Concluding a visit of New Designers Part One
In London, June is a busy month for fashion and design, particularly for recent graduates. Kick-starting the month, Graduate Fashion Week sees fashion design students across the UK showcasing their final collections in the hope of receiving a career-forming award. Later on, men’s fashion weeks show the work of established designers the world over. Before you know it, it is graduates time again with New Designers 2013: Part One (26th – 29th June) where those who studied textiles, ceramics, jewellery, glass and surface design, have their moment in the spotlight and aim for industry recognition.
As you will know if you have read my first report on New Designers Part One, this annual exhibition showcases the work of over 3000 design graduates nationwide under one roof at the Business Design Centre in Islington. It is split into two separate events in quick succession, with the later part (3rd – 6th July) focusing on visual communication, product, furniture and spatial design.
My name is Sayuri, and I am a Fashion Communication and Promotion student from Nottingham Trent University; and I have not finished telling you about my visit of New Designer Part One. This was my first time at the New Designers exhibition and I was like a child in a sweet shop! With so much colour, pattern and texture to take in, the show was a feast for the eyes.
The best example of this maybe the rainbow line drawings of Norwich University of the Arts’ Joanna Randall. Using a hot glue gun she created a series of life drawings which once set and dried, she sprayed with multi-coloured paints once. Their number and brightness attracted my attention from afar. Up close, I noticed Randall’s idiosyncratic style of illustration, a form of abstract caricature. I was impressed by her control and ability to convey her expressive style so well through the use of a hot glue gun. The lines looked as if it had been lifted off pencil on paper. I also admired how the creator emulated her pieces; sporting rainbow hair and top to toe dizzying colours; Randall was an extension of her art.
Charlotte Nash from the University of Huddersfield also uses a quantity of lavish colours but arranges them with meticulous discipline. The precision behind her boldly-coloured braids made it hard to believe they were woven by hand. Between the braids set on a gold foiled leather tapestry, were symmetrical cuttings reminiscent of triangular Aztec shapes. When setting the stand, her University used colour-coded labels to qualify each of their graduate’s work with specific adjectives. Nash’s work was described as ‘fresh’, presumably in recognition of its vibrant contemporary appeal.
Another colourful installation I naturally drifted towards was the work of Edinburgh College of Art’s Aisling Duffy which showed an accumulation of soft accessories displayed upon a collaged tapestry and paint-printed towel. It was an eclectic pell-mell incorporating photography, illustration, embroidery, 3D textiles and ceramics, all doused in a playful application of paint. Duffy used child-like graphics and vintage photographs to communicate her upbringing and personal childhood experiences. The imageries were vandalised through a saccharine punk palette of pastels and neons, outlined in heady blacks.
University of West England’s graduate Sophie Pollard created the textile of her dresses also applying paint by hand in rough strokes, however her approach was gentler, attempting to replicate the gradients that colour the sky. Her fine art background was evident, particularly through the historical influences reflected in her collection. Three-dimensional bands around the silhouettes of Pollard’s garments replicated the cylindrical architecture of the Roman Coliseum.
Colour can be a fantastic tool for the artist; it is adept in expressing selective emotions. Its quantitative use was obviously popular amongst this year graduates; some however, opted for very neutral palettes. Personally I would find it very difficult not incorporating colour into my creative work, but I can understand why Claire Morris from Falmouth University did so. The meticulous craftsmanship she applied into her three-dimensional textiles seemed to illustrate movement. By using finely woven and knotted stitches, Morris was able to warp soft organza on one piece and a row of piped beads in another. The silver of the beads dominating the latter piece contrasted softly with the peach threading. Half of her collection, however, stayed neutral in translucent white and silver. The minute intricacies incorporated into Morris’ craft may have got lost if constructed in outlandish colours, instead we spectators, were able to admire her focused discipline.
Sometimes a limited colour range can show off other aesthetic details, such as patterns. Katy Carson, from Norwich University of the Arts, opted for an icy palette in the prints of her shirts inspired by wintery mountain landscapes. She layered photographic images, with each shirt conceptualising the scenery in a different way. The mountainous outlines on one shirt were broadened and used as a graphical line, the body of the landscape digitally saturated in bright cyans. Some other shirts in washes of grey and turquoise featured the same landscape, this time cross-sectioned with symmetrical triangular lines and alternative photographs of fields.
The colour palette in many graduate works had simply been derived from their initial sources of inspiration. Swansea Metropolitan University’s Casey Marciano used brightly-coloured Philippine bank notes as the motif for her patchwork dress. The notes are printed in six colours of the rainbow – minus indigo, the red in a a pinker hue – these colours determined the intermittent paint strokes between Marciano’s graphics. The silhouette of one of her dresses, a slash neck kaftan, was duplicated to embody a contrasting print. The exotic themes continued with illustrated parrot motifs. These were framed with triangular graphic patterns, the clean modern lines contrasted with rough brush strokes carried on from the previous dress.
I enjoyed the aesthetics of other works inspired by the theme of travel. Phoebe Clapham’s (Central Saint Martins) collages documented one man’s tropical adventure combining photographs, typography, painting and digital graphics, such as those of a map. The prints were displayed across six collared t-shirts upon varying textures from a fur pelt to a glittered canvas. In similar fashion to Carson, Clapham used the natural colouring of the exotic landscape to exert vibrancy from her garments.
I also enjoyed during New Designers, the chance to speak to the creative graduates. As much as art and design should be left to the interpretation and appreciation of the public, I was really interested by the contextual information given by the designers. Some pieces revolved around a singular concept, whilst others told a story. A few designers chose to dedicate their work to causes that mattered to them. These were obvious in their creations; some chose to further promote awareness of their cause by positioning information leaflets and donation boxes next to their work.
Helen Jackson, from Somerset College at University of Plymouth, articulated her passions on wildlife conservation by creating wooden wall pieces artfully illustrating how animals protect themselves by staying in numbers. She carried across her values in her virtuous processes, ensuring they were ethical as possible. She used, for example, sustainable dyes to hand print her fabric. With earthy tones of brown woods, oceanic navy and rustic reds, her palette also reflected her cause.
The work of Scarlett Maclean, from Loughborough University, paid tribute to one person in particular. Her printed textiles illustrated a skydiving amputee who had lost his calves fighting at war. Maclean repeatedly printed this figure in varying scales: small and frequent on translucent fabrics and larger on wooden cut-outs. Military khaki only appeared sparingly within her samples, whilst the piece as a whole used a neutral palette of white, greys and woody browns. The installation was lightly shrouded with a thread curtain, each strand coated in a layer of wax. With varying textures contextualising the individual’s emotional experience, her highly stratified piece aimed to express how one’s past might influence their future.
As a creative practitioner, I really enjoy using colour within my visual work and often find inspiration in pieces that rely on it in great quantities. This latter point was certainly true during my visit of New Designers 2013 Part One. As I have been writing this article it downed on me that it is not just the rainbow pieces that can inspire me.
I do believe that colour is a great facilitator, but there is much appreciation to be had for imaginative prints and meticulous technical prowess amongst a multitude of things. There is no moral to the story here really; if you are a talented upcoming designer, your hard work will get noticed no matter your specialism.
All Images by Sayuri Standing