In Conversation with Jacob Monk

Jacob Monk is one of a few textile artists in the UK practising the ancient craft of ikat weaving, a technique that involves creating a pattern through the binding and dyeing process into the thread itself.

Having come across ikat while studying textile design at Central Saint Martins in London, Jacob quickly became enchanted by the glorious displays of colour he could create using a practice that was steeped in history and, eager to explore the technique further, bought his own table-top loom to experiment with different dye combinations and more complicated designs.

Jacob shares a studio space at Cockpit in Deptford. It is here that he creates his range of abstract, woven wall art to be displayed in domestic or public spaces. While his designs are inspired by traditional ikat fabrics, such as those found in Turkey and Malaysia, Jacob updates them to create something that reflects his own personality and they are completely unique.


How do you weave an ikat fabric?

Jacob Monk:  There are many stages to the process. I do all of the dyeing myself, and this can range from being very satisfying (it can be nice to create your own unique colour palette), but also a little frustrating because there's always an element of unexpectedness. Then I go into the weaving process, which is a very slow and meditative experience. I really enjoy it because I can just stick on some music or a podcast and relax.

As you're weaving, you can see when you're coming up to a colour change and that's a really exciting moment. It keeps the momentum going because you’re eager to see how the next part is going to turn out.

Where does your inspiration come from?

JM:  Colour is a really important part of my practice and a lot of the colours I use are based on my emotions. As the years have gone by, and my designs have developed, the colour palettes I use have become more vivid; I’m using more clashing colours, creating more contrast, more drama. I also get a lot of inspiration from bird feathers. I’ve built up an archive of found bird feathers ranging from parrots to ducks. I try to reflect how the colours blend together within a feather, to how the colours blend within my ikat fabric.

What makes you feel relaxed?

JM:  Swimming is my number one way to relax. I find that when I'm in water, I'm not thinking about the outside world or day-to-day tasks, I’m just concentrating on my breathing.

How will your day-to-day habits change as we approach the winter season?

JM:  I'm looking forward to things slowing down, getting cosy, and having a bit of time to reflect on the past year and plan for the year ahead. I can’t wait to get my hands on one of the MUJI 2024 planners so that I can start writing down all the exciting events to come.

How do you dress to be comfortable?

JM:  To feel comfortable, I love to wear a jumper that is one size too big and a pop of colour always improves my mood.

What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given?

JM:  I had this one tutor at Central Saint Martins who would always say: ‘Don't think, do.’ It’s stuck with me ever since. It’s such good advice for all aspects of life because we can often overthink things.

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