Continuing in our interview series, we are happy to introduce Julia Ableson. Julia lends such a positive attitude to the studio. It’s been lovely seeing her grow in her design abilities over the years.
How did you choose Textile Design as a major?
When I graduated from high school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study, so I started working and taking a few classes at the County College of Morris in Randolph, NJ. I had heard of Textile Design programs, but I wasn’t ready to go away to a four-year school yet. I soon declared an Interior Design major because I knew that I wanted to do something art-related and because it was the closest major to Textile Design that CCM offered. For a while, I planned to finish my Bachelor’s degree in Interior Design, but eventually, I realized that I wanted to do something more hands-on and materials related. During my last semester there, I took an independent study course with Daryl Lancaster, an NJ-based handweaver and fiber artist. That course helped solidify my decision to switch majors to Textile Design and to move to Philadelphia to attend the program at PhilaU/Jefferson.
When did you learn to knit/weave/print, and who taught you?
When I was around eight years old, my mom gave me a knitting kit for Christmas, and my aunt and grandma taught me how to handknit. They also taught me how to sew and instilled a love of fabric and fiber in me. I also remember my grandma teaching me how to weave on a tapestry loom (another Christmas gift!). Daryl Lancaster taught me how to hand weave, from winding the warp and dressing the loom to weaving with floating selvages and color effects.
What is your favorite book of all time?
This is such a hard question because I love books and the way that words can change your life. I think I’ll go with Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. It feels like home, and it is sweet, wise, funny, serious, perceptive, and joyful all at once. I also appreciate its rich history and how it is still impacting the world today.
Which design from your portfolio are you most proud of, or is most special to you?
I’m the proudest of the woven collection I created based on the movie To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. I planned out the harness draft specifically so I could weave a sample that looked like a wall in Lara Jean’s room from the film, and I’m really pleased with how cohesive and balanced the yarns and colors are throughout the collection. I’m also really happy that the collection celebrates a film with Asian American representation in its lead cast.
Are there any techniques in textile design you’d like to explore further?
Yes! This semester, I’ve been playing a bit more with materiality (such as using magnetic ferrofluid to create motifs for a print collection), and I would love to continue doing that. Embracing materiality has helped me to break outside of my design box, so to speak, and to embrace the process more, which has been really good for me. As far as weaving goes, I’d love to try leno at some point.
What advice would you give an incoming student into the Textile Design department?
Welcome! We’re so glad you are here! You will learn so incredibly much in the next few years. This program is hard and takes a ton of dedication, but you are going to grow so much and make beautiful and innovative things. Don’t try to do it alone. One of the best things about our Textile Design program is how supportive everyone is. You can be honest with your peers and professors about how you’re feeling on both your good and bad days. Whether you’re an undergraduate or graduate student, make friends with the people around you. It’s important to participate in both the giving and receiving ends of that support system.
And ask questions, lots of them! Ask how to use the equipment, ask what your fellow students are working on, ask your professors what their career paths have been so far. There is so much to learn, and those questions will help you move forward.
What is your favorite thing about Textile Design?
I think my favorite thing about Textile Design is that the possibilities are endless. Textiles are everywhere, and their purpose can be aesthetic, functional, or any combination thereof. I love seeing people’s personalities come through their work and watching how everyone’s original ideas evolve throughout the semester. Being a textile designer means I get to turn ideas into fabric! It’s pretty incredible to be a part of that.