Home InterviewsMeet the Maker Meet the Maker: There’s Only One Amy Laws

Meet the Maker: There’s Only One Amy Laws

by Camilla

The living room floor of a Somerset flat may be a far cry from the haute-couture ateliers of Paris, but this is where you will find Amy Laws, designing her own patterns and fabrics, and making exquisite clothes for exceptionally lucky women and children. Using an DIY exposure unit constructed from a chair, foil pie tins and glass from an old picture frame, Amy creates classic pieces of couture with a 1950s influence, where every illustration, pattern-cut, pin, print and stitch is made by her. Inauspicious surroundings maybe, but breathtakingly beautiful work…

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m a dressmaker and screen printer living in Bath, Somerset. I started selling my range of women’s and children’s clothing in 2012 both online and at local markets. I produce all of my work from the living room in my flat. I normally listen to Radio 1 while I’m working which I probably need to reconsider as I’m now 31 years old!

How would you describe your work?
I like to use classic, feminine cuts, inspired by 1950s fashion and update it with a bright, eye-catching colour palette and a bold print that will make people smile. My aim is to make clothing that women and girls will love to wear again and again.

girls screen printed dresses, flamingo, ice-cream, pineapple, amy laws

Amy makes beautiful dresses for girls aged from 3 months to 10 years old, priced from £25

When did you first pick up a sewing needle?
My Grandma taught me to use a sewing machine when I was very young – I think I was about seven or eight. I remember making small purses and bags with her. At school I loved art and music and spent all of my time, drawing, painting and making lots of noise on different instruments. I also used to like buying clothes from charity shops, which I would cut up and restitch with bows and ribbons attached.

How did you discover screen printing?
After university I worked as an office temp in Edinburgh for a year and wanted to do something creative in my spare time. I’ve always kept sketchbooks of ink drawings and thought screen printing would be a good way to turn them into larger prints. I took a weekend course at the Edinburgh Printmakers Studio and then used their open-house facilities whenever I had a free evening. However, I didn’t start printing on fabric until quite a few years later.

pineapple dress, there's only one amy laws, retro dress, screen-printed dress,

Pineapple Dress, £55, by There’s Only One Amy Laws

Can you talk us through one of your pieces from start to finish?
At the start of each season I research ideas for new styles, prints and fabrics and then finalise the designs. I make a first draft of the pattern and sew together a toile, which I fit on to my dressmaker’s stand. I normally make lots of adjustments until I have the shape I want and then I adjust the pattern accordingly. When I’m happy with the final pattern, I grade it by hand in each size from 8 to 16.

I then move on to designing the print. I draw it out in ink first and then scan the image and refine it using Illustrator. I figure out how I want the print to sit on the garment using the toile and once I’m happy with the size and placement, I print out the negatives and expose the image on to a silkscreen.

To make the final garment, I first cut out all the fabric and then screen print the cut pieces. I heat-set each print with an iron and then I sew it all together. Finally, I test the finished product on the stand to make sure it’s the perfect fit.

Amy Laws studio, interview, Pineapple Dress, screen printing techniques,

Amy’s designs start with an illustration, which she then screen prints on to the pattern pieces

You do the illustrations, expose your screens, print the fabric, make your own patterns and do all the dress-making! Is there no end to your talents?
Haha! I can’t run and I can’t bake cakes!

How did you learn to draft your own patterns?
Before I started There’s Only One Amy Laws I used to make lots of clothing from commercial patterns but felt quite restricted by the designs and sizes, so I enrolled on a part-time BTEC in Pattern Cutting. I attended one evening class every week for a year while I was still working full-time. I really enjoy the technical side to drafting patterns as it draws on lots of skills from my Product Design degree.

Which other artists and designers do you admire?
I’ve always liked Wayne and Geraldine Hemingway’s work. The Red or Dead collections had humour and made statements about culture and society. I think they’ve always had social values behind their work, and since selling Red or Dead they’ve set up a company called HemingwayDesign, which specialises in affordable and social design. I also really like Tatty Devine. I think their jewellery creations are crazy and bold and are there to make people smile and have fun with what they wear. Even though the company has grown they still manufacture everything in London.

sketches, amy laws, interview

Amy is inspired by the fashion of the 1950s and starts each season by researching ideas for designs

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I love fashion from the 1950s. The dress shapes were flattering for all figures, loads of fun and very feminine. I like anything kitsch and brightly coloured, in particular American pop culture, traditional British seaside towns and Pop Art.

Can you describe your workspace, and tell us about your amazing DIY exposure unit?
My workspace is made up of three desks running along one wall of my living room. One desk for sewing, one for printing and the other for my computer. Although during the day my work seems to spread across the entire flat! My exposure unit is made up of two desk lamps with 100W lightbulbs that are taped horizontally on to the back rest of a chair. Around each lamp is a reflector made from a foil pie dish with a hole cut in it. The silk screen rests on a black box underneath the lighting and I use a sheet of glass from an old picture frame to hold the negative in place. It’s a bit of a DIY solution but after lots of trial and error I seem to be getting some good results! I don’t have a printing bed – instead I use a large desk for printing the fabric on.

DIY exposure unit, screen printing, Amy Laws,

Amy built a make-shift exposure unit using foil pie dishes which she uses to transfer her acetates on to silk screens

What’s the best thing about being a designer and maker?
It’s been really exciting turning my hobby into a business and being able to do what I love every day. Also, as I work from home I never miss an episode of Neighbours!

Finally, and totally unconnected, where in the world would you most like to travel?
I really want to go to India. I’ve read lots of books set there and everyone I know that has been loves it. It looks like a very exciting country.

flamingo dress, amy laws

Flamingo Dress, £55, by There’s Only One Amy Laws

Shop There’s Only One Amy Laws on Folksy

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Claire G August 7, 2014 - 10:12 am

Love Amy’s work and it’s fab to see her using makeshift equipment successfully!

Tatty Devine August 8, 2014 - 5:31 pm

What a lovely blog! Thanks for mentioning us, Amy!

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