An innovative student designer creates a new frontier for wearable and spatial activism through regenerative textile design.

Mohawk Group is pleased once again to sponsor the Dorothy Waxman Textile Prize, an annual design competition that seeks out the next generation of design talent in the field of textiles.

Mohawk Group Dorothy Waxman Textile Prize

About the Dorothy Waxman Textile Prize

Hosted by Trend Union and open to students from around the world, there were hundreds of submissions which were shortlisted and then voted on by a jury of design professionals.

The competition was held in conjunction with Talking Textiles, a month-long design festival each September, to highlight the cultural relevance and achievements of the textile community.

Mohawk Group Dorothy Waxman Textile Prize

Related events included the Talking Textiles Conference, where the Waxman Textile Prize winners were announced by Royce Epstein, A&D Design Director of Mohawk Group. Joined by Philip Fimmano, Director at Trend Union, they introduced the program and announced three honorable mentions for 2020, as well a grand prize winner.

Mohawk Group Dorothy Waxman Textile Prize

2020 Waxman Textile Prize Winner

The annual international design prize was awarded to Jacob Olmedo, a recent MFA graduate from Parsons in New York City. Jacob won a $5,000 prize to support his emerging design career and practice.

The project he submitted is called “Your Land is Our Land,” a thoughtful series of work that begins with beads made from seeds and is then embellished into clothing. Jacob’s inspiration for this project is complex, covering a wide range of societal issues today, such as migration and identity, both tied to sustainability.

Jacob’s Textile Project Statement:

We as humans are all connected together through collective land and plant life and as they dwindle and change, taking care of them and each other in our current state becomes more radical of ideas and values. This project takes back systemically destroyed soil for new frontiers through textile. The armor garments are a new future, a vision that holds our environment to its highest value; providing traditionally marginalized people with the power to change the way we operate in the world.

The textile is seen as a conceptual power, through the impermanent handcrafted beads that hold seeds tell stories of migration and are seeds known for resilience – perennial seeds that can repair dirt to soil and sustain communities.

With water, the beads dissipate, exposing the raw seeds to grow into the earth. When the textile is worn on a body like my own – underrepresented and dismissed  – it gives me and many others the power to “take back” land for our future.

Mohawk Group Dorothy Waxman Textile Prize

Creating Textiles from Seeds

The textile that Jacob created is made from all natural materials. Wool is used as the yarn base for the object and isomalt, a sugar-like biomaterial, is used to make the beads.

Mohawk Group Dorothy Waxman Textile Prize

A large part of this project is the creation of the beads themselves; starting with a 3D model and then 3D printed, the models are cast to create a silicone mold of the beads. Once the molds are made, the isomalt is heated and cast in the silicone while being injected with seeds. The seeds are seeds of repair, perennial prairie seeds that reform systematically destroyed soil for better soil health.

After the beads are fabricated they are separated into their heights and a map is created digitally of the designs in which the seeds will be placed. Row by row the seeds are strung in the order of the digital map.

Finally, once the stringing and labeling of the rows is completed the yarn and beads are crocheted in the round to create armor garment like structures.

The hope and expansion of this project is that the seed beads themselves are used to grow the perennial prairies, as the beads dissipate with water allowing the seeds to grow into the earth. One garment is the equivalent to 70 square feet of regenerative soil creation.

Mohawk Group Dorothy Waxman Textile Prize

As you can see, Jacob is a multidisciplinary artist, sustainable creative, and textile maker.

His work focuses on wearable and spatial activism, creating work about his own intersectional identity in the context of the climate crisis.

How A Student Designer Created Sustainable Textiles That Can Grow Perennials  for the Mohawk Group Dorothy Waxman Textile Prize

You can learn more about Jacob on his website:

Presided over by Trend Union, the Dorothy Waxman 2020 Textile Prize jury was comprised of Dorothy Waxman (whom the prize is named after); Jessica Hemmings, Professor of Craft & Vice-Prefekt of Research, University of Gothenburg; Kiva Motnyk, founder of Thomson Street Studio in New York; Suzanne Brown, Associate Curator and Acting Head of Textiles, Cooper Hewitt Museum; Royce Epstein, A&D Design Director, Mohawk Group. The judges were especially interested is seeing innovation, creativity, functionality, and sustainability as part of the student work, and Jacob’s project considered all of these areas while addressing a solution for our planet.

Royce Epstein, Mohawk Group A&D Design Director

Royce Epstein is the A&D Design Director for Mohawk Group.
As the face to A&D, Royce shares her passion and vision for design, cultural trends, and the meaning of materials in a broad context. Her role is to evolve and share Mohawk Group’s Design Vision with the A&D community, and to leverage product design with what A&D desires in the field. Constantly on the watch for new trends in all aspects of design and culture, Royce feeds this insight to all our industry’s touch points.

A veteran materials and product specialist, Royce spent two decades working in A&D firms before working with Mohawk. She was named the 2015 Designer of the Year by Interiors and Sources Magazine, and received a HiP award for Rising Star from Interior Design Magazine at Neocon 2016. Royce lives in Philadelphia where she is active in the design, art, and music scenes. She is a board member of Collab at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.