A Weaver that paints or a Painter that weaves?

Welcome to the world of Kevin Collins

As all adventure stories begin, let me bring you back to my childhood.....

a time whenever everyone was watching blockbusters and the mode of transport was roller-boots( mine were bright blue with yellow stoppers & laces). I was a sensitive child, a natural introvert and happy in my own company. Back then there were only 4 TV channels and no internet, so you really did have to make your own entertainment.

To me that meant a few activities; pogo-ing, space-hoppering and hula-hooping were my main sporting outlets. I also enjoyed designing & creating things, I'd be happy as anything to spend an evening in front of the TV gluing lollypop sticks together, or building towers out of playing cards. My biggest project came whenever my dog Bruno ran away for the last time(he seemed to always be off somewhere) and I took the opportunity to move into his kennel. I certainly had vision, I moved it to the bank of the river out the back of the house and persuaded my Mum & Dad to let me decorate it. Wallpaper of choice was Ghostbusters!

I spent many a happy hour there planning designs for the garden and riverbank creating my own world. This is probably where my love of art and sketching and creating probably came from.

I'd doodle and sketch away, and the feedback was good, so that was me addicted from then on.

I was encouraged from an early age, it makes such a difference whenever you have a good art teacher.

After school, I entered a foundation course in Art at University Of Ulster in Belfast.

I started the course in September and had a ball, trying my hand at all different mediums, print making, life-drawing, sculpture, perspective & photography. All were great, but I loved painting! The quickness at being able to create something from nothing from my imagination using just paint and a board is just a form of Alchemy!

I decided the only course for my future was Fine Art! I went for my interview for the degree course and didn't get in, I was gutted. I wasn't mentally prepared for the rejection, so I took the only course of action I could think of....... I applied for a degree course in Marketing with Irish Law and French in Dublin.

I don't know what I was thinking, perhaps it was the easiest option to take at the time, but you can guess how this path turned out. That's right, it wasn't for me, but to be fair I stuck it out for almost a year, but I couldn't tell you one thing that I learned on the course!

I did also work in a supermarket to help fund my student life, and I remember that more bizarrely. From working in a biscuit isle, the people of Dublin really LOVE chocolate Kimberley Biscuits!

I headed back home to Newcastle and took a job at a Linen finishing factory in Castlewellan called Murloughs, inspecting the cloth going through the machines. It was a nice place to work, no pressures, and I'd happily work away.

I must've mentioned in my interview that I'd an art backgound, as I was given the opportunity to apply for a job in the head-office of the Linen producers we were processing.

The job was as a trainee handloom weaver, and I was being trained by the Head Designer Michelle Delaplagne. From not even knowing what a handloom Michelle trained me from the basics up ;how to set up the handloom, how to pick patterns, how to colour-match to customers specific palettes, how to create weaving specifications and how to calculate costs.

I loved the work, and ended up staying with Ulster Weavers for about 12 years, and whenever the demand for Irish Linen declined I finally left the company as the Design Manager. It gave me the opportunity to travel the world on Sales trips, Factory visits & Trend-forecasting exhibitions.

To this day I'm keep weaving, but now on a freelance basis, for Baird McNutt in Kell based outside Ballymena. I have my own studio there to work from, with my trusty handloom and sample colour cones of yarns. With so much expertise and knowledge lost over the last 10 years, its brilliant that the team has survived through the hard

times. In the last few years, there's been a resurgence in the demand for Irish Linen, and the skills and quality of this product are again being appreciated.

Up until recently I've also been working in an Art shop in Belfast, where my love of painting has been renewed. It's the perfect environment to be encouraged, surrounded with people passionate with what they're creating.

During this period of my life is when I started selling some of my Artwork, encouraging me to pursue what I love doing.

What about now?

Well, like many people during the last couple of years, I've re-evaluated what I want to do with my life.

That'll be a story for another time......

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#weaver #linen #ulsterweavers #bairdmcnutt

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