Aisling Smyth is designer/maker of Embroidered Textiles from Poyntzpass, Northern Ireland. Describing her practise as being ‘inspired by the historical and motivated by the modern’ Smyth’s stitches pay homage to the unnamed embroiderers of the craft’s past, whilst also encompassing modern day digital advances in the field. Often working to a large scale Smyth aims to create a surreal and inspiring textile experience for the viewer – capturing their imagination and passing on her belief that the possibilities of craft are limitless and only destined by the ambition of the maker.
Aisling first learned to sew during her Foundation year at Southern Regional College, and instantly knew Textiles would be the degree for her. She went on to complete a degree in Textile Art, Design and Fashion at Belfast School of Art where she got a chance to dabble in various areas including screen printing, weave, knit and pattern cutting, however embroidery was always the main technique explored. At first hand stitch was her favourite, but as her projects got more ambitious and the scale of work grew, she began using the embroidery software ‘Wilcom’ which is linked up to an industrial embroidery machine. Being inspired by the potential of working digitally, she started to research other makers who mix computer based softwares with craft.
In terms of working digitally Rachel Parker is a major influence as well as Michael Brennand Wood and Nigel Cheney. Aisling also takes great inspiration from the work of Lauren Dicioccio, Deirdre Nelson and Caren Garfen. However the majority of her inspiration comes the fantastic archives of embroidered textiles found on the V&A’s website.
Aisling has now returned to Belfast School of Art where she is completing a year long residency within the Textiles department. This residency will be spent assisting the course staff in the educational delivery of the Textile Art, Design and Fashion course; as well as providing an opportunity for Aisling to further her own creative development. Her current project ‘Don’t touch what you can’t afford’ is an alternative study of Elizabethan costume embroidery.
“This work moulds together my love for fresh graphic visuals, pattern, and historical needlework. Always striving for technical excellence the work reflects an obsessive attention to detail with a horizontal and vertical line of symmetry running throughout. Also desiring an aesthetic of distinction, the surface of the fabric has been hand beaded with Swarovski crystals making the embroidery flicker and adding a luxurious and opulent finish.”