Hannah Lamb

Last week I attended a conference (Infinite and Various) at Bradford College. It was very interesting and one paper in particular resonated nicely with the Design Routes project. This was delivered by Hannah Lamb, a lecturer in embroidered textile design at Bradford School of Arts and Media. The paper was titled Using Textile Archives Creatively.


Hannah talked about the particular learning aspects which the use of an archive offers to the designer. She talked about Experiential Learning, Transformative Thinking, Deep Learning, Engagement and the two approaches that could be taken when using an archive. These were “spotlight” where the designer specifically at a particular design type or artefact and “floodlight” whereby the attention is unfocussed.

She shared a really nice quote from embroidery designer Karen Nicol, about the way collections can inspire designs: ‘… like subliminal informing, seeing something with peripheral vision, like learning a language by listening to it in your sleep.’

Hannah went on to show how she had found a notebook which had belonged to a weaver from the 19th century and how this contained all the point paper designs and peg plans that this weaver had used. She had wanted to use these somehow so she had laid them in series along a length of 7 metres and then thought how she could capture the design essence of the man’s work by using an alternative textile design craft. She decided to use cross stitch, although she admitted to not really liking the technique, as this seemed to offer an interesting and creative expression of the original patterns.


I found this very interesting and represented how design could be used to revitalise something from the past that might have been lost to contemporary audiences. I thought her design solution/strategy/process model was clearly explained, could be followed by others and offered a valuable insight into one way to make successful use of a textile archive. The actual piece that she produced was lovely and it was easy to see how this could be adapted for commercial as well as artistic aims.

Hannah also discussed some of the barriers to using archives that exist and are faced by the designer. These included: handling or lack of, access, ability or inability to browse, copying/IPR, restrictions on media and photography.

I look forward to the publication of Hannah’s paper in a suitable academic journal in the future and I took the opportunity to invite Hannah across to Leeds soon to meet Amy and I.

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