BA (Hons) Textile Design graduate from the Glasgow School of Art Jonny McKinnon built on his early career as a microbiologist to reveal the hidden beauty of the natural world in textiles that hum with the essence of life. Find out more about what inspires this extremely talented designer and what he plans to do next.
How did you feel about winning the Colour in Design Award – what does it mean to you.
Being selected as a ‘One To Watch’ at this years New Designers has really helped boost my confidence as a designer. I have always had a love/hate relationship with colour so to be picked up on my use of it means the world to me.
How important is colour in your work and how do you choose and narrow down colours?
Colour is extremely important in my work and composing colour within photographs is a key element of design process. I create large scale, multi-coloured work which I then analyse through a viewfinder to form proportional, composed areas of colour. These are then translated into yarn wraps to add textural qualities to the colour but sometimes a colour looks great in paint but terrible in yarn!
What is your main source of inspiration?
This should not be a difficult question but it is the one which I am having most trouble with! I suppose I’d say science and biology. Having worked as a microbiologist for nearly ten years it is systemic in my design process. My graduate collection was based around Entomology or the study of insects. Initially reading an article on the transferable properties of insects to textiles, I begun to collect specimens and view them under a high powered microscope. The resulting imagery was awash with so much colour and vibrancy that it soon became quite central in my collection.
What makes you happiest/most fulfilled in your creative process?
I find the most fulfillment when I have completed all the initial parts of the design process, threaded up my loom and can sit down to weave. I love that weaving is a part of my job and hopefully always will be now, I find it quite therapeutic in a way, allowing you to step back and feel intrinsic to the process of textile creation.
What are you working on now?
Just now I am working on my first project of the MDES Fashion and Textiles programme at GSA. The brief funnily enough, is centered around colour. A quick two week project aimed at really training the eye to perceive and match colour correctly.
Where do you want to be in 3 years’ time?
In three years my dream would be to have my own studio, designing and creating for my own label. From concept right through textile creation to cutting and finishing, I would love to keep as much of my process in house as possible. The more achievable dream would be to be a tutor in my field, I have had a great experience throughout my time in education and to help develop students the way in which my tutors have helped me, would give me so much job satisfaction.
Creative high point?
Being selected by you guys! Throughout textile design education, the end goal is always to get to New Designers with a beautiful collection but this was not to be this year. To then be picked up through the ND briefs softened the blow of not attending the real thing and picked me right back up again just in time to start my Masters!
Creative low point?
Two months into lockdown I hit my creative wall. As with most students, I had been working from home, struggling to fully complete briefs whilst being confined to a room. A big part of my process is getting feet on the ground, visiting galleries and conducting research and this was taken away. Going digital really forced me to adapt my process and learn new skills though!
Is there one person during your studies/life who has really made a difference to you?
It sounds really cheesy but my wife makes all the difference to my studies. Since day one no matter how ludicrous my ideas she has always believed in me, she deals with the long nights, picks me up during my low points and brings me back down to earth when my ego gets too big. If it wasn’t for her I probably wouldn’t have made it through the last six years of art school!
What is your favourite colour?
Blue. And every possible tone or hue of it. Regardless what colour is in your palette, there is always a complimentary or contrasting tone of blue which will sit alongside it. No matter how much you darken it or lighten it, it remains blue unlike red which darkens to become brown or lighten to a pink, or yellow becomes black or fades away altogether with lightening. Of the three primary colours, blue is the one.
Image credits: Jonathan MacKinnon