BELLA NALIAKA, 27, hopes to be at the forefront of a movement to help the fabric design industry prosper. She spoke to SHIRLEY GENGA
What do you do for a living?
I am a fabric designer. My job involves coming up with colour scheme, selecting fabric and coming up with prints that can change a white fabric into a work of art.
Where did you study design?
I studied design at University of Nairobi. In the first two years, we did basic design and then specialised afterwards. I chose to specialise in fabric design. I was drawn to it because it is versatile as it deals with everything from clothes to jewellery. Also, the outcome of fabric designing is always a pleasant shock. When you transfer a print from paper to fabric, the end result is always breath-taking. You can never go wrong with fabric design because what one person may not like, another will.
Is it important to go to school to learn about fabric design or you can just rely on talent?
While it is wonderful to have passion for fabric design, it is good to get training. In school, one learns about which dyes to use, about mixing colour and what techniques to use. Fabric design includes everything from: tie and dye, batik, screen-printing, painting and embroidery. Plus it is a very technical hands-on job; having a design on paper does not automatically mean it will lead to fabric design.
What do you love about your job?
What are the challenges you face in your profession?
The dyes we get in the market do not have consistent shades of colour. The shades keep changing and there is nothing you can do because you are not the manufacturer. You can, for example, buy and mix two yellow and one blue to get a certain shade of green today, but the next time you go to the market, the shades of blue and yellow have changed and you can’t mix them to get green shade you got the last time. Weather is also another huge challenge. When it rains, it drains the colour and it takes too long to dry. On the other hand when it is too hot, the colour fades.
Is it a job you can do on your own?