How traditional techniques can adapt to digital textile printing

by FESPA Staff | 25/09/2015
How traditional techniques can adapt to digital textile printing

Dr Kate Wells, textile designer and consultant, talks about different forms of print technologies ahead of FESPA UK’s Fabric Printing Now Conference.


With more than a dozen confirmed speakers from around the world and 70 confirmed delegates, the conference, organised by the FESPA UK Association opens its doors in less than two weeks’ time.

A range of hand-picked experts from the fabric printing industry gather on the 7th and 8th October in Huddersfield, United Kingdom, for more than 20 hours of lectures and presentations on textile developments.  

FESPA spoke to Dr. Kate Wells, textile print designer and consultant, ahead of her session at the event, to explore some of the industry issues she hopes to address.

How and when did you discover the potential of print and the opportunities it can open in the design environment?

I specialised in Textile Print Design while studying for a BA Textile design at the University of Leeds in 1980. I continued with a career as a Senior Technical Instructor for Printed Textiles and Colouration initially at Camberwell College of Art and Craft and then the Royal College of Art where I worked with students and ex-students who have now become well known designers such as Alice Temperley, Jocelyn Warner, Georgina Von Etzdorf, Neisha Crosland, Sue Timney, Toast.

Given your experience in the industry, are there any organisations or individuals that you have a particular admiration for?

Paul Turnbull and his Company Turnbull Designs http://www.turnbull-design.com/

His company produces Printed Furnishing fabrics using, block, screen and digital print technologies embracing new digital technology but retaining and maintaining the skills and craft of the past.

They place considerable emphasis upon creating visual depth, and the crisp appearance known as ‘Print mark’ Machinery, techniques and experience allowing them to hone the aesthetic effect, and maximise the visual appeal.

Talk us through your session at the conference

I’ll provide the necessary links between traditional hand-crafted techniques and their adaptation for digital technology. It is vital that these links are made so that traditional skills are not lost. Fabrics and fashion are much more than just on screen images they are intensely personal and organic expressions of mood and self.

I am very keen to improve the relationship between educators and business and will be seeking feedback during my presentation and during the conference as to how education can better meet the needs of industry.

What question are you asked most often?

Will digital print technology replace the screen and hand-print and patterning processes? In short, no.  There will always be a demand for uniqueness, texture and individual patterning both the Fashion and Furnishing Industries. Digital tends to sit flat on the surface. Other techniques penetrate through the cloth.

There are still many processes and techniques that can’t be produced by digital printing. I personally think that there will be a resurgence of hand produced techniques as there give life to the design and depth an individuality and uniqueness.

Kate Wells will head up the session ‘‘Hand and Technology, Innovative Printed Textiles: Digital vs Hand – Digital + Hand’ at the Fabric Printing Now Conference on October 8th.

The two-day event will be staged at the Textile Centre of Excellence in Huddersfield, UK, and will be packed with presentations, displays, and demonstrations, presented by a range of international leading experts.

About Kate Wells

Dr Kate Wells, is an author, designer, educator and technical consultant, and is considered an expert in the field of printed textile design, colouration and fabric manipulation.

With more than thirty years experience as a Programme leader, Lecturer and Technical Instructor at some of the most prestigious Design Colleges and Universities in the United Kingdom including the Royal College of Art, her extensive knowledge of textile design, its technology, production and manufacture has led to employment as a technical consultant for many International Fashion & Textile Designers and Judge for various International Textile Design Competitions.

She is an active member of several international professional bodies and associations including The Textile Institute; The Society of Dyers and Colourists; Ethical Fashion Forum and the World Shibori Network.

In 2009 she was awarded the SDC’s prestigious ‘Silver Medal’ for prolonged valuable contributions to education in the area of colouration.

As an active researcher specialising in shibori processes Kate believes in ‘Slow Textiles’ and ‘Digital Craft’ researching into sustainable and ethical production methods combined with natural dyes and organic, sustainable and recycled sourcing.

by FESPA Staff Back to News


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