Practitioner lecture series.
DE4201 DESIGN RESEARCH 2
EVALUATION OF PRACTICE & PRESENTATION
CLAIRE NORCROSS Lecture 28/01/11
Claire considers herself to be a lighting designer although she originally studied embroidery at Manchester Metropolitan University. She later worked as a lecturer at Uclan on the Textiles course before becoming a designer at Habitat. Her early work contained recycled materials which she used as a source for her ideas. Her design process is inspiration – materials – then resolving that into a product. She found the cable ties at the workshops at the science museum which she would develop into one of her most recognisable designs. The making process was built on her craft skills with basket making.
When she returned from work in Australia she found that her cable tie light had got some recognition. The original cable tie light was costly to make so by working with Habitat she was able to bring the cost down. In terms of payment you can receive a one-off fee or you can be paid royalties. Her advice was to look carefully at what you sign up to as Claire received a percentage of the wholesale cost and not the retail cost which made a big difference. She has exhibited with Designers Block and also worked with the Design Initiative who operates in Manchester and Liverpool and support designers. She also helped organise the ‘Pay & Display’ exhibition and feels it is important to get involved with projects and make connections.
Claire’s ‘aperture’ design was taken up by Habitat and helped her to get the job of Head lighting designer. Tom Dixon offered her the job but was unsure if Claire wanted it because of the working demands. She started working with paper as a basic design tool and this was the process that created the ‘Ribbon light’ which won top lighting design for 2006. Claire was selected for the Jerwood prize which is a very prestigious award which gave her £30,000 to design and make a light. Working with recycled products is still a starting point in terms of design even though the design may need to change for mass production where recycled elements are not always appropriate. When questioned, Claire felt that you have to work hard and create your own luck. You have to put yourself out there and take risks. 10% inspiration 90% perspiration!
Claire’s use of recycled material, however obscure is refreshing. She not only uses the materials as a means to an end but also as the inspiration and starting point of an idea. It also seems to be about taking an object and changing the context of how it is seen usually be multiplying it to create another form. This is shown to great effect with the cable tie light which has become an iconic piece of design. Developing the skills to turn these ideas into commercial production ideas is a great achievement. Clearly at this point the recycled element is surely just for inspiration as the materials will have to be produced in number for commercial reasons.
Creating ideas from found objects is something i can relate to with my work. There is also playfulness about her designs and like other designers we have listened to the idea of wordplay in her titles is clearly very important. Claire came across with confidence and showed that to develop yourself and your work you have to take some risks and to move out of your comfort zone. She clearly had to develop herself and the way that she worked to take on the role of designer at Habitat. Even though she had to adapt to their timescales she had the confidence to stick with her own way of designing. I feel this enabled her to continue to add some uniqueness to her work.
RICHARD HOOPER Lecture 4/02/11
Richard is an Associate Lecturer at Liverpool Hope University and is working on a PhD at Chester University. He is working with modes of practice and new technology to design and make his work. He undertook his Furniture MA at Bucks College then became a freelance designer. As a designer maker he has been involved in many exhibitions mainly in America where there seems to be a better market place for wood. This gives you an opportunity to travel to interesting places. His early work he feels was not good and he has got better as he has developed. He feels his work really started when he undertook his MA mixing technologies and machine made components. He developed his work with the use of woodturning as it married the use of machinery, material and rotational geometry. He laminated wood before turning it. He created some shallow bowl forms using a spindle moulder creating sculptural objects which were not functional. Working with the form and geometry led him to base some work on structures such as Jodrill bank. Geometry is still a big influence with most work using laminated wood. He has also started using CAD and to help him learn he has re-created all his designs in CAD for reference. This has also helped with the understanding of the software. Some of his work has been produced by an industrial manufacturer who he has collaborated with. They were clearly keen to try something different. Richard has started to purchase his own equipment to help him produce this new type of form. Developing ideas using mathematical formulas you can order your ideas which are then made to order.
One of the interesting aspects of Richards work is the need to travel abroad to find a marketplace for this type of wood craft. It is something that has been suggested by a number of artists as a way of finding a new market. It is interesting that Richard also sees this as a way of travelling and meeting collectors. There seems to be a certain amount of chasing the market by entering competitions abroad to get your work seen. It also feels that there is still not enough appreciation for craft skills in this country.
The move into new technologies makes me wonder whether it is the material or the form which is more important. I personally feel that the biggest element in Richards work is the material more than the design. This came through with some of the forms made with the CNC machines. However clever the forms were they just did not work with the material. Rather than find complicated processes to CNC wooden forms i feel you should embrace the new technology and use more appropriate materials. The forms work better when he uses acrylic as you would find it hard to produce the forms with this material in any other way. I wonder also whether there is a market place for this type of object. The marketplace that Richard was chasing in America seemed to be about the craft and the maker. Would that be lost with this new work. I think that new technologies should be used just as tools to help you to get to an end point.
TIM SEARLE Lecture 11/02/11
Tim studied at Farnham and now runs Baby Cow animation which is part of Steve Coogan’s Baby Cow Production Company. He originally wanted to be a photographer but became frustrated with having to explain his pictures. The move into animation was a way of his pictures being left to do the talking. He does admit that it was not perhaps the easiest route as animation a hard work and time consuming. He has worked on a number of projects including the animations for ‘have i got news for you’. One of the projects he is most proud of is ‘i am not an animal’. This animation used a collage effect to give human characters to animals. The voices for this were provided by Steve Coogan and Simon Pegg amongst others. It seems that working for Steve Coogan’s company has advantages with contacts for voice over’s. He also showed a very clever viral animation for the Samsung net books which showed two laptops with rubber covers which he used as the basis for two characters. He feels his work has been influenced by Bob Godfry who created rhubarb and custard and who also taught a Farnham. Not surprisingly Tim seemed happier to let his animation speak for themselves. Maybe this is down in some ways to the way animators work. Long hours working alone can perhaps make some animators introverted. He did come across well and it would perhaps have been nice to hear some stories of what it was like to work with some of the interesting people he has met.
Tim used a quote which he attributed to TS Elliot to make a point about his way of working – ‘if i had more time i would have written you a shorter letter’. In fact variations of this quote have been attributed to Mark Twain and Blaise Pascal amongst others but the meaning remains the same. The quote struck a chord with me as i have been feeling the same about some of my making methods. I have had the feeling that i was making things too complicated and contrived. The more simple forms and ideas can work better but this is not through any lack of thought. There is a skill in keeping things simple and this is what i feel i am fighting with at the moment. On the surface you could use the phrase less is more but it is more complicated and i do find it hard to put it into words. For me it is linked in with truth to material where, in part, you are allowing the material do the talking. There is clearly a skill in doing this well. When trying to find the best way of animating the animals Tim first tried some very complicated animations techniques but found that they did not express the feeling that he wanted. I felt this was an important lesson in keeping things simple to get the best results.
AMOS MARCHANT Lecture 18/02/11
Amos is a Furniture and industrial designer primarily designing for manufacture and production. He studied Furniture and Product Design at Kingston University and designs for a wide range of areas. He feels that things have changed a lot since he was at college as at the time they only had one computer and now it is an integral part of his work. He uses the Solidworks 3D software for rendering, tooling and rapid prototyping.
He has worked freelance for various companies including Seymour Powell where he worked on the interiors for a train prototype (IC250). He collaborated with a friend as a designer and designed some stools for a friends bar. These were displayed at 100% design and picked by a company for manufacture along with stacking chairs made to a similar design. In 1997 he won an export award and went to Milan to look for business. He worked with a group of designers for a while as this was seen as a better route to getting sponsorship. He also teaches part time at Ravensbourne on the Furniture and Product courses. He has designed and built a number of exhibition systems to meet the needs of the client such as the Crafts council and the Jerwood Foundation. These have involved site specific work as well as creating knock-down compact exhibitions that can easily be transported. He feels that his strength is finding solutions to problems.
With a group of other designer makers he worked using very basic craft skills to make furniture in a woodland environment. The work that was produced then went to Milan. The work he made influenced new designs which were then made in a factory.
Amos comes across sometimes as a problem solver rather as much as a designer. Perhaps working to other peoples briefs too much for me rather that really following his own design ideas. This seems mainly to be when he is working on more product commissions. I feel that when he works more with furniture he is able to show more of his skills but as we have been made aware from numerous practitioners there is a limited market for craft skills at the moment. He clearly has great skills but maybe he finds this too restrictive. What was positive is that Amos has actually made a living with his skills. Many practitioners have actually made their livings from teaching so maybe the compromises that Amos has to make are worth it.
CAROLYN CORBEN Lecture 25/02/11
Carolyn originally worked with embroidery and textiles at Goldsmiths College before studying at the Royal College of Art. Her work was about sculptural textiles but she started making knitwear which used a great deal of embroidery and started to display her garments more as sculptures. After the Royal she collaborated with Harvey Bertram-Brown and set up under the working title of ‘The new Renaissance’ producing work for Liberties. In the early years photographer used models such as Kate Moss, Kate Beckinsale and Jane Horrocks to model their work. They would try anything they were asked and if they did not know how to do it they found someone that could help. Some of their clothes were made up of cheap objects that were multiplied and added to make the garments. One of these was a bra top made of cheap jewellery and trinkets called ‘treasure chest’. This shows a playful side to their work and a willingness to experiment.
She got into making commercials by watching and learning while working on the staging of the clothes. They became aware of how directors would try and film their creations such as the PowerGen weather idents and felt that they could do it better. The main thing with directing is that you have to have a clear idea about what you want and everyone can then work to your idea. Sometimes it is also about how to get a good effect without spending money. Carolyn has done a number of music videos for Girls Aloud, Emma Bunton, George Michael and Elton John.
Carolyn shows how contacts and getting yourself seen can have a big impact on your work. The trick is to turn your creative ideas to every new challenge that presents itself. If you have the ideas and vision you can always find a way or find someone to help realise your vision. You need the confidence in your idea and to be able to sell that to people. It is interesting to see a career that has moved in such diverse directions. An embroidery student directing music videos for Girls Aloud!
I think it is also worth noting that by staying in London there is more opportunity to create a network of important contacts. Along with the prestige in making videos restricted budgets can considerably compromise your work. As with Claire Norcross she likes how the use of wordplay can add to her work. This is something i have taken on board to help link some of my latest pieces. It gives your work an identity and an element of fun. With her videos you can feel the passion for colour and symmetry. As she moves away from making videos i can see that she is just as happy especially now that she has more control of her ideas.
KEN EASTMAN Lecture 11/03/11
Ken Lives in Herefordshire and feels that the landscape around him influences his ideas and work. It is very much a rural landscape. He has always felt like a maker working with his hands as a way he could work things out. As a child he visited the Tate Gallery in London with his father to see the work of the Pre-Raphaelites. To get to this particular area of the gallery you had to walk through an area that contained sculptures such as the work of Anthony Caro. It was a very different style and ken took almost an illicit pleasure in looking at these pieces when his dad was not there. Though he did not fully understand it this was his first taste of form from an alternative point of view.
Ken originally studied Architecture but felt that it was a subject where he would not have the control he wanted. He decided to transfer over to ceramics as he was fascinated by the possibilities of the medium. He slab builds his work and keeps his techniques simple as he is not really interested in the technical process – one slip, one clay. He feels that the process of making vessels is inevitable as you have to hollow out work. He struggled with what to make and why and felt he had to exhibit overseas to create a market. He feels that appreciation of his work increases the further away from this country you get- like a kind of ripple effect. He wants to create work that is alive and that he has not seen before. He does not plan what he makes even though he will do drawings to help the process. He likes the idea of taking risks with the way his work looks. A good idea does not always make a good piece of work. He likes the use of words and feels that this can influence or describe a piece
What i enjoyed was Ken’s very simple view of his skills and the technical processes he uses. Ken is clearly a passionate teacher and loves talking about himself and his work and at times he reminded me of a comedian called Mark Watson . Sometimes for me too much technical knowledge can over complicate things and it was good to see someone freely admit that they keep their technical skills simple. One type of clay, one type of slip and one way of firing! I had been thinking about the direction the surfaces of my own pots should be going and i do feel that Ken has given me food for thought.
His work is also very influenced by the artists he secretly studied many years ago. In much of his work you can see the influence of one of my favourite artists Antony Caro. I feel that he sees his work more as sculpture but made with clay. I think this accounts for his standing and the type and location of his exhibitions.
EMMA CALDER Lecture 18/03/11
Emma is an illustrator and animator who trained at the Royal College of Art. She studied Graphics at the London College of Printing and originally studied Graphics at the Royal College. She knew nothing about animation when at the Royal but learned at she went along. She feels that creative ideas lead and inform new work. While cleaning paintbrushes on paper she came up with the idea of using washed out watercolours to create a new animation. Unfortunately animated films are labour intensive and money has to be raised to make them. After the arrival of two children Emma had to find ways of working that did not take too long. She started using her illustration skills and started making sticker books which she managed to sell to the Tate Modern. An agent took the idea to a commercial publisher which were then taken up and turned into a larger book. These were aimed at a children but Emma feels that, in reality, they are for a more mature audience.
I am still not sure from the presentation where Emma’s real creative skills lie. For me it was her illustrations and Graphic skills which were more interesting. The animations were too rough and perhaps did not let her talent shine through. It is worth noting though that she feels that all her skills have been self taught which may be the reason. Emma chose a certain path in life that she feels was the more creative even though this does not pay well. When she studied Graphics she felt it was geared around getting jobs in industry. She wanted something else and did not want to spend her life working for a company even though this could have paid well.
JANICE TCHALENKO Lecture 25/03/11
Janice’s husband wanted her to become a film maker but she decided that she wanted to be a potter and ended up at Harrow. In the sixties there was the Leach tradition and a sort of hand-built tradition that was taught in Art schools. It also seemed at the time that it was the tradition that men threw and women hand built and Janice learnt production throwing. She left the course in 1971 and stayed in London due to her husband’s work commitments. As most production potters moved out of London she was unusual and refers to herself at the time as ‘the peasant potter in Peckham’. She taught at Camberwell with Colin Pearson. She was employed as the production thrower but after a period of producing brown high fired work she felt she wanted to change direction. As someone who was interested in painting and especially the work of Roger Hilton, she wanted to introduce colour and pattern to her pieces. She found that these early pieces were hated by some of her fellow potters but loved by textile artists. She collaborated with textile designers to create new styles and patterns. She exhibited her work in a fine art gallery in America and it was interesting that they only wanted bowls, platters and pictures as anything else would be regarded as craft and would not achieve high prices.
At this time she also started working with Dartington pottery developing a simple design range that could be made by the students. Later she was approached by NEXT interiors to make a range for their outlets. In the end the irony was that the industrial process seemed to take even longer to make as opposed to hand made.
Janice made some interesting points both during and after her lecture. It was interesting to hear why she started making and why she decided to change direction. She came across as someone with the strength of their own conviction and willing to take their own path. Her determination to study pottery with little experience and then to become a thrower. This at a time when very few women chose this path. The reference to David Leach saying that if she had kept working in her production style she would have been a famous potter is very interesting. When i first heard this it implied that the view was that only work in a Leach tradition counted. But thinking about it if, as she acknowledges she was one of very few women making this kind of work maybe David was also acknowledging her uniqueness. It is an interesting viewpoint and is something i think other potters and i struggle with. I think Janice was perfectly placed to change direction and to be more experimental as in a way she had served her apprentiship and learnt the craft. I always felt it was important to learn how to throw as without these skills could you really be a true potter? Janice seems drawn to taking risks and to move out of her comfort zones. Her time working with industry was a great experience but she admits it has involved making many compromises in your designs.
JAMES CORAZZO Lecture 1/04/11
James Corazzo is a Graphic designer and educator who completed his Masters at Uclan and is currently programme leader for Graphics at Stockport College. James had a slightly different take on this lecture as he decided to talk about ‘The secret history of nothing’. The idea of nothing could be seen as white space and emptiness. He started to define what nothing is. James then showed a blank white slide and asked the group to describe what it made us feel. He then moved on to the ‘nothing between letters’. His first and favourite example was the logo for FedEx which has a very clever symbol included in the space between the letters. He also showed an early design for Saudia airlines that had to be dropped as the space between the S and the A formed a cross. The idea of nothing between words comes next as we were shown some examples where there is no space and the words are written backwards but you can still read it. Apparently it was only in the seventeen century that space was put between words so they could be read.
A quote that James used which i really enjoyed was the following. Probably as it made reference to pots but also that ‘Thirty spokes meet in the hub, but the empty space between them is the essence of the wheel. Pots are formed from clay but the empty space between it is the essence of the pot’. As an educator James’s passion is to help students to see the power of words and their forms and i now know more about ‘nothing’ than i did before!