Barbara Chandler looks back at standout design names as they pop up

London is an undeniable hub of design talent. Interior designers, makers and buyers flock to immerse themselves in the city’s pool of expertise and innovation at various times of the year, from London Design Week in March to the vast network of events and city-wide exhibitions which includes the London Design Festival in the autumn.

More recently, however, was the 37th edition of New Designers, the UK’s leading graduate design show which brings together 2,500 outstanding graduates from 200 leading university design courses to showcase their work in the Victorian halls of Business Design. Center in Islington, North London. This coalescence of new talent gives design industry employers a chance to scout their latest recruits and draws public attention to galvanizing the next generation of innovators to tackle the issues we face today with new design solutions.

The New Designers program of events, which took place in June and early July, was abundantly provided with design talks, award ceremonies and opportunities for talented young designers to connect with mentors in their fields. Welcoming visitors to the Business Design Center was an exhibition of photographic portraits, New creators: a celebrationspotlighting the work of graduate designers by accomplished photographer, Barbara Chandler.

Known for her long-running design pages in London evening standard and having been immersed in the design industry for over 40 years, Chandler has maintained a close connection to new designers and the talent he has always pioneered. Chandler’s keen eye for a story spotted many ingenues gone global, including furniture designer and eco-pioneer Sebastian Cox, and surface pattern designer Kit Miles.

Over the years, Chandler has faithfully recorded her visits to the fair each year on camera, meticulously documenting the legion of new designers who caught her eye, and to honor the 37th year of New Designers, she produced and curated an exhibition of 37 photo-portraits from his extensive archives. This selection was also supplemented by photographs from 2020 and 2021, years in which the design event could not take place. In her absence, Chandler has sought out exciting names in design at their places of study, honoring what she calls “the lost years” for emerging designers. Chandler says, “I felt that in an exhibition scheduled for 2022, we couldn’t ignore these ‘lost years’ of excellent graduation potential.

Each of the photo-portraits captures something quite fundamental about each of the designers: textile designer, Jacob Monk, is seen interacting with his hand-woven panels that respond to traditional ikat techniques, and the The shadows cast on Shannon Bartlett-Smith’s face by her exquisite paper-cut works are testament to her craft skills, which she now employs in her own pottery studio in Cornwall. The tangible sense of joy in the portrait of textile designer Nadia Boutarfa begins with her radiant smile and is reflected in her exuberant fabrics, which are the result of digitizing dyed fabrics, turning them into pattern repeats, while Lyndsey Caulfield , now a primary school teacher in Scotland, is pictured in an electric color wash, her magenta hair popping against the shimmering hues of her fashion fabrics.

Shaping: model maker Kit Miles, photographed in 2012

(Barbara Chandler)

New ideas: fabric designer Nadia Boutarfa in 2013

(Barbara Chandler)

“My photo portraits at New Designers are very special to me,” says Chandler. “Since New Designers began 37 years ago, I have had the privilege of connecting to this superb spread of excellence from our many excellent universities and schools of arts and crafts.” New creators: a celebration is dedicated to Peta Levi, the founder of New Designers and a close personal friend of Chandler, who died of cancer in 2008. “How I wish I could share with her this show at New Designers, which I dedicate to her memory”, Chandler said.

For more works by Chandler, prints can be purchased through his website. Unfailingly pioneering the work of talented young creators, she is also the founder and curator of Green graduates, a new platform for recent UK university graduates with ideas for healing the planet. The next edition of Green Grads will take place at Samsung Experience Space, King’s Cross, N1C on September 24-25

About Gertrude H. Kerr

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