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On the 25th of January we had an artist talk from Alva Wilson, an artist in residence at the University of Bedfordshire. Alva started out his career doing a foundation course followed by a BA Hons Fashion and Textiles at the University of Middlesex.

After leaving University he worked for a while in fashion company The Ballroom. When this no longer took his fancy, he left. With no occupation a friend suggested he start millinery, he started to experiment and in particular with fabric hats. Alva then decided to pitch his designs to a hat shop in Covent Garden and the shop brought all of them.

Alva then spoke about his inspiration. He is inspired by the world around him, he takes his camera everywhere he goes. He is intrigued by abundance and the 3D.  His next stage of work is to go home and upholster a piece of furniture or create an object such as a wig stand.

Alva talks about his relationship with photographers and in particular Andre Bergeur who conducted a photoshoot with Alva’s hats and a model. Here there was an exchange between the photographer, model and Alva who all profited in a different way. Due to the fact Bergeur won the competition, Alva’s hat within the work got published in several editorials.

For 4 years Alva ran a shop in Hackney called The Hat Gallery. An old chemist, Alva was offered the shop and the apartment above rent free for two years. Although he enjoyed making his hats, he found they alone did not fill up the shop. He reprised making simple clothes that could populate the shop. These sold extremely well, better than the hats did. Alva ran the shop for 4 years, during this time he also received a commission from Hackney Council to create a hat that represented the whole street. Alongside this he also created a chair hat that ended up in Hackney Museum.

After giving up the shop, Alva was at a loose end again. A friend suggested he take up Felting. This enabled him to paint without painting. As a product of this, he started selling felted scarves at Camden Lock. these were extremely popular.

Throughout the last few years, Alva has been in many editorials and been lucky enough to sell a lot of his pieces though shops and market stalls. He focused on menswear for a short amount of time, it being a rather successful project as it is a field that needs designers. However now he is setting his sights back to hat making but alternative design.

I thought Alva was a great designer to come in and talk to us because of his work and the way he has made a living as an artist. He is very open to trying new techniques and putting them out there, I especially took into consideration his use of market stalls to sell his products and wonder if this would be a good investment for the future. Alva was an enthusiastic and positive speaker and was constantly giving us great advice throughout his talk!

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Source images: http://alvaheadwear.weebly.com/

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