One of the great pleasures of the unique legacy from our founder Peta Levi MBE is our ongoing relationship with New Designers, the premier annual graduate designer event in London. We join the team each summer to select the winners of the One Year On gallery over the two weeks of the event. Together with other judges such as Patricia van der Akker of The Design Trust and appointed curator Rheanna Lingham, we relish getting to talk to each participating designer about their ideas, inspirations, challenges and future journey.
The criteria for application to One Year On is that the designers’ businesses must be in the first year of operation when they apply, but there are many routes to market, ranging from recent graduates to those who have worked in other fields or for other businesses, and are now starting out afresh with their own products. It’s always tough to choose a winner as the standards are so high, but we get there eventually.
Amongst other things, the winners get a year’s free membership of Design-Nation, and they also get to have a showcase at our sister gallery, The National Centre for Craft & Design. As the exhibition at NCCD enters its last weeks, (it closes 24 April) we caught up with the 2015 winning designers jeweller Flora Bhattachary and textile designer Robyn Hinchcliffe for a quick chat.
Design-Nation: How did you decide which pieces to show in the NCCD showcase? Do you have any favourites?
Flora Bhattachary: I wanted to select some bold pieces that I felt best displayed the way that I combine traditional hand jewellery making techniques with the computer design technology and printing. I work by hand carving models from wax and then using these models to further develop the designs in CAD. These are then hand finished and set in the traditional way.
It’s always really hard to pick a ‘favourite’ because for each design you work so hard to get it right…..but of this collection my chosen pieces are the carved stone rings. These pieces were inspired by looking at flat Islamic Pattern and carving models to investigate how those patterns could translate into 3D sculptural designs. I made a lot of models – before I got to these final pieces! The deep amethyst, smoky quartz and peacock pearls in these pieces really reflected the dark mood that I was trying to achieve with this collection.
Robyn Hinchcliffe: I chose to exhibit a series of three carpets/wall hangings, inspired by the soft geometry of agricultural landscapes. I wanted to show the three pieces which would be the most engaging in pattern, texture and colour within a gallery space.
D-N: Can you tell us how you go about designing new work?
FB: I have a huge and rather unkempt pile of possible inspiration that I am constantly adding to and extracting ideas from. I make mood boards to set the scene for a particular collection – and there is always something that has particularly inspired me that is at the root of any new designs. Then I draw extensively and hand-carve potential designs in wax to try to get to a point where I can resolve all that!
RH: I tend to start with a small selection of yarn shades and textures. From there I just keep swatching and experimenting on my knitting machine with various pattern and texture combinations until I find something that I want to expand on. My collections seems to build quite naturally through this process of experimentation.
D-N: Do you have a favourite material to work with?
FB: My favourite material is definitely hand carved stone. I worked with Charlotte De Syllas (an expert stone carver) for a short period of time when I was first starting out in jewellery and she really inspired me with what is possible sculpturally in precious stone. I like to push the boundaries of how carved stone is used in jewellery – and I love the potential for strong colour that stone provides!
RH: I love working with British wools – particularly Shetland and Herdwick breeds as they have such a lovely, natural hairy quality that you can’t help but touch. The Herdwick Dot Carpet included in the NCCD showcase is the first rug I ever made using Herdwick Wool and is still one of my favourite pieces.
D-N: What have you been doing since New Designers 2015?
FB: It’s been incredible since I won at New Designers. I was lucky enough to be chosen as one of the ten KickStarters to show at International Jewellery London, and to win two silver awards at the Goldsmiths Crafts and Design Awards. I have shown my work at Paris Fashion Week, at Zaha Hadid’s gallery, at Harvey Nichols and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park amongst other exhibitions.
RH: I gained a number of individual commissions from New Designers for my hand-made cushions and wall hangings, which I have really enjoyed working on! A highlight is definitely being approached by a leading interior design studio to work on an upholstery piece for an up-and-coming London hotel and business hub, which I can’t wait to work on.
D-N: And what’s next for you?
FB: I’m hoping to be launching a new group of fine jewellery pieces that I’ll be showing at Goldsmiths Fair this October. I’ve also been selected for Dazzle in Edinburgh this summer and at the Oxo Tower at Christmas – so that should keep me busy!
RH: My priority is really to get my product retail-ready. I’m currently working on expanding and developing the collection I exhibited at New Designers to include a wider variety of soft furnishings and homeware accessories.
See Flora and Robyn’s work at the New Designers One Year On 2015 showcase, at The National Centre for Craft and Design until Sunday 24 April 2016.
We’ll be back at the Business Design Centre in Islington to judge the 2016 One Year On galleries in the summer. Find out more about New Designers 2016 here.
Interview by Liz Cooper, Design-Nation Programme Manager
Jyamiti Zig Zag Ring by Flora Bhattachary, photo by Sylvain Deleu. Herdwick Dot rug (detail) by Robyn Hinchcliffe. Maker portraits courtesy of New Designers.