Designer Maker Blog

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Denim Jack cropped

Each month I write a designer maker blog and this is very different to the one I write as a D&T teacher. It's more of a personal one reflecting my interests outside of teaching. It covers my interest in design generally, and in particular, my interest in textiles which is my D&T specialism

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Black Ark: Nicholas Daley A/W 2019

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We had a brilliant evening at the London Fashion Week Men’s presentation of the A/W19 collection by Nicholas Daley, one of my ex students. 

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The Black Ark collection takes its name from the Jamaican studio of music producer Lee Scratch Perry and, as with previous collections, the show was an event as well as a fashion show with 2 hours of music from up and coming artist Puma Blue and a set by the legendary British music producer Dennis Bovell (all of whom wore garments created by Nicholas). 

Black Ark 1

As with other collections, Black Ark reflects Nicholas’ Scottish and Jamaican heritage, along with his focus on British manufacturing, including specially created bespoke fabrics and footwear. 

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It’s a busy time for Nicholas as he’s also got through to the finals of the prestigious International Woolmark Prize, the winner of which is released in February so I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed! 

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Visit the Nicholas Daley website


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Georgie Meadows, Textiles Artist

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The work of Georgie Meadows, a textiles artist, is a good example of the power of design. I saw her work displayed at National Centre for Craft and Design and it had a powerful impact on me, both in terms of appreciating the quality of her work, as well as the message it portrays. 

Georgie's work explores the experiences of ageing and dementia and stems from her background in occupational therapy with her art work being inspired by the people she's cared for. Georgie machine embroiders onto calico and wadding creating embroideries with unfinished edges displayed in picture frames, often with the messy backs on show to reflect the inner confusion of the individual. Beside each piece of work are short sound bites that outline each individual’s daily challenges, for example, one particularly moving piece of work shows a lady sat at a table with food in front of her with the sound bite ‘Mrs Shaw is hungry but the part of her brain that should tell her how to eat this meal is not working’.

The pieces of work and sound bites together are a really powerful message about the needs of the elderly individuals. The work really makes the viewer reflect on the needs of those in the art work and, although they appear in an art exhibition, they wouldn’t be out of place as products designed as part of design brief to raise the awareness of, for example, dementia or for organisations like Age Concern.

In fact, in her artist statement she comments that she uses her work as teaching aids when working with occupational therapy students entering the profession to encourage empathy with the needs of individuals in their care. 

Georgie’s work has both qualities that can be appreciated from a design and technical perspective, but what makes her work have a real impact comes from the very personal stories it tells. This reflects the power of design to draw the viewer in, getting them to reflect on every day issues they might not have considered before. 


For me Georgie’s exhibition was one of the most powerful I have seen recently. It made me think deeply about the message Georgie was trying to convey, as well as about the power of design generally. 

Find out more about the work of Georgie Meadows 


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Eyelet Maker

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After many years battling with different types of eyelet makers some time ago I finally decided I’d had enough of never quite getting the holes right! I decided to bite the bullet and invested in a heavy duty eyelet maker and it’s one of the best things I have done. At £60 it wasn’t cheap but then again it’s much cheaper than the cost of all of the cheap and ineffective eyelet tools I have brought over the years (and the cost included some eyelets too plus 3 adaptors for inserting 3 different size of eyelets). 

It is pretty big, so takes up quite bit of storage space but it’s easy to use and you don’t need to be ultra strong to use it, unlike many of the hand held versions. I had to insert 40 eyelets for a big teacher course I was running and it took me less than an hour to do (including creating the holes in the fabric) and I had no mistakes or poor quality outcomes, unlike the previous course I ran where I had to create a similar amount of eyelets but where it took me several times longer, with many poor quality eyelets along the way. An investment I can definitely recommend. 

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2018 Product in a Tin Competition Winners

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The winners of our Product in a Tin competition for schools was announced earlier this month. It was another year of fabulous entries and you can see full details on all of the winners and runners up on the competition page. In the meantime here’s a quick sneak peak at some of the winning entries.

1st, 2nd & 3rd prizes 

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Stacking puzzle copy


Knitted torch copy


See more images and details about these winners here


#InspiredBy prize winners

InspiredBy

See more images and details about these products here


Merit prize winners

See more images and details about these products here


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Nottingham Contemporary

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I'm lucky that Nottingham, the city I live in, has a strong focus on the arts with lots of galleries and theatres, as well as other opportunities to look at and engage with all types of creative arts. 

One of the great venues is the Nottingham Contemporary gallery which we popped into recently. We weren’t intending to visit any particular exhibition (we like the shop and cafe!) so it was a bonus that there were two fab exhibitions for us to see. 

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One celebrated the work of Swiss architects and designers Trix and Robert Haussmann whose work includes buildings, product design, furniture, and textiles (on until 7th October 2018). Their work is known for its blend of pop culture and traditional techniques, as well as their use of illusion and irony. The pieces on show really interested us from our perspective as D&T teachers, particularly as their work goes across all D&T material areas. 

Trix & Robert Haussmann

At the same time as this exhibition Pia Camil also had a small installation (until 7th October 2018) with some interesting statement pieces. Although more of a contemporary art exhibition the work included some interesting pieces that also relate to D&T, particularly the massive curtain made of t.shirts and the hammock made out of jeans, both of which would be great inspiration for students.

Pia Camil

The building itself is just as interesting as the exhibitions inside. Nottingham is famous for its lace history and when the contemporary was designed by Caruso St John Architects based in London, the concrete façade was designed to incorporate an antique lace design taken from a piece of Richard Birkin machine made lace from 1847. Lacemaker Louise West recreated the antique lace to enable the design to be cast in concrete to create 7 metre panels that are all around the building with brass coloured trims to cover the joins in the panels. A great celebration of the history of the town in a contemporary style building that reflects the work on show inside.

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Degree Show Season

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I’m lucky enough to have a local university, Nottingham Trent, that has a great art and design department with loads of fantastic courses and I always look forward to the degree shows each year. The spaces the university uses to showcase work are large, light and airy and are an excellent backdrop for the work. The variety of work is huge, and I particularly like the way student outcomes are often not restricted by traditional materials. The shows make a great day out and I always come away feeling inspired and admiring the talent on show. Here are some of my favourites from the June 2018 shows from the following degrees: Product Design, Furniture and Product Design, Decorative Arts, Textile Design, Fashion Design, Knitwear Design. 

For more information on all of the work on show look at the show catalogues:

Textile Design

All other catalogues

Decorative Arts BA Lilijia Zhu 2 copy


Decorative Arts BA Amber Bull 2 copy


Fashion Design Victoria Rose Lees copy


Furniture & Product Design BA Frances Williams 2 copy


Knitwear Rowan Saunders copy


Furniture & Product Design BA Vanessa Chan Tara Yeandel copy


Textile Design BA Emma Cain copy


Product Design BA Graighagh Watson Frank Nickson copy


Textile Design BA Kirsty McIntyre copy


Textile Design BA Perveen Ali copy


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Nicholas Daley, Menswear Designer

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There’s nothing that makes a D&T teacher prouder than seeing their students go onto successful careers, particularly when it’s in a design related area. I was therefore incredibly proud to be invited to the collection of my ex-student, Nicholas Daley, who showed his Autumn/Winter 2018 ‘Red Clay’ menswear collection as part of London Fashion Week Men’s in January 2018.


Nicholas graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2013 and went on to set up his own label, producing collections strongly influenced by his dual heritage, his love of music and his passion for British manufacturing. These influences were clear in his latest collection which was inspired by his Scottish and Jamaican heritage and the music of Freddie Hubbard, Miles Davis and John Coltrane.

His support for British manufacturing has led Nicholas to work with leading UK manufacturers in all his collections. For his ‘Red Clay’ collection this included working with Scottish fabric mill Lovat to develop a bespoke herringbone tweed, as well as Scottish knitwear company William Locke, and milliners Christys, with whom he developed baker boy and pork pie hats as part of his collection. The attention to detail in his pieces reflect his passion for traditional methods of production and his focus on high quality creative pieces.

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The ‘Red Clay’ collection was showcased as a live jazz session rather than a traditional fashion show with the band wearing Nicholas’s designs. This created a fabulous atmosphere in the venue, making the event feel more intimate, with the audience being a real part of the show. Both the collection and the format of the show got rave reviews including being featured in Vogue, GQ Magazine and many others.

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As a menswear designer Nicholas breaks the mould of the traditional stereotyped image of what a successful fashion and textiles student is. At school he was never afraid to show his enjoyment for textiles and was a leading figure in many of the events run by our department (Lutterworth College in Leicestershire) aimed at challenging the perceptions of what textiles is, and in particular in encouraging other boys to consider textiles as a potential career.

At GCSE Nicholas was a slightly reluctant teenager who enjoyed textiles but, like lots of students at that age, he often had to be cajoled and pushed to maximise his potential, something we joked about when I met him at the ‘Red Clay’ show! The freedom of A level encouraged him to develop a strong work ethic, and this along with his natural creativity and a keen desire to focus on the technical aspects of his work, led to some excellent outcomes, including a complex jacket he designed for his AS level which included a hood with integral speakers, an early indication of his ongoing love for music that continues to influence his later work.

In 2017 Nicholas was chosen as one of fifteen designers awarded NEWGEN support by the British Fashion Council. This scheme supports the very best emerging talent with the aim of building global high end fashion brands of the future. Support for Nicholas and the other NEWGEN designers has included mentoring, business support as well as opportunities for showcasing their work, such as being featured at London Fashion Week Men’s.

For Nicholas the year has culminated in him and the other NEWGEN designers meeting the Queen as part of London Fashion Week – a photograph which made me smile both with pride, but also with some amusement, who would have thought in those days back in the classroom that one day he would meet the Queen at such a prestigious event!

For many students the seeds of a life long passion and career in design starts with their GCSE and A level choices. Whilst, like Nicholas, these students go onto university and into the work place gaining invaluable and focused experience along the way from many highly skilled experts, it’s often a teacher at secondary school who kick started and nurtured that initial interest. Success stories like Nicholas’s make all the hard work worth it!

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Visit the Nicholas Daley website

See reviews in GQ Magazine & on the Vogue website

See Nicholas Daley meet the Queen


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Creating Colour Charts

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One of my favourite apps at the moment is the Pantone Studio app which allows you to create colour charts from photos. It’s really easy and quick to use and this bit of the app is also free. I now see colour charts everywhere!

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Festive Fun!

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January is a time for looking forward to the New Year but instead I’m going to look back to December when I got into the Christmas spirit with an activity based advent calendar rather than the usual chocolates. I had great fun seeing what was behind each window every day - even better when I’d not been able to open the windows for several days and had a bumper hour building elves, snow ploughs, candles and various other festive themed items (and some not so festive!). Here’s a look back to what was in my calendar. 

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advent calendar
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rudolph mrs & mr Claus
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Look in the side bar to view other blogs I write on textiles, D&T, education & coaching 

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