Polly Leonard At TexSelect

This year, Selvedge founder and editor-in-chief Polly Leonard is joining the TexSelect judging panel. TexSelect’s aim is to select, mentor and promote the UK’s most talented newly graduated textile designers, providing an opportunity for realistic development, and a vital bridge between higher education and the real, commercial world. Below is an extract from an interview Polly did with TexSelect.

What was your background before starting Selvedge?

I trained as a textile designer and artist, both in the UK and the USA. I have a wide range of interests around material culture and the role of cloth in the evolution of humanity. After graduating I taught for a decade before I had my son 19 years ago. I stopped teaching for a while and began writing to fill my time. I was then invited to edit another magazine, which I did for a couple of years. This gave me the idea to put together something a little more sophisticated with a wider remit, but with textiles at its heart.

What prompted you to start Selvedge, and what inspires you now?

Timing – I have always had an entrepreneurial mindset. I had been working within textiles for a decade, so had accumulated some knowledge and contacts within the field. By 2003 the internet was just big enough to make it possible for a niche product to reach a large enough audience quickly enough for it to become established.

Textiles are my greatest inspiration. Selvedge is a magazine that acknowledges the significance of textiles as a part of everyone’s story.  We are surrounded by cloth from the cradle to the grave and by exploring our universal emotional connection to fibre we share the stories and values that mean the most to us. From why we love the sound of a needle pulling thread through taut linen, to why we are fascinated by the clothes we wear and the fibres we unknowingly rely on. There are many sides to every story and Selvedge is dedicated to finding and nurturing textiles from every angle. I believe that textiles unite all humanity and in surveying the development of society it is clear that – from a spider’s web to the worldwide web – textiles appear as the protagonist.

What do you think are the elements of good textile design?

I have been passionate about textiles for as long as I can remember. I am of the generation who developed hand-skills during childhood. There is something special and important about hand-made objects, but it is the textile industry and its products that have shaped the contemporary world more than anything else. Ironically, it is the disposal of textile waste that is the biggest preoccupation we have today. A good design must be mindful of its environmental impact. Textiles must also satisfy the hand as well as the eye; texture, handle and drape are important. Yardage must have balance and movement. Finally, textiles are a great medium through which to explore colour in a sophisticated way.

What makes a great textile designer, and what will you be looking for at TexSelect?

I believe grit to be the defining quality of a great designer. That is the ability to persevere through adversity, to keep thinking, keep researching, keep looking.I am looking for an understanding of the innate qualities of cloth. Considered, intelligent design that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Read the whole interview here.

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