Nagma Giri: Woven Textile Designer

Nagma Giri is a Woven Textile Designer who develops fabrics for interiors and fashion garments. Originally from Nepal, she is now based in the Nottinghamshire town, Newark-on-Trent, where she has recently set up her own clothing boutique. We caught up with the busy and talented Nagma, to find out more about her passions, triumphs, and goals.

Why did you choose to become a Woven Textile Designer?

Learning about traditional crafts has always been my passion and so I feel that it is essential to learn these skills and keep them alive in this technology-driven world.

During my first year at university we had a taster of the different specialisms in textiles, however, it was woven textiles that won me over. It was a method of creating a piece of fabric from scratch, rather than sourcing ready-made fabrics.

What is the biggest challenge with weaving?

Sometimes the fabric exploration can be restrictive, but the end result of the whole process is exquisite and is worth the time to set it up.

The whole initial process involves drafting a plan which supports the milling and raddling process, along with warping and threading the loom. But once the loom is ready, the whole weaving process is pretty quick and I thoroughly enjoy it.

What impact do you think technology could have on weaving?

The advancements of modern technology in the weaving industry seem to be mainly for a mass scale market, rather than for small businesses. Various innovative research is being carried out to improve the weaving technology, but again it involves large mills evolving to create effective fabric production.

Due to the equipment required, how do you set up a workspace as a freelance Woven Textile Designer?

The machines available for digital woven textiles are massive and you will need a studio space to operate it. There are studio digital looms available but the cost to own it as a designer/maker is very expensive, so it is easier to use digital woven programs and enquire with mills about recreating the fabrics – this is the way that I currently work.

There are domestic machines but they are mostly suitable for sampling and experimenting. Therefore, it is best to contact mills for a quote. The disadvantage of being a small business is that most mills will hesitate to help a small company, as the process is time-consuming and the machines are cost-effective when used for large fabric markets.

Printing has overtaken weaving, do you think weaving is a dying art?

Weaving is not as common as printed textiles, but I feel like universities who provide the woven textiles pathway massively encourage keeping the craft alive, and I am glad I had the chance to explore this craft.

There was a time when the craft was diminishing but various rug companies such as Brintons, and influential woven designers such as Margo Selby and Holly Berry, have turned woven textile design into modern art, in my opinion.

Do you work as a woven textile designer full time now?

No. At the moment, I work as a designer part-time whilst aspiring to develop brands and products for my start-up business. I also work part-time at Phase Eight as a style consultant which helps me gain knowledge about the patterns for fashion fabrics.

What’s a typical working day like for you?

I start by browsing for design inspiration on Pinterest and researching exciting new ideas, and then I create design work and patterns in Photoshop. Once these are developed they can be used for various applications.

How are you planning to set up your future start-up business and what is the business?

While pursuing my designs and developing them into products, I have started a small clothing boutique in my hometown, Farriya, and I sell fashion clothing and accessories. This has been possible with the huge support from my family. However, once I refine my designs I aim to introduce my designs to the shop.

How do you explain to your friends what you do?

When it comes to textile design, my friends think it’s all about sewing and stitching but when I explain to them about the art of woven textiles, they are always intrigued. They are also proud that I’ve made my ‘hobby’ into a career, as I was always into crafts, but I never thought it was possible to pursue it in Nepal (where I was born). When I moved to the UK seven years ago, I found a whole new world of massive opportunities that has helped me to pursue my career.

Did you choose to come to the UK specifically for these career opportunities?

When I returned to Nepal from India – where I’d been at boarding school for three years – I found out that we were moving to the UK as a family, as my father had got a job in Newark. Even though I didn’t know how things would work out in the UK, it all turned out in my favour – studying in the UK has a lot of offer.

I thought I would be starting A-levels, but when I went to enrol at the school I told them that I was interested in Art, and they suggested that I enrol in a BTEC Diploma course in Art and Design. I went ahead with it and progressed to the BTEC National Diploma in Art and Design, and then to University to study Woven Textile Design.

You went to Birmingham City University. How did you find life in Birmingham when you were there?

Having previously lived in a small town, I thought moving to the city for further studies would be a great opportunity to explore ‘city life.’ Birmingham was a great experience: living near the canal, and the walk to university was beautiful during the summer. Brindley Place was one of the best places to go out with friends as it had various restaurants, pubs, and a cinema.

However, as a woven textile student, it was difficult to source yarns as there were hardly any shops, and even craft supply shops seemed limited. I had to travel to London or buy them online.

Tell us about a project that you’re especially proud of

That would be my final project at University, where my knowledge for woven textiles grew massively. I explored and combined colourful warp and weft designs to create various patterned woven fabric samples, from graphic blocks to illustrative Jacquards. I am really proud of the collection as it also led me to exhibit at New Designers 2014.

How did you get involved with New Designers?

After the degree show at Birmingham City University, there were 17 students who were chosen to exhibit at New Designers and I was one of them. Being able to display my work as an upcoming designer was the greatest achievement. The exhibition helped me to network for possible career opportunities, and explore new design concepts from other new talents.

Exhibitions such as New Designers, show that there are graduates who explore weaving in a modern and innovative way, and this will be one of the best ways to make sure that the craft continues to be explored over time.

What are your plans for the future?

As an aspiring designer maker, and having successfully completed a business program, my future plan is to set up a business selling handmade products for fashion and textiles. Being a designer/maker is challenging as it takes hard work and determination.

I am looking forward to building upon my knowledge of the fashion and textile industry, and gaining various retail experience in the fashion industry to support my dream job: a business owner.

Why is being a business owner your dream job?

Because I feel that working hard and starting up a business is both challenging and satisfying.

When you start your own business, you work hard and strive harder, and the extra effort is more worthwhile in the long run as it’s your business. It’s different to when you start a new job and work hard and that company prospers, as you’re just an employee.

Do you find that using social media to promote your business is beneficial?

Social media is a massive influence for me, as I constantly use it for self-promotion and for researching design ideas and inspiration. Social media also helps me to connect and network with textile and design creatives, and support and share ideas with other aspiring designer/makers who are looking to start-up, or who already have a business.

There is huge support from various textile and craft groups online, sharing brands and products, and endorsing one another.

Related reading: How to Grow your Business through Pinterest

And finally, what makes you happiest in life?

Having very supportive family and friends to help me with the journey of life, is the happiest part of my life.

Connect with Nagma Giri by visiting her Utelier profile.

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