WHEN she was just 15, Jessica Clayworth fulfilled a one-week work experience placement at the School of Textiles and Design at the Galashiels campus of Heriot-Watt University.
And, as a result, the fourth-year Galashiels Academy student, who was awaiting her Standard Grade results at the time, discovered what she describes as her “true vocation”.
That stint, supporting staff and students in the screen printing room, proved seminal for Jessica.
“I had no doubt what I wanted to do after my week at the university and earning a place at the campus in Galashiels became my number one priority,” she said this week.
That initial ambition was realised and on Monday, when Jessica, now 21, learned she had graduated with a BA Honours degree in Design for Textiles.
One of an elite band of Borders students to achieve such a distinction, Jessica specialises in creating upholstery and furnishing fabrics using traditional hardy raw materials such as jute and linen, which she imbues with a modernistic and colourful print flourish.
Jessica has been immersed in country pursuits for as long as she can remember because her father Paul is a gamekeeper who, until recently, worked on a sporting estate near Heriot. Paul and Jessica’s mum Sonia are now based at Leitholm in Berwickshire.
She told us: “I have always loved the countryside, but felt country clothing, although very functional and stylish in an enduring kind of way, was a bit boring.
“I wanted to funk it up with imaginative prints, inspired at first by the beautiful plumage of my favourite bird, the pheasant, and my range, which includes fabrics for throws, cushions, curtains and furnishings, reflects that story.”
Jessica’s work was featured in the popular graduate show at the School of Textile and Design’s recently splendidly refurbished High Mill last weekend and next week, her creations will be showcased, along with those of other successful students, at the Dovecot in Edinburgh’s Infirmary Street.
Jessica, who will receive her degree at the graduation ceremony in Galashiels on June 15, had further good news this week when she learned she had been selected to display her work in front of influential domestic and international buyers at the prestigious New Designers Show in London.
Meanwhile, Borderers of all ages have the chance to gain the experience which so transformed Jessica’s life and career at a summer school which will be run at the High Mill in July.
The school’s technical support mananager Jane Robertson confirmed: “We have not had a summer school programme for several years and its revival is very much reflective of the feelgood factor which has come from the refurbished mill and the huge investment in the new halls of residence under construction.
“The summer school will hopefully become a major part of our business in the future, similar to the great colleges of art in Edinburgh and Glasgow. The potential, once the halls are completed for short courses, is tremendous and this could potentially bring a lot of money into the region.”
This year’s four-day courses, all basic in nature, will take place from July 17-20 and be repeated on July 24-27.
Potential students of all ages (and the school is keen to attract young people) will have the choice of four intensive courses: introductions to fashion construction, weaving, machine-knitted fabrics and printed textile design. The cost of each four-day course is £320.
For further details or for a application form, call 01896 892285, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.tex.hw.ac.uk