In the wake of her recent win at the London Design Awards, I caught up with Textile Design Graduate, Kate Hollowood, who creates bespoke sculptural lighting and vessels from her studio in Royal Leamington Spa, to see how her eponymous brand has developed since graduating in 2014.
BA (Hons) Textile Design graduate
Kate developed her composite material ‘Matrix' during a six week period of experimentation, whilst in her final year at Birmingham City University, specialising in Print. Testing and application led her to develop this material further to create a statement lampshade – a commission specifically for display on the collaborative Global Colour Research stand at the Interiors Show NEC, Birmingham, in 2014. Kate’s Matrix material and products continue to evolve, demonstrating thoughtful consideration for colour, form and contemporary design. Each of Kate’s pieces are made to order and as such all are unique and individual. Kate works carefully with her clients to identify aesthetic and practical requirements, to create striking and functional statement pieces for home and commercial interiors.
So, Kate, since graduating what industry experiences have you had?
After graduating in 2014 I continued developing my lamps, a product I had begun looking at during a live brief in my third year. I couldn’t travel far for work, as I had two primary school aged children and as a single mother I need to be home for them at 15:30 each day. This really limited which jobs I was able to apply for in the design sector as they regularly require you to work late. For a while I had a part time job dressing show homes but it was ad hoc work.
After developing my product further, in my spare time and selling a few lamps to friends, I decided to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to propel my business forward. I opted to get an admin job not in the design industry, to offer some financial security. I hoped this would enable me to focus my creativity into developing my own practise, rather than somebody else’s creative business. Luckily, I have a garage that I was able to transform into a small studio and work from home during the evenings and weekends. My admin role was full time but flexible hours and a very short commute from my house, the ideal steady job! I was so tired from staring at spreadsheets all day that I couldn’t put the amount of work into my lamps as I had initially intended.
I’d been in my role for two years and really had not progressed my business as much as I had hoped. So, with a little help from my supportive family I left my admin job for good eight months ago to really focus on my business.
‘I knew that in order to allow my business to grow I needed to just take the plunge and give it all I could!’
My current role is designer maker and company director of my company, Kate Hollowood Design. I work for myself and am currently the only employee, meaning I am responsible for everything involved in running a creative business; from making accounts to following up leads and attending trade shows as well as admin, pricing, quotes, diary bookings, product development and marketing…. the list goes on!
What do you love most about your job?
Making! Sadly, it is the part of the job I get to spend the least time on, but I have scheduled two months purely for experimentation and product development in January and February 2018 before the events season starts up again in March. I also love meeting other makers and clients at the shows I attend and exhibit at, it can be a quite isolating being self employed, so it’s great to be able to network with other creatives. The other benefit of developing good relationships with fellow makers is it gets my creativity flowing, it’s always good practise to bounce ideas around. As useful and engaging as social media is, it doesn’t compare to discussing projects with my peers in real life. For this reason I am a member of Design Factory, which is a mentoring scheme based at the National Centre for Design.
How have your studies at BCU aided your professional development?
Nearly every day I do something that gives me that little ‘oohh moment’ reminding me of the skills I learnt and nurtured at university. There are so many aspects involved in my professional practise that I wouldn’t be successfully implementing had I not studied at BCU and had access to the tutors’ wealth of knowledge. For example; developing colour palettes, improving my creative vocabulary, trend analysis and transforming my working drawings into 3D products. Overall I would say that developing a critical eye is the most important skill I gained whilst at university, along with my practical skills of course!
What has been your proudest achievement to date?
I think getting accepted into the Made by Hand shows and Lustre to show my work has most definitely been a huge achievement for my business. Whilst exhibiting at Lustre this weekend I received news that I had won Gold at the Driven x Design, London Design Awards, in the Makers Method category for my Matrix Lampshade! It’s an amazing feeling to have my products recognised by such a prestigious establishment.
What are your aspirations for the future?
My biggest aspiration is to continue developing and evolving my brand as a productive and successful business. I am focused on building a business that continues to allow me to do what I love most……Making!!
Do you have any advice for current textile design students about life after graduation?
I would say do not panic, instead focus on trying to find what you love doing. I think if I had actually been hired in any of the design jobs I initially applied for I wouldn’t have enjoyed them in the long term, as I have such a strong personal aesthetic and was passionate about developing my material, Matrix. It took me a while to realise that my ideas and processes where valid and marketable due to a lack of confidence, I think initially I saw my work as a 'hobby', a complete injustice to my credentials when I has just achieved a degree in textiles! It may have taken me a little while to realise that I was capable of making a viable business out of doing what I love.
I would absolutely advise being confident in your own abilities and try to think outside of what you ‘think’ you are supposed to be doing.’
What tips would you give to students thinking of applying to study Textile Design?
Do your research and look at what it is you want to achieve and don’t be afraid to ask questions when attending open days. I was very lucky as I applied to BCU quite late but am so glad I joined the course, as I loved it! I would highly advise working on building a really strong portfolio, not just for the purpose of being accepted into university, that portfolio is the foundation of your studies and is a professional resource you will be taking away with you upon graduating. (You can find plenty of portfolio guidance here.)
To see more of Kate’s work head to her website.