It’s never been harder for new design graduates to get their businesses off the ground – funding cuts, hard-to-get loans, student debt, sky-high rents – it’s enough to blunt anyone’s creativity.
However, the briefest tour around the New Designers show at the Business Design Centre flies in the face of these woes. When I visited, the hall was buzzing with energy, endeavour and, above all, skill.
Everywhere I looked I was bowled over by the technical ability and shear creative force of these graduating students who come from UK-wide design courses – in furniture, textiles, ceramics, jewellery, illustration and more. It’s exciting to see that, in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, Britain really has got talent.
No doubt the teaching, too, is bang on the money, plus Britain still offers students a foundation year for art and design courses, which enables young people to experiment across disciplines and find their feet.
Rheanna Lingham has years of experience teaching modules for foundation courses in art and design, and is a successful jewellery designer herself, as one third of the lifestyle brand Luna & Curious in Shoreditch (lunaandcurious.com). As someone with feet in both camps – of teaching and designing/making/selling – Lingham was appointed curator of the Centre’s annual show-within-a-show, called One Year On.
So credible are the 3,000 graduates exhibiting at New Designers that Sainsbury’s has come on board for the first time this year to offer a big-hitting prize – a year’s £20,000 internship within its Home team.
It showcases emerging designers of any age in their first year of business. “We want them to have a successful show in terms of developing their brand and focusing on their market, whether that’s high street or big craft art,” Lingham says. “We then help to direct and position them. We hold sessions on what their goals are for the show, how to price and market their work, how shops work in terms of mark-up. We find they come with no understanding of this; most of them hugely underprice. We want them to grow sustainable businesses.”
All of the products in One Year On are available to buy direct from the maker, many of whom have been snapped up by the likes of made.com and notonthehighstreet.com. Laura Robinson is already making waves with her simple-to-use online graphics concept called myiconstory.com, whereby you create your personalised wall art from graphic icons from around the world, recalling, say, a trip of a lifetime. “Laura is so focused,” Lingham says. “She’s completely self-funding and now she’s got interest for licensing.”
Key themes on show at One Year On were sustainable design, Brutalist revival and vibrant colours. And names to watch include Theo Riviere (theoriviere.co.uk) for his surface and textile design; Ornamental Grace (ornamentalgrace.co.uk) for her sculptural handmade vessels and lamps; and Mark Laban’s rustic-looking benches (marklaban.com).
Jewellery artist Stephanie Holt (stephanieholt.co.uk) walked away with one of two New Designers One Year On awards (stunningly eye-catching original work), with the other going to Winter and Kurth (winterandkurth.com) for their innovative marquetry.
So credible are the 3,000 graduates exhibiting at New Designers that Sainsbury’s has come on board for the first time this year to offer a big-hitting prize – a year’s £20,000 internship within its Home team. Now that’s what we call raising the bar.
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