On Tuesday the Furniture Makers Company held its annual Young Furniture Makers exhibition, which always proves an enjoyable evening of fine furniture and design. However this year they hosted their biggest event so far, with over 100 exhibitors from across the country. Students from both further and higher education, who had entered one of the three categories: design, bespoke or innovation had the opportunity to present their work not only to the judges, but also potential employers and people from industry.

I recognized many faces at the event earlier this week, having seen many students showcasing their work previously at New Designers, as well as those who attended the Young Furniture Makers Student Industry Tour with myself earlier this year (read more: https://this-girl-makes.com/2017/04/02/notes-from-the-student-industries-tour-2017-with-the-worshipful-company-of-furniture-makers/).

During the course of the evening I found myself in the basement of the Dutch Church- the new display space for this year’s event- where there were many secondary school students exhibiting their projects. A low table with an interesting mechanized storage feature caught my eye, and I approached its designer and maker, Violet Jastrzebski, for a quick conversation.

She said, “I’ve always been interested in building things even as a young child. I remember in school being particularly average in every subject except design technology. This pattern continued throughout high school and again into sixth form. This is probably because of my genes, as my grandad was exceptional at fixing and making things. I decided to peruse design initially, I think, to make my family proud. As there aren’t many things I excel in I decided to put all my efforts towards design, so as to make them proud of something I’ve achieved.

“My favourite thing I’ve designed is a table lamp that was inspired by the traditional angle poise lamp. However I adapted this by adding a rotating base with a bearing and a modern glass shade. I have made a prototype of this, but would love the chance to make a final version in the future.

“My school’s design department was absolutely fantastic. Because of this I was able to work with many different materials and experiment with multiple manufacturing methods.

“My education in design so far has been very male dominated, with having three male teachers, a male technician and all male classmates. This made learning a challenge, as my peers constantly undermined me because they saw me as a weaker person compared to them because of my gender. Because of this I’m extremely excited to be studying in a department at university, which is currently being ran by a woman. I hope to learn lots from her and see what I too can achieve as a female in the industry.

“So far the industry both excites and terrifies me. This is mainly because I’m unsure on how to get into it and fear that I would not be accepted as a designer. Sadly I have experienced a fair amount of sexism as a designer so far. Mostly from males, suggesting that I ‘don’t belong in the Industry’ or that I am ‘less capable’ because of my being a woman. This, however, has just made me more determined to succeed so as to prove them all wrong and show that I can be as good if not better than them.

“I would love to one day start my own furniture business where I design and hand craft bespoke pieces of furniture for individual clients. I am to do this by picking up useful contacts during my time at Nottingham Trent University and to use social media platforms to display my work to the public and gain new clients.”