Interview: Paloma Alarcon
Paloma is a mixed media textile designer, who has recently found her selling point in hand embroidered Peruvian textiles; inspired by the country she was born in. Her designs are colourful, bold and bursting with ancient, symbolic design. As lucky as I am interviewing her today, I am also very lucky enough to be able call her one of my best friends!
Hello Paloma! Long time, no speak. How are you?
Hi, I am doing well thank you.
Tell us a little bit a about your background.
I was born in Peru and moved to London when I was 8. I have been so lucky to have an incredible family, friends and best of both cultures. Living in London has been a blessing and helped me creatively wise throughout my education. Being Peruvian has been beneficial as I am able to go back quite a bit and be bilingual and try to take the best of one culture to the other. I studied secondary to University in London and graduated from the BA (Hons) Textiles at the Arts University Bournemouth in 2017.
When did you realise you had a skill/passion for textiles.
All my childhood I was already seeing traditional Peruvian textiles and that had a strong influence in my craft. I realised I had a passion for textiles during Secondary school, I would always look forward to the ceramic/textiles/ art lessons at school. I decided to study textiles during GCSE and A level, that's when I realised I wanted to do it as a career.
How was University for you and did it help support, peruse your work?
University was great and I loved every minute of making, it definitely helped me to experiment as AUB had a wide range of resources. I managed to exploit all the equipment and trial different techniques; it pushed my work into mixed media embroidery. It structured me into a different mind-set and reinforced that it’s the sector I want to work in.
What’s your favourite technique?
I would say embroidery, since learning it at school it has being my favourite technique. I always find it relaxing and feel that it makes your work even more personal. I feel nowadays everything is machined operated and doing hand embroidery you have to take a step back and it portrays a different effect. I think people value embroidery because its time consuming and there is no limit in what you can do with the technique.
Who inspires your work?
I admire a range of mixed media artist but definitely Jane Bowler; her work is absolutely incredible and has definitely inspired me through my university journey. I also think the work from Meche Correa, who is a Peruvian fashion designer who showcases traditional Peruvian textiles with a modern twist. Lastly the embroidery by Lizl Payne is out of this world!
Congratulations on coming second place for the 2017 Hand and Lock competition! What was that process like?
Thank you! It was a fun process and I was lucky to showcase a piece of my final degree collection as that was the winning price. It helped me to build my confidence and you do go through self-doubt if it is good enough to win, so it was definitely a positive boost. I had lots of fun making the final piece, definitely a rewarding experience.
What was your most enjoyable piece to make at Uni?
Definitely my award-winning necklace piece, I used a variety of modern and traditional techniques such as laser cutting with hand embellishment. I had fun while making it and went for it instead of overthinking every little detail; I also worked very hard while designing it so the whole process was enjoyable.
As a post graduate, where is your career heading now?
A couple of months ago I went to Peru and produced a series of hand embroidered cushions and bags with artisans in Ayacucho. I am in the process of trying to showcase them in different art fairs and advertising them to be able to sell and produce more. My aim would be to help artisan communities with jobs and to bring back a little bit of Peru into the UK. At the moment alongside my textiles work I am working with children with special needs, it's such a rewarding job and would love to perhaps do art/ textiles workshops with different age ranges in the future.
Have you been lucky enough to work with any big designers since being back in London?
I managed to do a placement at Gyunel when finishing university and it was a great experience to learn about hand embroidery and textiles industry. I also had the opportunity to work for Yosuzi, it's an incredible brand and also work with artisans from South America.
Do you have any advice for future and current mixed media designers?
I would say to keep going and never give up, we often get carried away with people’s views and end up thinking about what they would want to see instead of what we want to make. I am also learning that you have to be patient and persevere, just keep on trying new things.
Lastly, where do you hope to see yourself/your work in 5 years’ time?
I am hoping to have my own established studio and brand that has always been the dream. I would also like to give back to the community in one way or another and be able to teach people about textiles. I want to be able to carry on making and pushing the boundaries of mixed media textiles. Keep posted on my Insta @paloma_textiles and Etsy to see what I end up getting up to!
You can take a look at her shop here 'https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/PalomaVictoria'.