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Work by Alison Wibmer Image courtesy of Alison Wibmer
Studying Textiles at ECA allowed Alison to explore a broad range of subject matters within textiles which ignited her interest in material science and sustainability.

Since graduating from ECA, Alison has continued to explore her interests in sustainable textiles by studying both an MSc and a PhD in the subject. Alison also received a scholarship from the Worshipful company of Dyers which aided her research in low-energy dyeing processes for wool.

Why I chose to study Textiles - BA (Hons)

I fell in love with the city first - it felt like an amazing place to call home and with inspiring galleries and museums on your doorstep too. Then seeing the studios at ECA, the close-knit community and the amount of face-to-face teaching and guidance that you have access to is really special. It is an environment that pushes you out of your comfort zone, but it is so supportive too. I loved the work that the current students were producing, it seemed exciting, creative, and different. It also appealed to me that you don’t have to commit to choosing a specialism - I was keen to explore as much as possible, and that was definitely encouraged at ECA.

Work by Alison Wibmer
Work by Alison Wibmer

My time at ECA

There were plenty of very broad individual projects where we could explore hugely diverse ideas. We were encouraged to really push boundaries and be creative thinkers, and question what textiles can mean. Everyone in my cohort had such an individual style and worked with different mediums, including painting, dyeing, embroidery, print, drawing, and photography. The benefit of a small department was that we all got to know each other so well - I felt so inspired by our community in the textiles department and supported to explore new techniques and ideas. This allowed me to develop quite niche interests, such as felting and spinning my own yarns.

We had a number of collaborative projects, including one with Interior Design students, which not only gave a really interesting insight into other designers’ ways of working, but also was a great way to make friends and build a community across ECA. Other great experiences included live briefs, a project with fashion students in Shanghai (a great way to learn how to communicate and collaborate online) and making garments for the ECA fashion show.

In our final year, we had a lot of guidance and teaching in how to create our personal brand, creating websites/promotional content and showcasing our work in a way that does it justice. This really stood out when we attended trade shows like New Designers. There were some great opportunities to enter competitions and apply for bursaries, too. I was supported by the Worshipful company of Dyers and Craft Scotland which was such a boost. I also completed a number of internships whilst at ECA which were relevant to my interests of sustainability and materials, including at Kalopsia Collective in Edinburgh, and Studio Claudy Jongstra in the Netherlands.

If I could go back and give myself advice, it would be to get enough rest and look after yourself, especially in final year when things feel a bit hectic! Whilst I was at ECA I did a lot of running and was part of Edinburgh Bhangra Crew, which gave me so much joy and was a grounding focus outside the course.

"We were encouraged to really push boundaries and be creative thinkers, and question what textiles can mean. Everyone in my cohort had such an individual style and worked with different mediums."

Alison Wibmer

Textiles - BA (Hons) alumna

My experiences since graduating

I didn’t want to leave ECA. I had put my heart and soul into my final collection and felt a little lost after graduating, so I took a year to work and save money and went travelling. I am so glad that I took some time away because I came back inspired, with time to think about how I wanted to move forwards, and decided I wanted to go back to university and carry on learning.

I applied for an MSc degree in Textiles, as during my BA I had developed an interest in material science and sustainability. Finishing my MSc dissertation, which was looking at more sustainable water resistant finishes for outdoor clothing, made me realise that I loved this type of scientific research. I also remembered that my brilliant and supportive supervisor for my dissertation at ECA had suggested I look into doing a PhD, so I applied to some PhD programmes.

I was lucky enough to get a scholarship from the Worshipful company of Dyers to study and am now in my first year of my PhD looking into more sustainable, low-energy dyeing processes for wool. I love understanding more about the physical and chemical processes behind the techniques I was using at ECA.

ECA prepared me for life outside by helping me grow in confidence and I left knowing that I was capable of working hard and adapting to different challenges. Most of all, ECA gave me the most wonderful friends for life and the chance to be part of a really special community.

My advice to new and current students

For those starting soon, remember to take this as a chance to experiment, take risks, push the boundaries of your creativity - you can reign things in later if you need to! Also, make the most of the clubs and activities that you can get involved in as part of the wider university, so you have something to be passionate about outside your course.

For those graduating, I would say reach out to designers you admire, send emails, and be active in asking about internships and jobs - this is how I got my dream internship in the Netherlands. But also, don’t be afraid to take a little break and some time to rest and reflect.

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