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THE success of an international conference has meant the University of Huddersfield will play a key role in shaping the future of the design and the manufacture of textiles and other materials, with a special emphasis on cross-disciplinary collaboration.
The event was named Transitions: Re-Thinking Textile and Surface. Taking place over two days at the University, it was attended by 120 delegates, staff and students. Participants included textile industry figures plus academics who came from countries that included New Zealand, Australia, Portugal Germany, Kenya, Japan, Indonesia and Turkey.
A principal organiser was Joanne Marie Harris, who is the University of Huddersfield’s Course Leader for MA Textiles and Surface Design for Fashion and Interiors. She was delighted by the success of the large-scale conference, at which more than 50 papers were delivered during parallel “tracks” that covered the topics of science and technology, sustainable futures, enterprise industry and business, plus craft and the handmade.
In addition, there were six keynote addresses by leading experts in the fields of textile, design and sustainability.
“We are really excited to have attracted so much interest from around the world,” said Ms Harris. “There hasn’t been a conference before that focused on textiles so broadly – covering not only the scientific, engineering and craft side, but also issues of sustainability and enterprise. That is what drew so many people.”
The Transitions community
One result of the conference, which offered enormous scope for networking, was the creation of a ‘Transitions’ community, added Ms Harris. The University of Huddersfield will trademark the Transitions concept, and there are talks to hold Transitions conferences in other locations, such as University of the Arts London.
The key message to emerge from the inaugural Transitions textiles and surfaces conference was the importance of a cross-disciplinary approach, so that designers – even if they came from a craft background – might work with engineers or medical researchers, in order to expand and explore the potential of materials, surfaces and textiles, explained Ms Harris.
After conceiving the idea for a major conference, she discussed it with John Miles, a Visiting Professor at the University of Huddersfield who is also a former Head of Textiles at the Royal College of Art.
“We agreed that we should make it about the future. We should question all the diversities of materials, textiles, surfaces and ask whether in Higher Education we are teaching the right things for the direction in which the industry is moving.”
The keynote speakers at the Transitions conference were Professor Rebecca Earley, of the Textile Futures Research Centre; Dr Subramanian Senthilkannan Muthu, a global sustainability consultant based in Hong Kong; David Shah, an expert in social and design trends who has visiting professorships around the world; Professor Jane Harris, who is Associate Dean of Research at London College of Fashion; and the artist Rhian Solomon, who specialises in drawing parallels between skin and cloth. The main keynote speaker was Philip Fimmano, co-creator of Talking Textiles, a New York-based educational programme.
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