Designer Maker Blog

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Each month Julie writes a designer maker blog which is very different to the D&T blog. It's more of a personal blog reflecting her interests outside of teaching in all areas of design, but particularly within textiles.

Scroll down to see the blogs for this year.

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8: A Year in Photos

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7: A Year in Photos

26 2
26 3
27 2
28 1
28 3
29 1

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6: A Year in Photos

26 july



14 aug
15 aug

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5: A Year in Photos

21st - 27th June
18 2
18 3
19 2

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4: A Year in Photos

24 may

31st may - 6th June 2021

7 - 20 June

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3: A Year in Photos

26 apr - 2 May
3 may - 9 May

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2: A Year in Photos:

Up to 11 april 21
up to 21st ap 21

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1: A Year in Photos

When we moved house in February 2020 I set myself a project to take a photo a day to record the first year in our new house. I did this as a challenge some years ago and it was a great creative journey, as well as being fun to do and look back on. 

One of the aims of the challenge was to record the progress on our house renovation, as well as a way of getting to know the new area we lived in, but literally just a couple of weeks after we moved in Covid hit and my year of photos became a record of something much bigger. 


Taking a photo every day was a challenge at times, especially as many days were uneventful because of lockdowns and restrictions. This forced me to think beyond what I saw as a ‘good’ photo and it encouraged me to be more creative and to notice the everyday and ordinary things.

Whilst some photos were of everyday ordinary things others recorded key events in an unusual year -  from moving in and trying to get the central heating to work (which took most of the first year to properly fix), our first walk to the beach which is 8 minutes walk from our house, and the start of the pandemic and the press coverage around it. 

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Now that we have lived in our house just over a year I’ve set myself a new project. I didn’t want to put myself under the pressure of having to take a photo everyday so this time I’m focusing on taking photos each week and then pulling out a couple that represent the last seven days. This means photos might be from the same day if it was a quiet week, or from a number of days. Like last year the aim is to record the timeline of events across the year but also to challenge me to once again see and celebrate the ordinary things around me. 

So, here are photos from the first month of year 2 in our new adventure by the sea in New Brighton on the Wirral. 





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Time for some creative thinking or just an excuse to eat Maltesers? I love the Pantone Connect app not just because it gives me justification for eating chocolate but because it’s a great way of recording all the inspiration that’s around us (and this bit of the app is free to use). 

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Treasure or Trash?

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Seeing this rubbish on my local beach was sad to see but on the flip side when viewed from a different perspective there are also elements of beauty in the images. In it’s new home each item had taken on a new look, changed by the elements and the sea and by the odd juxtaposition of something ugly in such a beautiful place. From the sunken boat with the ripples of sand and sea around it and the colours of the deep puddle it sits in; the tyre with its new decorative centre; the barrier covered in thick lichen that has virtually hidden the original orange colour; the half submerged shopping trolley looking like a wire sculpture; and the abandoned bike with its bold red colour standing out against the beach, everything has an element of beauty if looked at differently.  

What do you see - treasure or trash? Beauty or ugliness?

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New Gallery

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During these challenging times it’s great to see the little art gallery Oakland Gallery that’s opened on the high street in our small town of New Brighton on the Wirral. It’s first exhibition showcases contemporary art and street art and lots of the work is by many of the famous artists that have done the street art that’s on a lot of the buildings all over the town. 

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It’s been a real tonic both to see a business opening up on the high street at such a challenging time as well as having the chance to see the work of so many artists on our doorstep. 

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The ’Sick Micky' piece of art by Tom Blackford also has personal links to our move to New Brighton. A lovely local building was being allowed to go into decline by Wetherspoons who own both the building and the pub next to it. This caused a lot of concern in the community and the ‘Sick Mickey’ art work Blackford painted on the side was seen as representing the feelings of many in the town. Wetherspoons repeatedly removed the art work only for Blackford to paint another image in the same place. 

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You need extremely deep pockets to be able to afford most of the art work (several thousands deep in many cases) so we’ll just have to make do with popping into the gallery and looking at the street art on the buildings. 

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See the Exhibition brochure and find out more about the Oakland Gallery

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Through the Eyes of a Child

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Since moving into our new house a regular theme of my blog has been the beauty in nature and there’s lots of reasons for this. Our new home is by the sea with amazing sea views and beaches just round the corner with constantly changing scenary so each day we feel we see something new. We can’t help but be in awe of our surroundings and take lots of photos both to build memories in our new home as well as for inspiration in our design work. 

Another reason for this focus on nature is the restrictions of Covid-19 which means we’re home much more so we’re paying more attention to everyday things around us. In particular, we sit in our garden a lot, or in the kitchen looking out onto our garden, and although it’s very small the previous owner clearly had a love of gardening so our first summer in our new home has been full of surprises with lots of exotic and unusual flowers and plants. 

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During one of my garden tidy ups I came across this caterpillar which looked so much like a leaf that I was just about to pick it up and throw it away! Instead I went and grabbed my camera and spent ages admiring it’s amazing camouflage and vivid green colour and once again marvelled at nature as a designer. 

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Insa Street Art

Our new home in New Brighton on the Wirral has started to become known for it graffiti street art on some of the buildings and a recent high street addition has been art done by graffiti artist Insa. Like the other street art in the area the artwork really grabs your attention and makes a bold statement - something I like as in these uncertain times of Covid-19 it feels like a positive statement that my new town wants to shout out and be noticed. 

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Insa is a British artist and designer who graduated from Goldsmith’s, London, beginning his career as a graffiti writer, painting streets and buildings as he travelled. He’s known for his trademark ‘graffiti fetish’ pattern which in the building he’s done in New Brighton can be seen on top of a background of amazing rainbow colours. 

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It feels amazing that my new hometown has work by an artist whose work features in major global cities such as Tokyo, LA, New York, San Francisco Luxembourg, Lisbon, Hong Kong, Warsaw, Berlin, Brussels and Montreal as well as being held in the V&A collection and Tate London.

Visit the Insa website to see more of his work

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Challenging Concepts on Beauty

We moved house at the beginning of the year and our new garden is very small with just a couple of raised beds and some decking. We aren’t particularly keen gardeners so the size of the garden is ideal for us both as an area to relax in and just the right size in terms of upkeep. The raised beds had one or two plants in when we moved in but nothing that caught our attention and it was another job to add to the list of things to do over the coming months. 


As spring approached a range of unusual flowers seemed to pop up from nowhere indicating that whoever lived in the house before us was obviously a keen gardener. In particular, despite the garden being very small they had obviously liked plants on a large and slightly exotic scale, with giant lilies and various other oversized blooms and leaves coming and going over the last few months. This has all been a real pleasure to watch, with us marvelling at the skills of nature as a designer, all made even better as we’ve benefited from someone else’s hard work!

One particular plant has, however, held our interest for a number of reasons. It seemed to appear overnight with significant visible growth each day. We even joked at one point that it was like the Jack and the Beanstalk story as it was growing so tall so quickly. As quickly the plant grew an off shoot which we suspected might eventually be a flower this also grew to over 2 foot tall with a rather amusing appearance!

There was much debate about what the flower might eventually look like, all of which was based on the assumption that nature creates pretty things. One morning we got up to something that was the opposite of what we expected - not at all the classic beautiful flower but something that had a strange beauty all of it’s own because of how different it looked (and with frankly slightly scary overtones!). 

The deep burgundy colour of the leaves and flower stem were fascinating to look at, as was the overall size of everything at over 2 foot. We did however quite quickly notice that the plant gave off an extremely unpleasant odour, something that in our small garden was very noticeable. We also commented on the number of flies that were in the garden, something that we didn’t realise until later was linked to the flower. 

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After some searching online we discovered our plant is called Dracunulus Vulgaris also known as voodoo lily or stinky lily. Apparently the odour we had noticed is designed by nature to smell like rotting meat in order to attract flies - something it was doing very successfully! 

We were equally amused, amazed and revolted by the plant. As designers ourselves it was fascinating to see how nature had designed this amazing plant. Apparently the plant is popular with gardeners who want to make a statement in their garden and it certainly does that! The old phrase about ‘beauty being in the eye of the beholder’ also came to mind along with how this amazing plant challenges stereotypes of what beauty in nature is. 

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Nature: The Ultimate Designer

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Nature: The Ultimate Designer

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The Emett Clock

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For as long as I can remember the Emett Clock has been a centre piece of the Victoria Centre shopping centre in Nottingham. Often used as a meeting place, the clock strikes on the hour, playing a tune and opening up with dancing animals and moving flowers and butterflies. 

Dating back to 1973 it recently went away to be refurbished and I realised how much I missed something that has been a key part of my time in Nottingham, both growing up as a child, as a visiting adult whilst living elsewhere in the country, and now as an adult living back in Nottingham. 

People regularly throw coins into the water at the base of the clock and these are collected and given to charity. 


To celebrate the restoration of the Emett Clock children were invited to design their own butterflies and they were displayed with the clock when it reopened. 

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After restoration the clock was eventually returned to the shopping centre, although in a new position, and it's once again something I see every time I go shopping. It’s great to have something that is considered a design icon in my local town, as well as it being a fond reminder of my long term links to the town. 

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Michael Brennand-Wood Textiles

I have long admired the work of Michael Brennan-Wood, a textiles artist who uses a variety of materials, including textiles, wood, metals, plastics and paper, along with a variety of textiles techniques including computerised embroidery, wrapping, lace work, and weaving. 

Michael Brennand Wood

His work has always been an big inspiration in my own work, both in my work as a D&T teacher, as well as in my own work at home. I was therefore delighted to be able to see an exhibition of many of his pieces at Wolverhampton Art Gallery. It was fabulous to be able to see his work in person and to see the colour, pattern and texture and depth that is hard to fully appreciate in a book. 

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One of my favourite pieces of work by Brennand-Wood is El-Rayo X 92, and this is one of the first pieces that made me aware of his work. The layers of fabrics, stitches, threads, wire and acrylic on a wood panel fascinated me along with the use of colour and texture. This type of work represents one of the styles that Brennand-Wood uses.

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The Art of the Stitch piece of work shown below (2007 - 2008), which uses embroidery, acrylic, metal, fabric, resin and needles on a wood panel, is another example of his signature style. 

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There was a wide range of different styles of Brennand-Wood’s work in the exhibiton and it was exciting to finally see the work of a textiles artist that I have long admired. 

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Busman’s Holiday

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One of my favourite design related places to visit is the Design Museum in London. We spent a Sunday afternoon there back in the summer, our first visit since it moved to it’s new venue. For us it's a bit of a ‘busman’s holiday’ visiting the museum as it prompts a lot of thinking related to our work, but it’s always inspiring and there’s always something new to see, or something that you suddenly see in a different way. 

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As we hadn’t been to the new venue before the design of the building and it’s features were also of particular interest. The entrance is very grand with a great interactive display celebrating the ‘designer, maker, user’ message the museum has. 

Another of my favourite things to see was the crowdsourced wall display that collects together objects suggested by the public as things they feel represents every day design. The wall has a strong visual impact because of the way it's laid out, so it’s interesting from a design perspective and it really catches your eye, and the products themselves and what people have chosen are interesting to reflect on. Some of my favourites were things we don’t really think about such as the zip, bucket and the paper bag all of which have important jobs to do and which we don’t really think about when we use them. 

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We had such a good day we even decided to become a member of the museum and ironically, the cost wasn’t significantly more expensive than it would have been to visit the 2 specialist exhibitions (there’s also a permanent free exhibition which is fab). We’re looking forward to visiting again later in the year when there are new specialist exhibitions. Mind you any saving we might have made on the membership will be made up for what we buy in the shop!

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Learn How to Service & Maintain Your Sewing Machine


Until recently our sewing machine servicing and maintenance course was only available to technicians working in a school or college. This was because it was funded by the National STEM Learning Centre whose focus is on supporting schools. The Centre no longer run this course, however, so we are now running this as one of our independent courses. 

Sewing machine maintenance

Although the course is still primarily targeted at technicians (and teachers) in schools and colleges we are also pleased to be able to open it up to anyone who uses a domestic sewing machine, whether it be as a hobby, as part of a small business or for organisations such as theatre and dance companies, scouts and brownies. 

Although there is specific information targeted at schools and colleges, as most of the day is spent doing hands on servicing of machines delegates not in a school setting will not find these references overwhelming, and indeed many of the tips and ideas for schools will also be relevant to other contexts. 

Servicing & maintaining sewing machines

Delegates are asked to bring along a sewing machine which they service during the day. Delegates are welcome to bring along more than one sewing machine although they should note the focus for the day (and support from the course leaders) will be on servicing one machine. Delegates who can’t bring a sewing machine with them may be able to borrow a machine at some of the venues but note this must be organised at the time of booking the course. 

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The course is run by Neil Coles from Coles Sewing Centre in Nottingham, an experienced sewing machine engineer, along with Paul Boyd who supports Neil on the day and who produces the supporting resources and does the overall organisation of each event. 

Sewing machine servicing and maintenance

Get more information on the course  or contact us if you would like to discuss whether the course is suitable for you to attend. If you are an organisation or business with specific needs we can also run an in-house bespoke course designed for your organisation. Contact us for more information. 

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Made in Britain


On some of my other social media platforms I’ve talked about a wool suiting fabric with the word ‘Yorkshire’ woven into the stripe and a little while ago we were able to visit JH Clissold & Son Ltd in Bradford who design and weave the fabric. This is the only fabric they weave in house as their core business is designing woven fabric rather than manufacturing which is outsourced (still within the UK). 

The Yorkshire stripe fabric is woven on a bespoke basis and although it’s the Yorkshire stripe that has caught people’s attention the company actually weave any word or phrase into the stripe and when we visited they were weaving a custom fabric for a Russian customer. 

Yorkshire stripe Clissolds

The Yorkshire stripe fabrics are woven on a traditional Jacquard loom and a typical fabric requires around 290 cards to be punched and laced up, all of which is still done by hand. Clissold’s core business is designing luxury fabrics, mostly in wool, and mostly for high end designer brands across the world who place a high value on British design and manufacturing. 

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The luxury nature of their product means there’s a great attention to detail, including every fabric being checked by hand when it arrives from the weaver with any faults in the weave also being repaired by hand - a significant job given the amount of fabric on the shelves, all of which is checked before it’s sent to a customer, and the fact that we couldn’t even see most of the faults that were being repaired such is the attention to detail. 

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Touring the rest of the factory, it was interesting to see the fabrics being designed using CAD and to see the archive of samples of more than 30 years of fabric designs. Our visit was a reminder that whilst the UK textiles industry is significantly smaller than in the past ‘made in Britain’ is still valued across the world.

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Nottingham Trent University Degree Show 2019

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NTU 2019

We always look forward to our annual visit to our local universities degree shows. As teachers of design & technology the show is both of personal interest, as well as being inspirational for the work we do with teachers. It’s particularly interesting to see how the courses evolve over time as materials and technologies change. Here is just a selection of the work we saw across a range of design degrees. Click here for more information on design degrees at Nottingham Trent University. 

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Sofa Project

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One of the first really big textiles projects I undertook was making a set of loose covers for a sofa. Looking back now it was a really challenging project to take on as I was only about eighteen and it was a large sofa with lots of curves, including a shaped back and curved arms. I remember creating patterns using wall paper draped over the shaped areas to get the right fit. I also remember piping many of the edges, as well as adding big frill around the bottom edge. Probably what I remember most though is the slightly garish mustard yellow and white bold flower pattern - well, it was the late 70s/early 80s after all! 

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Recently my niece asked me to cover her sofa she had been given; as a single mum with a new baby she couldn’t afford a new one and the frame itself was in good condition but the cover was extremely stained. Fortunately the sofa was more boxy in shape than my first attempt all those years ago, with only the arms being curved, something I was very relieved about! 

My niece wanted a loose cover in several pieces so she could wash individual sections. This was both because of only having a small washing machine, as well needing to be able to wash sections if the baby was sick on it. She also wanted the covers to be made from silver velour to match the colour scheme of the room and the cushions she already had. She already had 2 throws she wanted the covers to be made out of and I bought her 2 more for Christmas which just about gave us enough material. 

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There wasn’t enough fabric to recover each cushion but we both agreed that a loose cover over the top gave a better appearance as the cushions had lost some of their shape. One of the original throws was enough to cover the back cushions and the other covered the seating area down to the floor. Both of these are attached to the sofa simply by tucking them in. The fact that these throws didn’t need to be cut means that if my niece buys a new sofa in the future they can return to their original use as a throw.

To create the curved arms a throw was folded in half with one edge stitched together. Once draped over the arms, and with a bit of tucking the arm shaping was actually quite easy to achieve - helped by the slight stretch in the fabric (although the stretch was only limited as the throw had a woven backing). The fabric along the arms also stretches around the back of the sofa and is joined down the middle of the back with bows made from the ribbons the throws were bound by when they were purchased. 

The cover dramatically improved the look of the sofa giving it a much more luxurious feel. My niece was very pleased with the finished result - I was just relieved it only took me a couple of hours rather than nearly a week like my first sofa project!

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Light Night

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Lots of community spirit and creative inspiration in our local town for Light Night. Parades, a funfair, sculptures, markets, artisans, music, food and even a giant game of Ker Plunk!

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Sweet Sixteen

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I occasionally write about my niece, Millie, and some of our creative ventures together. For many years we didn’t live close by so she often stayed overnight which gave us lots of time to plan and make different things. As she has grown older her other commitments have meant there has been less time for sleep overs, particularly as we now live quite close so these aren’t really necessary any more. With Millie turning sixteen this year, and starting college in the Autumn, another chapter is beginning for her and this got me thinking about the sketchbook she started with me a couple of years ago which she hasn’t added to for a while. 

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With Millie’s sixteenth birthday coming up I wanted to do something a little special and I had the idea of collecting together some of the photos taken on her visits to stay with us. I was going to buy a small scrapbook or notebook to mount the images into but then remembered the sketchbook. It seemed like the perfect way to fill up the sketchbook and a great way to round off our creative adventures together. 

I collected lots of photos and stuck them into the book, as well as adding one of my favourites to the front cover. Rather than just creating a cover for the sketchbook I made a wrap that tied around the book holding it closed as the work Millie had done in the book, along with the photos, made it quite bulky. 

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For quite a while Millie had her own filing cabinet drawer in our house to store some of her materials and this had a rubber name tag on it. With a few holes drilled in it this made a great decoration for the front of the wrap. 

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I had a great time working on the sketchbook and wrap, both collecting photos and designing and making the wrap itself. It brought back lots of great memories of the fun we had together as she grew up. 

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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). 

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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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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 

Earrings 2

Stacking puzzle copy

Knitted torch copy

See more images and details about these winners here

#InspiredBy prize winners


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

NTU copy

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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