Hi Amy, thank you for sharing your career story with us.
When did you complete your PhD and what School or disciplinary area was it in?
In 2013, in Fashion & Textiles.
What is the title of your PhD and can you sum up in a couple of sentences what it was about?
Folk Fashion: Amateur Re-knitting as a Strategy for Sustainability
This research investigated the lived experience of making clothes at home and the reworking of knitted garments, considering the contribution of these practices to a sustainable fashion system. A qualitative workshop methodology combined design-led research with participatory creative methods, involving a group of six amateur knitters.
What is your current job and what does it involve? (Please include your job title and where you work)
Senior Lecturer in Design, Culture and Context in the School of Art & Design at Nottingham Trent University.
I teach contextual and theoretical studies to BA (Hons) Fashion Design, Textile Design, Accessory Design and Fashion Knitwear Design & Knitted Textiles students, including supervising dissertations. I also contribute to teaching for MA Culture, Style & Fashion and co-supervise one PhD student. Alongside all this I undertake individual and collaborative research, including producing research outputs and submitting funding bids.
What are your career aspirations for the future?
My plan is to develop my career in academia – I am working towards an application for an Associate Professorship in the future.
How did you transition from your PhD to your current employment?
A couple of weeks before my viva I was offered a position as post-doc at the University of Leeds, working on a collaborative AHRC-funded project investigating the role of design in revitalising ‘culturally significant’ (e.g. local, traditional) designs, products and practices. It was a three-year post, but I left about six months before the end of the project to move to my current, permanent, job.
Did you undertake any activities or training during your PhD to enhance your professional development and support your career goals?
I did lots of things! I went to everything offered to PGRs within the faculty, as well as various one-off training days and events at external institutions, such as an event called ‘The Digital Researcher’ at the British Library. I attended national networking events for fashion and textiles PhD students and presented at several national and international conferences. I undertook a research residency at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, organised by the Knowledge Exchange in Design project. And I successfully applied for AHRC skills development funding to run a project on creative research methods, involving two workshops and an online case study resource.
Has the PhD informed your current work / future plans and if so how?
Yes, very much so. Since completing my PhD I have built on the research to generate multiple research outputs, including a monograph and major solo exhibition plus various conference papers, journal articles and book chapters. I’m now moving on to new projects but they all have some connection to my PhD research, whether in methodological or conceptual terms. I recently found myself referring to some writing I’d done in the first year of my PhD, which didn’t make it into my final thesis but has come in very useful now!
Looking back, what are your reflections on doing the PhD and do you consider it a worthwhile experience?
I loved doing my PhD! And yes, I found it very worthwhile. I really appreciated having the chance to immerse myself in the research for three years, and to develop my understanding of how to be a professional academic researcher – it’s set me in good stead for my activities today.
What are your top three tips to PhD students for developing a career after completion – either in your profession or more generally?
- Make time to attend events, lectures and networking opportunities during your PhD, even if they don’t seem directly relevant to your own research – you’ll pick up all kinds of valuable information that will come in useful later.
- Make connections outside your own institution/department, to build your network. Conferences are great for this, as is Twitter. This network will help you to find out about opportunities, to keep in touch with developments in your field, and could lead to future employment or collaboration opportunities.
- Be aware of what skills and experience will be needed for your next career move, and actively seek out opportunities to fill in any gaps. If you wait until the time you want/need to move on, it’ll be too late.
Thanks so much for your time Amy, we wish you all the best for the future!
Dr Amy Twigger Holroyd is a designer, maker, researcher and writer who has explored the emerging field of fashion and sustainability since 2004. Her work has been featured in various books, publications and exhibitions, from Vogue to Fashion Theory. Her first book, Folk Fashion: Understanding Homemade Clothes, was published by I.B.Tauris in 2017.