My Work Experience at ‘Elvet Woollen Mill’

Last week, I gave you a round-up of what it was like to complete my work experience at ‘Bay Studios’ in Swansea. Well, now that that’s ended, I’ve moved straight onto another round of work experience, this time travelling in the opposite direction.

What It’s Like

About half-an-hours bus ride from my home town, hidden behind some fields and forest in the middle of nowhere (otherwise known as Cynwyl Elfed) is ‘Elvet Woollen Mill’. It’s actually quite surprising to find this mill secluded amongst the trees and hedges. The owners, Alison Thomas and Mike Tolputt, told me that most of the villagers don’t even realise the mill is there, especially since it’s an old building at the end of a narrow lane which most probably wouldn’t realise is still manufacturing. Once, they even had some strangers turn up mistaking the place for a village museum!

Despite this, my time working there has been a pleasant time. Much like with my previous experience, I got to get a closer look at the manufacturing side of the business.

How It Works

There are a dozen or so machines which I need to remember how to use, of which rely on a system of transforming individual threads of wool to elaborate fabrics. After that, some of the giant rolls of fabric are taken to the finishers to make the fabrics soft and comfortable to use, whilst others are ready to use immediately.

Once they’ve returned, it’s a case of cutting the fabrics up and, if need be, sewing them into a variety of different woollen products. From coats to cushions, and from tapestries to teacosies, just about anything woollen can be made at this Mill. Oh, and we have to attach labels and package all of these products by hand too.

How’s This Related to Design?

I suppose what’s fascinated me most with this work experience is seeing how similar some of the criteria are in both creative industries. Many of the things which need to be considered when manufacturing woollen products also need to be considered when creating graphic products.

For example, I was shown how by adding a single colour to one of their patterns, the whole look of the fabric seems to completely change appeal. The same can be said in graphic design, as to how a single colour can make an entire brand feel different and give it a new appeal.

Furthermore, when looking at both fabrics from a distance, the colours merged together into a new, seemingly solid colour. This reminded me a lot of spot colour printing, a process commonly used in magazines where the four key colours, cyan, magneta, yellow and black, are printed with thousends of tiny dots. Once looked at from a distance, those dots blur together to create the illusion of a solid colour and shading.

There was even the fact that when these fabrics were sent to the finishers to be softened, the colours of the fabrics changed slightly upon return. The same can be said for graphic design, as colours generally darken when being transferred from digital to print (which is why a good designer will always test their designs in print as well as digitally), and change colour yet again when the printed material is finished in some way (e.g. glossing )

Summary

Once again, I suppose what you can learn from this is that just because your skills lie in one career, that doesn’t mean those skills can’t be adapted for something else. So long as you’re able to recognise the simularities of both industries, you can, with training, convert those skills to change from one industry to the next.

And I get to expand my skills further,this time around, because my work experience here is far from over!

Creativity & the Queen

Today, Queen Elizabeth II will surpass her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, as Britain’s longest reigning monarch. I, for one, am humbled that we, as a country, can witness an event as rare as this. Therefore, it only seemed right to take inspiration from Her Majesty to see how the Royal Family have helped to contribute to the worlds creative industry.

The Royal Collection

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By far the biggest contribution Her Majesty and her ancestors have made to the arts is the ‘Royal Collection’. One of the oldest and most historically important art collections in the world, it consists of paintings, sculptures, watercolours, sketches and jewels (including the ‘Crown Jewell’s’) that span an era of 500 years. With over 197,000 works to observe in 13 different regal locations, it’s a fascinating way to examine the tastes and ideas of our Royals, past and present.

A Family of Artists

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As well as owners of multiple pieces, the Royal Family are surprisingly good artists themselves. Many of their works, old and new, were shown in a 2013 documentary series, ‘Royal Paintbox’, as well as an exhibition of the same name. Arguably, the most artistic member of the Monarchy today is Prince Charles, as he was the one who examined the artwork of his ancestors on both the TV show and the exhibition. He even had some of his watercolours put on display.

Tourism & Merchandising

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One of the best things about Britain’s Monarchy is that their appeal generates bucket-loads for our tourism industry; £5million a year, to be precise. £2billion was made from the wedding of William and Kate alone! Fair to say, much of that comes through the royalty-themed merchandising. Some of it is posh, and some of it is goofy. Either way, there’s always plenty of money to be made in tourist shops all around London, and the many royal properties in the rest of the U.K.. So, go ahead and raise those Union Jacks!

The Royal Variety Performance

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It’s not just paintings and sculptures that qualify as art, you know! One of the greatest honours for a performer is to visit the U.K. and put on a show for either Her Majesty, or another member of the Royal Family. Variety shows are a rarity nowadays, so the fact that this one has continued for over 100 years (and yearly for 70 years) is nothing short of a marvel. I send my thanks to ‘Entertainment Artistes’ Benevolent’, one of the many charities of which the Queen is a patron, for giving us the show that us creatives a chance to truly shine.

Stamps & the Royal Mint

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It’s fair to say that part of our culture is influenced by the very profile of Her Majesty, both in our wallets, and our letter boxes. Portraits of her are hand-drawn for British stamps and currency, by a variety of distinguished artists, all of which must have been approved by the Queen herself. Additionally, the constant influx of new designs for the tales-ends and special/commemorative stamps means that we can be guaranteed to always see a new miniature art-piece every few months.

So, what do you think? Does the Royal Family get your creative juices flowing in some way? If so, let me know how in the comments below. And, be sure to celebrate today’s event in style!