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An interview with Stephanie Holt and Winter and Kurth

We interview the winners of New Designers 2017 One Year On: jeweller Stephanie Holt and product designers Winter and Kurth.

Design-Nation asked these amazing designer-makers about their practices, to introduce them to our Design-Nation community.

Design-Nation asked: Could you describe your workplace briefly?

Stephanie Holt: I split my time between the wonderful School of Jewellery in Birmingham where I am Artist in Residence and my home in Warwick. My partner and I have been converting a garden shed into a lovely studio for me, complete with insulated, plaster boarded walls and carpeted floor! (This winter will be a much better experience.)

David Winter and Natasha Kurth: Day to day we work from our studio at ‘Paradise Works’ in Salford, Manchester. It’s a versatile space where we can combine desk based activities with making and prototyping.

DN: Where do you get your inspiration from?

SH: I get my inspiration from the world around me. I know it’s a cliché! But I really do get inspiration from all the things I see and read about and experience. I think I have always have been an bit of an obsessive observer, always taking snaps of things I find intriguing or amusing or startling, keeping mementoes of things (aka hoarding!) If I hear about something I find interesting I then spend ages looking up information and verifying sources.  I really enjoy researching for new projects and will read incessantly about something that has caught my attention. I am particularly attracted to form, line, structure, and colour. I love brutalist architecture, minerals and crystals, contrasts in shapes and ideas. I love the natural world very much, but I am equally fascinated with our manmade world. I think I react to lots of things and if I have an emotional response to something whatever that response may be, it makes me want to know or learn more. I think that’s the best way I can describe it.

W and K: In the broadest sense our inspiration comes from society, both past and present. We are particularly influenced by archives, ancient craft techniques, contemporary making processes and the value we place on materials and objects.

DN: Who has been your most influential teacher or mentor?

SH: It’s really hard to choose one person who has been the most influential or inspiring because I feel that I have been very lucky to meet many inspiring people. People who have been incredibly generous with their knowledge and their time and who have helped me in many different ways. I always try to make the most of any opportunity and also I think you can learn a lot from everyone you meet if you are paying attention!

W and K: It would have to be craftsman and friend Rafal Wisniewski, who has kindly given up his time and workshop to share his contemporary making techniques with us. He has given us the space and time to develop our own marquetry process and is always happy to talk through and test out our latest ideas. We couldn’t have got this far without him.

DN: How do you go about designing new work?

SH: New projects start with an intense period of research and exploration; reading, collecting imagery, drawing and sketching all over the place plus I internalise a lot. Then I seem to naturally progress to making 3d models. They could be out of card, mesh, plaster or metal etc. I will start to hone in on the design and then once it has been extracted (which is how it feels sometimes: searching for and extracting the design that I know is in there) I make a prototype to try out and road test. Then I make the real thing. It’s an all-consuming process but I love it.

W and K: Usually by interweaving contextual research with physical material exploration. There needs to be a concept behind the work, and often the concept becomes clearer through hands on engagement with materials and processes. We often work from hand to machine and back again to create work which fuses both traditional and contemporary craft practice.

DN: Do you have a favourite material to work with?

SH: I don’t think I really have a favourite material to work. I love working with precious metal and I definitely favour sheet metal. I also love working with minerals and gemstones and I have been studying lapidary so that I can carve my own shapes. I like to mix media and have found working with resin really interesting. It is really versatile and the colours are amazing.

W and K: Not really. What excites us is working with new materials, working in the unknown – learning new processes and pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved using limited materials.

DN: What has been the most interesting thing to happen since setting up your business?

SH: I have learnt a lot since starting my business and can’t believe how much you have to do as a sole trader. I am literally every department of my business! The most exciting thing for me is that I’m actually doing it! I’m in a creative role, which I have always wanted to do, and it feels absolutely right. I love the fact that I am designing and making these wonderful things as my work.

W and K: We were so thrilled when John Lewis approached us to design a side table with them as part of their new collection inspired by the V&A. It was our dream job! We learnt such a lot through the process and we’re really pleased with the outcome.

DN: What are your plans for the next twelve months after New Designers?

SH: Later this year I will be exhibiting my work at The Goldsmiths’ Fair in week one. I will be on stand 9. Do come and see me if you are visiting. I am also going to be showing my work at Dazzle London this winter, which will be at the Oxo Gallery in London. So I have two great events to round off the year. I have more plans afoot for 2018 and I will also be Artist in Residence at the School of Jewellery in Birmingham for a second year.

W and K: We have two pieces on show at DesignJunction during London Design Festival and are already talking about some exciting collaborations with contacts we made at New Designers. We’re really looking forward to working with The Design Trust and Design-Nation over the coming year to focus on our ambitions for the business and to help widen our network.

DN: Will you carry on with the body of work you showed at One Year On or explore new directions?

SH: At New Designers I just launched the U.F.O Accessories collection. These will be earrings, bracelets etc. that will compliment and echo the aesthetic of the U.F.O. (Unique Finger Ornaments) Collection. I am also continuing to explore new shapes and forms for those pieces. I am not finished with these yet, there is definitely more to create!

W and K: The pieces we showed at One Year On will continue to exist as a collection for both purchase and as the basis for bespoke commissions; however we are always on the lookout for new inspiration and will continue to explore new directions with our work.

Interview by Laura Jacometti

Stephanie will be at The Goldsmiths’ Fair, week one 26th September-1st October

Winter and Kurth will show work at Design Junction, 21st-24th September.

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Laura Jacometti


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