Garment and textile making is a creative process. Just ask Art Almeida, a Filipino artist and designer who has found his life passion with the design of knitted textiles. He has worked with Genknit since 1997, a family owned and operated Philippine textile manufacturer. Genknit’s core business is rooted in the planning and coordination of textile production through various processes of fabric production (knitting), dye house and numerous finishing operations. Since its inception in 1993, Genknit has undergone a constant state of operational expansion, and Art has been with them nearly every step of the way.
Art is first and foremost an artist. His career as a textile designer was rooted in his love for the craft. His early schooling years were spent at San Beda College in Manila. He then earned a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts, major in editorial design, at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City. His curiosity and interest in fabrics came as early as the young age of eight, when he often admired the fabric of his uncle’s Lacoste T-shirts.
“Back then, I thought the shirts were really difficult to make,” narrates Art. “I said to myself if I could design a fabric like this, I would consider myself successful.”
Art’s family hails from Roxas City, Capiz in the Philippines. His parents, Ireneo Almeida, Jr. (deceased) and Josefa Almeida, moved to Manila in the 1960s, and this is where they brought up a relatively extensive family of five boys and three girls. Art is the second from the eldest.
In 1989 Art met his wife Jhell in the same company where they worked. They have four children: two boys (Ayrton and Jhude) and two girls (Kim and Leanne).
The process of designing a fabric remains to be a systematic and technical one, using a knitting machine software. “It is very much like a graphic design program, only simpler,” explains Art. Colors that are used are either yarn colors or needle positions. “In making the pattern, it is similar to doing a cross-stitch. There are grids that represent stitches. You can fill these grids with colors: green for tuck, red for miss and white for knit,” he says. (see illustration 1 for a simple checkered design)
Through the years he has spent in his company, some particular designs have remained favorites and are very popular. “We have one design that has been running for nearly 10 years called the ‘wave’ design. It is an embossed jacquard that has been done in various versions – from single jersey stripes, plain single jersey, single jersey with missed lycra effect, etc. It’s a very big pattern and takes a long time to make.” (see illustration 2).
Art’s work at Genknit is highly intricate and involves a degree of seriousness at every step of the way. “ Not many funny things happen when you’re running with huge industrial machines. We are scared we might make a mistake as this operation is very costly,” he says. However, Art still finds the time for his own hobbies, which include pen-and-ink illustrations.
While the textile design industry is a relatively niche market, Art gives insightful advice to those who hope to eventually pursue such a career. “I think one has to be really passionate about the work,” he says. “You have to be good at paying attention to details. Sometimes you are handling thousands of stitches and it takes a fair amount of focus to execute.”
The growth and ever-changing technology landscape has also transformed the way textile design has been carried out. Multitudes of design programs allow for greater flexibility and productivity. For someone like Art who has been there to experience all these changes, he sees technology as an efficient tool to enhance the work even further.
But while technological mechanisms are essentially at our fingertips, to Art Almeida, a design cannot be created without the single, most important attribute that a designer or creative individual must have. “I value one’s intuition very much. It can come as a flash of idea…or something you have perceived. Couple that with patterns from nature and you are pointed to a design,” he concludes.
And with such designs, our lives are a little more colorful and interesting.
Photos and video: Kim Almeida
Photo and video editing: Ivan Kevin R. Castro
Art consultant: George S. Garma
Music and video consultant: Cleofe G. Casambre, M.D.
To contact Art Almeida:
Serina Aidasani divides her time between New York and Chicago. She enjoys deep conversations, mocha lattes and tries to appreciate little joys of the everyday.
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