Sudoku in colour

by Elspeth Pridham

As a textile artist and designer Margo Selby pushes the boundaries of weaving to create contemporary fabrics with her own distinct style


IF YOU HAVE EVER tried your hand at weaving, you will know it is a complicated craft – Margo Selby calls it Sudoku in colour. “It is very disciplined. There are strict rules with an emphasis on maths, so every fabric has a particular number of threads in the warp and weft and everything must be in the right position to allow the shapes to fi t together. Jacquared looms had the fi rst ever punch card system – they were early computers.” Although Selby relishes these restrictions

and clearly respects the history and the process, her designs are far from traditional. “I like mixing fi bres and combining this with

crisp geometrics – not what you would expect from woven fabrics. I have a vision and I want to get to that, but I have to remind myself how important the process is: planning on paper, taking time on the hand loom, developing colours and patterns as I work. It is informative and it encourages that quietening down of the mind, which allows ideas to develop and grow.” Selby trained in textile design at the

Chelsea College of Arts. “The minute I was on the loom, I felt at home,” she says. “Straight away I found it exciting as a medium and I was driven to create more.” She followed this with a postgraduate

degree at The Royal College of Art and two years at the Ann Sutton Foundation. “This gave us a safe, protected environment to start our businesses,” Selby says. “There were just three graduates at any one time – we had a loom to work on and a fl at to live in and we were paid a stipend which allowed us to produce our own work.” During this time, she developed her

distinct fabrics, which she made up into accessories and sold at craft fairs. “They weren’t necessarily right for my designs but, they were what I understood,” she says. “I didn’t know anything about interiors or fashion; my passion lay with the fabric.” Struggling to fi nd a context for her weaves, Selby reached out to collaborators and, in time, began thinking more about fabric by the metre and how it could be used. “When you are on the loom, you are in a small focused space,” she says. “I had to step back and think about how the fabric looks from across the room.” Collaboration has exposed Selby to a

variety of infl uences and possibilities but, she says, it is nothing new. “Few textile designers are remembered historically, as it is the product they are designing for that is remembered. Collaboration is a trendy word for what textile designers have probably always done,” she explains. “By being really open to collaboration, it allows my work to go in all sorts of different directions.” One of her earliest partnerships was with

Selby’s handwoven artworks.

People Will Always Need Plates. Selby translated one of their illustrations into a woven fabric that was launched at 100% Design. She subsequently designed carpets for Alternative Flooring, scarves and cushions for The Royal Opera House shop, fabric for the London Transport Museum shop and fabrics for interior brand Casa

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