Art teacher is now top of the class

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A former fashion designer turned teacher at an Ilkeston school has passed a top art qualification with flying colours.

Sue Watton has achieved a distinction – the highest grade - in her MA in textiles at Nottingham Trent University while working full-time as head of art at Ormiston Ilkeston Enterprise Academy.

For her final project, Sue produced a range of scarves using digital and hand-printed techniques which formed part of the show put on by university students to mark the end of their studies.

Sue is no stranger to designing clothes as she used to run her own fashion label, which was a hit in the 1980s, supplying stores like Top Shop, Miss Selfridge and even Macy’s in New York.

Sue said it had been a lot of hard work but she was thrilled to have achieved a distinction in her MA.

She said: “It’s taken three years and it’s been hard work but I’ve really enjoyed it. I just had the urge to do something creative for myself. My influences were craft, collage and opulence and making things that would last the test of time.

“In the final year it took a large proportion of weekends to get the work done but it’s all been worth it.”

Sue used screen-printing techniques in the work for her MA similar to those she used when she ran her fashion business, Cocky’s Shed, which she started with a friend after leaving university.

She said: “We were producing 1980s fashion in a similar vein to Red or Dead. It was all very young, body conscious and there was a lot of Lycra. There was a wave of that type of fashion.

“We had the business from the early 1980s to the mid-90s and we would go to a lot of trade fairs and that’s how we got commissions for places like Top Shop, Miss Selfridge and Macy’s.

“We were exporting worldwide until the recession hit and that’s when I decided to go into teaching. I had always done some form of teaching part-time and really enjoyed it and I thought going full-time was the way forward.

“When the students find out that I used to run my own fashion business they are always quite surprised and impressed that I have been part of that industry. If we are ever looking at 80s fashion I always tell them that I have boxes of the stuff at home.

“We have some brilliant art students here and lots who have gone on to do great things such as studying at Central Saint Martin’s in London and the London College of Fashion. We also have one former student who is on a placement working for the designer Julien Macdonald.”

Dave Smith, principal at the academy, congratulated Sue on her achievement.

He said: “Sue has demonstrated a true belief in lifelong learning whilst maintaining an incredibly challenging job.

“It is fantastic reward for so much hard work and she is a shining example to students within the academy.”