Friday, 29 October 2010

Feature on Design Event : NIGHTSHADE : THE ART OF STORYTELLING with Amy Dover

Helen Stevens/SurfacePhilia reports on Nightshade : The Art Of Storytelling @ Design Event, for Arts Thread.

Design Event is Newcastle and Gateshead’s' largest yearly creative festival, which runs over the course of eleven days every October. The festival delivers an annual programme of design based exhibitions, talks and events, helping to support and celebrate creative talent across the North-East of England.

We visit one exhibition ‘Nightshade’ which see’s the collaborative introduction of three talented artists; Emily Forgot, Amy Dover and Alaric Hammond. The small exhibition individually explores each artist and the coherent theme of storytelling between the illustrations. The work on show suggests “violence and animalism, masked by childish playfulness, mysticism and beauty” Each piece is presented entirely in black and white, collectively rejecting the use of colour making the pieces “immediately timeless in context, simultaneously suggestive of past, present and future”.

Artist Amy Dover gives us more insight into the exhibition and her work.

Is it the first time the three artists have exhibited together? Yes it is.

Living in different parts of the country, what was it that brought you together initially? Alaric brought us together to produce this show; he felt a link between our work, as well as the black and white theme.

Having visited the show, there seems to be an intensity which sits amongst the art. Are there other key elements which you feel link the three different styles of work? I think all the pieces have a narrative and a mystery, which links them together.

Do you have any plans for future collaborations as a trio? Not sure to be honest. It would be nice to take the exhibition to another audience somewhere, as it was only on for a short time.

Have you benefitted from working together? Its always interesting to find out how other people work and approach their practice. And its always nice to be associated with such interesting and talented artists.

Now isolating you now as an artist, what is the most important aspect of your work? And do you try to portray anything through your art? I like to tell a story, as well as express relationships with the characters in the pieces. I like people to be intrigued, and to make up their own mind about what is going on. I also take a long time on each piece and put everything I have got in to it.

How long have you been a practising artist for? About two years. Since a gallery approached me, not long after graduation, which offered me a contract to sell my work.

Based in Newcastle, how strong is the creative community there? Do you feel there is a lot of opportunity to develop creatively and become a recognised artist? Yeah, I think there is a big community up here. There are always events and exhibitions going on. There are a lot of galleries, both national and privately owned. The city changes constantly. As well as the Internet being a valuable tool to get work notices. It’s always interesting to get fan mail from the States or Germany. I also spend a lot of time in London, and of course there is always lots going on down in the big smoke.

What has been your most exciting project or achievement so far?
Oh I’m not sure? I suppose each new project is exciting, I love what I do.

Read the feature on Arts Thread:

Interview with CURATE40 at LDW

Helen Stevens/SurfacePhilia - Reports on Curate 40 at LDW for Arts Thread. 

Curate 40 was created by designer and creative director Pacharapong Suntanaphan in December 2009, and was set up in order to help support and promote skilled designers and their products. The organisation identifies and uses key emerging trends to inspire and curate the direction of show. At this year’s London Design Festival the theme was Print and Illustration, over 40 designers were represented through a ‘Minimart’ held in a pop-up space on Redchurch Street, London. We caught up with Creative director Pacharapong, through a quick Q&A he tells us a little more about his vision for the business:

How long have you been running Curate40 for?
Curate40 is still very fresh. I started Curate40 in December 2009.

What was your initial reasoning for setting up Curate40?
I have always felt that most creative’s (graduates or professionals) are not very good at turning their passion into a business and there isn't enough support out there to make them understand their potential. As a result, I've decided that someone should take the initiative to show them that there are so many more opportunities out there if you know how to find them. Hence, the birth of Curate40.

For your showcasing collective, do you hand pick the designers yourself or is it open submission?
I do a combination of inviting designers to take part as well as open submission. This allows for a bigger variety of work beyond my research as well as opening up new opportunities for quality designers and their products from all over the world.

We are always open to suggestions. Our main goal is to curate a strong coherent show, so if the work fits then we will be happy to take up otherwise we will keep their contacts for any future projects.

The Curate40 show is based on future trends within design, what was this year’s theme and how different is your event to other shows going on throughout London Design Festival?
For 2010, Curate40 focuses on the ever growing trend of 'Print and Illustrations'. The show concentrates on bringing a range of work from affordable objects to conceptual designs that visitors can really connect with. Our event is different to most shows in a sense that it is much more intimate and very approachable. We encourage visitors to interact with the work and the best bit is you can purchase the show pieces and take them home with you!

Did you have any previous experience of curating before LDF this year?
I have personally been taking part in the London Design Festival the past 5 years through other events. It's only been the past 2 years that I have taken on an active role in curating shows and promoting the hidden gems of design.

What has been the response to this year’s show? Has it attracted a certain type of customer?
We have had such an amazing response. We had over 2000 visitors through our little rugged door in just 7 days from designers, buyers, retailers, press, to international visitors. You just cannot tell who is going to visit.

Due to the current climate, have you noticed tightened spending at this year’s event?
Not at all, we had amazing sales throughout the week, but as it is design week you can never really judge it properly.

Do you run events at any other time of the year?
We focus on running satellite projects and can vary massively from one to the other to keep everything dynamic. For instance, we worked with Clarion Events to launch 12 designers at ‘Pulse London’ trade show in June. We are also currently in the process of setting up a project with Urban Outfitters, Original Metalbox Company and many more.

Are you a designer yourself?
Yes I am. My background is in ceramics, but I also design a varied of things and also work as freelance designer in a variety of fields from design, trends to art direction.

So as a designer and creative director, do you have any words of advice for new talent who are wishing to set up in businesses?
One of the most important things I've learnt is that you make your own luck. There are lots of opportunities around you, but it's just a matter of whether you choose to invest in it or not. A creative path is not a straight forward path, but more like a spider web. You will most likely be doing a variety of things before you end up where you want to be, so do not feel discouraged by any obstacle as it provides you with experiences and confidence to reach your goal.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Surface//Philia reports on 'Things We Love' at LDF for Arts Thread

Carola Strohoff and Ulrike Trueltzsch-Hille are the proud owners and founders of the online store Things We Love. The company has been running for two years, representing hand selected artists and designers from all over the world to sell through their bespoke website. Things We Love – (it’s all in the name) participated in this year’s London Design Festival with a curated pop-up shop and exhibition space on Redchurch Street in London.

Having spoken to co-owner Ulrike at the show, it quickly becomes evident why the two partners set up their online business. Ulrike’s passion and enthusiasm for design led us around the space talking passionately about most items on show. The products on show were extremely varied, beautifully made and well executed, ranging from exquisite bespoke jewellery to comical colouring-in books for adults. Ulrike and Carola’s broad sense of design awareness and humour definitely shines through. Ulrike notes “the variety of our chosen designers and products are as varied as life”.

Both partners work as freelance picture editors in London and sometimes in their homeland of Germany. After many years of editing for various magazines, Ulrike and Carola decided they wanted to begin representing design products independently. “We have come across so many amazing photographers and designers’, we developed the wish to do more to promote our beloved designs”. Ulrike herself studied photography, so naturally good representation of a product became increasingly more important to her “photography is very close to my heart, but on top of that we sincerely believe that beautiful items make your existence more exciting and worth living for. As Lulu Guinness once stated on one of her bags ‘...put on your pearls girls...' “.

The Things We Love pop-up shop on Redchurch street became a great opportunity to let their potential customers see, feel and touch their chosen products, “this you can't do online....and the response has been very positive, many people liked what we had to show. It gives us the energy and feedback to continue further” Although it is hard times in today’s climate for retailers all over the world, Ulrike and Carola still remain positive about their returning customers although admitting, the products they sell are more about indulgence rather than survival. Things We Love have remained successful in not only attracting a younger edgier customer on a tighter budget, but their taste captures attention from those with “the larger purse”.

Things We Love offers a genuine and humbling approach to buying bespoke gifts. Ulrike explains that the biggest achievement so far for them is that artists trust and want to work with them, and their customers appreciate what they have to offer. The close relationship and admiration for each designer and their product is a refreshing personal touch in today’s competitive market of online retailing.

To read the article on Arts Thread:
Visit Things We Love:

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Spring 11: Kenzo

Just been checking out new prints by Kenzo on Pattern People. YUM!

Spring 11: Kenzo

Monday, 11 October 2010

Interview with the inspiring GILES MILLER. Report for Arts Thread at 100% Design.

Helen Stevens reports for Arts Thread at 100% Design, London.
Arts Thread feature link:

Giles Miller studied Furniture Design at Loughborough and continued studies at the Royal College of Art before graduating in 2009. Giles focus is based upon innovative surfaces for interior and architectural specification, offering personal and bespoke imagery and material for each individual commission. He experiments using unlikely 3D materials, such as metals, cardboard and interactive plastic.

During his education and since leaving university, Giles has already become a recognisable talent within the design world appealing to many well known brands and institutes including Stella McCartney Pop-Up Store, London Design Museum, Ecologist Magazine, Selfridges and Bombay Sapphire. Some of Giles’ designs have also gone into production with Italian brands, Dovetusai and the newly launched furniture giant Skitsch.

It seems you were very proactive and focused on being successful in your career from an early age, how did you start to begin putting your determination into practise?
I graduated from my BA in 2006 alongside 3 other students who I then collaborated with in the formation of Farm designs, a young British Design collective with a diverse range that worked well together. We joined forces to exhibit at shows and exhibitions and that was the catalyst for realising our potential commercially. Commission began to come in and then I showed on my own in the Milan furniture fair with a group called Hidden Art who were also instrumental in my development. It was these trade shows that really helped to push my work onto press and consumers alike.

Having studied furniture earlier on in your eduaction, what was it that moved you into surface design?
My cardboard work was picked up in 2008/09 by Stella McCartney's team and they commissioned me to create a wall covering for their shop in Paris. This job showed me the potential for my work as surfaces. I was still studying for my masters at the Royal College of Art at the time so I began to use my time there to develop new materials, and the consequences have lead to a first collection of surfaces that was launched during 100% design this year.

Would you say experimentation is quite a vital part of your process?
I believe experimentation is the only real path to true design originality. It’s very hard to avoid your mind becoming saturated by all the other work out there, and undertaking your own process and letting it drive itself in an experimental way is really the best way to find true innovation and originality.

Do you manufacture in the UK? How do you feel about keeping manufacturing in the UK for British design companies?
Retaining my manufacturing in the UK is currently a vital part of my philosophy and practice. Not only is it important to develop personal relationships with manufacturers, but it is hugely beneficial to the UK industries that designers try to retain business within the UK. I have had experience with working with overseas manufacturers recently having been forced by a client’s limited budget, but it was not a satisfying outcome for reasons that could have been avoided with UK production. That's my British industry plug!

Being a recognisable talent, do you find most trade comes to you or do you still have to work quite hard at promoting your business?
I don't think I'm widely recognised outside the design industry at all, but there is always an element of passed business or word of mouth which helps bring in work. That said, press is usually the key to new work, and other than the odd trade show I do not put too much into promotion. It rather diminishes the chance to design.

What would you say is the most exciting project you have worked on so far?
I'm afraid it’s hard to pin one project down, but over the last 3 months I have been fortunate enough to work on exciting projects with Bombay Sapphire, Stella McCartney and Selfridges in a rush of excitement that I hope will continue!

Do you have any quick advice for new design graduates hoping to set up their own business within industry?
I would say that despite my poor example, it’s worth getting some experience within a similar field to where you'd like to end up first. If, like me, you don't have the patience then get in touch with Hidden Art, show your work during the London Design Festival at the biggest trade show you can afford, and sort out some lovely photos of your work to send to press. Best of luck!

Report on EMMA JEFFS for Arts Thread at LDF. Inspiring Q&A for budding designers!

A report for Arts Thread by Helen Stevens - Surface//Philia. As part of London Design Festival, Craft Central put on a ‘One Day Sale’. I caught up with Emma Jeffs, a UK award winning designer with a passion for materials and print.

Since 2000 Emma Jeffs has been running a business which experiments with printing and research of print technologies. Emma’s investigations were awarded with a UK government NESTA two year fellowship allowing her to delve further into experimentation.

Emma is most recognised for her innovative ‘window vinyl’, an idea she developed whilst travelling London buses, noticing the amount of grotty net curtains hanging in windows. The printed vinyl comes in a range of beautiful frost etchings and can be stuck to any kind of window for privacy on exterior and interiors of houses. The elegant yet functional vinyl’s can be seen in some of the most stylish housing and retail projects around the world.

Emma’s knowledge of industry has also led her into lecturing on UK undergraduate and postgraduate design and craft courses. Ten years of creative business practice also appealed to the UK Crafts Council, leading Emma to become Co-ordinator and Mentor on the Next Move scheme - Here she has supported the start up of six UK craft and design early stage makers setting up in their early stages of creative business.

You have had a very successful ten years in business since setting up in 2002, you're love of print and materials got you into what you do now, did you have any previous training or education in print before you set up business?
I set up the print studio in 2000 with the aid of a Crafts Council Setting up Grant.
Prior to this I did a BA in textiles for Fashion at UWE, Bristol and then freelanced as a print designer, but ended up working in advertising at Saatchi & Saatchi as a PA. The lure of the print room called and I went back to education and did a MA in Surface Design at BIAD, Birmingham. On completion of this I knew I wanted to try to produce my own fabrics and create products from them so I worked numerous part time jobs to get some money together and applied for the setting up grant to buy equipment for my print studio, which I set up in the east in end of London under the business name of Surface Material Design.

Most print and textile designers stay within a 'safe' area of designing because of how far education pushes practise and knowledge. What was it that pushed you that bit further and want to start experimenting and researching into print technology?

For me the most interesting part of my BA was the print and dye room. Getting my hands messy, experimenting with various print processes was a large part of where I spent my time. I began to develop my own novel Plasticized print process at the end of my BA.

When I was at college doing my BA only graphic designers designed on computers, Textile design was still very much approached and taught as a hand only design process.

My brief time at Saatchi advertising introduced me to designing on the computer and so when I went back to do an MA I began to teach myself computer aided design packages as I saw these could be another tool within my work. Alongside this I began to develop my plastic printing process and to combine this development with looking at industrial manufacture of plastics and printing.

I have always been process led in my work. For me a pattern works because it is integral to the material or surface it is applied to and the function of the product. These three elements surface, material and design are how I approach my work and what excites me as a creative practitioner. I am not purely a surface designer that wants to apply the same pattern to numerous objects. This would not fulfil me as designer. I design patterns with the material and final application in mind and part of this is how the material is made and how we are going to apply the pattern.

Your decorative window vinyls are obviously a massive success selling all over the world, how did you start about manufacturing and shipping your products?
The window film product came about via another material that I showed at 100% design in 2004 under the title “reclaim”. I had taken discarded laces and encapsulated them through an industrial laminator and given then an adhesive backing. It gained a lot of press; people loved the idea of a stick up lace curtain. This process was very cost prohibitive to most, so I began to explore the idea further and came back to the very simple application of silk screening a lace design onto a self adhesive vinyl. Initially I took it to a blind manufacturer that I had done some work for and thought they might be interested in it. But they didn’t want it so I took a punt and did Pulse which is a trade show for retailers. I gained enough initial orders to set it up in production with a UK print company and it just grew from there. It has been a steep learning curve manufacturing your products is not easy and I am passionate about producing it here in the UK. It is more expensive but it is much easier to manage production and you have to keep an eye on things. I also love the company I work with they have been very supportive of my business growth and I value this relationship I see them as integral to my business. I have licensed my window film to a US company. Under the license they print and manufacture the films in the US. I love this business module as it has less impact on our carbon emissions as we don’t have to ship the film to the US. It is a module I hope to extend to other regions.

I understand you have contracts all over the world within interiors, retail, product and material manufacturers, what has been the most exciting project for you so far?
I did a great project a few years back where I created a 5 metre high 3 dimensional structured form for a dance company with my fabrics, It was an arts council project and it brought a diverse group together who had never worked with dance before. I loved the challenge with working on this scale and working with a lighting designer to produce a piece that would engage with the dancer’s performance.

I have produced lots of one off films for private homes and it is always a delight to hear back from a customer on how much they love the film. . I have also spotted my film in various restaurants, hotels etc. I love the idea that my films are in homes all over the world. As a designer it is a huge compliment that someone is willing to part with their money for your goods. I never forget the responsibility that I have to the customer. I want my products do what they say do and be loved and used for many years.

Obviously innovation is a huge part of your development. How important is it to put time aside for experimentation within your process?
It is so important to put quality time for this aside as otherwise you become frustrated and don’t move on. I try to set aside time to explore on a regular basis. Experimentation Friday’s is something I have tried to introduce to my weekly timetable this year. I clear the decks don’t answer the phone and just explore. Every Friday is not always possible but it is something I am trying to do at least once a month.

Do you find it hard to balance innovation with commercial and viable costing production?
Yes, this is always the most challenging to any idea you hope to take to production. It is a constant struggle. It is part of the design and innovation process but it doesn’t stop me from pursing an idea I try not let it to inhibit what I want to do. Often in constraint something wonderful can happen.

What is the next step for Emma Jeffs? Do you have any other exciting plans up your sleeves?
Presently I am in talks with a manufacturing company to produce a collection of window film for a PET window vinyl, which means that it can be recycled. This is exciting development for glass manifestation as to date all the vinyls are PVC. This material was not around 5 years ago when introduced my product; finally the innovation of the materials and demand has created a material that we can work with.

I am also working with a manufacturer of a non-woven material, which again is completely recyclable. It is a cross between a paper and a fabric, but is it more fabric than paper and has UV properties. I am also working with digital roll-to-roll printing technologies of materials. In the long term I would like to offer my collection on larger sized rolls for interior designers and showrooms akin to fabric.

Having acted as an inspiring business mentor through the Crafts Council, do you have any quick words of advice for new design practitioners hoping to set up their own business within industry?
I think the main one to anyone thinking of setting up a creative practice is to really get some business experience and understanding of the market/sector you wish to enter into either through a internship or someone who could act as an unofficial mentor. See how business is conducted and use this to set up good business practice so that you are professional.

You will always be creative that is your passion but the actual reality of selling your work or services is altogether different. You can’t expect people to come to you; you have to make it happen. What is unique about your practice and how can you market yourself to the audience you want to sell to. You have to understand why will someone buy your work or hire your services.

Secondly do some business training prior to setting up and continue to train yourself whilst you are in business. Many practitioners feel they can’t take the time out once they are set up as it can be hard to find the time but it is a great investment for your business. We are very lucky in the UK there are some fantastic organisations providing a host of support and training for creative businesses. I meet practitioners from other countries who are in awe of the support we receive in the UK. Use these services.