Rachel McKnight is known for her work with innovative textiles and the original pieces that she creates. She started her studies at the University of Ulster in Belfast and then in 2003 when she graduated she started her first workshop in her parent’s garage and this is where she developed Rachel McK! I love a brand with real roots and Rachel has created her brand from a love of design and it is no wonder that she is having a successful career.
Rachel McK creates jewellery and some household items out of acrylic, polypropylene and silver and the idea of transparency and opaque colour influences her designs, and plastics allow her to explore this. When I saw Rachel’s work on the Irish Fashion Innovation Award‘s catwalk I was very impressed. The textiles that she uses are so unique and the cut and shape of her pieces are both unique and showstopping. And I am delighted to be featuring her on Floralesque today.
Have you always had an interest in design and being creative?
From a young age, I was interested in all kinds arts activities, I loved making puppets and putting on shows. I made my own theatre, charged entry and paid my brother to do the lights!
The ruffles that you create in some of your bangles are some of my favourite pieces. Do you have a favourite piece that you have created?
My favourite piece was my first large sculptural piece, it is a giant pink swirl collar. It was a bit of a headache to make because it was before laser cutters and I had to get a blacksmith to make me a giant steel bath to dye the plastic, which took over my mum’s cooker. The piece sold a few years ago to an American buyer.
Where do you find the inspiration for your pieces?
I love simple repeated shapes and patterns, these can be in nature or architecture.
What is your favourite part of the design process?
I love experimenting with paper and plastic. I cut and fold different shapes and usual things happen by accident.
Are there any designers/jewellers that you find inspiring?
Angela O’Kelly is one of my favourite designers, her work is incredible, made from paper, she creates amazing sculptural jewellery, she’s also a really lovely person.
The materials that you use in your pieces is very innovative. What draws you to use materials such as acrylic and polypropylene?
I was encouraged to experiment with alternative materials during my degree and I loved it. I love that you can have translucent or opaque colours. You can also do so many things with plastics, options are endless.
I love how modern technology is helping to shape more creative pieces to be created. I believe that you use laser cutting in your work? Can you please tell us a little more about it?
Yes, I got my laser cutter about 8 years ago now, it’s getting old, (like me). I create designs either by scanning in drawings or importing designs from Illustrator. I manipulate and organise them on the screen, then I load a sheet of plastic on the bed, close the lid and send to design to the cutter. Basically, the laser beam follows the design lines that you create. You can set it up to cut, engrave and etch. Each material has different settings for each effect. I can cut all materials on my machine apart from metal.
Creating a design business no doubt has had its challenges. Is there something that you wish you had been told before you began?
Never be afraid of getting too busy. I used to fear not being able to fulfil orders or getting work finished, but being busy and in demand is amazing, you will always get the work done and if your struggling, communication is the key.
Although I am sure how to chose, what has been your proudest moment to date?
Oooooh that’s a hard one. I suppose I’m quite proud that I’m actually doing this and I keep working and re- inventing from year to year. I’m also very proud that I have work held in some public collections. National Museum Ireland, Ulster Museum and Arts Council of Northern Ireland.
What does the future hold for Rachel McK?
I’ve had a really busy start to 2017 so I’m heading off for a much needed holiday first, then I’m straight back to creating new work. I’ll be showing at Craft at Top-drawer this September and I’ve also promised myself I’ll get organised for Christmas early this year.
A massive thank you to Rachel for doing the interview – it was great to learn more about the process of how she creates her pieces. You can see more of her work on her website and she is also on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
All stock images used with permission from Rachel McKnight.
Here is another snap from the Irish Fashion Innovation Awards and if you would like to read more about the Awards – please click here.