CETG talk on Monday 11th April 2022
Kate Gwilliam – Making the Mundane Marvellous by the Queen of Sequins
We were delighted to welcome Kate Gwilliam, the Queen of Sequins, to our first in-person talk since the pandemic.
Resplendent in a sparkly, sequinned skirt, and surrounded by her exquisite creations, Kate described herself as “a bit of a magpie”, tracing her love of all things sparkly back to childhood and her collections of vintage trims, buttons and glassware. Kate studied for a Textile Design degree at Falmouth University which included work placements and industry experience. As an intern for couture wedding dress designer, Phillipa Lepley, British interior designer Matthew Williamson and high street retailer Monsoon, Kate became immersed in the innovative ways of using sequins and sparkle in the context of contemporary design. Working as a freelance with with Jenny King and Cathryn Avison allowed Kate to develop her skills and commercial expertise before deciding that her future lay in working for herself.
“It all started with an avocado, followed by a gin bottle and then Larry the Lobster…….” One Christmas Kate designed and made some hanging sequinned avocado pieces which sold well, quickly realising that this was her new path, taking on less freelance work and developing her range of original decorations. Kate enjoys “making the mundane marvellous”, taking inspiration from domestic artefacts, from supermarket aisles and from vintage “must haves”. Kate loves the fact that sequins come in a range of shapes, sizes and colours that make it possible for her to change the colour of her pieces easily, especially for her seasonal decorations. If Kate needs a particular shape, colour or size of sequin that isn’t readily available, she even makes her own on occasion! Every piece that Kate produces is made by her, working entirely by hand and by hand-guided machine; each piece is a work of art, representing many hours of intensive work. Kate has taken on Christmas decoration contracts with Harrods and Selfridges; in 2020 over a five-month period Kate made 1000 ornaments to meet demand! Kate likes to work to commission, liaising with clients to produce unique pieces.
Although Kate has an impressive collection of sequins, threads and fabrics, she is always looking for ways to be more sustainable. Her searches include finding a sequin supplier using recycled PET for the manufacturing process, to finding suppliers of natural wool felt.
We enjoyed hearing about Kate’s journey to being the self-appointed “Queen of Sequins” and loved the opportunity to see her ornaments at close hand. We wish her all the very best for her future.
Words © Sue Robinson/April 2022
Photos © Kate Gwilliam