New Designers 2024!

Sometimes I really can’t believe how much I love my job, and last Thursday was one of those days. I was honoured to be a judge at the New Designers exhibition, a graduate show in textiles, jewellery ceramics & glass from across the UK. This award is the passion project from Marianne Shillingford who is the creative director at Dulux, and all-round good egg.

You could feel a buzz in the air with anticipation from all the students as 3 or 4 years of hard work is unveiled to the industry at the New Designers Show. I can remember showing at this show over 25 years ago which makes me feel properly old.

I was in highly esteemed company as my fellow judges consisted of Katrina Burroughs for the Times, Laura Perryman lecturer and author of the Colour bible, and Dr Shelley James who has a PhD in light studies, is a glass blower and also impressively a fully trained electrician!

I shall start with the overall winner Matt Turner who works in glass and has just graduated from Manchester School of Art. He had recreated moon rocks using data from NASA, out of glass sourced from the Czech Republic, which contained very low (I hope) levels of Uranium. Matt had discovered glass containing radioactive chemicals completely changed colour when a UV light was shone on them. His work was quite intriguing, and certainly stood out from the others, which is certainly a challenge nowadays!

As part of the judges also choose three  ‘Ones to watch’ who get help with mentoring and are featured on the website of the Colour in Design awards.

Our first runner-up was Siri Hansen who made interesting in pieces of jewellery out of found plastics in an appropriately named ‘vulcaniser’! We all loved the quirky shapes and colours and the brilliant use of waste materials.

Next up was weaver Helena Powell. Her silk fabrics were the closest I have encountered to cloth with magical fairy properties. She uses dead stock silk yarns donated by Sudbury Silk Mill, some of which she hand dyes. As I am not a weaver I didn’t fully understand her highly technical process, all I can say is that the end result looked like iridescent liquid and felt like gossamer.

Our final runner-up was Anna Rooney who created a knitted sculpture ‘tree’  which appealed to the senses of sight, touch and sound. The idea was that this would be used in spaces where people don’t have access to outdoors and would help to calm and soothe the nervous system in the way that nature does.  I could have sat stroking it for hours, so can vouch for its positive effects, and it was a visual treat too.

Anna Rae explored some beguiling iridescent colours using glass reflections. I was so taken by her jewellery using iridescent strips set in plastic that I may have had to buy a ring…

Caitlyn Ross had achieved the nigh-on impossible by making subtle and beautiful knitwear made totally from waste materials. So often these colours are sludgy or unharmonious as you have to ‘use what you find’  She demonstrated her innate sense of colour creating totally wearable pretty pieces.

I found the narrative around the work of Alicia Walker quite moving. Having grown up in  North Staffordshire surrounded by the derelict snippets of the industrial past, Alice found ways to incorporate pottery from Stoke-on-Trent, and hand-dyed silk referencing the silk from weavers in Leek. These were all dyed using natural dyes created from plants in her garden.

I loved these fun business cards from Loughborough University showcasing lots of students fabrics. Maybe an idea to borrow?!

I loved these little art embroideries pieces made by Katie Dickson from Edinburgh university.

The work of Bethan Verity really jumped out to me. The calming colours & bold mark made prints were inspired by the West coast of Scotland where she lives and were created using old stone lithographic techniques

Libby Gallagher examined the responsibility of the textile industry, working with raw materials of flax hemp and nettle to create beautiful woven structures. 

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