After this weekend I have found myself completely exhausted, mentally and physically. My body aches from lugging a full rucksack around a hot and busy London, and my mind is buzzing from taking in so many furniture designs and projects from this year’s batch of graduates. My trip to the big city took me to London Metropolitan’s Furniture degree show, The Furniture Makers Hall for Rycotewood’s degree show, and New Designers 2017. All of which had a very different atmosphere and had something to offer in terms of physical furniture pieces, as well as concepts and ideas.

First off, I visited the CASS, the furniture department at London Met. Navigating my way through its maze of corridors, I found their degree show on the top floor. In terms of curating, I found their exhibition quite confusing, as the layout didn’t distinguish between different projects or students work, and the labels were fairly sparse, however the work was displayed in a small, airy space, so I was able to enjoy wandering between the pieces. Most notable were the responses to the nomadic furniture project, as there was a range of design solutions that caught my eye. Several were good examples of minimal and collapsible furniture, particularly Teresa Garcia Villajos’ work (www.teresagarciavillajos.com) for its creativity and simplicity, but also Samuel Flynn’s room divider (www.samuel-flynn.com).

Later on I attended the graduate show for Rycotewood Furniture Centre (Oxford), and despite being a student there myself and having seen the work on display already, it was refreshing to see it showcased in a new space, particularly, as the prestigious venue was very fitting with the work on show.

Having never attended New Designers before, I was eager to experience what it had to offer. So, on Friday I headed along- tote bag at the ready- prepared to collect business cards and design literature! As someone who is originally from a small market town in the North East, events such as this are liable to cause me to feel very much like a little fish in a big pond (or a tiny designer-maker in a vast industry!), but it is amazing that once you immerse yourself in the labyrinth of stands at these shows, it is not long before you find that you are never too far from home. About twenty minutes after arriving, I bumped into Lynn Jones, Doctor of Furniture and design tutor at Rycotewood, who kindly introduced me to Kit de Heger (www.dehegerdesign.com) from Sheffield Hallam University. His final piece was a beautifully crafted collection of objects, displayed on a low table made from American Black Walnut, with a metallic frame. His ‘Seven Objects’ installation featured collaborative work with ceramicists and fellow designer makers, including his other half, Beatrix Bray (http://beatrixbray.wixsite.com/design/design). Her addition to the piece was a hand carved utensil, which provided a unique method for eating.

I noted that the stand, which had the most impact for me personally, was that of Northumbria University. I found this quite ironic, as this was my local institute back home and where I always thought I would ended up studying. There’s was by far one of the biggest displays, which meant that the amount of work they had on show had plenty of room and therefore more of a presence. This was then supported by their careful consideration of labeling and efficient descriptions, as well as a sleek black floor and attractive blue background.  It was here that another project particularly stood out for me, which was The Moravian Collection by Jasmine Craven-Huffer. Her research into timeless design in pursuit of a more sustainable design industry led to the conception of this range. I later discovered that it will also be on display at The Crossing at DesignJunction near Kings Cross from 21st-24th September 2017, following a nomination for an award. This came as no surprise, as her range is incredibly honest in construction and aesthetics, and successfully combines traditional woodworking processes with contemporary manufacturing techniques. Quite often the simplest ideas are the best!

There was also Jihyeon Hwang (http://www.jihyeonhwang.com/recent-work) from Kingston School of Art, who displayed her Ambiguous Coffee Table (http://www.jihyeonhwang.com/ambiguous-coffee-table#e-0), which captures everything I love about furniture design through a strong design and research concept, minimal and refined execution, and a playful mixed-media approach.

Whilst wandering between the stands, I also discovered the London Building Crafts College, which offers a City & Guilds course in Fine Woodwork. Being a student from Rycotewood, it was no surprise that this was the stand I felt was most relatable to my own course. The range of finely crafted, stand-alone pieces showed a mix of contemporary and more traditional styles. Their series of portraits presented their makers to those visiting, which had a personal, yet professional effect. And I was pleased to note they had a good amount of female students amongst their number. One of which was Rowena Jane Edwards (https://the-dots.com/users/rowena-jane-edwards-211591), whose Rownd Cabinet was rightfully awarded the MADE.com Stand Out Design prize. Also, Carolin Reichert’s drinks cabinet showed a creative approach to craftsmanship, and using her experience of a background in photography, she was able to include a unique design feature by making the cabinet operate as a pinhole camera as a secondary function; with examples of negatives taken with the piece displayed alongside it.

New Designer’s was not only effective at demonstrating to me the possibilities and achievements of furniture design, but it also allowed me to benefit from other disciplines and crafts. Some honorable mentions from the product and industrial design sector are: Marged Owain, from Manchester School of Art (https://www.margedowain.com), whose collection of spalted Beech and Glass wares were jaw-droppingly beautiful; Lotte Klein Nagelvoort, from Ediburgh Napier, (http://lottekn.com) responded to the Danish word ‘Hygge’ in the form of an outdoor camping and seating arrangement using recycled materials; and Kasey Hou, from University of Ediburgh (https://www.kaseyhou.com), for her repairable, flatpack toaster.

These events are always renowned for the opportunity to network, and following this weekend, I hope the THIS GIRL MAKES community continues to grow with creative and passionate designer-makers, and the projects and initiatives related to this blog are able to strengthen and evolve.