Jess Smulders-Cohen, recipient of the 2012 Christine Risley Award
Awarded to a graduating Goldsmiths student for outstanding work relating to textiles, Jess was understandably delighted to receive the prize. She commented: “Winning the Christine Risley Award was a big surprise and a great honour.”
It seems almost inevitable that Jess would at some point develop a love of textiles. “I have two grandmothers who were involved in textiles throughout their lives,” she explained, “one in industrial knitting and the other was a seamstress who did alterations in a boutique.” However, it was only on her art foundation course that Jessica’s passion for weaving came to the fore.
The Christine Risley Award, in Jess' opinion, was testament not just to her own work with textiles, but also to the work she has undertaken volunteering in the textile studio, helping with exhibitions, as well as delivering a number of workshops and talks to other would-be textile enthusiasts. “I would tell anyone, especially if they had an interest in textiles whilst on a fine art course, to make sure they learned a practical technique, since universities like Goldsmiths have so much to offer in the way of workshops and the technicians are very knowledgeable.” Jess also encourages everyone at Goldsmiths to engage with “the amazing textile archive” we have at Goldsmiths. “I would suggest they spend as much time in the basement of Deptford Town Hall as they could!”
Through her work and study, Jess has developed an interest in looms and the cultures that still engage with hand-weaving, an interest that saw her travel to Ghana for research. As her career develops, Jess hopes to move away from fine art and into textile sustainability: “I am interested in the environmental impacts of the industry and, eventually, I expect that the creativity and independent thinking nurtured at my time here at Goldsmiths will help me advance into the field of textile design.”