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Our Successful New Buddy Scheme to Connect Makers

We know that good often comes from people in the most adverse situations. The Design-Nation team always does its best to be friendly and supportive, and certainly those elements of our offer have been called on frequently in these challenging times. We are delighted that our whole network of designer-makers is also very friendly and supportive, demonstrating the good in everyone.

Partially in response to COVID-19, but also because it’s really important to us to build and strengthen networks and communications across our sector, we recently launched a Buddy Scheme for our members. The scheme’s been going for less than three months but already we’re hearing about so many positive benefits of this way of paired communications, created through a broadcast and randomised “draw from the hat” by our membership manager Hayley Banks.

The unpredictable nature of this type of matching has put together some interesting mixes of discipline and materials. Knitwear designer Olive Pearson is in regular contact with ceramicist Kirsty Adams and they are enjoying getting to know each other. Olive says, “We’ve been chatting and taking each week as it comes, learning about one another’s work, finding things in common – supportive and no pressure.” Lacemaker Louise West is paired with glass artist Samantha Sweet. Louise says, “Really enjoying the buddying, it’s… no pressure, but like friends catching up, I always look forward to the emails”.

By contrast Melissa Montague and Nobuko Okumura both work in metal, creating contemporary vessels and jewellery, and are video-chatting almost every week, sharing useful information and becoming friends. Other like-minded pairings that could bear fruit include ceramicists Katherine Staples and Linda Southwell, textile designers Hannah White and Eliza Kesuma of Moody Monday, and jewellers Lou Gillett of Atlantic Design Studio and Faye Hall.

Distance is no barrier for our buddy scheme: jeweller Caroline Brogden and lighting designer Rachel Fitzpatrick are far apart – South Yorkshire and Northern Ireland respectively – but look forward to their “virtual cuppa and zoom” sessions. Another pair of buddies who are reaching across the miles and benefiting from video-conference “dates” are furniture designer Jonathan Rose in Aberdeenshire and ceramicist Jennie McCall in Leicestershire. Meantime glassmaker Catriona J MacKenzie in Bristol and 3D-print ceramics designer  and Graduate member Oli Turnpenney in Lincolnshire are having themed Zoom calls.

In the East Midlands feltmaker Rachel Morley and woodlands forager and maker Jane Bevan are not only scheduling regular catch-ups to discuss their work and plans, and share news of the wider world of craft, but are even planning to meet one day for a walk, when they are able.

It’s a great pleasure for the DN team to have enabled all these exciting creative conversations and to receive so much positive feedback. Jane Bevan: “It’s been great”. Nobuko Okumura: “A lovely introduction. Thanks.” Jennie McCall: “Most enjoyable.” Rachel Morley: “Really enjoying the interaction.” Long may our buddies continue to chat and share.

If you are interested in joining the Design-Nation network and accessing our Buddy Scheme, alongside many other creative opportunities, do get in touch. We offer several levels of membership:  full, graduate and a new Friends scheme to be launched soon.

Images courtesy the makers, except those of Nick Rawcliffe and Samantha Sweet which are by Barbara Chandler and used with permission.

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Liz Cooper


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