Each year a fresh set of talent descends to the Islington Design Centre for New Designers. A showcase that marks promising beginnings, where aspiring artisans spread their wings and set out to flourish in the material world. Each year presents original, inspired ideas. This two-week celebration of design and innovation brings together over 3,000 hand-picked graduate design talents from the UK and beyond. Week One showcases designers working in textiles, fashion and costume, ceramics, contemporary design craft and jewellery.
Here is our selection of three designers that caught our attention from this year’s show.
Image: Erica Earle Robertson, Inyati Vessel © Shannon Tofts Robertson. Image above © Beth Somerville.
For Glasgow School of Art weaver Helen Etherton, enamoured by the peculiar forms and folklore of Scottish hag stones, has encouraged her to take an imaginative approach to narrate through making. With Etherton’s previous background studying history informing her inquisitive and theoretical mind, she seeks to connect knowledge to objects. Through explorative materiality Etherton combines hand-crafted techniques, working on and off the loom to create individual tactical forms- a nod to the uniqueness of each stone.
Image: Helen Etherton, Hagwools © Helen Etherton.
Textiles that invite you to touch, feel and explore, Etherton describes the essence of her collection as “provoking sensory responses that inspire curiosity”. From exaggerated honeycombs to intriguing textural combinations- brushed mohair and banana silk. Retaining a responsibility and transparency in her material selection, working with deadlock yarns is crucial to her practice she explains. Ethertons muted and monochromatic colour story evoking the raw quality of the stone is enhanced with slight touches of warmth- gold and umber achieved through rust dyeing. A refined body of textiles to adorn the home.
Image: portrait of Beth Somerville © Mark Cocksedge.
Beth Somerville (winner of the New Designer of the Year Award)
Beth Somerville is a mixed media textile graduate from Falmouth University, with a desire to conserve the art of Passemementerie. Somervilles ornate collection of trims glistening from their cabinet caught my eye from across the room. A collection that would not appear out of place in a Parisian haberdashery or adorning haute couture gowns. Through digital embroidery, Somerville creates replications of tassels, fringe and braiding. Whilst preserving the opulence of decorative embellishments through her luxurious choice of metallic threads and a deep palette of colour - olive greens and rich reds.
© Beth Somerville.
Taking inspiration from organic forms in flora and fauna, Somerville brings together her passemementeries with waste silk screen fabric to create a series of floral fascinators. Silkscreens that have become too damaged to continue to be used are cut away from their frames, reimagined with printing techniques and then sculpted to form decorative headpieces.
© Beth Somerville.
Whilst contemporary with her approach, Somervilles collection feels timeless and mature.
Awarded the prize of New Designer of the Year 2023. The judges described Somervilles work as “showing bravery, juxtaposition and beauty.”
Whilst wandering beyond the textile displays in the Edinburgh College of Art BA Jewellery and Silversmithing show I was so surprisingly taken by the work of Erica Earle Robertson.
Drawing inspiration from her personal experience growing up in Zimbabwe, a landscape rich with natural beauty- the act of daily repetitive rituals such as walking, foraging and collecting feeds the immersion she brings to her physical hand-making. Together with her deep respect for the strength and craftsmanship of Zimbabwean artisans, women for whom weave sustains their lives- and a craft that has transcended generations. Earle Robertson has sat with and woven alongside these artisans in Zimbabwe. And what resulted, was a series of three vessels, strong, sculptural objects of beauty. Artefacts of craft. A unique representation of the land and legacy of Zimbabwe.
Image: Erica Earle, Tuli Vessel and Marula Vessel © Shannon Tofts Robertson.
Retaining authenticity too with the material selection- the woven vessels combine baobab fibre and Ilala palm, both native to eastern Africa. Along with sisal and paper yarn. Bringing hand weaving together with hand dyeing, Earle-Robertson has established a rich palate of organic colour using indigo, madder, logwood and turmeric.
Her collection ‘Kuruka’ translating as ‘to weave’ in Shona was awarded runner-up for the Colour In Design Award at this year’s show.
Find out more about Erica's work:
New Designers is on show at the Business Design Centre, London until 8 July.
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