Career as a textile designer

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Ailsa Gerrard designs and oversees the manufacture of hand-tufted rugs and wallhangings. Her clients include companies, architects, interior designers and art consultants, and her work graces the reception areas of high-profile buildings.

How do you start to create a new design?

I begin by meeting the client at the building I am designing for and we talk about their requirements. If the rug or hanging will be part of a new building or new interior scheme, I will look at samples of fabrics and furniture that have already been chosen. I take the flow of people into account and how the space will be used. I then take floor plans and measurements away with me. The next stage is to come up with ideas for the design.

How do you get your ideas?

I adapt my styles to suit the environment I am designing for, so my ideas are always changing. I design most of my work using coloured pencils for the initial ideas and paints for the larger scale design.

Do you get involved in production?

Not directly. My work is made in England by an outworker because it needs large premises. I prepare the designs so that he can work directly from them. This means making overlays on the drawing to show the colours and how they blend into each other.

How do you get your work?

Marketing and sales takes up a lot of my time. I take part in exhibitions, advertise in magazines that go to architects and interior designers and send out press releases about my work to newspapers and magazines. I also make a lot of phone calls, send out folders and samples to people who call and keep my portfolio up-to-date.

How much do you charge?

That really depends on the scale of the work. A small piece that I have shown at an exhibition might sell for £1,500, but a large project with two or more rugs may cost more than £20,000.

Where do you work?

I am usually in my studio, which is a workshop with lots of other craftspeople – from silversmiths to photographers. But I do go to meet clients in their offices, take part in exhibitions and I have just opened a showroom with some other designers. This will give me a chance to show my work and I will now have to devote some of my time to setting up displays.

What hours do you work?

Probably about eight hours a day and sometimes more. It depends what projects I have got on.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

Getting to my drawing board having been to a meeting on-site, looking at the plans and starting the design work. I love seeing the work realised as a finished piece, months later in the environment it was designed for.

What skills do you need?

Design and colour sense, and some mathematical skills to work out sizes.

Ailsa's route a career as a textile designer

  • Foundation course in art and design.
  • Degree in textiles, including work placements.
  • Set up her own company six months after graduating.

Ailsa's textile designer tips

  • It takes a while to become established and you need to develop business skills as well as designing, such as the business and promotion side of things.
  • It can be enjoyable and rewarding, so it is worth the work.

Textile designer related jobs

Textile designer salary

  • Within a company, the starting salary will vary between £10,000 and £18,000, rising to £25,000 or more with experience.
  • Freelance designers may charge per design or project and rates vary enormously.
  • Agents take a commission of up to 40 per cent.

Becoming a textile designer

  • Most textile designers have a degree or HND in an art or design subject. Many start with a Foundation course to help them choose their specialism.
  • There is a huge range of design courses at colleges and universities and most will want to see a portfolio of work.
  • There are also full and part-time City & Guilds and NVQ/SVQ courses in textile design subjects.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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