Jonathan Mackinnon (He/Him)
I am Jonathan MacKinnon, a Glaswegian textile designer, specialised in woven surface design. Having left a career in microbiology to pursue a future within Art & Design, my training and scientific approach never left me. This training has now evolved and adapted to my career in Textiles. Historical and archival research source provide inspiration and ideas for new work. Taking the past and using innovation and experimentation to create something interesting or re-imagined but always moving forwards, is the backbone of all my work.
From my beginnings at Edinburgh College and refined with my training at Glasgow School of Art I have had room to grow as a designer and find the confidence needed to ascertain my creative decisions. The main element of all this training was learning to critically reflect upon my work at all stages. As I do with initial research; being able to look back creates space to move forward.
Out with Glasgow School of Art, my practice shall continue to grow, now able to work more independently, confidently, and skillfully. I shall take my extensive skill set and build upon it to shape my future career and professional practice within industry.
A Nationalisation of People – MDES Collection
Although being in lockdown at the beginning of this project, I was still able to attend my work as a maintenance engineer in a Glasgow Clydeside factory. Opening in 1899 as an automobile manufacturing company, it soon became a munitions factory through both World Wars. It then became what it is today, a manufacturer of truck axles, gearboxes, and components. Working here allows me to take in the details, noticing the vast scale of the factory, the strength in its structure and a patina, full of retained memories and stories. Nationalisation in the 1970s and 80s decimated the area where the factory resides, reducing its population of workers from tens of thousands to handfuls of men over the subsequent years.
Nationalisation of industry caused the country wide dispersal of people once the factories closed, and with that came the rise of the council estate. Still living close to the area I grew up, meant I was able to conduct real primary research. Looking at the high-rise flats where families and people were crammed in. These towers took on a community all their own across the floors. Council estates get bad press, full of stories of crime and violence. Although this is partly true, they also build a different type of person. Determined, strong, industrious with nothing to lose and everything to gain. I was surrounded by everything and everyone who had shaped me, and I wanted to personify this in my final collection. Creating fabrics and garments which echo the lives of these people and the rich intertwining history of both Scotland’s council schemes and its heavy industry. Cultural and social consideration has been prominent in my thoughts throughout this project; I did not want to have a collection which felt like a parody of Scottish working-class culture, instead aiming to celebrate our rich history of industry and what the workers did for our economy. I also designed my collection to be a neutral, unisex collection, a nod back to both the men and women who shaped me growing up. Adding gender into the work only served to isolate and constrain but by removing gender it opened the collection up to a wider audience, becoming more inclusive.
Consideration of responsible design within my work is paramount, being a weaver and creating cloth from virgin materials is unavoidable to a degree. For this reason, I have always tried to use less where possible and really consider where I find my materials alongside the processes I use to create. To circumnavigate the issue around virgin materials, I source dead stock wool from large scale production mills. Paying very little or nothing for yarn provides my work with new design criteria. I am forced to create with what I have. Mixing, blending and brushing and considering woven technique, builds colour and texture into the cloth, creating sophisticated design with minimum wastage. Being a fashion led programme I looked at developing new ways of creating garments by re-using discarded denim garments as trimmings and yarn, giving them new life and adding aesthetic vibrancy to my work. Exploring the blurred lines of being a textile designer in a fashion design setting results in a coherent and exciting collection which mixes classic garment silhouettes with fresh textile concepts, celebrating my view of Central Scotland through a personal lens.
Sincere thanks go to Bute Fabrics for sponsoring my final collection, supplying me with yarn, and also The Worshipful Company of Weavers for awarding me the Stuart Hollander scholarship which allowed me to purchase new equipment enabling me to fully realise my collection.
Professional Practice Portfolio
Waste Not, Want Not – WCW x V&A Commission
COVID-19 has given us all a lot of spare time lately, and more so a lot of time for reflection.
Reflection is a large part of my creative process daily and so for my Masters Final Project, I applied this reflective activity with a wider lens and looked back at my personal journey, how it had been shaped and how best to move my whole practice forward. My history is very much one rooted in working class morals and ethics. Synonymous with the working class is the blue denim jean. Resilient and tough they made perfect workwear for those in heavy industry. Similarly, my past was filled by people both resilient and tough.
As a textile designer, sustainability is key to our practice. Virgin materials and fibres are entering the system daily alongside pollution caused by dyeing and finishing fabric. Denim is one of the most environmentally damaging fabrics to make. Over the years I have collected used denim jeans from friends and family with a view to re-using the material to save it from going to landfill. Also, having visited mills and studios during my time at university, I became aware of the wastage produced in mass production, which unfortunately sometimes cannot be helped. Every mill has it whether it be selvedge tape or deadstock yarn/fabric. I try to reuse this waste in a similar fashion to my use of denim.
Simply I took this waste and deadstock, and hand-wove it with the denim I have salvaged, on a home-made ‘frame loom’. I created a collection of individuals samples with revived aesthetic value and purpose. I see these as an intertwining of my personal history and journey, with the work of Britain’s textile industry. The concept I presented to the Weavers Company was a a 5ft x 5ft version of my samples, combining various structures and materials into a large-scape single piece which is bold and impactful, a statement which allows all to take ownership of the waste, marking a point in time for our industry, forever recorded within the V&A permanent collection.
This is a prestigious commission to gain so early in my career, my sincere thanks go to The Worshipful Company of Weavers for this opportunity.