The following article is taken from the Robert Gordon University website and was written by Jonathon Milne, the Communications Officer.

(L to R): Kirsty Brownlee, Deacon Ian Dale, Laura UkstinaA historic North-East trade body has hosted an award presentation in honour of the talented students at Gray’s School of Art.

The Weaver Incorporation, one of the Seven Incorporated Trades of Aberdeen, have been presenting their annual Career Enhancement Awards at Trinity Hall since 1987.

Each year, the award is given to an outstanding student on the Fashion & Textiles degree course at Gray’s and it reflects the commitment of the Weaver Incorporation towards supporting the development of skills and helping students prepare for a career in textiles.

The 2016 prize was won by Kirsty Brownlee, with Laura Ukstina receiving the runners-up award, at a ceremony hosted by Deacon Ian Dale.

Graeme Nicol, Ex Deacon of the Weaver Incorporation, gave a presentation which provided the historic basis for the award.

He said: “From the 13th century, our trade in Aberdeen had craftsmen of similar skillsets banding together for the same broad reasons: to set and maintain standards of their craft; to ensure that their skills were passed on to future generations; and to support and look after their fellow members.

“When the textiles industry in Aberdeen fell into decline, the concept for the Career Enhancement Award was born. The winner receives a cash prize with the intention that it will be used to provide them with the skills and knowledge to progress them to a rewarding career.

“We have been extremely proud to help nurture and encourage the students at Gray’s School of Art, to ensure that the centuries-old principles and practices of the Weavers continue on.”

Josie Steed, Course Leader for Fashion & Textile Design at Gray’s School of Art, said: “The Weaver Incorporation Career Enhancement Award is a rewarding experience for all of our students at all stages of the application process.
“This year, we had over 70 students apply for the award. By writing, presenting and delivering a proposal to the Weavers, our students develop lifelong skills in how to promote themselves in a professional environment and to consider their career journeys.
“We are extremely grateful to the Weaver Incorporation for its continued support over the years and for the incredible impact they have had on the lives of our successful students.”

Kirsty, who is now in the final year of her degree, was presented by Deacon Dale with the J Gray Kilgour Medal, a certificate of excellence and £600. While third year student Laura took home a certificate of commendation and the runners-up prize of £300.
The awards, which are judged on the basis of a submitted portfolio and an interview, go towards helping the students fund an opportunity that will help them in starting their career – for example, to purchase a piece of equipment and materials, a study trip or a specialised workshop.

Kirsty, originally from New Deer, submitted a portfolio based on a dress she knitted after being inspired by a project brief in stage three of her degree, called ‘Making it Personal’. She said: “The research and development of my pattern and colours was inspired by my favourite book, which is ‘Tales of Beedle the Bard’, a spinoff from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

“When I found out I had won, I was obviously extremely happy. The knitted dress wasn’t technically perfect – one sleeve ended up being longer than the other – but I was really thankful to see that the Weavers had noticed my potential. Thanks to the prize, I can now really refine my techniques and make sure all my sleeves are the right length now.”

Kirsty used her winnings to develop her knitting skills at a week-long advanced knitting course at Heriot-Watt University, where she learned more textured ways of knitting and saw the differences between low and high-quality knitwear. She also purchased her own knitting machine, to improve her knowledge and work on garments at home.

She said: “The short course I went on has given me so much more knowledge and has built my confidence in sharing my opinions about how great knitwear should look. It’s enabled me to take the plunge and apply for a graduate job in London with John Lewis. I will also continue to produce my own knitwear and hopefully in a few years I’ll be selling my own designs.”

Laura’s submitted portfolio featured three boards with textile samples based on political events from her native Latvia in the 1980s.

She said: “I was inspired by interesting protests like the ‘Song Revolution’ and the ‘Baltic Way’, which was the longest human chain, which stretched from Lithuania, through Latvia to Estonia. This project was very personal to me and I think it was the reason why I managed to create quite a nice selection of samples.

“The Weavers’ runner-up prize gave me a massive boost in confidence and it was nice to see that other people believe in me and my work. I used the prize to buy a selection of yarns, which I used while designing a small collection of knitted outfits and teaching myself new knitting technologies.”

Laura opened her own Etsy and Amazon Handmade shops this summer, where she sells knitted hats and scarves. She said: “In the future, I hope to own my own knitwear brand and my experience with the Weaver Incorporation has given me confidence to push on in this direction.”

Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski, Principal of Robert Gordon University, said: “We are tremendously proud of the hard work our students have put in to apply for this award and are thankful to the Weaver Incorporation for recognising that effort.

“The staff at Gray’s School of Art have a strong relationship with the Weavers and it is very pleasing that we can continue to benefit not only the lives of our students but the textile industry as a whole.”

The following article is taken from the Robert Gordon University website and was written by Jonathon Milne, the Communications Officer.

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