Former mill director Quentin and textile designer Ana at the mill
Seljak Brand has been working with a heritage mill in Geelong for the past year to create the beautiful Rugged range made from 100% deadstock woollen yarn.
The Geelong mill, in its various iterations, has been weaving wool fabric for 100 years, but have only recently introduced blanket weaving to find a use for the myriad of leftover yarn in their warehouse. Led by the mill’s previous director Quentin Vahl Meyer, and driven by textiles designers Gemma Glazik and Ana Petidis, the Geelong mill have perfected beautiful, Australian-made wool blankets.
To shine a light on the wonderful work of the mill, and most importantly, the individuals behind it, we interviewed Gemma and Ana about how they came to work with textiles, and the challenges and joys of weaving at one of Australia’s oldest mills. We’re so grateful for the wonderful folk who make Seljak Brand blankets so special and are stoked to share their stories. Enjoy this rare insight into textiles manufacturing in Australia.
The Rugged range in production at the mill
Gemma Glazik is a textiles designer at the mill. She develops new fabrics for the mill and works with clients and the mill’s production team to develop blankets (like ours!). She’s been with the mill for almost three years and has played an integral role in adding woven blankets to the mill’s weaving repertoire.
Gemma Glazik: I completed a degree in textile design at RMIT at the end of 2017, which is where I first discovered my love and fascination for weaving. I became hooked on the behaviour and handle of different yarns and the rhythmic action of the shuttle being passed back and forth. For me, the hand-weaving process is a joy; from exploring and experimenting with colour, unusual yarns and weave structures to the nitty gritty planning out of a warp and dressing a loom.
In February 2019 I was employed by the mill to be their first textile designer, which was a challenging and rewarding first job in the industry. As a designer at the mill I create new fabrics which involves research, design, choosing yarns, colours, patterns, weave structures and then sampling, just to give a very brief overview of the design process! Keeping detailed notes on the sampling processes is critical (I learnt that the hard way!).
In September 2019 I went to England and completed an internship with handweaving design and development studio Dash and Miller. It was an amazing experience where I learned lots about handweaving, designing and colour, and got the chance to use different looms and unusual yarns. Being in that environment surrounded by creative and supportive women was inspiring, seeing the dynamic in the office and how their business is run was a very valuable experience.
Textiles designers Ana and Gemma, with the mill’s sales and marketing lead Claire in the middle. Photo: Geelong Advertiser
Former mill director Quentin, Seljak Brand co-founder Karina and textile designer Ana at the mill
Ana Petidis has been a textiles designer with the mill for two years. She teaches textiles at RMIT and juggles her mill work with a vibrant personal practice too. She works closely with Gemma to design and oversee the manufacturing of new woven fabrics and blankets for the mill.
Ana Petidis: I like to credit my parents for introducing me to the creative and material possibilities of textiles. They were sewing machinists of womens’ fashion, working from the garage of our family home during the 1980s and 90s. I took utter joy in playing with colourful, silky polyester fabric offcuts from the workroom floor, collaging pieces together on mannequins, tracing patterns with my fingers, feeling the texture on my skin. I eventually found my path back to textiles after a fulfilling career in community services; I craved my own creativity.
I enrolled to study textile design in 2014 and it’s been all about textiles ever since. I learnt to weave in 2015 as part of the course and a brain explosion occurred – I loved the processes involved in weaving and how it simultaneously relies on rational, methodical skill and principles with artistic, creative ones. Since graduating in 2017, I teach hand weaving courses in the community and am part of the sessional teaching team at RMIT for the Vocational Education Textiles courses. I also exhibit and demonstrate handwoven creations where I can.
I came to the Geelong mill in the role of designer to cover Gemma’s leave in September 2019 and didn’t leave! We work as a team taking the lead on different projects and overseeing different tasks. At the moment I am very occupied coordinating and working in blanket production, as well as keeping a focus on quality at each stage of production. Alongside this there is online sales, development of new fabrics for apparel, homewares and upholstery, sourcing yarns and maintaining industry connections and relationships.
I feel incredibly fortunate to work as a designer in a manufacturing context. It is important that as a textile designer I am able to influence the impact my industry has on both the environment and people's lives.
Ana showed us around the mill when Seljak Brand visited in March 2021.If you want to know more about the mill, we wrote a blog post on the mill's journey as one of Australia’s last weaving mills still in operation.