Textile printing

The Green Grads EPSON eco-textile challenge graduates showcase their talents

by Debbie McKeegan | 30/11/2023
The Green Grads EPSON eco-textile challenge graduates showcase their talents

Exhibiting at Manchester’s historic Victoria Baths during the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair the Epson Eco-Textile Challenge graduates received an enthusiastic welcome.

Manchester has a long textile manufacturing history, once dubbed the worlds “Cottonopolis” it became the international centre of the worlds cotton industry, spawning the technologies that would drive Britain’s industrial Revolution. The North-West also played a pivotal role in the development of computer science, with Manchester University at the centre of computational innovation and theoretical practice.

The 2023 GREEN GRADS Epson Textile Challenge scoured Art Schools across the country to find the graduates best expressing their environmental concerns and/or love of the natural world through the medium of pattern on cloth - and at the same time taking into consideration eco-friendly textiles, dyes, and methods of production.

Celebrating nature there were gorgeous large-scale flower printer by Becky Brentnall and ceramics by Ela Niznik made with moulds cast from flowers and seedpods along with Zaynah Arif’s exquisite Lepidoptera portfolio of butterfly paintings - whilst Kasha Dressler and Jessica Kirkpatrick demonstrated natural dyes. Barbara Chandler, Green Grads founder commented. "We are so grateful to our sponsors for making our shows happen. We could not operate without them, promoting and supporting our GREEN GRADS - we now have 150 on the website. Textiles are an important strand of what we do, and we are very proud of our innovative EPSON TEXTILE CHALLENGE, in which we ask graduates to show us the ECO STORIES they have told in pattern on cloth.”

“This year's winners, Becky and Zaynah, both came from our Heal's show to exhibit at our show at Manchester, where they admirably displayed the skills that had won their prizes. Zaynah in particular is over the moon with her swish new Epson fabric printer." 

“We had some beautiful ECO STORIES in 2022,” said Debbie McKeegan, project director and FESPA Textile Ambassador “and we were not disappointed for 2023.” Co-judge was Barbara Chandler, founder/curator of GREEN GRADS who initiated the ECO STORIES project in 2021.

Joint winner of the GREEN GRADS Epson Textile Challenge 2023, with a handsome cash prize, was Becky Brentnall (BA Surface Pattern and Textile Design, Staffordshire University).

Becky’s childhood garden has inspired in her a lifelong passion for nature and in particular for flowers grown in the UK.  This now finds expression in dramatically large-scale textiles, up to four metres in length. These are hand-painted and screen-printed onto natural fabrics using Manutex, a seaweed-based dye thickener. Before returning to studies, Becky trained and worked as a landscape gardener and a florist. “My work celebrates and promotes nature on a large scale, and I want it to enrich home and business interiors.” 

Caption: “Celebrating nature there were gorgeous large-scale flower printer by Becky Brentnall”
Credit: GreenGrads

Also a winner was Zaynah Arif (BA Textiles and Surface Design, University of Bolton), for her portfolio Lepidoptera.  She received a state-of-the-art Epson SureColor SC F2100 printer.

Zaynah’s beautiful hand-painted artwork carries a strong message. With numbers of butterflies and moths declining, Zaynah is adorning stationery, wrapping paper and giftware, together with unique reversible appliqué bags, with images that call attention to their plight. “We must campaign to save all the pollinators in the same way as we have campaigned to save the bees.”  

At GREEN GRADS at Heal’s, London both Zaynah and Becky attracted the attention of iconic textile designer Sarah Campbell, who spent a whole afternoon at the show.

Becky Brentnall commented on her Green Grads experience:
“Being selected as a Green Grad was the most welcome platform following my degree show and New Designers. I found the Summer a difficult time creatively. My degree had completely absorbed me and following the buzz of New Designers, I felt flat and exhausted. Green Grads gave me a focus and a purpose to continue pushing on with my creativity. Not letting the work I’d done to get to that point go cold. 

The Green Grads Hub at Heals’ and the GNCCF, were my first experiences of exhibiting my work without the support of my university. Independently hanging a textile exhibition within the constraints of different venues was in itself its own learning curve from which I’ve gained confidence and knowledge. Having the support of Michael and Barbara and the camaraderie of my fellow Green Grads provided me with a support network should I need it.

Green Grads also offered me fantastic education opportunities in the form of talks and presentations from a broad range of industry experts as well as the informal opportunities offered by the many conversations that I had throughout exhibitions with both visitors and fellow exhibitors. Discussing the environmental issues that are affecting other industries which I was previously less aware of raised ideas and aspirations that I want to pursue within my own future career within the textile and design industry.

Caption: “Zaynah Arif’s picture with her exquisite Lepidoptera portfolio of butterfly paintings, winner of an Epson SureColor F2100 printer”.
Credit: GreenGrads

The networking opportunities presented from both exhibitions gave me such confidence in my work and plans for my future career. To have the opportunity to speak informally with textile industry experts such as Sarah Campbell and Debbie McKeegan was wonderful. The social media coverage by influencers, visitors, industry professionals and exhibitors raised awareness of the various messages of the Green Grads and both events gave me so much content to share on social media which in turn has increased my followers and facilitated links with other industry individuals. It has also given me a wider audience to spread the Green Grads message to.

Caption: "We are so grateful to our sponsors for making our shows happen. We could not operate without them, promoting and supporting our GREEN GRADS” commented founder Barbara Chandler.
Credit: FESPA / GreenGrads

Winning the Epson Textile challenge was a huge honour. Being recognised by experts, gave me such confidence in my work and the belief that I can adapt my hand created designs digitally in order to make them more commercially available to a wider audience, bringing seasonal nature into people’s homes and workplaces.

The feedback I received from the general public at Green Grads North confirmed there was sufficient interest in my designs for me to create a textile collection for Homes and Interiors. 

The prize money will assist me in the development of my first digitally printed collection which I am currently working on alongside building my own brand”.

Green Grads, continues to support the creative community throughout their careers. This work is only possible with the help and support of the industry and we thank Epson and Fespa for their continued support.

by Debbie McKeegan Back to News

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