It’s strange to interview a friend. On the one hand, you feel like you know them well already through shared conversations and experiences, but on the other hand, you don’t necessarily know them well at all - how often do we really stop and ask them a series of questions about their life?
Andrew Graeme is a friend of dott - he actually designed our website. But he is also a textiles student at Chelsea College of Art and hugely talented designer with a passion for making the digital and print worlds collide. You might have seen some of his pieces featured here. So when I sat down to interview him I did so as a friend and as a writer: asking him questions I already knew the answer to in order to find out something completely different. So it was strange.
Andrew is one of those people dott loves: the Londoners who are willingly to give up their time for potential creativity. Cumbrian by birth but growing up in the Cotswolds, he wanted to move to London “as soon as I could - moving from a place where you have one bus a week to a metropolis”.
He got the opportunity to do this through a textiles foundation at Central Saint Martins, followed by his current textiles course (working at a church doing media design in the interim). The love for digital textile design came from progressively exploring the use of print in fashion - “I found through doing internships that the printing process on the high street is like selling your soul. There is a lack of creativity because the high street has demands regarding what will sell. I want to create a product with purpose - a garment that is constantly reacting and creating itself so it can be personalised to the consumer. We live in such a throwaway society - there are huge amounts of fabric waste everyday - so we need to create a product that is designed to reduce the need to consume. This is slow fashion - looking at what the consumer actually needs, rather than creating it according to capitalist demands. That’s the same with dott magazine – it is consumer led”.
His current project, Delta V, encapsulates consumer-led creation. Andrew uses code to visualise kinetic movements and create prints from those. He then turns the visuals into interactive code that dancers and athletes can influence through their movements. His eventual aim is to create a garment that an athlete can wear and will interact with their movements constantly - a digital item of clothing.
This strikes me as unusual in two ways. Firstly, it is a perspective on ethical fashion that I haven’t heard of before - tackling the consumer demand to be constantly buying, rather than the lack of ethics in production and manufacture. Secondly, it straddles two worlds: that of mathematics, and that of art. I ask Andrew this but he questions my separatist view of creativity -
“being creative is being adaptable to situations, and thinking of new ways to approach problems. Take being a doctor. They have to be creative in thinking of new ways of operating, new ways of diagnosing”.
It turns out that Andrew isn’t really into boxes or labelling of anything –
“I like to question social constructs, how people behave, why they think things – from gender to table manners. Why is it rude to eat off your knife? We have a belief that it is rude but we haven’t questioned why. We sit around saying ‘this is masculine, this is feminine’ and until now no one has questioned what they have been taught so things stay as they always have been”.
This is something he’s tackled in his personal life – not only has London allowed him to explore creativity, but he has been able to question self-identity and the boxes used to define him.
“Growing up I had only ever been friends with women, so my identity had always erred in the feminine direction. But when I was 16/17, there wasn’t much exploration in the media about what gender is and the plethora of lexicon that has exploded now. So at that time I was almost naïve – on the one hand exploring homosexuality and calling myself ‘gay’ but on the other hand not being sure about my own gender identity. In secondary schools in the Cotswolds, there was about one person per year who was exploring sexual identity. So coming to London was a huge eye-opener because I was allowed to be independent and meet others who were exploring their identity”.
“In London I was putting feelers out there to how other people reacted to my identity, particularly in the church community. At one point I was trying to fit them side-by-side but struggling to make it work. When I went back to uni, I realised this meant my self-exploration wasn’t developing, so I pulled back from church. So much of last year was a process about breaking down tick boxes of gender and which gender I felt comfortable to define myself by. Now, some days I feel more feminine, other days more masculine and I see myself as non-binary. This has made me start thinking about the idea of pansexuality – because if you don’t have a set gender, can you be gay or straight? It’s a very complex world.”
I ask Andrew where he’s at now. Has he arrived at a place where he can live outside boxes and still make sense of himself? Does he feel happy?
“To a degree. I couldn’t deal with thinking of my identity as a cross I had to bear, so I put my faith on a lower shelf. I believe in God, I have a faith but I don’t have a religious practice at the moment. I often wonder if I’ve done the right thing. But at the moment it’s all too much.”
So. Interviewing a friend. You already know them, and yet you know nothing at all. I felt like I understood something a little deeper about Andrew’s personality, about his motivation, about his consistent desire to push the boundaries (and question if there are boundaries in the first place). Whether teaching himself to code, or questioning his friends’ table manners, exploring faith and gender identity, or rejecting high street demands, Andrew continually questions cultural norms. He claims that he has “matured in faith, in people, in myself” and that he “owes a lot of that to London”. But I’m not so sure. London might have given him the space to explore, but the inclination to do so is all him.
Author: Vicky Noble