Sustainable textile from Africa and Modern fashion

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Karen Rothwell

Guest Post  from Karen Rothwell a final year jewellery design student at Central St Martin’s college in London. In this post Karen shares her final year  Degree Show Collection – and how she uses African textile in her work

I am currently working on a jewellery collection for my degree show in June 2011. My work is a reaction to my over landing trip through Africa, from Johannesburg to Nairobi in the summer of 2010.

My designs are inspired by the body adornment of the Maasai tribes from East Africa, along with my own exploration of the idea of Maasai currency-ranging from seeds and cowrie shells to hybrid coins that I have created from Tanzanian and Kenyan shillings – representing the two lands that the Maasai travel through each year.

bark cloth Collar

The materials I am using vary from silver and copper to buckram and bark cloth. Bark cloth is a new material to me, and the most interesting to explore. It is a non-woven natural textile and is produced by the Buganda tribe in Uganda. The cloth is widely used in Uganda’s art and craft industry but I am manipulating the material further into the world of jewellery as a form of body adornment.

White bark Cloth collar

It is a loose textile and can be torn against the grain, yet through my exploration of the materials and joining it with other materials and techniques I have learnt over time I have found a way to create an organic flowing form but that is stiff and in appearance defies gravity as it hangs rigidly.

­­The joy of working with this material is that everything about it is new to me and so whatever I do with it is new and exciting. It is also important to me that it is a sustainable textile. In that as the bark is stripped from the Mutuba tree, then banana leaves are wrapped around the trunk to protect the tree from harm. This is an amazing material which causes no long term damage to the environment and is produced in such a fascinating way I can only sing praises of those who provide it.

Bark cloth

My finished collection will be available to view at from the beginning of June, and on the degree show site, So watch the space!

Bark Cloth was sourced from Ida, founder of ethnic

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