This week saw the opening of the New Designers exhibition in Islington for 2016. This pivotal emerging design event returned for its 31st year, showcasing the graduation portfolios of thousands of UK creative arts students and providing a glimpse of what the future influences might be for British design, as these young people take their places in the creative industries.
This is a hugely enjoyable show to visit which provides a feast for the senses, coupled with the added delight of meeting the students themselves and hearing about their inspirations, passions and plans for the future.
I visit this exhibition annually and it is always interesting to note the differences from year to year.
- This year was notable for an increase in students using pewter (sometimes as part of a mixed metal casting) and also of experimental/water casting across student’s work.
- Some students had produced ranges with a level of mechanical function that might well be described as engineering. (Adornment Engineering? You heard it here first ;))
- Sheffield Hallum University was interesting this year in that they produced no less than six students who had specialised in silversmithing and were really very accomplished, both in the quality and precision of their work and the rationale driving their designs.
- There was a real pride in handmade this year. A number of pieces that had the appearance of having been CAD designed were in fact entirely hand designed and constructed, with students standing proud and beaming that their pieces were entirely handcrafted the ‘old-fashioned’ way. “I could send these pieces off to a caster”, commented one student, “but I prefer to use cuttlefish casting in my own studio. I don’t want to lose touch with my work”
- A number of the young designers have already deduced that personalisation is a great selling point for jewellery and have put energy into creating ranges that have interchanging elements, designs that can morph their shape according to the whim of the wearer and pieces that can lend their design to being customised.
- I noticed a considerable decrease in the numbers of students that were planning to set up business on their own straight after graduation. It seemed that more of them were intending to go on to further education or seeking an apprenticeship to further consolidate their skills and knowledge. Interestingly, a number of the silversmiths had already secured a place at Bishopsland.
Stephanie Wills has meticulously created this range of movable and adaptable jewellery pieces: gemstone rings with beautifully engraved movable covers that can obscure the gemstone completely, or show it in part, or reveal it completely; geometric pendants which open by degrees like a blossoming flower and neckpieces constructed from repeat pattern components that can slot together in different configurations. Stephanie has designed an impressive variety of mechanical devices into a range of jewellery pieces, which are both functional and exquisite.
Rebecca has used nylon laser sintering to create a series of interchangeable floral delights! Colourful, slightly flexible and very robust (really, I tried breaking one and failed) flowers of different shapes and sizes adorn the display on her stand. Each one has an integrated magnet so that they can be swapped around into any combination. At the moment Rebecca is selling a set of one magnetic ring with three flower tops that can be chosen by the client, but plans to extend the range into neckpieces in the future. One very smart thing that Rebecca has done is to also design and construct her gift boxes and display materials using laser sintering – her display is stunning and she has instantly made her work more merchantable to retail outlets and galleries by doing so.
Emma works in resin and says that her aim was to make her own stones! Taking inspiration from real gemstones but adding her own twist of fantastic, she has produced a collection of gloriously gorgeous bold jewellery pieces. Emma also has a great eye for detail, her findings and connectors are both well thought out and beautifully finished.
Justyna’s work consists of substantial pastel coloured wooden blocks with simple naïve patterns, arranged with silver fittings into jewellery pieces. They are simply joyful. Beautifully finished, light despite their size and intoxicatingly delightful, they are also cleverly interchangeable with the use of ultra-strong magnets.
Rachel has drawn inspiration from the sea for her exquisitely executed tea set. Employing multiple disciplines, a creative eye for detail, accurate craftsmanship and a touch of whimsy, she has produced a show stopping centrepiece.
Hailing from a family of silversmiths and metalworkers, Kurt is proudly continuing the fine tradition of metalwork that is associated with Sheffield. His mixed metal goblets and vessels are weighty pieces with strong architectural designs inspired by local buildings and stories; each of his works truly tells a tale!
Helena’s quirky silver vessels are a joy to handle. Interlocking connections, bayonet fittings which work together in several ways, stunning combinations of mixed metals and tactile suede ends, all hand crafted and with a fit worthy of any engineer.
Annemarie hand forges tiny leaf shapes and deftly solders them together into magnificent larger pieces inspired by the natural world. Reminiscent of the flowing movement of a flock of birds or the dancing tentacles of a sea creature, her pieces are also patinated and etched, adding further layers of subtlety.
Kim’s solid handmade chains have their central links formed from sheet silver that has previously been etched with images and text personal to the wearer. Her display necklace was based on a trip that she took to New York and it is impressive that she has been able to make a piece that is both understated and wearable whilst being incredibly personal.
Sinead’s work is remarkable in so many ways. Keenly aware of environmental issues, she quite deliberately set out to design jewellery that could be made from recycled materials instead of adding to the sum of plastic that exists in the world already. Sinead is very much on the front line of this recycling process, collecting discarded plastic bottles, hand cutting them, arranging and then hand fusing the pieces before incorporating them into her stunning jewellery. The result is beautiful and wearable with an almost princess-like quality. The silver elements of her jewellery are solid and firm whilst the plastic ‘lace’ that is trapped within is flexible and soft. Her work also challenges the ideas around the preciousness of materials, juxtaposing precious silver with a material that most of us would throw away without a second thought.
Jennifer’s approach to designing is both sophisticated and sublime, whilst her jewellery pieces are simply huge. The unique shapes of her hand pierced chain links are echoed in the etched patterns on others of her jewellery pieces whilst the individual pieces are differentiated by their surface texture. A very refined body of work.
Lauren cites fairy tales as her influence. First entranced by the wonderful-world-of-Disney, she went on to discover Grimm’s fairy tales and became captivated with the darkness and macabre nature of their writing. This inspired her to design and handcraft a fantastical range of jewellery using hand casting techniques and incorporating fabric ‘jewels’. The result is pieces that you might imagine finding in the roots of an enchanted tree or washed up from a sea bed.
A lovely story here: Amanda was a jobbing jeweller who was persuaded by her daughter to pursue a degree at Truro and explore her artistic talents. Now mother and daughter have teamed up and gone into business together, creating Mamm & Myrgh (Cornish for Mother & Daughter). The story is lovely enough on its own, but the jewellery that this talented pair have created is lovelier - sensitive and tactile pieces inspired by the sea and by the John Waterhouse painting ‘A Mermaid’. Chain links are designed like seaweed pods, embellished with gemstones and special attention has been lavished on the surface finish, leaving it fresh and suede-like.
Special mentions also to Chloe Lewis for her amazing multi-media created rocks and Rachael Osborne for her disintegrating silver bowls.
As in previous years, we will be awarding three complimentary gold memberships to the three students whose work shows thought, innovation, excellence and craftsmanship and who are planning to go straight into self-employment. We hope that the combination of supplier partner discounts and PPL insurance will serve them well.