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Questioning minds, skillful hands: our new members

In late May our independent panel convened to review the latest tranche of membership applications and they were delighted with what they saw. It seems that makers’ standards improve all the time: while the materials deployed are relatively traditional (ceramics, glass, metal, textiles, wood), the range of skills and technical knowledge employed by designer-makers are effective, sophisticated and often quite dramatic.

Furthermore, the way our new members approach the act of making is thoughtful, enquiring and considered. They question their materials and processes, sometimes choosing important and difficult themes to explore in the pieces they make. Both emerging makers and those with rather more experience are asking us to think about the health of the planet and ourselves; to be aware of waste and prejudice; to build awareness of our thoughts and actions; to question our perceptions of others; and to seek joy and stimulation in both nature and manufactured environments and objects.

Design-Nation welcomes 21 new members this June, including two Graduates and six Associates. In a continuation of recent trends, almost a third are working with the ancient and also very contemporary medium of ceramics. Jemma Gowland’s sensitive yet disturbing mixed clay figurines look at gender bias, and Jane King’s amorphous and colourful forms question the current trend for hyper-perfected personal imagery online.

By contrast Erum Aamir creates mesmerising decorative forms drawn from microbiology and her fascination with nature’s minutiae, while Ali Tomlin and Carolyn Tripp both hand throw porcelain vessels and then expertly decorate them: Ali’s pieces use a wide vocabulary of subtle mark-making, while Carolyn finds joy in reworking intricate pattern with deep blue hues. New Graduate member Jane Wilson’s handbuilt objects reflect the natural world she sees around her London studio.

Turning to jewellery and metal smithing, we’re also seeing a refreshingly diverse group:  Farah Qureshi brings fresh thinking about our interactions with objects to her ‘five-senses’-inspired contemporary cutlery, and Judith Peterhoff’s exquisitely textured works demonstrate her impressive skills and materials knowledge as well as commitment to sustainable making. Jo Lavelle’s very wearable contemporary pieces are expertly crafted with beautiful intricate details. Three new Associate Members are making jewellery inspired by their natural environments. Former blacksmith Beca Beeby is based in the Wye Valley and brings her sculptural aesthetic to the creation of ranges inspired by honeycomb’s morphogenetics. Natasha O works with both silversmithing and 3D printing to make pieces reflecting her dual environments of coastline and city, and Vanessa Priest’s new brand Quaystones unites considerable experience of stone-setting with cast silver techniques, in works that evoke her coastal studio in the heart of Berwick-on-Tweed.

In textiles, stitch artist Dionne Swift uses energetic free-drawing and machining techniques to explore her surroundings through her one off artworks, created with her unique technique of ‘tactile pointillism’. By Cecil is the charming brand of Cecilia Childs, who handweaves accessories that are destined to be cherished as future heirlooms, a rejection of mass production and over-consumption. Graduate member Steph Glover has a background in interior design and is now bringing her graphic design skills to a range of wall-hangings, and new Associate Jade Webb weaves pieces using materials carefully chosen for their biodiversity.

Five more designers with very different and striking practices round off our new selection. Sculptor Amanda Randall works in UK sourced stone, meticulously crafting organic-inspired forms for house and garden, pleasing forms that celebrate biodiversity and promote compassion. Richard Grimes brings an array of hand and machine production techniques to his contemporary and well thought out plywood furniture and statement lighting pieces. In Chelmsford Associate Holly Parr trades as Beaded Blooms, creating delicate and decorative contemporary floral displays that celebrate traditional craft techniques. Associate Deborah Timperley casts glass in her West Sussex studio, making colourful sculptural pieces and decorative bowls. And last but definitely not least, Opal Seabrook’s glass artworks pack a powerful pop-art-influenced punch, painstakingly pieced together from tiny cut fragments, and raising smiles.

We’re very happy to be welcome such a diverse and clever array of designer-makers to our portfolio. The Design-Nation team is looking forward to showcasing their work at our events and supporting these talents to grow even further.


News index page: Opal Seabrook.

On this page: Jemma Gowland, Carolyn Tripp, Judith Peterhoff, Farah Qureshi, Natasha O, Dionne Swift, Quaystones (Vanessa Priest), Richard Grimes, Opal Seabrook.

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Liz Cooper


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