Balancing man-made with nature at New Designers 2014
Just as London Graduate Fashion Week supports fashion students, New Designers gives graduates specialising in textile, jewellery, ceramic and product design the chance to showcase their work. New Designers 2014 brought in over 3000 designers to London’s Business Design Centre. Part One of the exhibition focused on textiles, glass, ceramics and metalwork. Here, I found some beautiful designs and incredible back stories.
As sustainability grows ever more important, emerging textile designers are turning their focus to broader horizons. It’s not enough to produce something pretty. People want to know the story behind the pattern; the process behind the print.
Somerset College’s Lauren Mann captivated us with her surface design method. In the midst of a snakeskin and safari animal print trend, she focused her attention on lesser-spotted creatures: insects. Mann magnified insect specimens, revealing their hidden beauty. Artistic patterns taken from butterfly wings among others were then digitally printed onto textured materials.
Completely committed to producing luxury ethical designs, she went so far as to raise 500 silkworms – keeping them alive when in other production methods, they are often killed – combining their soft silk with tough wood and metal. Laser cutting was also updated by Mann. Panels of wood were exposed beneath the colourful patterns, almost as if the insect was shedding its skin.
This sense of life intertwined with the deterioration of another element also shone through in Emily Grey’s cubed outerwear. Geometric shapes created from thin metallic tubes gave life to darkly hued jackets while decay seeped through mushroom and moss-like additions growing over the top. Set to graduate from Norwich University of the Arts, Grey’s third-dimensional designs conjured up the darker side of nature.
Still using the outside world as their muse; other students went for the man-made option. The shape and structure of buildings influenced both London College of Communication’s Kat Sagan and Leeds College of Art’s Amy Bartlett. Hand screen printing replicated the same lines and asymmetrical shapes across Sagan’s fabric. Her geometric patterns appeared to be lifting off the underlying fabric. The trickery of multi-layering and a clever palette of concrete and blue shades were to blame for this illusion.
Bartlett remodelled original surfaces using equal amounts of repetition. Symmetrical shapes worked up and down the likes of wood and paper, seamlessly moving between 2D and 3D. Modern architecture’s impact could be sensed though it wasn’t copied. Bartlett translated her 3-D sculptures into different materials (ceramic, wood, cork etc.) that caught the light in different ways and created 2D interpretations of the image produced.
Graduates are expected to reinvent, to conceive new techniques, to push boundaries and inspire us all. The UK’s new designers of 2014 did all the above: cutting wood and metal in individual ways; using colours that made their work stand out all the more. Being introduced to disciplines that I previously felt little connection with and revelling in the designers’ hard work was a worthy ending to the day. Just goes to prove that you don’t have to be loud to be noticed.