CALLAN – textile design at Belfast design week

Mary Callan introduced us to her Textile design label CALLAN at the Belfast Design Week Portview studio tour.

She has demonstrated and compared two techniques she uses – Jacquard weaving and Intarsia knitting.

Jacquard waving has an important place in the development of Computing. It inspired the developments in writing computer programmes. For weaving, you punch a pattern in a card, which is then used for controlling the weaving process in the loom.

Using Intarsia, you can interlay different colours and even materials during knitting. Mary uses a knitting frame but interlays by hand. In the video below she talks about both techniques:

Listen to Mary explain how she develops the Jacquard patterns:

What I find absolutely intriguing is the detail with which the designer develops her designs. What appears at the end is a form of art, a beautiful, intricate piece of clothing. But the process of producing it is incredibly technical. I loved when she explained how she uses found objects like sweaters for pattern cutting to modify the design until it is hers. I also found it interesting that you can use mistakes to your advantage. When you need to repair in kitting you can make it something more special. This somehow reminds me of upcycling.

Mary’s answer to the question of how she manages her brand is also very revealing. Handmade designs are extremely expensive and difficult to sell. Also, there is a tendency to expect a certain kind of design from Irish knitwear designers, which Mary seems not to be happy about. She wants to offer her own ideas, not conform to a stereotypical idea of how designs from a region should look like. I’ve heard about this problem before. In Hong Kong, the most successful fashion designers play with traditional Chinese designs. But entirely novel designs are not “Hong Kong” enough for an international market, and more difficult to sell.

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