Textile Design students celebrate record number of industry-award-wins at New Designers

Ellie Smalles

Final year students of BA (Hons) Textile Design at Birmingham City University are celebrating after winning a record-number of industry awards and placements at the annual New Designers exhibition, held at the Business Design Centre in London.  

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The coveted New Designers Awards were presented to this year’s most talented design graduates from across the UK, in the fields of textiles, fashion, costume design, jewellery and contemporary design crafts.

This is a record-breaking year for BCU, seeing three of their final year BA (Hons) Textile Design students bring home an impressive array of awards.

Ellie Smales (pictured above) won the Kingfisher Design Talent Award for her ‘Architectural Impressions,’ a collection of hand-drawn and digital sketches on dyed fabrics inspired by the Scottish Highlands and the rugged landscapes of Northern Europe.

Her award includes a £1,000 cash prize and a six week work placement with Kingfisher.

The judges said: “We liked Ellie’s uniqueness, versatile designs and approach, use of colour, incredible mark-making poetic work and good narrative.”

Ellie was also shortlisted for the Johnson Tiles Associate Prize.

Amelia Frost received the Material Lab Associate Prize, consisting of a £500 cash prize and a two week work placement. Judges felt her ‘Urban Serendipity’ collection of experimental laser engraved lino and fabric samples, recognised market requirements and demonstrated creativity, innovation, trend awareness and attention to detail.

Amelia Frost
Amelia Frost work

They said: “Amelia’s bold graphic style has been clearly informed by visual research and processes have been used inventively to transform pre-existing, commercially viable materials.”

Amelia’s samples will also feature in the Material Lab collection as part of her prize. Read their blog to find out more about her work. 

Amarah Simms won the Textile Society Associate Prize for her ‘Textile Concepts for the Interior’ collection which she titled ‘The Beauty of Grief. The award includes a £1,000 prize and the opportunity to publish an article on the collection in ‘Text,’ the prestigious journal of the Textile Society. 

Amarah Simms
Amarah Simms- work

Judges commented: “We were struck by the authenticity of Amarah's textile concepts for the interior. Her work communicates with directness through the senses. Amarah's realisation of 'The Beauty of Grief' demonstrates sensitive craft skills and innovative choices of found materials, panels, hangings and 3D pieces.”

Celebrating her success at the event, Ellie, winner of the Kingfisher Design Talent Award, said:

“For my prize six week placement in October I’ll be based in the Kingfisher Southampton office, but they would also like me to visit their Paddington and Paris offices, which is an amazing opportunity.”

Ellie Smales- work
New Designers exhibition space

When asked about the experience of exhibiting for the first time and advice for future showcasing students, Ellie said:

“New Designers is a great place to make new contacts. Having face-to-face conversations about my work has made such a big difference and a lot of the contacts I’ve made have taken my picture so they can remember me and put a face to my name afterwards. I’ll be following up with all of them over the summer.”

In addition to bagging such an impressive collection of awards, other final year students from BCU’s Textile Design course attracted interest from industry names including Liberty, Alexander McQueen and Amtico during the exhibition. The group of soon-to-be graduates have landed job interviews, internships and sales opportunities covering all sectors from trends, material development as well as fashion and interior textile design.

During the New Designers exhibition, fellow student, Holly Lloyd Williams, was approached to do her first private commission:

“One visitor came over to speak to me as she loved one of my drawings. Initially she wanted to buy my Brighton Architecture wallpaper, but as the conversation developed we negotiated an arrangement whereby I’ll be designing something bespoke for her, with custom motifs and hand-drawn styles. Hand-drawn wallpaper is what I’m really focussing on at the moment and as a designer that’s how I’m trying to put myself out there, so this is an ideal opportunity for me.

Holly Lloyd Williams- New Designers stand
Holly Lloyd Williams- Brighton wallpaper

We discussed dimensions and her preferred organic styles and colour palettes so that I could get a real understanding of how to personalise my design for her.  

I was definitely nervous at first talking to a buyer, but we had a whole pricing lecture which taught me how to be savvy and aware of where hand-drawn pieces would be priced in industry. Our tutors have also helped me on a 1:2:1 level in the past with learning how to price my work for external interest.

I’ve really learned how to sell myself and that you have to start strong if you want to carry on. Now I’m just so excited to do my first commission!”

Holly was also delighted to attract interest from industry too:

“Circle Line have been over to speak to me a few times and see my work, as they’re interested in drawers and translating their work into jacquard weaving as part of their collection.  I’ve also connected with Joules as they’re looking for a new print designer who’s good at drawing and using colour, which is what my final major project was all about!”

Looking ahead, Holly said:

Textile students- New Designers 2017
New Designers exhibition space- logo

“For me design is an essential part of life. We interact with design every day and it is that interactive process to a greater or lesser degree that forms an aesthetic, practical and emotional response for the user. For over 30 years 'New Designers' has been celebrating the people that take on these three fundamental issues. I have been making and designing for over 30 years, and feel immensely humbled and honoured to have this opportunity to present this year's New Designers awards.”

Sarah Monk, Director of New Designers, added:

*The last two images in this article were taken from the BCU Textiles Instagram account. 

Follow BCU Textiles on Instagram to keep up to date with the latest news from the course. 

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