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How long have you been teaching Textiles at Blackheath High School?
I’ve been teaching Textiles here as an A Level subject for six years now, although I’ve been teaching Art and Design at Blackheath High School for 13 years and have incorporated many aspects of Textile Design into the GCSE and KS3 curriculum during my time here.
When I arrived at the school we had no specialist equipment at all and over the years we have gained some fabulous new equipment that would rival many art colleges, including an exposure unit for developing screen prints, a heat press and numerous sewing machines. The DT department has a laser cutter too, that we often utilise.
Can you tell us about your background?
I studied my BA in Fine Art Textiles at Goldsmiths College before working at Maison Martin Margiela as a fashion buyer. After embarking on a PGCE in Art and Design at the Institute of Education, I took a job at The Green School in Isleworth where I taught Art for three years. I joined Blackheath High School in 2006 teaching just two days a week whilst spending the rest of my time working as the Education Co-ordinator at Studio Voltaire.
In 2008 I decided I wasn’t quite finished with education myself and completed an MA in Mixed Media Textiles at the Royal College of Art alongside my teaching role here. This professional development undoubtedly rekindled my enthusiasm for Textiles and also introduced me to many more processes that I had not previously encountered, allowing me to pass on these new skills to the students. My own practice, under the name Imogen Luddy, has taken more of back-seat since having my son Indigo, but I hope to start making work again soon.
What is covered in Textiles? What are your students working on at the moment?
The Textiles curriculum is broad and experimental and I like to think of it as an exploration of materials, surfaces and processes that can be applied to various outcomes.
The students tend to work towards garments as their final pieces, but the work could take any form including wall hangings, installations or product design. A series of introductory workshops form the basis of the Year 12 experience where they learn new processes and techniques that they can take forward and adapt to suit their own creative intent. At present, they are starting to hone their ideas into a capsule collection based around their theme of ‘Dis/assemble’. The Year 13 students from the Sixth Form are currently working on their personal projects, the themes of which they have devised themselves. These range from one student developing prints inspired by traditional African fabrics, that have been modernised to reflect a rapidly changing world, to another pupil designing a highly sculptural collection exploring unusual pattern cutting techniques.
Is it a popular choice of subject?
Yes, Textiles is a relatively popular choice amongst the students. We have good numbers for both Years 12 and 13 and we achieve excellent results at A Level. Fashion Society, which is a club aimed at lower school students, is completely oversubscribed with a waiting list!
What are the benefits of studying this subject?
Aside from the fun and excitement derived from the experimental nature of the subject, the students’ projects have to be developed in highly conceptual ways and the documentation in their books requires them to reflect and analyse their practice thoroughly. To avoid making derivative work, it is crucial the students are always thinking in new and innovative ways, especially if they think this is a path they may want to pursue. The written element of the course helps students develop their research and analytical skills in a more formalised manner.
What are the benefits of studying Textiles at Blackheath High School? What is unique about Textiles here?
I like to think I take an innovative and contemporary approach to this subject. When taught in a very traditional way, Textiles can sometimes feel a little dated, so I am keen to ensure the students are introduced to the most up to date processes and are surrounded by contemporary visuals to inspire them. Just this week we have had a pattern cutting masterclass with Sasha Jackson and in the past have had workshops delivered by designers Jane Bowler and Julian Roberts. Because our class sizes are relatively small, this means we can be big on ambition, producing work that exceeds expectation at this level.
Is there a particular aspect of the course that students tend to enjoy?
The annual fashion show is always a huge highlight in the calendar for both the Textiles students involved in the making, as well as those modelling and taking part in other elements. It teaches the students so many skills, from liaising with pupils in different year groups to working to deadlines in high pressure situations. The show is always an incredible event and one that makes me so proud to be able to teach the students here at Blackheath High School.