Its all about the Wool; Burbo interviews Milliefiori about her creations.
At Disorder we always look to encourage, inspire and nurture local talent where we can, one such talent is Milliefiori, whom Disorder have been working with for a number of years. British Textile Designer, Viv Hew of Milliefiori, speaks frankly to Burbo about her obsession for creating beautiful items of clothing, working with Disorder and what the future has in store?
1. All artists have a material or fabric they're drawn to. Why Wool? I used wool for my current collection , for ‘ Disorder Boutique ’ , because I like that it’s natural, that it’s versatile, that it comes in many forms , each having different yarn properties, that it holds its’ shape and appearance, is durable ,hardwearing and I can source it locally, from a UK wool supplier. I appreciate the regular patterns, symmetry, and colour combinations associated with conventional knitted clothes, but I enjoy a hint of subversion in my designs with ‘deliberate mistakes ’, asymmetries, and bold colours.
Q2. Where did it all begin for you with design and where did you learn your craft. When I was a young child I peeped into a paper bag. It contained a piece of bright blue cotton fabric. My mother cast a spell and, the next day; this cloth was delivered to me, as a beautiful, blue dress. The ‘magical’ transformation from cloth to dress had a direct bearing on my passion, (nay obsession), for textiles, clothing and creating things, today. I have the same thrill when the strands of wool on the cones, are turned into knitted fabric on the knitting machine, and later into sculptural felted pieces, that are used as raw materials to construct a unique item of clothing. I went on to do a City and Guilds in Stitched textiles, for which I was awarded the highly -prized national Certificate of Merit, and in the same year, I was a finalist in the Charles Henry Foyle Trust Award, for Stitched Textiles. Inspired by my experience of City and Guilds, I enrolled on a Textile Design Degree, (at Birmingham Institute of Art and Design (BIAD), in 2007, and was awarded the Louisa Ann Ryland Award, for my degree assignment coursework. BIAD instilled in me, an enquiring, playful approach to textile methodology and materials that I have carried forward into my practice.
Q3. Where do you begin when designing and making and what is the process? My inspiration comes in many different ways. Sometimes it’s triggered by a word, phrase, narrative, colour, pattern, or image. I develop my ideas through drawing, photographs, or
fabric manipulations until it is ready to be developed and refined on the computer. When l am reasonably happy with the result, I create a digital knitwear pattern to send to my knitting machine. Copious sampling is vital, (particularly with knitted felted garments), to ensure correct sizing. The knitted pieces have to be twice the actual size, to allow for fabric shrinkage. My Brother knitting machine is my creative friend. Sometimes it is moody and petulant; at other times we zip along together nicely in the workroom, till the early hours, with music at full blast. The construction process does not move smoothly in a linear fashion .I will change the needle selection manually , to alter the pattern ,or go back onto the computer, to add or delete elements of the design, if I think it improves its’ appearance . Once done, the knitting is removed from the knitting machine for felting. I felt by hand, so that I can control the degree and placement of shrinkage and thereby manipulate the surface, to create interesting surface textures. The fabric is now ready to be assembled. Generally I hand stitch because it gives a neat, flat, strong seam .Once it is stitched together I review the garment and , if I think it beneficial, I will add additional stitching ,and felting , to enhance the shape or structure of the surface . The process can take several weeks, or months, for a complex or large item.
Q4 .Do you have a favourite piece or repeated design and why? I became interested in the internal decorations at Soho House, (Matthew Bolton’s home in Handsworth ), when I did a project there two years ago. I used a distinctive floor tile motif as the starting point for several of my designs, but, if you put them side by side, you would probably say , they bear little resemblance to one another. Each time I revisit a design, I vary the pattern sequences, yarn types /combinations, and colours so that no two items are the same. Each one is distinctive and unique.
Q5. What are you working on at the moment? With the predicted cold spot I am working on a collection of hand knitted, chunky, hooded snoods, and gloves, manipulated fabric woollen hats, and wraps, to warm and cheer customers on these gloomy wintry days. I am also collaborating with the Thiri Myat designer of Disorder Boutique, to produce a range of fine knitwear panels, to be applied to their garments. Q6. What's in the future for you and Milliefiori? Most of my collection is based around the autumn and winter months .I will be creating a collection more suited to the warmer weather from lighter fabrics, including silks, cottons and some manmade materials.