The highlight of this year’s INTERIORS UK exhibition at Birmingham’s NEC (19 – 22 January 2014) was the New Design Britain Awards. Now in its tenth year, the Awards celebrate new design talent, with the express intention of giving makers an introduction to industry. The Awards are judged according to four categories: Fabrics, Furniture, Furnishing Accessories, and Surfaces. The Fabrics category – judged by Diane Goode (Fromental), Vivienne Griffin (Rubelli) and Denise Phillips (John Lewis) – showcased four exceptional new talents.
Chloe Elizabeth Atkins was awarded first prize. The Bournemouth University graduate took inspiration from Suzanne Collins’ dystopian sci-fi thriller trilogy The Hunger Games for her fabric collection. The feathers of the novel’s symbolic ‘mockingjay’ bird and the gothic grid of the fictional Capitol city find form in muted tones and overlaying images, created through hand and digital processes. From original sketch to manipulation in Illustrator or Photoshop, she then uses laser engraving techniques to create filigree outlines in synthetic fabrics, to stunning effect. The delicate, lace-like results are experimental – Aktins had difficulty finding facilities to cut the fabrics – but she hopes to see them made on a larger scale.
Joanna Hughes has recently completed her degree at the University for the Creative Arts at Farnham, focusing on printed textiles. Her bold collection exhibited at INTERIORS UK, entitled ‘Geometric Constructions’, took inspiration from the austere architecture and horrific associations of Auschwitz. Russian Constructivist art and design from the early twentieth century is also a clear reference point and the ghosts of Aleksandr Rodchenko and El Lissitzky loom large. Also recalling the motifs by the Bauhaus, lines and blocks of red and yellow dominate her powerful, graphic fabrics.
Liz Ramsay recently completed an MA in Fashion and Textiles at the University of Derby but her ‘Cool Heat’ collection takes its inspiration from the sunnier climes of the Mediterranean. The buildings, artefacts and ceramics of Southern Italy have found symbolic representation in the organic shapes, baked earth tones and cool greens of her hand-finished jacquards. Ramsay is a strong advocate of the power of good design, stating “Designing cloth from simple strands of yarn is not only intellectually and creatively demanding, but seductive and visceral.” Her designs have an accessible, retro vibe which will find a ready market in interiors. A number of her silks are already in production by the prestigious Sudbury-based weavers David Walters and she has also created ethereal Scottish Madras lace voiles with MYB Textiles.
Manchester School of Art graduate Clair Whyman presented a collection of handwoven textiles based on abstracted details of contemporary urban architecture, entitled ‘Urban Perspectives’. In particular she drew on her own photographs of the exterior surface of Titanic Belfast, the new visitor centre by Civic Arts / Eric R. Kuhne and Associates and Todd Architects. Using combinations of lambswool, cotton and viscose, Whyman has created fabrics in a palette of soft greys, shot through with yellows and oranges. Limited by the width of her loom, she has already taken orders for cushion covers but sees her designs as ripe for reproduction on a larger scale
Report by Jonathan R Jones – jonathanrjones.wordpress.com