Major Change
March 9, 2012

It’s more than a name change: NSCAD’s new Major in Textiles/Fashion reflects a philosophy that the two areas of study are intrinsically linked at NSCAD, like the warp and weft of woven fabric.

“This gives us an identity that’s unique among universities,” says Gary Markle, assistant professor in the Textiles/Fashion Department, as he put the final touches on a show, Major Change, which opened Thursday, March 8 at Seeds Gallery.“I don’t think there’s another degree-granting textile/fashion program like it anywhere in Canada.”

Until now, students could only take a minor in fashion and a major in textiles. The name change linking Textiles and Fashion better reflects the program, which balances the conceptual concerns of design with the textile traditions of weaving, dyeing, printing and garment making. The change was approved recently by the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission (MPHEC).

“Students really ramp up their learning when the disciplines are combined,” says Prof. Markle, who studied at the Parson’s School of Design in New York and NSCAD University.

Students in the major program take courses in three streams: Structure (includes studio classes in weaving and off-loom structures), Surface (resist dyeing and screen printing) and Form (design and pattern drafting). Students also study art and craft history, professional practices or entrepreneurship during the four-year degree program.

Professor Robin Muller, a textile artist, says she is excited to be working with colleagues and students in a new way. “Textile art is enjoying a renaissance all over the world, but we are always aware of our relationship to industry. Cloth is often not complete in itself. It is a building block to something else.”

NSCAD student Clara Congdon is delighted that her major reflects both her interests. Those parallel interests of fashion and textiles are also reflected in the pieces she contributed to the show—a trio of sleeveless dresses in different sizes that she designed and sewed herself. She even printed the linen with a repeating pattern of scissors and cutting lines. The pattern is both an artistic choice and a political statement; it refers to the practice of slashing name brand clothing before disposing of excess stock, something she became of aware of while working for a large retail outlet.

“I wasn’t interested in an industry-driven program—I was looking for an artistic learning experience and that’s what I’m getting at NSCAD,” says the Ottawa native. “It is incredibly satisfying to see yardage that you’ve completely covered with a design of your own making, then to cut it and sew it into a complete garment … the next step for me is to add weaving into that process.”

Major Change, which includes the work of students, alumni and faculty, continues at Seeds Gallery, 116-1099 Marginal Road, through to March 25.

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 Third-year NSCAD student Clara Congdon.  Clara Congdon's dresses on display at Seeds.