Superb Work On Display In Degree Show

by Alastair Hamilton -

One of June's Shetland highlights is the end of year degree show by art and textiles students at Shetland College, part of the University of the Highlands and Islands.

This year's show was the first to incorporate work by an Honours year student group who have been pursuing the BA (Hons) Contemporary Textiles degree. It included exhibits in print, weave and knit. The fourth year of the degree is a chance for the students to refine their skills and ideas while writing a substantial dissertation on a topic linked to their their creative practice. The three honours students have each specialised in a particular technique, drawing on different sources of inspiration.

Kathy Coull came to the college from Fair Isle, where she maintains a croft and tourism business. She always had knowledge and skills in traditional knitting techniques and she has broadened, developed and diversified into fashion knitting, making good use of the college's Textiles Facilitation Unit. Kathy said "I am delighted in my fourth year to have developed skills with the Shima Seiki fine-gauge knitting machine, with expert help from Eric Stewart, Textile Technician. It has been a unique experience to explore different possibilities on industry-standard equipment, especially because I could tie it in with my research into tradition and sustainability."

Juliette Labourne travelled to Shetland from Lincolnshire to study at the college. Although not from Shetland, Juliette has a genuine interest in the rich heritage of pattern knitting, and Shetland's history and landscape. She has reinterpreted these inspirations into contemporary weave: "My project this year has focused on Fair Isle patterns, from which I took inspiration to produce new contemporary designs in weave. I looked at the work of other designers to inform my colour palette which includes the muted tones of Jamieson and Smith Heritage Yarn and more vibrant hues. I've really enjoyed my experience at Shetland College UHI, and would particularly like to thank my weave tutor, Anne-Marie McDiarmid."

Helen Ball has discovered a flair for digital design and pattern making while studying at the college, and has made interesting connections between Shetland and Oman. Helen's work challenges the viewer to look at both locations in a fresh light. Helen explained: "For my fourth year work, I've developed a range of digitally printed and screen printed fabrics focused around the theme of Shetland and Oman, considering their unexpected shared aesthetics. The trends workshops supported by Highlands and Islands Enterprise have been a big help to ensure that my designs and fabrics are on trend for contemporary interiors. My experience at Shetland College UHI has prepared me for a future career in design and I've enjoyed working alongside other budding designers. I'd like to thank lecturing staff and Alasdair the technician for all the help over the years."

The work of these honours students is part of the wider end-of-year exhibition at Shetland College UHI, which shows work from across the department. This year there were two floors of exhibitions, illustrating the development process as well as the finished outcomes, with a greater emphasis this year on finished garments. Particularly interesting are the sketchbooks of the Contemporary Textiles students, which display the development of themes and sources of inspiration throughout their projects. There are samples of yarns and fabrics.

A wide range of drawing, painting and sculpture by students of the National Certificate in Art & Design was displayed throughout the corridors and main drawing studio. College staff also included a vibrant display of work by school pupils on the Vocational Pathways: Contemporary Art Skills course, as courses for school pupils are a substantial growth area for the Creative Industries department. As always, a popular feature of the end of year exhibition was work by students from the Eric Gray Centre, who enthusiastically attend art classes at the college as part of their Lifeskills programme.

Angela Hunt, Senior Lecturer in Creative Industries, said: "This has been a really good academic year for the achievement of qualifications from access to degree level. We began with excellent feedback for the whole creative industries teaching team in our HMIE inspection and more recently the external verifier for SQA praised the strength of art work guided by the teaching team in the department."