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Rebecca Armstrong

Originally from Northern Ireland, Rebecca Armstrong is a designer and maker currently working in London. Her work explores our relationship to material and form, with a focus on cultivating material intimacy. 

With a practice built on craftsmanship and material led design, Rebecca adapts traditional tailoring and millinery techniques in order to create bespoke pieces. Wool felt is used to create elements moulded to the body, forming a physical record of the interaction between body and material.

Rebecca uses poetry and filmmaking to tell the story of these interactions, giving agency to the material object. Desire, contemplation, intimacy and stillness form the pillars of these moments, inviting the viewer to pause and sit with the work a while. 

With special thanks to my sponsors, Kildare Village, for their support during my time at the RCA and to Hield Brothers Ltd. for their very generous donation of materials.

Embossed letters in wool felt, hallmark

Held, Interventions into Material Intimacy 

The starting point for this body of work comes from a desire to cultivate a sense of intimacy between wearer and garment. Felt moulding processes, that have been honed throughout my time at the RCA, are used to create tailored pieces uniquely bespoke to the wearer, pushing the boundaries of the material in order to fit to the contours of the body.

Each piece captures a moment in time, a physical record of this intimate interaction between body and material. However, the sensation of wearing the garment is also key to the cultivation of intimacy.

‘For me, when I wear the jacket I really feel held. It’s not like a bias cut dress that clings to the body in a way that you can barely feel, the jacket has a weight and a presence that I am much more aware of. We fit together and it almost creates the sensation of being embraced, a sense of release as you give in to its form.’

This exploration of our relationship to material and form has culminated in the creation of a short film made in collaboration with Xiangyin Tom Gu. Conversations Between a Garment and her Lover, observes this central relationship between wearer and garment. Often objects are written about from the perspective of the observer and are rarely given a voice. Here the jacket and material are personified, given agency in the relationship.

The film also hints at moments of material interaction outside of the world of clothing. The vessels wrapped in felt, form a metaphor for the act of wrapping the body in felt. They make reference to the work of Joseph Beuys and his view of felt as an insulating, life giving fabric. The reference to felt as a fabric used to soundproof and mute is also important, this idea that it softens sound, creates quiet.

The sense of control that comes with pattern cutting contrasts against the potential unpredictability of moulding and casting.  In these processes the materials begin to dictate some of what happens and the maker must give in to their demands. I believe that it is through this learnt knowledge of the hand that the maker can gain a greater sense of material intuition.

text, poem
a black jacket on a mannequin
a group of 4 black felt wrapped ceramic vessels
black felt wrapped ceramic vessel
black felt wrapped ceramic vessel
black felt wrapped ceramic vessel x2
black felt wrapped ceramic vessel x 3
text, poem
wool felt moulded over breast cast displayed on mannequin
body casting
Moulded felt and buckram material over breast cast
material draped on mannequin
a woman wearing a black jacket
a woman wearing a skirt and jacket
a woman wearing a black jacket and skirt
a woman wearing black jacket and trousers
a mannequin wearing a top and skirt
4 images of clothing on mannequin
a woman wearing a black top and white pants
a person wearing a black top and white pants

The Kildare Village Fashion Scholarship