Meet the Maker........Angharad Barlow
Ever since I was a child I have had a love of theatre, performance and of exploring realities. I was fortunate to grow upon a wild part of Dartmoor where magic and myth were part of everyday life. It led me to study art and fashion followed by a BA Hons in Costume for the Performing Arts at the London College of Fashion. My years in London saw me working in West End theatre, film and television, involved with special effects costume and creature-building,wardrobe and styling.
My return to Devon enabled me to develop my passion for sustainable textiles and create a childrenswear business using beautiful recycled fabric and also to start a textiles recycling resource as part of a community centre for sustainability.
I have developed projects and workshops for adults, children and communities promoting awareness of the environmental impact of textiles and attempting to change attitudes to waste. Central to my beliefs are environmental ethics and sustainability and my work reflects this. I now live in a beautiful village on Dartmoor with my son (and chickens) where I work part-time as a stylist and have my studio.
My biggest inspiration as a child was Perrault's story 'Donkey Skin' – a wonderful tale of transformation. A disguise created from the skin of a beloved beast hides the wearer’s true identity and gives her protection because, superficially,she is perceived as repulsive and grotesque. The story then shows how breathtaking dresses woven from moonbeams, sunshine and sky act as a metaphor to illustrate how perceptions, realities and, indeed, ourselves can be transformed by stepping in and out of different ‘skins.’ That is when I realised I wanted to be in the business of skins – creating new skins for people to wear!
The clothes we wear are the stories we are telling to those around us. It can be a statement, a truth, a lie, a defence, a ritual or anything you can imagine. A million words and more… I see creating garments as an opportunity to play with realities and create illusions. We change our identities, persona and even form by what we wear. I am fascinated how our contemporary fervour for fashion is a development of such an ancient, ingrained human ritual.
The ideology of transformation and facilitation of change through skins, clothes, masks and decoration is as old as human history.
The tribal elder, the shaman, the priest, the actor, the medicine-man,the warrior, the ruler – they all knew the value of this. The simple act of putting on the costume is half the process of transformation. Ritual items enable our ego and overwhelming sense of self to step aside and for a new identity to form, to make way for spirit or greater forces to flow through us. This has been an integral part of our human myth, our storytelling and our greater connectedness to the Universe and it is my dream to achieve that connectedness again. Traditionally an animal would be honoured for its skin and cloth cherished.
We all know that what we wear affects the way we feel and therefore affects the reality of our life. Everything in existence has an energetic/vibrational value, so for me it seems right that we should pay attention to the significance of everything we use to adorn our bodies, not only for visual image but also as a tool. A garment has colour, fibre, history, intention, memories, culture, tradition… and that is before you even add into the wearer and their purpose into the mix.
My work is essentially a spiritual practise. Creating a garment is an alchemical process of the body. The ideas, the physical momentum of the hands and creative intentions bound together by a magical stitch to conjour up a required reality. I believe what we wear can be used to affect our own vibrations and those around us. I use my shamanic practices and healing arts to filter through my designs working with pattern, colour, texture, symbols and the song of the spirit of the cloth.