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Internships at Anna Champeney Textiles in Spain: Winchester School of Art Student Leah Ashton tells textilesnaturales about her experience

YouIMG_4768-1´re a second year student at Winchester School of Art in the UK.  Tell us more about your degree course.

I study fashion and textile design, specialising in woven textiles. During the first semester of first year we got inducted into 4 specialisms; fashion design, fashion knitwear design, print design and woven textiles. I choose woven textiles because I liked the physical aspect of choosing yarns and putting them together to make a piece of fabric.

Over the second year the our projects are based on our own adaptation of themes, whether an era in history or simply responding to a short text.  We have been working on 24 shaft Arm looms, also using the jacquard to create more intricate pieces. We have been able to create warps freely – to best suit our projects and which outcomes we wanted to create. The outcomes of each project consist of a collection of fabrics that vary in weight and texture.  In our final year we have a complete free range to decide what kind of collection we want to design.  We can select the theme/ inspiration and everything about the set up of the warps.

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Tell us about Anna Champeney textile studio where you´ve spent the past 3 weeks as an intern.

Anna Champeney is an independent studio based in the remote village of Cristosende, Northern Spain.  They specialise in hand woven products, using high quality yarns that are often naturally hand dyed on site. Some of the natural dyes that are used are cultivated by the studio itself. They also offer internships and courses to help people further their knowledge in hand weaving and natural dyeing.

 

Tell us about your experience at the studio and what you´ve learned.

 

While I have been on internship at AC Textile studio I have produced a range of different woven pieces for sale and a piece that was commissioned by a client.  After creating a few samples to test colours combinations and designs, the first piece I created was a linen scarf.  The scarf consisted of a repetition of four natural-dyed linen colours in pinky-red, green, dusky pink and blue.  What I learned from weaving this scarf and consequently helping with the other pieces I went on to create, was the importance of getting the density right.  Density has never been something that I thought about when creating pieces at uni. but for the finish and overall look of a piece the density has the ability to change a product quite dramatically.  Not only the look but the feel of a piece as well.  So it´s crucial to get that right.

Over the last two weeks I have been learning a lot about dyeing with natural sources as I´ve been assisting the studio in creating their palettes of natural colours.  Before coming on this internship I have only had the smallest connection to dyeing only having done it myself a handful of times, and have never dyed using natural sources.  I found it incredibly interesting to find out what plants and roots etc have the ability to create colour-fast dye and how by adding acid or alkali a dye can change tone/ shade quite dramatically.  I was particularly interested by the bright, vibrant colours that some of the dyes made because I always associated natural dyeing with weak, pale colours.  The last piece I am creating is another scarf, this time using a combination of white linen and a grey wool and Lycra blend. I created a sample piece for this scarf on my very first day of my internship to test and practice the required density. When the piece was wet finished at a high temperature, the blocks shrunk and puckered creating the most fascinating three-dimensional fabric which looked almost pleated and that was also stretchy. I have really loved working with high-twist yarns and the wool and Lycra blend, I have learnt how these yarns can change when washed, sometimes, in the case of the wool and Lycra piece you can simply see a change in the fabric by loosening the tension.

I was also interested to find out about the local technique of felpa, although this was not part of any piece I created, I really liked learning about the local history of weaving and even how to create such an unusual technique. I cannot wait to experiment more.

 

You´re from London and Anna Champeney Textile Studio is based in a tiny mountain hamlet in north Spain so how did you find the contract?

 

London and Cristosende could not be more different, at first a bit of a culture shock.  It was really obvious the community feel of the area, people know each other, not only in Cristosende but also in the slightly bigger town where we went food shopping.  I also noticed the link the people of the area have with the surrounding landscape, with many vineyards around and fruit trees. Not only that but how AC textiles cultivate some of their own plants for dyeing and achieve a degree of self-sufficiency by growing their own fruit and vegetables.

 

It has been such a special experience, stepping out my comfort zone and travelling to remote northern Spain to learn about weaving from someone who devotes her time wholeheartedly to it. I have loved the experience of getting a way from the busy stresses of normal life and being able to just concentrate on weaving.  I have become incredibly inspired over the last few weeks of being here, by Anna’s drive and love for her subject.  Her fascinating stories about the traditional crafts people of the area has made me think more closely about the history behind textiles.  I’m so glad I was offered this internship, all round has been a great experience.