New Designers innovation & Creativity
The London New Designers show that takes place every year in Islington is a highly concentrated hub of innovation and creativity. Across both parts of the exhibition (26th – 29th June and then 3rd – 6th July) New Designers 2013 (ND13) features the work of over 3000 design graduates. This is, as you can imagine, an overwhelming experience for any visitor and concentrating on the works that appeal to your personal aesthetics would be a natural option. I was there however on behalf of Modeconnect and prepared to leave not one single design go unnoticed!
Events such as New Designers are great for reviewing the upcoming trends across different applied arts, from textiles to interior design. After all, the participating graduates are tomorrow’s designers and their fresh viewpoints are bound to affect our tastes in the future. This is why it is difficult to identify a single thread that connects all the works on display.
If I had to pick a single mood that defined this year’s show, then perhaps it would be summarized by the word ‘trapped’. Entrapment and the associated ideas of distortion and display are notions I believe are appropriate in regards to the various techniques and practices shown at ND13 Part One, dedicated to textiles, ceramics, jewellery, glass and surface design. One material typically used to display trapped content is glass. It is a versatile material with infinite possibilities to the ways it can be treated and shaped. Swansea Metropolitan University graduate, Fiona Tolson, created a collage of illustrative stained glass tiles to form a conceptual landscape.
Across the exhibition, resins – a deceptive form of plastic with the qualities of glass – proved this year a popular material as several students chose it to capture miscellaneous materials within. Juliet Bankes, from Oxford and Cherwell Valley College, trapped a collective of simple domestic items often found in her sewing box (but also flies and wasps from her windowsill) within the resin iPhones shapes she made. The unusual treatment of this common modern-day motif is meant to express how we do not utilise our hands the way we used to anymore. Bankes questioned whether we have not replaced crafts, along with other bygone skills, for apps on our smartphones to do things for us.
With New Designers quickly following Graduate Fashion Week, some graduates lucky enough to show at both, have been particularly busy this June. This was the case of Olivia Creber from Edinburgh College of Art, who collaborated with Shauni Douglas to win the GFW Menswear Award. Creber was the jewellery designer who created the memorable bearded mouthpieces adorning Douglas’s winning collection.
On her stand at ND13, we were able to see these up close and subsequently noticed the beautiful details of her marbled resin holders, which also formed the handles for her horse hair whips. Her reversed necklace made of numerous man-made, or rather woman-made, resin ‘stones’ could be properly inspected at New Designers. Up close I was able to admire the marbling created by a variety of textures entrapped within the multi-coloured resin.
It is always intriguing to see items that cannot be easily categorised and Creber’s work demonstrates how multifaceted jewellery can be. From a totally different viewpoint Grace Sheldrick’s collection of silver jewellery further displaced the idea of adornment. Sheldrick trained in Hand Embroidery at the Royal School of Needlework. She married her expertise in thread work with silversmith skills to incorporate her embroidery in 3D angular lockets.
Inside her stiches and metal beading, bunched up with thread, emulated the bevelled facets of a jewel stone. The rest of her collection comprised of simple wearable pieces bearing the similar geometrical motifs of her lockets, complimented with dashes of colour courtesy of various birthstones.
Kate Nolan, graduating from the same school, used a simple square of transparent, off-white organza as a canvas for her work. This very conceptual 3D piece intends to demonstrate and elaborate on traditional techniques of needlework that allow traditionally two-dimensional embroidery pieces to be exactly identical on both sides. Nolan referenced tradition with scattered embroidery adding colour to the translucent ivory body of her work, with a collection of neatly lined beaded pyramids on both side of her canvas.
Emma Byres, a Textile Designer from De Montfort University, created a time-consuming collection of hand-woven fabrics which lined soft furnishings in a colour palette of wine purples, periwinkle, silvers and blacks. She used plastic tubes to constrict hand printed soft fabrics which were presented distortedly within. A jagged piece of woven plastic textile with gradated washes of colour made me wonder what the fabric alone would look like.
Textiles are a great platform to contemporise non-traditional materials, combining them with atypical fabrics. Emma Mackenzie from Robert Gordon University Gray’s School of Art used milk fibre to create sheep-skin like fabrics, digitally printed with patterns reminiscent of ‘old fashioned’ circuit boards. In other pieces of her collection she applied lavishly gold dye to the same milk fibre creating beautifully distressed textures.
The notion of entrapment comes along with the necessary idea of possible freedom and emergence the consequence of restraint reaching the surface in impetuous forms. The swatches of Central Saint Martins’ Stephanie Tudor’s collection certainly conveyed this feeling. Tudor used a strict selection of only natural materials: wood, grass, plaster and natural fibres to creat a sensorial wall piece constructed of multiple tiles, each exploring the tactility of those different textures. One particular tile was made of wooden twigs trapped within plaster bulging in between, while another plaster tile showed the natural fibres it encased fringing wildly at its edges.
Giuseppe Parrinello, also from Central Saint Martins, showed a collection of four ceramic baby heads in a line that each bore seeping eyes– one more drastic than the previous. Their cheeks adorned a strange growth in pink, glossy bone china of increasing sizes. One such fragile baby head was distinctively encased in two glass domes, the internal one apparently broken by a butterfly or was it the fly on the baby’s cheek? Parrinello’s theatrical presentation, gave the ominous feeling that we arrived too late while something darker yet maybe to come.
Ceramics and glass were used in several collaborations across the exhibition. Andrea Brittain from the University of Wolverhampton used these two materials together effectively. Her emotionally-striking piece created from “crocheted ceramic”, moulded on the human body was hung in fragmented sections, piecing together the figure hung upside down; it was not recognisable as that of a person straight away. The utilisation of negative space within the ceramic allowed blue glass, possibly emulating water, to drip through and hang frozen mid-air.
Highlighting the notion of ‘restraint’, textile designer Gavin Vaughan described himself as a ‘bespoke erotic fashion accessories designer.’ His collection of headpieces, instead of framing the face as is expected, completely encased it wrapping around the skull, covering the ears, the mouth, and the eyes. One particular design, a bejewelled head wrap that so constricted the face was adorned with real beetle wings, making it apparently impossible to see through its net. In addition to hiding the face, these accessories seemed to give the wearer a new one of an extravagantly embellished identity.
The concept of emergence does not need to rely on a previous entrapment. Amy Fox’s, from Loughborough University, collection features embellished accessories representing ‘growth’, specifically the “natural growth formations of algae, lichen and moss across rock and bark surfaces”. Whilst her influential motifs bear dull organic colours in real life, Fox’s plastic beading upon laser-cut leather was in a palette of dreamy pastels. Her contemporary interpretation, aided by the use of artificial materials, is exemplary of how she amongst many designers, found ways to stay innovative in her prospective industry.
Of course, ‘trapped’ is not the only emotion running through New Designers. I could write numerous articles focusing on other adjectives that may have summed up the exhibition quite adequately too. New Designers Part Two is dawning upon us and it will be interesting to see if we can find entrapment and emergence conveyed among product, furniture and spatial design. If it does, then you will be the first to read about it on Modeconnect!
All images taken by Sayuri Standing.