It was during her first trip to Bali, in the late 80s, when she came across ikat weavings and waxed batiks that Christina Mclean started her obsession with textiles. “Every trip I’ve ever been on in some way revolves around textiles,” she says. “Whether it’s seeing work exhibited, participating in workshops with master dyers or visiting indigenous makers, I need this to be part of my journey.” After graduating from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Arts in Visual Arts, and majoring in ceramics, Christina ran Chowk Ceramics for 12 years. But she was ready for something new, and wanted it to be in the field of textiles. After further postgraduate study, Christina started working as a textile designer, but after four years the company went into liquidation. This turned out to be a mixed blessing though as she was able to gain contract work for leading fashion houses, including Sass & Bide, Lisa Ho and Ginger & Smart, under her own name Christina McLean Design. Six years later and she has set up TRADE the MARK too, a range of bespoke homewares.
Which five words best describe you? Visual, practical, quiet achiever, persistent, curious, hard-worker.
How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? Straight after graduating from my visual arts degree back in the early 90s I was incredibly fortunate to be offered a studio space to share with a fellow student. On reflection, this was pivotal and really fostered my path as an artist and maker. I developed my ceramic practice, sold at markets and exhibited work in galleries. This evolved over the years into a fully functioning business in partnership with that same fellow student, Penny Evans. We had a wonderful space in Newtown with a gallery and functioning studio where we sold our work. We decided to wind up the business after 10-plus years, because we were both keen to develop our individual practices with other mediums.
I went back and did my post-grad focusing on textiles and straight after completion I got my first textile-related position. This was a fabulous springboard into the fashion industry as it encompassed designing and dealing with a wide range of fashion labels.
There was a digital printing arm to the business and I learnt an enormous amount about this new and emerging technology. This was advantageous in acquiring my next position, working in the wholesale fabric area where overseas manufacture was on the rise. I was again looking after a large number of labels and designing prints for their signature styles. In late 2008 I set up CMTD - Christina Mclean Textile Design - a bespoke textile print studio producing print collections and developing prints for fashion labels.
By mid 2014 I really missed making, my hands and heart were desperate for it. I wanted quality and to be able to produce something out of materials that would last. I’ve always refrained from purchasing mass-produced items and respected and coveted hand craftsmanship. I started developing hand-painted textiles and playing with clay again. Out of this TRADE the MARK was born and I launched my first bespoke collection early this year.
I spin a lot of plates, but I love to be busy!
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Don’t over-think things and to do what you really love.
What’s your proudest career achievement? Seeing my textile designs walk down the catwalk with Ginger & Smart at fashion week. Working with so many talented designers over the years such as Sass & Bide, Willow and Carl Zampatti. And launching my new brand, TRADE the MARK.
What’s been your best decision? Believing in myself, and my own capability. Being brave to have my own creative business when I could have just gone and worked for somebody else.
Who inspires you? Anyone running a creative business. My studio mates – Rachel Castle [interview] and Doctor Lisa Cooper [interview] - great friends and amazing mentors.
What are you passionate about? Pattern and hand craftsmanship. In the words of Vivienne Westwood – buy less, choose well, make it last.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Lucie Rie - her mid-century ceramic forms have always inspired me.
What dream do you still want to fulfill? So many things. I would really love to have an exhibition of some of my larger textile works. To have a showroom or gallery big enough to really showcase them well.
What are you reading? Infinity Net – the autobiography of Yayoi Kusama. I love and admire her obsessive nature. The other is Cloth Bound by Julie Paterson [interview], another truly amazing Australian textile designer and artist.
images courtesy of christina mclean and trade the mark