Aesthetic beauty was blooming at New Designers Part 1, the first chapter of an exhibition that shows work from over 3000 UK graduate designers over two weeks. Part 1 showcased textiles, fashion, contemporary applied arts (including ceramics and glass), jewellery and metalwork.
Fauna and particularly flora (Laura Holmes pictured left) provided a deep well of inspiration for many of this year’s graduates, with bold, outsized, colourful prints of flowers greeting you as soon as you walked. Flashes of tropical colour from Sophie Painter, Loughborough University, who garnered a “John Lewis Loves” label sat alongside, the ethereal, wintry prints from Robyn Dark. Amy Malcolmson, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, also won a “John Lewis Loves” label for her clean, crisp spring and autumn floral series. Her hand-painted wallpaper samples echo the fresh, vibrant, if whimsical florals of Dame Elizabeth Blackadder.
Layering images to depth and structure to floral was a popular technique. Ellie-rose McFall‘s handprinted textiles, which overlay wildflowers on cracked surfaces, are inspired by the Garden Bridge, planned for London in 2016. Sophie Tattersall, De Montford University, Leicester, uses layered photographs to create delicate floral patterns. Sophie Thompson, Nottingham Trent University, builds up layers of detail taking inspiration from nature, enhancing hand drawn imagery with digital techniques. I was drawn to “In the Undergrowth”, with a mix of birds, bugs and silhouettes. Charlotte Raven‘s wallpaper (pictured right) is a like of snapshot of a summer garden in bloom. Malin-Charlotte Ødemark work draws on landscapes creating a subtle, earthy palette that worked to great effect as upholstery on Ercol’s classic sofa.
Natural beauty went more than skin deep for Emily Buchanan, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design. Her work, Living+Dying displays the wonderful array of colours accessible from nature using traditional craft methods. Red cabbage, red onion, eucalyptus, and other plants dyes, two mordants, time and a couple of serendipitous accidents were used to dye peace silk a rich spectrum of soothing tones. Peace silk allows the silkworm to emerge from their cocoons. The silk is degummed and spun like other fibre, instead of being reeled. Conventional silk is made by boiling the intact cocoons, which kills the silk worms. Emily is a passionate advocate of the joys, and beauty, of natural dyes. She continues to run workshops with schools and interested groups. There were a couple of interested parties at the show.
From the natural, to the utterly fabricated, Laura Holmes makes fantastical floral displays from recycled plastics. Laura works with milk bottles, coke bottles, offcuts of acetates, sequin film and all manner of plastics. They are cut, painted and flocked inspired by colours from the aquarium. The result is almost fantastical.
Karoline Healy‘s Domestic Mining is also an ethos that makes good use of the things that we find in our homes. Karoline was first inspired by reading0 Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough and Michael Braungart. A visit to India and encounters with street vendors and road-side workshops prompted Karoline to design a kiosk. The kiosk is constructed from household objects, an old shredder, file, bicycle chain. Discarded plastic bottles are shredded, moulded, marked with the appropriate recycle sign and then a watch assembled from the flat pack kit. No glues, nails, paints, or varnishes are used, so the watch can be readily repaired or recycled.
Sophie Rosak’s table lamp with a shade of naturally-tanned leather, and copper, is simply constructed and so easily dissembled at its end of life. Its industrial style is softened by the warm tones of the leather and copper. A simple aesthetic defines Rebecca Price’s work. Scouted by the Design Council’s ‘One to Watch’, her food storage jars (pictured left) are covetable for any contemporary kitchen. The lid of each vessel is also a portion measure. What is more the vessels nestle snuggly together saving precious space on your worktop.
More covetable vessels were on display as part of One Year On, which showcases the work of 50 emerging designers in their first year of business. I was delighted to catch up with Isatu Hyde, who I met at New Designers 2013. After a stint with Kilner to develop her foraging project, Isatu is now an apprentice with Marches Pottery in Ludlow. Isatu has worked with terracotta for the first time to throw distinctive coffee drippers, carafes, cups, and milk jugs, as well as continuing to develop her own distinct style. I fell in love with these bowls, inspired by those used by Medieval monks.
Next door was Sofie Boons, the Alchemical Jeweller, a graduate of the RCA, 2013. Available as a recipe book and kit, with an elegant silver pin, I was lucky enough to experience Sofie’s solid perfume. Grapefruit zest, TicTacs, mint, cardamon, coconut and salt were put in small pouch and pinned as a brooch to my chest. My daughters thought it smelt good enough to eat. I was reminded of Lauren Davies Alchemists Design Table, encouraging a transparency and honesty about what we put on our skin.
The show was a feast for the senses. Appreciation of the environment was visually evident, but scrabble around in the undergrowth and the homage rarely has the opportunity to go deeper. There was a desire to design textiles and surfaces that take their appreciation of the natural world to a more tangible level, constrained by cost, college facilities, and a sense that demand is limited. As the exhibition for emerging design it would be great to see more innovative and sustainable textiles on show as they begin to be adopted more widely, especially by contract clients.
New Designers Part 2 will be at the Business Design Centre in Islington from 2nd until 5th July.