India Flint

Another important early innovator in the contemporary movement of sustainable and ethical fashion is India Flint.

India is an Adelaide artist, living on a property in the Adelaide hills.  While a friend and I were sharing a studio at the JamFactory in the mid 2000’s, India held an exhibition in the main gallery space.  The fragrance of her scattered lemon-scented gum leaves greeted us each day as we entered the building.

Songs from the Wastelands, an installation from Earth Matters

Although dyeing with eucalyptus leaves had been done before, India discovered and innovated a technique to transfer the dye and shape of leaves onto silk and wool fabric.  Her experimentation with every type of eucalypt available during her Masters Degree at the University of South Australia, expanded to include wild flowers and found objects such as rusty nails for mark making.

India is respectful of hand made techniques such as hand stitching with the thread in a colour and thickness of yarn that contrasted with the finished fabric.  She used up-cycled clothing and fabrics as a base to decorate and make new clothing.  She ignored minimalist approaches to fashion popular at the time, instead embracing layering and allowing the fabric to dictate the silhouettes.

Jo Roads, Deon Hastie Petroglyphs, clothing by India Flint

Her unorthodox approach to the fabric itself, allowing the material to keep the wrinkles and creases from the dye process, created a three dimensional effect.  This added extra texture to the fabric, which was already  uneven in colour and pattern due to the natural dye process.

India has spent subsequent years to date touring the world teaching workshops and showing her beautiful work in galleries.  Many textile artists and designers have been influenced by her work, including myself, and I don’t think it’s possible to overestimate her influence on the future of fashion and textiles.

India Flint website, including images, workshops, exhibitions, books and contact details.


Upcycled Fashion: Junky Styling

Junky Styling are possibly the best known upcyclers of fashion.  Designers Annika Sanders and Kerry Seager, worked from an exposed studio on a shop floor to show transparency in the entire process.  Operating from 1997 to 2012, they started out at the Kensington Markets, then shared a space with a vinyl record store, and finally opened their own shop in East London.

Junky Styling shop in East London, 2012
Junky Styling shop 

I first came across the label in the mid 2000’s.  Westwood and Kawakubo were the innovators of unconventional fit, Kawakubo and Margiela the founders of deconstruction, but Junky Styling were leaders in the modern eco movement of fashion, deliberately using second hand or surplus materials.

Junky Styling Brick Lane, London

With the boring sameness of street wear, it was exciting to see clothing that was surprising.  Junky Styling were unique and inspiring in their approach to redesigning existing clothing without losing the integrity of the original item.  As self taught designers, they approached the remaking of clothing in a clever, unorthodox way,  making good use of the hard work already done in cuffs, collars, pockets, button fronts, tie backs and any tailored detail.

Suit upcycled to hooded bomber jacket, Junky Styling
Suit upcycled to hooded bomber jacket, Junky Styling

Not restricted by the traditional approach to fit, by turning clothing upside down, inside out or sideways, they were able to invent a new silhouette out of an old design.

This video shows a knit cardigan turned upside down, sleeves taken out, and after some refitting via darts and pleats, the sleeves are reinserted the new right way up for a draped neckline shrug; scarf and short top in one.

Upside down cardigan becomes shrug with scarf, Junky Styling
Upside down cardigan becomes shrug with scarf, Junky Styling

Their use of traditional men’s suiting to create unisex street wear was both subversive and intelligent design.  By reusing existing materials and design features, they could transform the message of the ‘suit’  with women taking part, and breaking down the formality of the clothing.  Turning a tailored suit into a halter top for women or a bomber jacket with a hoodie for men, carries on the anarchistic approach of punk.

Junky Styling halter dress from men's suit jacket
Junky Styling halter dress from men’s suit jacket

Their in-house Wardrobe Surgery, offering a made to measure design service from the clients own pre-loved clothing, was the foundation for their book of the same name.

Junky Styling: Wardrobe Surgery
Junky Styling: Wardrobe Surgery

The book details their business, including patterns from some of their well loved designs.  A pattern can be reused, but the fabric is always different, so each item of clothing is unique.

Junky Styling vest and shirt
Junky Styling vest and shirt

The Junky Styling designers emphasise finding your own look, and creating what fits and suits you personally.  They also say to be brave in cutting through fabric and experimenting.  This advice is useful for anyone, including designers!

Suit halter top and recycled men's shirts skirt Junky Styling
Upcycled suit jacket halter top and men’s shirts skirt Junky Styling

Junky Styling were founding members of the Ethical Fashion Forum and the “brand aligned with Oxfam’s reuse, recycle and resell philosophy aiming to combat the 1.4 million tonnes of textile waste sent to landfill each year.”

Junky Styling inside Brick Lane shop, London
Junky Styling inside Brick Lane shop, London

Although the shop has now closed, one half of the partnership, Annika, is running her own business including upcycled custom clothing design and consulting for the re-use of waste or excess materials in the textile/fashion industry.


Junky Styling: Wardrobe Surgery

Exploiting Your Own IP

Some years ago when I was working in a shared studio, we attended a seminar led by WA Belmont BEC founder and facilitator, Carol Hanlon.  Carol made it clear that artistic talent will only pay the bills if we learn how to exploit our own intellectual property.  The fact is most artists make a living through income streams other than their own art work.

Craft has evolved from the early 1980’s when I studied fashion design and then became interested in surface design for textiles.  In Adelaide it was a hands-on art based way of learning at colleges like the North Adelaide School of Art, with lino printing, screen printing, dyeing and painting.  To learn a new technique we’d attend workshops, read how-to books and subscribe to magazines such as the iconic Textile Fibre Forum.

The advent of the internet, digital cameras, image manipulation programs such as Photoshop, CAD, and social media, has opened up a different world of opportunities not available thirty years ago.  Moving from a 100% manual labour practise to 100% digital has involved a lot of trial and error.

Go Wild! landscape bags
Go Wild! landscape bags, 100% hands on design and production

It started with blogging about the art process, then posting up pictures taken with my digital camera.  I came across the Etsy website and decided to trial selling online while keeping the gallery outlets going.  It soon became apparent that Etsy was more suited to multiples of an artwork, which is impossible to achieve with the hand made techniques I was using.  Each item has to be photographed in detail before listing.  I’d only used a professional photographer for selling work previously so it was going to be very expensive.

Eucalyptus Silk Shape

It soon became clear that a transition to online selling would cost more than it was worth.  The time and space to make the work, then photograph it, list it and then prepare for shipping became more cumbersome than just selling in galleries.

The first step to overcome was the one-off surface design process.  I experimented with photographing hand painted fabric and uploading to photo manipulation programs to make artworks that could be repeat printed on Spoonflower.  The samples looked interesting but I soon worked out the cost of the custom fabric converted to AUD, shipping it to Australia, then cutting and making up and selling online would push the price up.

Digital design from handpainted fabric, printed on organic cotton

After placing the Etsy shop on hold, and with a growing interest in street art,  I started using photography as a new tool for expression.  This year I started experimenting with photography for surface design (see previous posts).  These designs could be applied to almost anything.  Print websites such as Redbubble and Zazzle offer a range of blank products for custom artwork, and the pricing was lower than any work I could make myself.  The problem of product photography was also removed with the use of their sample images of my designs.

Orange Hibiscus Chiffon Tank Top
Eucalypso at Etsy: Orange Hibiscus Chiffon Tank Top

Drop shipping the items from where they are made lessens the carbon footprint.  I completely eliminated excessive use of raw materials in fabric, dyes, paints and water, through made to order.  The items at Redbubble are ethically made.  The only part of the process I haven’t resolved yet is sourcing all recycled or sustainable materials, though hopefully they can all be recycled.  The products that feature my artworks are good quality so should last for years if handled with care.

Orange Hibiscus Draw-string Bag

My hope for the near future is an eco print and clothing design site, so I can upload patterns as well as the artwork and have my designs made to order on sustainable fabrics.  Come on, Spoonflower!

So has removing the hands on crafting of the work from start to finish made the end product suffer?  I’m not intending to give up the hands on process altogether as it is an intrinsic part of being an artist, but this new way of production frees up time previously spent in repetitive, time consuming, and unsustainable tasks.  It makes my work more competitive and I can take control of my own intellectual property by potentially building a low cost artistic empire 🙂




Snowflake Photography

Large scale photographic images are popular now we have the technology to reproduce them on all kinds of surfaces.  However, how can the same medium be used for repeat patterns ?

Green and Pink Autumn Leaves

Traditional repeats don’t work with photography when the images run over the edge or backgrounds don’t match up.


Mirroring the image not only continues the flow of the photograph on all sides but turns it into a pattern as unique as a snowflake.  Not all designs look great as a mirrored image, as with the layout of this one where the eye is drawn to a strange centre pattern.


Which was easily solved by changing the centre to the outside edge

Green Lime Pink Autumn Reflection

Green Lime Pink Autumn Reflection Throw Pillow

Green Lime Pink Autumn Reflection Chiffon Top

Green Lime Pink Autumn Reflection Throw Cushion




Photography for Surface Design

An interesting thought about photography as a medium is what works for one purpose may not for another.  For example, the last two projects of photography for street murals, the images were of buildings and chairs, so the layout was traditional with the images in sharp focus.



Lords’ Chairs


Photography for surface design has different criterea .  Coming from a textile background with lots of handpainting and dyeing, a sharp focus image isn’t part of the aesthetic, except maybe as a stylised line drawing or lino print.  In traditional textile design, an image is printed as a repeat.  Only in recent years has full colour, large scale photography been technologically available for textiles (as washable).

So how can photography be applied as a medium for decorative surfaces?

This is one of my favourite photographs, yet the foreground is dominated by out of focus leaves and a giant dark blob of colour.  It probably doesn’t work as either a stand alone print or a textile repeat, yet the tree trunk is in focus just to show it wasn’t a total mistake.


The next photograph is what I’m looking for in the perfect surface design image;  soft focus with a small part in sharp focus for contrast, interesting shapes, balanced dark and light, harmonious or complimentary colour, evenly spaced across the image.


Autumn Blush Chiffon Top


Autumn Blush Tote