Margo Selby is a renowned British textile artist and designer and has been a member of Design-Nation for 15 years. Most recently she took part in the Design-Nation showcase at Bargehouse in Oxo Tower Wharf during London Craft Week, exhibiting work and demonstrating her weaving techniques. We caught up with Margo and asked her a few questions.
Design-Nation asked: Please tell us about your practice and how your business began.
Margo Selby answered: I trained in woven textile design at Chelsea College of Art and then followed this with a postgraduate degree at The Royal College of Art (RCA), graduating in 2001. On graduating I initially worked as a woven textile designer for industrial mills. It was during this time I united my hand-woven constructions with industrial machinery to create some of the textured fabrics that were to become the trademark of the Margo Selby brand.
D-N: Who has been your most influential teacher or mentor?
M.S: Ann Sutton gave me a place at her fellowship when I first graduated from the RCA. This was a tremendous opportunity to explore the possibilities for my practice within a secure environment. I was one of 3 fellows and we worked on projects for Art and Industry alongside developing our own work. Ann has also been a key inspiration for treating my woven textiles as wall hung artworks as well as using them for practical purposes.
D-N: What inspires you?
M.S: Colour is a significant motivation in my work and I take my colour inspiration from a wide range of sources including indigenous textiles from around the world, graphic design and architecture. Weaving is my passion and always the starting point for all I do whether it be a one-off art piece or a commercial design. The process of weaving is often part of the inspiration; ideas come alive on the loom.
D-N: Please tell us a bit about your design process.
M.S: All my designs are developed at the studio through the combined processes of working on handlooms and through CAD (computer aided design). I like to explore technical constructions on my handloom, combining fibres and structure to create new fabrics and patterns. Alongside this I work on computer packages to create bold graphic geometric artworks, which can be translated into Jacquard fabrics by applying the weaves.
I’m always interested in exploring new materials and techniques both in hand weaving and industrial production. I have realised how important it is to my entire practice that the work I create on my handlooms is continually developing.
D-N: What is the best thing to have happened in your business to date?
M.S: I am very proud of some of the commercial partnerships which I have developed including those with Osborne & Little and Alternative Flooring. Having these commercial partnerships in place allows me to spend more time on the loom developing and creating.
D-N: What is your workspace like?
M.S: I have a lovely open plan studio in Whitstable. There are 8 of us including me and I’m lucky to have a very special team (all women) who help me to keep the studio running smoothly. We are surrounded by looms, yarns, books, archive textiles and development work. It’s a lovely place to work and I always feel happy going into the studio.
D-N: Do you work hard on your PR or do others help you to market your business?
M.S: For several years I have worked with Elizabeth Machin PR. It has been really supportive having someone else promoting the work I do allowing me to focus on the design, making and brand direction.
D-N: What are the main challenges in your practice?
M.S: One of the current challenges is getting the right balance between commercial design and textile art. They are intrinsically linked and symbiotic, the work I do with industry informs my ideas for my art practice and my art practice enriches and deepens my commercial design. It is challenging to communicate these two sides of my practice so that they support each other without losing clarity.
D-N: Where would you like your practice to be in 10 years?
M.S: I hope to continue pushing the boundaries of decorative woven fabric, embracing collaboration and innovation along the way. I love seeing my fabrics being produced and distributed internationally and I enjoy the creativity and diversity required to put together collections for my partners. I also have ambitions to scale up my handwoven artworks. I am working on making some larger installations and hope to exhibit some of these over the next few years.
D-N: If you could collaborate with someone new who would that be?
M.S: I would like to collaborate with someone to take my work into a larger scale context through architecture or public art application.
D-N: If you weren’t a designer what would you like to do?
M.S: I have often wondered what alternative career I would have liked. I have recently been working with a social enterprise scheme supporting refugees that are coming through the Syrian refugee crisis. It has been so lovely to work on a level which supports other people and I think I would have liked to devote more of my life to this type of work. I love my practice though so no regrets!
D-N: Why did you join Design-Nation? What is helpful about being a member?
M.S: Design Nation has been an instrumental part of my career development over the past 15 years. It has proved to be a great source of networking with other designers who are a lovely community of supportive people to share problem solving and ideas with. It has also enabled me to showcase my work on new platforms and bring my work to a wider audience.
D-N: Do you have you any exhibitions, commissions or events coming up that we should know about?
M.S: Just recovering from London Craft Week and I hope we get an opportunity to be part of The Future of Craft again.
Margo Selby’s work will be at the ‘Under Your Feet: The Contemporary Rug’ exhibition at the Ruthin Craft Centre until middle of June.
Margo is hosting an Open Studio event for the Oyster Festival in Whitstable, 27-29 June