The Arts Interview: Fiona Byrne

John Rainsford

Reporter:

John Rainsford

The Arts Interview: Fiona Byrne

Award-winning knitwear and textile designer Fiona Byrne

Born in Rathvilly, Co Carlow, I initially attended Rathvilly National School and later Tullow Community School for my secondary education.

 In fact, it was my mother who had initially attended Limerick School of Art and Design and so I suppose that it was a given that I would study there too. Indeed, my mother had a huge impact on my love of art and really encouraged me to draw and to make. Growing-up, we would visit galleries together and afterwards discuss and be inspired by what we had seen. 

 

 

At LSAD, I studied knitwear and textiles, as I knew from an early age, that I wanted to pursue a fashion avenue. 

This interest in knitwear surprised me though. I enjoy working on raw material through to the finished fabric, but with knitting there are endless possibilities from a foundation of only two stitches, namely knit and purl. My tutor at LSAD, Liz Spillane, fostered my love of knitting, and showed me that anyone can be good at it if they are willing to put the time into making and exploring textiles. 

 

 

Today, my work is an expression of many varied interests, including the materials and textures that I am drawn to. 

It also provides me with a way of playing with the shapes, colour, and imagery that I absorb and interact with on a daily basis. Creative thinking and experimentation allow me to discover new techniques and unique textiles. Patience is, however, a key element involved in practicing knitwear as it is a slow process that requires concentration and dedication.  Knitwear and textile instruction at LSAD teaches you not only the technical skills but also a love and appreciation for the craft and materials that you are using. 

 

 

Currently working in sales and marketing for an Irish knitwear brand, I hope to apply my growing business acumen in my own practice.

 I am excited to gain an understanding of the industry before branching out on my own, particularly with an Irish brand, as my ultimate aim would be to keep my production local. Starting with a small collection in Ireland can be a great way of testing your product on the market and introducing people to your brand. 

 

 

Recently I won a residency support grant in the Future Makers Awards and was shortlisted for the Institute of Designers in Ireland (IDI) Awards for my graduate collection. 

It was great to be shortlisted and awarded, especially when the other students in the award were so talented. The funding given by Future Makers has allowed me to travel to London for further training in textiles. Without this award I definitely would not have been able to do that so I am really grateful to them. I would encourage every art or design student to enter these competitions because it's a great way to have your work seen by the public and to gain some invaluable feedback. With this in mind, I will be attending a training course on leather working. I am excited by the prospect of learning some new techniques and of course spending more time in London. Apart from that I recently attended the Limerick Repair Café organised for Fashion Revolution Week by Aisling McCallion. It was such an energizing experience to get involved with an event that is trying to action real change in the industry and to change how people view their clothes. 

 

 

For my third year of college I went to London and interned with Una Burke, an amazing Irish leather designer. 

It was really a completely new experience for me but I learnt so much while there (to apply to my own practice). London was a really inspiring place to live, art is so prevalent there and the galleries and museums are very accessible and well promoted. The exhibitions in galleries like the Fashion and Textile Museum inspired me going into my fourth year. The modern architecture of London also sparked an interest in looking at the architecture of sci-fi films as an inspiration for my graduate collection. Since then, I have continued travelling to places like Prague, Italy, and next Croatia, I always find after travelling that I have fresh ideas and renewed motivation.

 

 

Inspiration tends to come from my own interests, always being fascinated by anime and Japanese culture, and this really informed my college collection entitled; XXXii.

 The name was inspired by Sci-fi films like ‘Akira’ (which is set in that future year!) and ‘Blade Runner’. At the time I was reading George Orwell’s 1984 which helped me to form a dystopian setting for the collection. 

For more information about Fiona please see: Instagram: @fi_fibyrne