James Donald ~ inspiration ~ development ~ diversification

James unique story starts with his inspiration from his travels and none more so than around Scotland his inspiration is captured from various areas around the west coast, Uist and Shetland.

From woods and streams, clouds the sea, sand and moss to rusty metal bits the Scottish landscape is so close to his heart.

He captures these rich treasures of inspiration with his camera using the viewfinder as his frame and develops these images further using mix media to obtain a completely original design.

Yarns are sourced from Scotland 99.9% of the time and he uses his unique float pattern and weaves his design on his 32 shaft computerized loom – he calls it his pride and joy

 This method of weaving and these designs are unique to James

Artists Kate Downey has been a great inspiration to him also. He recalls her and the techniques he learned from her if he gets in a rut , his advice if you get stuck is keep going, pushing yourself  through the pain barrier as he calls it and back in 2008 this did happen to him – he’d just received his  second development grant of £10,000  from the Scottish Arts Council – now known as Creative Scotland and he remembers sitting in his studio not knowing where to start.  He approached Reiko Sudo of the Nuno Corporation, Tokyo, and Ann Sutton an expert in weave to become his mentors. So he pushed and went back to the techniques he’d learned and put together an amazing range of designs.

he created huge mixed media pieces all based on his trip to Uist  and Shetland and began to use technology in the form of his iphone – the word of the day was APP – he used various apps to play with the images he’d photographed and an idea was beginning to form in his mind –now  not only weave but a completely new range of products was beginning to take hold.

And this is where he began to diversify

Lambs wool and linen hand woven scarves will always be James staples but now glassware, stationery, digitally printed scarves and badge pieces were born and their debut would be at the forthcoming trade show in Philadelphia.

glass collection was engraved here in Dundee by White & Sharp Glass Engravers

So along with 25 makers and the Craft Scotland team they arrived in Philadelphia for a direct to the public selling show which was organized by the Museum of Art this was James’ second time here which is usually unheard of.  People came from all over – Baltimore, New York and the eastern sea board to name a few – he was the only weaver there and he was a MAN!

He arrived with 3 suitcases of products and came back with ½ a suitcase.

Promotion was amazing – with incredible touch points, pens brochures  postcards banners and  the incredibly hard working Craft Scotland team gave so much and we all know Emma Walker now – she was there every day making contacts speaking to customers and promoting Scottish craft often the last to leave at night.  This show was such a resounding success and really demonstrates  how connection with Craft Scotland can pay off.

So it was with enthusiasm that James set of for the New York International Gift Fair having done the show 10 times previously.  This show sells directly to retailers but unfortunately it was a completely different experience, whether it was a sign of the times, a very mild winter or the price point was wrong this was the first show with which he was disappointed with sales, as he says it doesn’t matter if you’re fresh out out college or been making for a while  its down to the buyers.  So now he gets on and digests where things may have gone wrong – was his diversification at a cost to him,  should he have concentrated as PickOne the weaver ………………..

I have to say thank you to James – he has been a great support to our group and very generously let us borrow some of his beautiful work to display for our presentation he also gave all six of us beautiful pins to wear.

James can be found here at his pickone blog 

At the the shop he shares with his amazing business partner Fiona McIntosh  – Concrete Wardrobe

At his studios for incredible workshops

He also lectures at Dundee College in Textile Art and Leith School of Art.

Making design work

So you’ve done 4 years at university – you’ve graduated and are now ready to launch yourself into the world as a textile designer. Mmm, perhaps not, it would seem that what we’ve been told about our future career is wrong. That leaving uni and getting that 9 – 5 design job perhaps is no longer the norm. So what has changed over the years. C 19th Great Britain was once known as The Workshop of the World especially in the world of textiles, where new engineering created a way to mass produce goods for the market both at home and abroad. Design was huge with railways, bridges and ceramics being just some of the major things which shaped and financed our country then. The population was growing and families were large, most people were earning and able to buy, especially in the prosperous manufacturing towns. The century was to become known as the ‘consumer revolution’ where the different social classes could purchase similar basic items.  In the C 20th work was available for most people and manufacturing was still strong but now a lot of  our basic things were being created abroad where costs were lower. Two World Wars greatly affected  Great Britain. During both, women had begun to have a voice and replaced men in the workforce opening up opportunities away from domestic service, they too were earning now although not on the same scale as men.  They were doing jobs never imagined before.

By 1945 Britain needed rebuilding, population was on the increase again probably because of an increased knowledge in medical science and also large-scale immigration.  Lifestyle expectations were greatly increased and the Baby Boomers as they termed the generation born 1946 –  1964,  were amongst the first to experience Transistor radios, Rock and Roll and TV.  This was the era of free love, the 60’s, fashion and pop-culture. By 1965 changes were happening very quickly.  The Generation X population were being born, those who would be bought up with music on the radio, on record players and TV – MTV.  The baby boomers and Generation X were to go on to create Generation Y  born 1977 – 1997 also known as the Net  Generation and this is probably where all ‘normal’ career expectations that their parents talk about, change. Where their parents were bought up with typewriters and dial telephones and fumbled around with new technology as it was introduced, these 20 somethings are able to multi task with the various technologies, they have a better switching ability with a better working memory, they are digital natives.  The Boomers and Gen. X would probably expect to work 8 hours a day 5 days a week and work in employment for which they trained, for our new Net Generation this expectation looks like it will be the exception. They will connect with work, with virtual offices becoming the norm.  Designers could use their skills through designing services as SNOOK are doing.

This talk from Don Tapscott  ‘Grown up Digital – The Net Generation and the Transformation of Learning’ will change your views on the Net Generation and the future looks very exciting on how they may shape the future – it’s probably one of the most interesting lectures you’ll hear on the net.

So what happens now,  the Baby Boomers are now either retired or coming up for retirement. No longer seen as old and wrinkly, myself included, we’re embracing change and tackling new challenges.  Those in the public eye are seen as style icons …..

getting leading roles in some of the top movies and of course there are the rock stars who are all making a come back and being loved by a new generation.

This population is now out numbering the under 16’s and yet those in design are still creating for a generation of youth so perhaps using the statistics available we can begin to reach and market ourselves to the correct clientele.

This is when we have to really think about reaching out to the people who we want to create for, to quote the youngest ever CEO in the UK Emma Walker of Craft Scotland we have to know our target audience.  And Emma certainly knows how to reach an audience, in just three years she has taken scottish craft from an insular market to a worldwide audience – with incredible success recently, at  The Philadelphia Museum of  Art Craft Show.  We have to market ourselves at all times, where ever Emma goes she champions Craft Scotland – wearing her C word badge at all times and this sparks conversation. But she also suggests we become like Sherlock getting to know our audience from the moment we first meet.  We are surrounded by our audience daily whether friends or strangers and the people we speak to everyday through online resources or face to face  so creating a brand is really important – this was spoken about by Jonathan Baldwin in my second year Design Studies and I have given a lot of thought to this already with business cards and an online presence here and through twitter and Linkedin. Now I have to keep designing and hopefully make some awesome designs.