uneven effect which appealed to me. I wanted to create something that looked and felt homemade. The indigo dyeing I did was done by trial and error. I taught myself how to indigo-dye by reading online articles and watching practical videos. Which taught me how to built my own vat and how to dye yarn all within my household.

THE WAY YOU TRY, EXPLOIT AND MERGE TOGETHER DIFFERENT TECHNIQUES (LENO, SUPPLEMENTARY FLOATING WARP ETC) IN UNEXPECTED AND INNOVATIVE WAYS IS VERY INTRIGUING. YOUR DENIM ENDS UP AS A THREE-DIMENSIONAL STRUCTURE, NOT TWO-DIMENSIONAL, WHOSE DESIGN IS CREATED BY CONTRAST AND JUXTAPOSITION. WHY DID YOU CHOOSE DENIM AS A FIELD OF EXPERIMENTATION?

I started to learn about denim a few years ago, however what really intrigued me is the subculture and lifestyle that has been built around this iconic fabric. For me it was interesting to take something so classic and develop it. The majority of the world wears denim and it’s so interesting how different demographics and subcultures personalise it to create a sense of identity. So I wanted to create something that I would want to buy and from this experimentation my love and interest for denim has grown.

YOUR WEAVES ARE UNIQUE PIECES AND AMPLIFY THE IDEA THAT JEANS HAVE A SOUL, THAT THEY BECOME A PART OF YOU, THEY MOULD TO YOUR BODY, AS THE WAY THEY WEAR IS UNIQUE TO EACH PERSON. IS THIS EMOTIONAL CONNECTION BETWEEN DENIM AND WHO WEARS IT SOMETHING YOU TOOK IN CONSIDERATION WHILE YOU WERE WORKING ON YOUR PROJECT?

I think it’s important that people wear clothing that has some sort of meaning or story. I don’t agree with the throwaway culture that is a part of fashion. My fabric that I weave or design tells a story and in part is an extension of me. Each piece of fabric I make will never be the same. I want it to be different so that when someone buys my work they will be investing in a piece of art that has a story to tell.

IS THERE ANY PARTICULAR COUNTRY THAT INSPIRES YOU THE MOST AND WHY?

A particular country that inspires me is Japan. I love the idea of Boro and Sashiko – which is patching and repairing fabrics from the past to keep them alive. It’s a version of a diary or photo album. There’s a concept in Japan which is ‘Yuyo no bi’ which means the ‘beauty in practicality’. For me it’s not always about the outcome but the time spent on making something. Many people don’t appreciate the time and craftsmanship that has gone into making fabric.

FURTHERMORE IS THERE ANY STRANGE FIELD WHERE YOU TAKE THE CUE FROM FOR YOUR WORK?

The way rudeboys and punks style their hair is a key element to their look. When I was collecting my inspiration I looked at barbering tools. I dipped barbering clippers into Indian ink and painted with them. This created this beautiful painted effect which I then translated into my fabric by giving it an Ikat effect, which means to tie areas of my warp before dyeing it with indigo. By doing this is helped to created that painted effect that I wanted. Another way that I connected barbering to my work is by cutting the floating warp yarns with hairdressing scissors and razors. I liked the idea of just using tools that were around me and used to alter clothing in both the rudeboy and punk subcultures. It gave the fabric that rough handmade and unique feel.

THE FACT THAT YOU NATURALLY DYE THE YARNS, WEAVE AND DO ALL THE WORK BY YOUR HAND IS A REALLY INTERESTING POINT OF VIEW: CAN YOU EXPLAIN MORE THIS GREEN APPROACH?

The main reason why my work can be viewed from a sustainability point of view is because it’s a slow handwoven process. I only weave the amount I need, which means there is very minimal waste. I am creating something that is hand-crafted and carefully detailed rather than mass producing it. It’s not a part of fast fashion, it’s of items of quality that take time and patience to make. One’s that should be cherished from generation to generation.

IS THERE ANY INTERESTING COLLABORATION YOU’RE WORKING ON LATELY?

The collaboration that I am working on at the moment is with London based company ENDRIME. We are developing my fabrics into garments.