In 2015 Cambrian Mountains Wool (Gwlân Mynyddoedd) ran an International Design & Make Challenge which aimed to demonstrate the beauty and versatility of wool from the heart of Wales. Showing at various venues and events throughout the year, including Hay Festival, Made by Hand Wales: The Contemporary Craft Fair and at the London Welsh Centre during London Design Festival; the final exhibition of works created for the 2015 Challenge is now in residence in the Textile Gallery at the National Wool Museum in Llandysul, Wales until 9th January 2016, alongside the permanent exhibit, The National Flat Textile Collection.
Cambrian Mountains Wool is an initiative of the Cambrian Mountains Farmers CIC and is supported by its president, HRH Prince Charles. It began as part of a Feasibility Study into the commercial possibilities for wool produced in the Cambrian Mountains region. In February 2015, thirty-five emerging and established designer-makers were selected to take part. They were invited to work with either 1kg of wool tops; 1kg yarn or up to 3 metres of fabric, or a combination of the three, to create a unique textile artwork.
Works on show include a weft-faced rug by Nicola Gates made on a Swedish floor loom, with a design based upon Neolithic stone inscriptions in Ireland; a series of neutral cushions that combine Welsh wool with elasticated fibres from Warped Textiles; an oversize knitted throw by Jacqueline Fink described as ‘a quiet rebellion against mass production’; and a stool produced by Rebecca Connolly and Mick Sheridan with woven upholstery inspired by traditional Icelandic folklore symbols.
Contemporary surface Designer and Carpet Design Awards winner, Allistair Covell describes the process behind the piece he created for the Challenge and his experience of meeting HRH Prince Charles:
‘For the Challenge I created ‘Digital Stitch’, a large-scale artwork that showcases the qualities of the Welsh wool and the latest advancements in digital printing on fabric. Produced in collaboration with the print company Think Positive Prints UK and working with their Artistic Director Penny McIntyre, ‘Digital Stitch’ is a digitally printed photograph of an enlarged section of one of my hand crafted ‘stitched’ paintings. The overall design was inspired by a trip to a harbour and is based on the textures created by the chipped layers of paint found on boats and the workshop doors. To replicate the worn-away effect the image has been intentionally designed and printed to leave areas of the original fabric exposed. It was conscious decision to use a photograph of the stitches as a print as I wanted to create a trompe l’oeil effect across the surface.’
‘On the 10 July 2015 Penny and I, along with the other designers, were invited to the Challenge Exhibition private view at Nanteos Mansion in Aberystwyth, attended by HRH Prince Charles. It was such an honour to meet and talk to the Prince and receive royal recognition for my work. Prince Charles was intrigued by the concept behind ‘Digital Stitch’ and how it directly links to my current work, transforming abstract paintings and digital artworks into rug designs and textile prints. The ‘stitched’ paintings were initially created as samples, investigating how a painting might look when woven or knotted. Prince Charles was amused that what began as little experiments unexpectedly became textile artworks in themselves.
Taking part in the Challenge has been a privilege. It been interesting to work with Welsh wool, and a great opportunity to work with and meet inspiring people.’ – A.C.