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Applying chemistry to embroidery earns recognition for DMU textiles academic

Cutting-edge research into using electric currents and copper to develop a new form of embroidery has earned a Senior Lecturer at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) a prestigious award.

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Jo (middle) receiving her award - photo credit Iveta Oljekova

Jo Horton, who leads the Mixed Media Textiles pathway on DMU’s Textile Design BA (Hons), has been highly commended in the Embroiderers’ Guild Beryl Dean Award for Teaching Excellence in Embroidery and Design for 2017.

The award recognises academics who tirelessly enhance the learning experience and who care passionately about the future of embroidery. Judges were particularly impressed by Jo’s leading research which she shares with her students to encourage ambition and innovative thinking.

Referring to her work as ‘metal horticulture’, Jo said: “My research at DMU has focused on the ways in which fashion textiles has been transformed by metallic embellishment, looking at the role traditional craft techniques have had in the desirability of luxury clothing and the opportunity for industry to embrace new ways of producing high-value surface treatment.

“As a designer more used to working in an artist’s studio or textiles workshop, to make novel textiles I have found a new home in a laboratory where I can be playful with science and unusual production technology as well as beautiful embellishment.

“As a member of the Society of Dyers and Colourists (SDC), the bursary awards I have received from them were pivotal in the development of my PhD and work as a ‘metal horticulturalist’ both in terms of the financial support I received and feedback.

“Next I have plans to combine chemistry with couture hand stitch in the production of fashion textiles and further develop the exquisite iridescent colour effects that grown metal can produce.”

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Exhibiting at London's Fashion and Textiles Museum last year

After working in the surface decoration industry since graduating in 1985, Jo’s career progressed via an MA in Fashion Textiles to academia while running her own business as an embroiderer and designer-maker.

Since joining DMU in 2006 she has developed the Mixed Media Textiles pathway to offer bespoke stitch and couture embellishment for interiors and fashion.

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As a result of Jo’s dedication, graduates of the pathway have secured many awards - including from the RSA Bursary Competition, the SDC, Bradford Textiles Society, The Textiles Society and New Designers - for their collections of embellished and hand, machine and digitally embroidered fabrics.

Students gain internships and employment at high-profile companies and design studios, and Jo has also encouraged a culture of postgraduate applications with successful graduates going on to specialise in stitch at the Royal College of Art and Central St Martins.

“My career at DMU has also included programme leadership as I was asked to establish the Fashion Textiles and Accessories BA (Hons), renamed Fashion Textile Design for next year, in addition to leading Mixed Media Textiles,” said Jo.

“This course has focused on exciting hybrid materials and processes for fashion. Using skills garnered from my industry experience in hard and soft materials decoration I have been able to encourage students to use alternative materials to progress their ideas in embroidery and embellishment.

“In 2010 I handed over the course to my colleague Alan Beattie so that I could seriously apply my energies to my PhD study, commencing practice-based research and taking on industry projects from the metal finishing and data collection industries.”

To date, her academic distinctions, awards and prizes include the SDC international bursary recognition award 2015, SDC bursary awards 2014 and 2013, DMU’s Research Leave Award and Medici Enterprise awards 2014, and a Textile Society national professional development award for 2013.

Last year, Jo was selected to share her PhD findings at the Fashion and Textiles Museum in London for the 2016 Festival of Textiles, during which she exhibited prototype garments produced in collaboration with Alan Beattie, inspired by the Elkington & Co archive at the V&A.

Posted on Tuesday 11th July 2017

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