Specialising in embroidery, Dawn McColgan is a textile graduate with a bold, geometric aesthetic. Her final collection displays a real love of colour, shape and pattern, applied to fabric with a unique tactile approach that really gives her edge. Inspired by the South of France and the distinctive architecture she researched there, McColgan also discovered in Monte Carlo the shapes and cool pastel colour palettes which would later provide her with a starting point for her project.
McColgan begins by using the collage technique before she creates pieces, allowing her to experiment with ideas on a small scale. Of this process she says, “As I specialise in embroidery, I feel that this benefits my design process greatly as my main focus is shape selection and manipulation. Working in collage seems to begin my thinking and consideration of shapes I really like and want to use from an early stage in my projects, which definitely helps further on”. She enjoys the work of collage artists Jacob Whibley, Louis Reith and Tom Moglu, and though this is echoed in her visuals they are still very much her own. Underneath the bold style is a quiet romanticism and her collage pieces create a successful stand-alone body of illustrative work.
However, it is her embroidery that lets her really come into her own. Having been interested in the technique from a young age, McColgan has really had a chance to experiment and learn, especially in the last year. She discusses a technical file she built up of samples and time dedicated to “experimenting in translating techniques, using as many materials as possible”, before she astutely selected what worked and what didn’t. These small scale technical samples and collages are vital to her development before she upscales her designs. Sometimes, samples are developed from one another, creating different versions of one idea. When I ask how McColgan decides on which textures work with each other, she says “I use whatever I am instantly drawn to from my research work and begin experimenting, and again, technical sampling is a great way to experiment in mixing textures, techniques and colours before actually producing finals”.
McColgan translates her collages onto delicate, sheer silk and organza. “As the shapes I am attracted to and like to work with are bold already, the subtle backgrounds seemed to be more appropriate, contrasting alongside my embellishment. The sheers were also a direct representation of the muted textures of the buildings in Monte Carlo”. For her final collection, McColgan also used a variety of different materials, showing her passion for experimentation, including leatherette, beads, gros-grain ribbon, velvet, satin cord, silk/ viscose delta cord, silk georgette, lining fabrics and heavy cottons. Much of the process was done by hand. McColgan’s favourite embroidery technique is hand stitching, though she has also developed a love for hand beading this year, and she has dyed her own fabric. McColgan says “I always seem to like the intricate fiddly techniques best! I much prefer hand skilled work”.
Though this year she did not make fashion garments, she has had experience of fashion design in the past, creating a capsule collection for the Glasgow School of Art fashion show in her third year. Though I can see her work being used in interiors, I feel it would make a really successful fashion collection, as was its purpose. I enjoyed the small repetitive pieces, but I also love the underlying minimalism and the warmth from a colour palette that could so easily be cold. I appreciate that taking inspiration from a place is very difficult as the temptation is to translate it literally, but McColgan has worked and reimagined the shapes to suit garments so that it is not obvious where the inspiration came from, and the collection benefits hugely from this as it looks contemporary rather than tacky.
McColgan would rather re-make pieces than sell her collection which she has understandably become attached to. She is exhibiting her collection at The Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, so you can go see her work up close! She is also excited to complete an internship in London this year. I wish her all the best and hope she has a successful, fun time in England.