Swan Fabric Print (2021)

The individual elements of this repeat print design are all original hand-printed linocuts, arranged into a pattern and digitally printed onto silk bamboo fabric. The design was created as the outcome of a project that was centred around swans in Edinburgh and some of the wider folklore that surrounds them.

Swans have associations with transitions to the Celtic Otherworld, with the idea of being able to move between two realms. I became interested in the role that textiles can play in this transition. Several folk tales reference a 'swan cloak' of feathers that allows a transformation between human and swan form; through putting on the cloak the figure will magically take on the form of a swan and be able to journey to this other realm. This is especially thought to be the case at Samhain, the Celtic festival occurring on the 31st October. The imagery on the fabric explores the wearing of a cloak as bringing about this magical transformation, amongst swans, moons and hawthorn trees. The hawthorn has various folkloric properties as well as the idea that it grows at the threshold between the human and the faerie realm.

Images/video copyright 2021 by Ruth Nichols-Pike

Project on display at the Masters Degree Show 2021 at Edinburgh College of Art (20th-27th August 2021)


Part of the idea of this fabric piece was that the overall effect of this fabric when worn as a cloak is similar to the design on the garment of the swan/human figure within the pattern itself. Through the wearing of the fabric the individual will be completely surrounded by the imagery and magical themes, literally immersing themselves within the narrative and using their imagination to transport themselves, like the swan, to another realm. 

The print was especially inspired by the swans at St Margaret's Loch, Edinburgh, and as such the design explores the idea of the magic of a place and the enchanting things that can be found within nature. 

The video below shows the fabric being worn as a cloak, at the original location that inspired the project.