>New Designers was not only an opportunity to show my work off, but also to look at the other creative work being produced by graduates from other universities. I was really impressed by a few pieces, but there wasn’t much there that was pushing the boundaries of design. Here are some of my favourites:
Jade Folawiyo was, in my opinion, one of the few graduates there who, whether intentionally or not, really addresses the issues of sustainability in the right way. She came and found me on my stand to talk to me about my work, and then started to tell me about her project which is about cultural identity. We walked to her stand and she showed me the Gourds and explained them. Her family origins are from Nigeria, and the tableware collection she created combines West African cultural heritage with contemporary Western ceramics. Jade was telling me that her mum uses the Gourds as a kitchen utensils – I think she undertook this project as a comment on the issues faced by living between two cultural identities, however I think this has given rise to a collection that highlights a really interesting object. Jade explained that the Gourds are grown (similar to pumpkin or squash), then when the edible centre is done with, the skin is dried and it becomes a hard and lightweight cup shaped utensil. Traditionally they were decorated and became a valuable tool.
In terms of sustainability, this product is ideal. It has a rich cultural heritage, it uses very little energy to manufacture, it is degradable when worn or broken, and each Gourd vessel carries value, especially if they are passed down from generation to generation. They also will never go ‘out of fashion’ because they have no particular style.
I’m not sure if this is what Jade intended, but I kind of draw parallels between my work and hers. I would really like to see people using hazel as a material, and I’m sure Jade would really like to see people using gourd vessels too. I would like to think this project brings this brilliant material to the attention of consumers of contemporary design, and Gourd vessels will be replacing plastic pots in many British homes.
Another piece that really interested me was Martin Skelly’s Playlist Player. It uses an MP3 player to provide the music, but to activate the music you have to put a 12″ record shaped piece of plastic down on the table. I’ve recently turned to mostly listening to music on vinyl because I like the whole experience of mulling the music out of the sleeve, carefully putting it down and sitting the needle on the record and then enjoying the music. It encourages you to respect and take care with music, the way it should be treated. This product is kind of half way between the two because you have all your tracks stored on an MP3 player, but you still have to physically put a record on to play the music. A nice idea, but it could be improved. for example, I’ve seen DJs using vinyl combined with a laptop. The tracks are stored on the computer, but can be manipulated and mixed on the turntables via a USB stylus which sit on plastic plates that pass the information back to the computer, and then out through the speakers. If this could be developed so you could actually manipulate the music in that sense in your home, that would be a perfect product sitting between MP3 and Vinyl.
Have a look at his website www.martinskelly.co.uk
Finally the other thing that really struck me was this work from Tortie Hoare. She has used boiled leather to create unique pieces of furniture. I looked into this process a while ago after reading about a guy called Simon Hasan who has been using this technique too. I have heard and read a little criticism about Tortie getting recognition for this process, when it was Simon Hasan that originally used this material but I don’t think this is fair as Hasan was reviving an old craft anyway – he didn’t invent the technique and neither did Tortie.
Who originally came up with the idea isn’t relevant anyway to me, I love the way she has used the material and the pieces she has come up with. My absolute favourite was the small side table which is light, elegant, and has a recess in the leather to hold a cup or glass, really smart. I think she has been very clever in selecting leather which has already undergone use, and has patina, really lovely work.