Homages and humour at HND students' show

18th June 2010 at 01:00
College exhibition, rated `best in 14 years', showcases work from 3D design to illustration

"Not Another Student Show!" No, this is not a journalistic moan about having to tramp round yet another gallery of student work. It's the title of a Telford College exhibition, which last weekend showcased the work of graduating HND students from a wide array of courses including 3D design (interiors), theatre costumes, textiles, graphic design, illustration and City and Guilds design and craft.

The title of the show, held in the Dovecot Gallery in Edinburgh, was the idea of graphic design student Artur Pasiek. "The idea was to challenge that kind of jaded response and to distinguish us. It's meant to be humorous and ironic, but we believe it's also true as our work has quality and difference. It's special," he says.

So, is this just another student show or does it possess enough quality and difference to make it special? Quality there is for sure; difference definitely; and overall it does seem rather special.

There's certainly quality in Artur's own work as evidenced by his "in book" nomination in this year's international Damp;AD (Design amp; Art Direction) competition. He was one of only four nominations out of some 400 entries drawn from graphic design students as far apart as the US, South Africa and Europe.

His brief came from the Body Shop, market leaders in "ethical beauty", he says. "They stand for social change and the environment, and I wanted to come up with funny and intelligent punchlines for product posters which would reflect their values with a certain honesty."

Thus, for a cream made from seaweed we have "Natural Nothing Fishy"; for cocoa butter "No S**t Just Pure Cocoa"; and for a cream made from hemp "Class A Cosmetics". A Body Shop executive was among the judges and if they take up any of his ideas in a commercial campaign, Artur will be given a month's placement with the company.

Difference there definitely was with the 3D design students, whose brief was to re-design the interior of the former Kushi's Indian Restaurant in Victoria Street, which burned down two years ago.

There were designs for a Scottish restaurant ("Bawbees"), for Indian and Thai, and for a restaurant to be called "Scavengers", which specialised in foraged wild food and other locally-sourced organic produce. "The idea for `Scavengers' developed from the building's association with the old `Preservation Hall' on the same site," says HND graduate Jan Ferguson.

Everything in the design would have to be sourced, in principle, from house clearances, auctions, skips, second hand andor antique shops and even from the seashore.

The resulting design ideas include a "tidal chandelier", a large statement lighting feature made from flotsam and jetsam; screen curtains for eating booths made from buttons, pieces of sea glass, pencils and jigsaw pieces threaded together. Piles of books and vintage toy boxes are to be built to form partition walls and all the olde worlde crockery would be colourfully mismatched to form what antique dealers rather neatly term "a Harlequin set".

"I didn't want a `pristine' look. The concept is for an informal but stylish space which demonstrates what can be done with recycling and would give clients eating there ideas of their own, things they could do in their homes or work spaces," says Jan. "Interior design is important because it affects how we feel and behave. Even when we're not aware of it, it affects us subconsciously."

Among the textile exhibits is a beautifully-textured dress echoing Pre- Raphaelite paintings and portraits ("not to be worn!"), a "homage" to that school of painting; and a series of "memory drawers" evoking family history.

Lined with antique lace, calico and hand-crocheted doilies, the drawers display watch faces, buckles, spectacles, buttons, safety pins, old photos and newspaper cuttings. "They are like memories you delve into," says their creator Ali Ferguson. "They show how our personalities and attitudes are formed through family history and experience and how this affects where we choose to go in life."

Choice is the crucial principle to this exhibition. The work is entirely the students'.

"It is the culmination of their year but the teaching staff take a back seat here," says 3D design curriculum leader John Russell. "The credit is entirely theirs. In my 14 years teaching at the college, it's the best yet."

There is an air of excitement among the students as they prepare for the official opening in this prestigious new gallery. Independently, they speak of their different courses in similarly appreciative terms as they now prepare, hopefully, to enter the world of professional work.

"They always keep you on your toes so you're prepared to go it alone at the end of your degree," says Artur Pasiek.

"We have what the college calls `guerrilla days' at least twice a year, when industry people appear without warning with a brief that you have to execute on the spot. It's about fast thinking, about adapting to what is, in effect, a real-life professional situation.

"You learn that you have to be able to adapt very quickly. Maybe that's what makes `Not Another Student Show!' so special."

Raymond Ross scoted@tes.co.uk.

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