Fabric Lab 4

Our Journal

Supporting students in the Fabric Lab – Celebrating our outstanding Technical Resource Manager

Kathryn Hays, Technical Resource Manager for Plymouth College of Art has been working tirelessly throughout the pandemic to help students access equipment, resources and facilities vital to their art school education experience.

Kathryn Hays, Technical Resource Manager for our Fabric Lab, is well-known to staff and students at Plymouth College of Art, for her keen commitment to embedding sustainability in the creative practices of all the students that she teaches and supports, and for the caring and welcoming environment that she works hard to create. Kathryn manages a team of seven Technical Demonstrators and Workshop Coordinators who help students to learn about materials and process knowledge around texture, pattern, colour and construction, through an understanding of textile and fabric properties.

Since early in 2020, Kathryn stood out particularly for her incredible dedication to maintaining the experience of students during the pandemic, particularly in response to the many changing levels of access that students have had to our industry-standard workshops and facilities due to Government restrictions. Kathryn went far beyond what was expected, supporting student achievements that would not have been possible without her resolve.

Kathryn Hays wearing a white top and her Plymouth College of Art lanyard stands smiling and relaxed in front of the Fabric Lab, a textiles resource and facility for students

Kathryn Hays, Technical Resource Manager for the Fabric Lab at Plymouth College of Art

Professor Paul Fieldsend-Danks, Interim Principal & Chief Executive of Plymouth College of Art, said: “During the beginning of the pandemic, when national guidelines made it impossible for students to access the workshops, studio spaces and facilities that we had thought of as so integral to the art school experience, Kathryn really stepped up to the plate and led multiple initiatives to give students the skills and resources that they would need to complete their studies and adjust their studio practices to compensate for such unprecedented changes.”

Like all universities in the UK, Plymouth College of Art was forced to temporarily suspend face-to-face teaching on campus in March 2020. Despite a seamless transition to hybrid teaching, lockdown restricted access to equipment and resources that are an integral part of an art school experience. The work of Kathryn in championing the needs of students was instrumental in establishing systems and support networks to ensure that students could work effectively remotely. The impact of these contributions continue to materially affect the experience and outcomes of graduating students whose work can be seen across Plymouth in the 2021 Summer Shows.

"[Kathryn's] dedication to students is second-to-none. She really is a star!”
Helen Jones, third-year BA (Hons) Printed Textile Design and Surface Pattern student

Helen Jones, third-year BA (Hons) Printed Textile Design and Surface Pattern student, said: “Kathryn has been amazing throughout our studies, particularly when we were unable to attend the campus during the first lockdown. Nothing was too much trouble. Items were sent abroad to help students continue their studies as well as being dropped off, at an appropriate social distance, locally. Her dedication to students is second-to-none. She really is a star!”

The Fabric Lab, which Kathryn leads, can be used by students of all disciplines and levels, but is utilised most closely by BA (Hons) Textile Design, BA (Hons) Fashion Design, BA (Hons) Interior Design & Styling, BA (Hons) Costume Production, BA (Hons) Painting, Drawing & Printmaking, MA Textile Design and academics.

Emma Gribble, Lecturer for BA (Hons) Printed Textile Design & Surface Pattern and BA (Hons) Textile Practices, said: “Kathryn’s commitment to creating a vibrant working environment is unique. Her expertise and experience in delivering a wide range of textile and print processes enables her to create a workshop experience for students and academics that is nurturing, explorative, experimental, sustainable and aligned with the needs of industry. Kathryn manages the textile studio spaces professionally, promoting sustainability as she challenges students and academic teams to question consumption and more effectively manage any waste that we create.”

During the first national lockdown in 2020, Kathryn worked with our other Technical Resource Managers and Technicians to record and disseminate new video tutorials and advice online, efficiently devising ways for students to undertake processes such as printing and dyeing to fulfil module briefs at home with limited space and resources. The library of new content created now acts as an ongoing resource for students of all disciplines.

Kathryn Hays in one of a number of video tutorials that she initiated for students, available on the Plymouth College of Art YouTube channel

During that first lockdown, Kathryn also organised the loan to students of vital resources needed to complete modules at home, securing the purchase of over 100 items, ranging from sewing machines and their components to mannequins and embroidery machines. She also personally sent out over 250 packs of consumable resources, which she prepared at home, to individuals on programmes working closely with the Fabric Lab.

Loraine Evens, Head of Learning Resource Environment, said: “Kathryn is an invaluable member of the Technical Resource Management team, heading up the Fabric Lab, one of Plymouth College of Art’s four technical Labs. She fosters a community atmosphere both within her team and within the student cohort and is keen to introduce student work to social media platforms, providing them with the confidence to talk about their work with pride. She is a highly motivated, much valued member of my team and one that has a positive effect on all those around her daily.”

Planning for the return of students and staff to our main campus, Kathryn arranged the production of over 600 full-length aprons for textile and print students, eliminating the need for sharing. In doing this she championed the donations of free fabric from suppliers and also used sustainable recycled duvets, leading to a diverse array of aprons (including those made from children’s superhero bedding), creating a vibrant, welcoming atmosphere for students and staff on their return.