BCU Textiles Award for Craftsmanship Winners

We were delighted to be invited by Birmingham City University Textiles to select the award for Craftsmanship. Learning & Engagement Manager Katy Sadler selected two winners from the Class of 2020 graduates: Emily Jayne Higgs and Grace Oliver. Here Katy talks about why she selected the winning projects.

Emily Jayne Higgs


Sedimentary Narrative: a range of woven material concepts and fabrics for ‘homely office’ interior spaces.

I was captivated by Emily’s approach to conveying the different geological processes that are at work during rock and mineral formation, and how Emily interpreted and incorporated these processes visually into the woven fabrics.

I really enjoyed the sense of scale and physicality within the project: Emily’s pieces intelligently echoed the tiny features amongst the whole, larger expanse of a rock formation, and I especially enjoyed how the work drew my attention to the smaller details and occurrences within this process, details that are harder to see and easy to overlook. The different pieces explore both the robust and the delicate alongside one another, the micro and the macro viewpoints, the calm and the tensions that co-exist within this natural process.

The mark making drawings undertaken as part of the research brought an additional layer of interest, and it was fascinating to see how the visual information within these observations were carried through to the final fabrics.

It also felt very timely that the pieces were designed for the ‘homely office’ during this strange period when so many of us are adapting to a combined workspace and domestic environment.

Grace Oliver


Through the Eyes of a Diver / Colonies Under Threat: a range of hand-crafted fabrics re-creating the distinctive and diverse coral reefs at risk of total bleaching

I found Grace’s exquisite pieces highly visually engaging: the beauty, technique and skill within each piece really captured my interest, making me want to keep looking, and pulling me into their dialogue around the ongoing damage to coral reefs.

The range of embroidery and embellishment techniques really drew me into the work. Each piece is a collection of contrasts creating different points of interest: in the inventive choice of materials, in the exceptionally high level of craftsmanship, and in the visualisation of the environmental damage they depict. Each piece pays meticulous attention to the beauty, intricacy and fragility of these living organisms at the same time as demonstrating the magnitude of this serious environmental issue.

I found the use of the different materials of great interest. The distinct materials in each piece fit together in a contrasting but harmonious way, blending different aesthetics, shapes, sizes and forms, and creating visually arresting, textural fabrics. I especially enjoyed Grace’s use of clay within the work and was really surprised to see it used in textiles. The use of clay in this context and working alongside the other materials emphasises its versatility as a material, and for me added another layer of interest to the project.

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