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OCA students gain inspiration at New Designers

This is a post from the weareoca.com archive. Information contained within it may now be out of date.
New Designers Exhibition. Business Design Centre, Islington, London.
Tutors Pat Moloney and Liz Smith recently visited the New Designers exhibition with a group of OCA students.
Pat is no stranger to the yearly exhibition: ‘I spend a lot of time at New Designers each year as I am part of a team that select for both licentiateship membership of the Society of Designer Craftsmen and innovative work for a prestigious exhibition in the Mall galleries. I am constantly on the lookout for outstanding work.’
In recent years it has been noticeable that a number of the smaller and more specialist textiles courses have closed, others have combined or been absorbed into other areas of study. Given the current economic situation, this is inevitable and it has been sad, and in some cases, even disastrous to see the demise of some excellent courses. Large teaching groups, less tutor contact hours, the disbandment of specialist equipment that take valuable space in a financially driven institution has led to a greater emphasis on digital applications, and given the current concern for the job situation, a more market led approach.  This does pose the question as to what education should be about. Should it not push the boundaries for both the student’s personal development and experience and equally the subject area? Or should it take the safer option, that of making a response to market forces and the work place. Of course, ideally it should do both.
OCA student Sarah Pease felt there were few examples of designers pushing the boundaries in terms of new techniques and new materials. ‘I was hoping for some cutting edge stuff with new techno fabrics. There was one student who had worked with a heat expanding foam but I felt she had not taken it very far This may of course be a reflection of the fact that the agenda of the show (to showcase new designers) was at odds with my agenda (to show me what is at the cutting edge).  I felt I had seen much of it before, so with that caveat, I selected Kirsty Eva Munro as my favorite designer. Her work caught my eye because it pushed buttons in me. Emma buys hand knits from charity shops and recycles them in her work. She then referenced organic shapes such as coral frills and created out pouches within the knitwear. So the knitwear had a 3d shape, which once turned over had a reverse negative shape within. Her work was professionally produced and I would have liked to buy some of it if I had seen it in a shop.’
For OCA student, Julie Senior, quite a few designers stood out but she felt that the woven textiles of Anna Birtwistle were stunning. Julie comments:’ I am not a weaver but I was drawn to the texture and movement she had created within her work. Inspiration for her work has come from close observation of the rhyme of the sea and marks left in the sand by the tide. Her paintings of shells set the scene, giving a clear journey from design source to her finished woven textiles. They also introduce her colour palette of soft, muted blues, purples and yellows. All of which gave an exciting coherent exhibit. After seeing Anna Birtwistle’s work it inspired me to look into manipulating my work.’
Ann- Marie Gronberg, OCA textiles student, highlighted the importance of process in supporting the development of ideas. She looked at the work of Judy Scott and commented:  ‘Her sketchbooks that were displayed at the exhibition were filled with photos and further developments from the photos of marks, and I felt that the development of the marks from her inspiration was very prolific and quite advanced and creative, and for me very inspiring.’
For Anne Jeffares, who is currently completing an OCA second level textile course, it was not just the colour combinations in designer Amy Buchanan’s work that make her collection stand out, ‘it is the quality of the print, the mix of textiles and simplicity of design which is both energetic and playful at the same time. I am inspired by her use of colour and the way she layers her prints and I can see possibilities for my own practice in her work. I have always liked using bold colour combinations usually complimentary; Amy’s clash colours are much more effective than sticking to the rules, think Matisse and the Fauves toned down. In my own work I have used layering textiles and stitch for a long time, layering in print is another way achieving a similar effect without losing the marks made on the bottom layer, which often happens when layering textiles and stitch.’
Each year at New Designers is different. The cost to both the student and the institution is high and many graduates fund their own participation in this event, but all seem to think that it is a very worthwhile experience. For OCA students who have yet to complete their studies it’s a great opportunity to gain an awareness to the scale of textile interest in this country and in current trends. We had a really good visit and thank you all for coming and participating in a very interesting discussion at the end of the visit.

Posted by author: Elizabeth Underwood
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