UK’s *New Designers 2012* Showcases Emerging Textile Talent

This year’s ramp-up to Britain’s most important graduate design show — New Designers 2012 – was as intense as ever. For the 27th year, industry giants, press, commissioning agents and buyers arrived in force to seek out the latest emerging textile talents from the country’s leading design programmes.

Held each summer in the Business Design Centre in North London, the show was a visual and tactile spectacular. It pulsed with the excitement of this design-thirsty capital as textiles, fashion and accessories vied for attention with applied arts. The heady textile action of ND2012 Part 1 took place  in late June, with ND2012 Part 2’s focus on furniture and products following just a few days later.

Having just surfaced from the pressure cooker of their final degree shows, graduates faced the new challenge of creating sales booths (*stands* in Britspeak) for the industry at large. With over 3,500 design graduates participating, the adrenaline, anticipation and competition was running high for the wide range of show awards and prizes. Being discovered at New Designers typically translates into valuable work experience, high profile commissions – and a great way to start to a career.

As he presented the awards from big-league industry players, jeweler Theo Fennell reminded the audience of both graduates and design professionals that “you are amongst the luckiest people in the world because you are making your living doing something you love. It’s such a privilege.”

Thus inspired, 4 graduates stepped up as main awards were announced.

ND Harlequin Award went to Daisy Pedersen, Leeds College of Art, BA Hons (First) Printed Textiles & Surface Pattern Design, for her Scandinavia in Bloom wallpaper and furnishing fabrics.

The judges observed that, “Daisy’s designs offer an original interpretation of a very ‘of the moment’ concept which is internationally commercial.”

Next came Joanna Srokol, Edinburgh College of Art, Masters of Fine Art Textiles, who scooped ND Sanderson Award for hand-painted abstract panels that interpreted her native Polish landscape.

Her painterly work received high praise from judges who described her work as “superb examples of observed colour applied to textile design. We found these fabrics poetic and emotive.”

ND Wilkinson Award for Trend-Led Surface Design went to Natalie Spencer, University of Central Lancashire, BA Hons (First) Textile Design for her Organic Science collection.

The judges commented that, “Natalie’s collection picks up on the trend for scientific imagery with clever translation of cellular structures into commercial icons and surface designs. Her work shows careful use of colour balance, and a strong combination of colour and pattern working together. We think this could translate really well into a wide range of high street products.” (*High street* is Britspeak for good, affordable design – like Gap or Ikea. – Ed.)

Finally, in the textile/surface category, ND Tigerprint Award went to Kathryn Fowler, Leeds College of Art, BA Hons (First) Printed Textiles & Surface Pattern Design.

Her exquisitely detailed Botanical Prints collection drew judges’ remarks like: “Kathryn’s positive approach and her rich portfolio are overflowing with unlimited potential.”

In addition to main award winners, some associate prizes were given to thrilled graduates the following day. In the textiles arena, Sophie Minal, Bradford University, BA Hons (First) Contemporary Surface Design & Textiles, got ND Christy Carpets Associate Prize for her Beauty of Science collection; Chrysanthia Katsilouli, Glasgow School of Art, BA Hons Textiles took ND Clothworkers’ Company Associate Prize for her Spatial Awareness designs and, finally, Stephanie Ruddie, Heriot Watt University, BA Hons (First) Design for Textiles – fashion, interiors and art, won ND Worshipful Company of Weavers Associate Prize for her Jacob’s Ladder woven collection.

All winners echoed the feeling that New Designers is the place to inspire one another, network and, better yet, feed industry’s appetite for talent with young, innovative textile-cum-applied art and design.

But mostly they just seemed in awe – a sentiment one would expect from graduates, barely weeks after their college days have ended, upon being plucked for training and hands-on experience by design’s star-making mega-brands.

Manisha G. Harkins has been a lifestyle journalist for over 17 years. Having started out as a cookery book author and with a stint as a prop stylist, for the past 10 years she has focused on design writing. She is currently – and finally – pursuing her passion for textile design via BA level study at Cardiff Metropolitan University (formerly UWIC) in Wales.

Although smitten by hand screen-printing, Harkins also enjoys the cross-over of techniques and disciplines with influences that are wide and varied. Harkins was born in India, grew up in the States, and has lived in Germany, Saudi Arabia, Wales then Dubai, before returning to Wales. This is the first of what is hoped to be many stories for SDA NewsBlog about UK/European textile design scene.

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