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Talking about Employability and Enterprise at CSM with...Anne Marr: Course Leader, BA Textile Design

Anne has been in the textile industry for many years, having worked as a textile designer and trend consultant for international clients such as Faith Shoes, Ikea, Sony, Toyota, Dulux and Urban Outfitters. Anne’s work has featured in Elle Decoration magazine and the Independent on Sunday amongst others. Previously she has taught in institutions across the UK and was professor for Textile Design at the University of the Arts in Hamburg for seven years, before joining CSM. We took a ‘talking tour’ with Anne to find out more:

What is your approach to enterprise and employability?

Enterprise and employability is something that we have embedded into our course, it can be seen in the show today; the students are very aware of the skills that they need and they have to work very closely with people in the industry to continue to develop those skills.

Basic skills and flexible specialists

It starts in the first year: they learn transferable design skills, such as presentation skills. Our philosophy is to have flexible specialists so that our students get to try different things and don’t get too specialised too soon, to keep them adaptable in an industry that is always changing. In first year we do: print, weave and knit, and focus later on more specialist technical skills.

In the second year we offer a series of Live Client projects; we also offer a course called ‘Getting Direction’ where students think about where they want to place themselves in industry later and how to network. They have to contact alumni and ask them questions about where they are and how they got there; this teaches students to look in different directions for their careers.

Planning future routes

In the third year we have a special business course led by a textile designer which helps to focus on the individual profile of each student, and what is the best route for them once they leave college. They have to think about the vision for themselves rather than take a pre-empted path, this is evident when you look around the degree show; you see how they all look different and have explored different interests. Sometimes our shows present similar profiles, but you can see here how they have chosen specific areas of work, according to where they want to place themselves in industry.

Student-led sponsorship

We encourage students to find their own sponsors, so that they don’t constantly depend on us; it’s really important that they are able to find their own contacts once they leave us. We help them writing their request letters, but we want them to have to courage to approach people themselves.

How does your course prepare students to leave with a flexible and adaptable attitude toward their careers?

There is no one answer, it’s a package over 3 years, in this discipline things change so rapidly; you have to be ready for that. You have to be able to solve creative problems when you leave, don’t focus too much on one element. Technical skills will date and you have to be able to adapt to that; what doesn’t change is ability to solve problems.

In our course we are proud to have students who are flexible within other courses, like product design and furniture making. The backbone for problem solving has got to be research; once you have a base you are able to translate old techniques into innovative works and prototypes for new ideas.

What career paths do you expect your students to go into?

Textiles has become wider over the past few decades, with materials spreading globally more career paths are opening up to our students. Although they specialise in print, weave and knit, textiles graduates go into: fashion design or material research, product design, theatre, props, trained research and even automotive. We recently had a large automotive company come in to interview students for an internship; they were looking for experimental students, looking at innovative materials.

A lot of students also go into graphic design and some will take a more research based route; after writing their dissertations students often find they enjoy the research element of their work and choose to pursue that instead. Textile communication is another area we have seen developing as a career for graduates.

Is your discipline changing?

Well, we are still largely focussing on the physical side of things, in terms of our portfolios, but some of them are slowly going online. We are also introducing things like 3D printing and laser cutting. There are so many lovely materials that we cannot go fully digital as you need to be able to feel and actively see things in front of you.

Interdisciplinary collaboration, presentation and communication

We are collaborating more and more with other disciplines: jewellery, fashion and ceramics, and looking a lot more toward social media. We have had former students who have gone viral on YouTube after posting some ‘making of’ videos online. Now we are trying to explore this as a further opportunity for students, to make sure they are communicating their designs in the best way.

Communication and presentation is key now, in a digital age you have to have to right imagery to present yourself online. We have tried to create better awareness of our online presence and make sure students are putting the best version of themselves out there.


Transcript by student journalist Rebekah Thompson

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