Erin Lightfoot

Erin Lightfoot is a Brisbane designer who works predominantly with textiles and ceramics. Her work draws on past eras of design for inspiration, and centres on the use of bold colour, geometric shapes, and repetition.

Your past collections have involved looking to 20th century avant-garde design and art for inspiration. How important do you think history is to developing contemporary design?

I find a lot of inspiration by looking back. In my past two collections I have done so with the aim of expressing a particular mood. By referencing historical styles, I can work in a sense of familiarity to my prints. For ‘Relays’, I wanted to convey feelings of fun, pop, and energy. My main inspiration for that collection was 1970′s sports attire. I looked at winter Olympic uniforms and was very taken with 1970′s Adidas runners. For my current collection, ‘Succession’, I wanted to create a series with a sophisticated and intricate look; Edwardian tile patterns came to mind and I used them as the starting point and central reference to my collection.

I look at a lot of imagery while I’m designing. Even if primarily focusing on one particular era, I always try to cast the net wide. I don’t think you necessarily have to consciously look back to get a good design idea, but I think it’s important to have a library of knowledge to draw on. Just as being well read is likely to improve your writing, being somewhat versed on the history of design, style, and art is likely to improve your design.

Your work brings together old and new materials, such as porcelain and digital printing. What is the process for creating a new work, from conception to production?

The process starts with creating an interesting canvas for my prints. I might see potential in an object or shape and first work to realise that blank canvas. That may be creating a porcelain object or finding a chair to reupholster or wall to cover. I usually design a print specifically for a certain surface. I love that print design can have such a dramatic effect on a space or object.

The print design process involves a lot of play and then usually hours of re-drafting and editing. The prints I designed for scarves last year took about 4 months to get right. The processes involved for creating the ceramics are very fiddley and labor intensive, but I think they are worth it because the end result has a beautiful warmth to it.

As far as putting things into production, that can take a while. When I first decided I wanted to make some porcelain bangles, I flew to Canberra and spent a month at my Mum’s sculpture studio. I had no idea how I was going to make them and there was a lot of error in the trials. Now that I’ve worked out my process, the steps are very logical and when I look back at that time now, the ways we went about it really make me laugh. My hoop earrings are another product that took a lot of prototyping before I got them right. Other products, such as my bottle vases, are relatively simple to create as the knowledge is very much already out there.

I slip cast all of my work which means first creating a mould. Then it’s a matter of refining the shape through sanding, polishing, and glazing. My pieces are fired three times to achieve their final look. I do really like the juxtaposition of the digital print and the ceramic.

Tell us how you came to be interested in fashion…

I started out studying graphic design and through that course, took electives in fashion. The first lectures I took were an overview of 20th century fashion and how it was shaped by historical and social forces. I’ve always been interested in history, but loved studying it from a fashion perspective as it is so directly connected to society and culture. I really loved those classes and was looking for a new direction at the time. I had a hunch I was good with my hands so I decided I would apply for the fashion design bachelor degree at QUT.

It was a great course and I got a lot out of it. In my graduate year, I designed a series of prints for the garments in my final collection. I won a bursary award for that work which was incredibly encouraging and left me really keen to develop new work. This lead to the development of my printed porcelain bangles the year after I graduated.

Where do you look for inspiration on matters of style?

I am very much drawn to the artistic and design styles of the early 20th century. I look at furniture, jewellery, fashion, and art. I love the Art Deco and Bauhaus styles. I find the internet eternally useful and usually go for an amble on google when I get stuck. I look for ideas all the time. Often I see an element in something that I pick up on and develop into something else. It might be in a necklace someone is wearing or a print in a magazine. I look at blogs and online shops too. Maryam Nassir Zadeh is my favourite.

What is your most treasured dress-related object or memory?

My year 10 formal dress was pretty good. Joking! My favourite items are usually things I’ve bought travelling. I have a silver ring I had made in India and a pair of beaten gold hoops I bought with some of my last pennies in NY. I also have a few pieces made by friends who are silver smiths that are very treasured.

Give us three words, people or places you associate with Queensland fashion…

Colour, casual, and growth-spurt.

Is there such a thing as a distinct Queensland style?

I’m not sure that it is very distinct, but I do think that Queenslanders tend to be quite open to colour, and I think their approach is a little more relaxed and less inhibited.

Erin Lightfoot, Succession collection, 2013
Erin Lightfoot, Succession collection, 2013
Erin Lightfoot, ceramic bangles from the Relays collection, 2012
Erin Lightfoot, ceramic bangles from the Relays collection, 2012
Vases and textiles from the Succession collection, 2013
Vases and textiles from the Succession collection, 2013
Scarves and jewellery from the Succession collection, 2013
Scarves and jewellery from the Succession collection, 2013

Published in , on March 25, 2014.