Staff profile: Zoë Hillyard

Zoë Hillyard is the Senior Lecturer on the BA (Hons) Textile Design course. 

Take a look at her career highlights so far and her tips for students studying BA (Hons) Textile Design.

Zoe Hillyard blog primary

What did you study at university?

I studied Textile Design in the late 1990s, specialising in Embroidery. Creatively, it ignited my interest in structure, craftsmanship and culture, but it also inspired me to aspire to teach.

What are you career highlights?

There are many! My career has had many chapters…An early highlight from my initial fashion industry days, was seeing my embroidered scarf collection on sale in Liberty’s, sharing a table with those of Armani. Later it was seeing the knitwear garments I designed for Marion Foale being showcased at Paris Fashion Week.   As my career focus changed and my interest in craft based livelihoods strengthened, spending a year as a VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) volunteer developing textile design education in Mongolia was an incredible experience.  It went onto inform my MsC in Applied Development Studies and led onto me re-establishing my own practice again. I now create textile/ceramic art pieces that are made for exhibition and to commission.  This year my work featured in COLLECT: The International Art Fair for Contemporary Objects at the Saatchi Gallery – a personal ambition realised!  Developing an academic and practice career in parallel has not been easy, so achieving Senior Lecturer was certainly a highlight.

What are your specialist areas?

A cross-disciplinary practice and approach to craft and design which involves a broad spectrum of textile specialist skills, combined with design and industry awareness which I explore through 3-dimensional applications of textiles. Also, nurturing creativity and seeking to develop confident, resilient humans are integral parts of my work.

What are your research interests?

I continue to be interested in the role that craft plays within livelihood strategies.  I am particularly interested in communities that face extreme challenges, whether that is due to remoteness, climate or natural disaster.   I explore ideas of fragility, resilience, resourcefulness and regeneration through materials in my practice.

What is your favourite part about working at Birmingham City University?

I am so lucky to work with an incredible range of dedicated, creative and playful people – staff and students!  I value the relationships that I build and feel privileged to be part of the journey everyone is on.

Do you have any tips for students studying Textile Design?

Seize the opportunity to learn – miss as little of the teaching as is humanly possible!  Be a sponge, soak things up.  Take full advantage of the technical equipment on offer, but also the ‘extras’ – visiting speakers, competitions etc.  Do things that build your confidence.  Recognise your comfort zone and challenge it.  Above all be a ‘curious octopus’ – reach out in many directions to feed your creativity.

Lastly, do you have any advice for working in the industry?

Gain as much experience as possible to work out what works for you.   Initially, be brave and say yes to everything.  Later on, work out what you want, then identify the small steps you need to take to nudge you towards that direction.  Always maintain your integrity in how you design and interact with others.  Don’t be frightened to pick up the phone…

To see more of Zoë’s work head to her website or Instagram @ceramicpatchwork and Twitter @ZoeHillyard to stay up to date with her work.

Find out more about BA (Hons) Textile Design