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"Trent is definitely on the up." - Students Showcase Their Art at National Exhibit

5 July 19 words: Gareth Watts

The New Designers exhibition, held every summer in Islington, is a national showcase for the best art and design talent across the country, with prizes up for grabs for those exhibiting their work. We caught up with three Nottingham Trent University students to talk about their pieces and their experience at New Designers…

Mia Parkinson
As we approached Mia’s stand, she was surrounded by people taking a forensic interest in her work, asking very serious questions. The omens were good when they told her that they’d finished their discussions but ‘don’t go anywhere’.

It was clear to see why. Mia’s jesmonite and resin vases were striking both in their colour combinations and innovative use of materials. She was clearly passionate about the sustainability of her work, and had even made a feature of embedding the discarded fabric ‘scraps’ from the Trent textiles department as part of her work.

Despite the attention, Mia kept her feet on the ground: “To me they’re not perfectly finished. I’m too honest, like most artists, so I can only see the faults.”

Her future plans are to create smaller versions of these vases in order to make them more affordable.

Sure enough, at the end of the week Mia was awarded the prestigious ‘National Trust Artisan and Craft Associate Prize’. This means that she will be given the opportunity to create a product range exclusively for the National Trust Artisan & Craft Collection. This prize also includes mentoring and the chance to work with larger retailers.

The judges said: “We awarded this to Mia for her use of environmentally friendly and found materials. We were struck by Mia’s bold colourways and how she took inspiration from the environment.”

Catching up with Mia a few days later, her overriding feeling was of disbelief but that it had given her ‘a huge boost’, saying: “I have always wanted to became an artist making my own work but I never thought it would happen… Getting this award has already opened up that possibility.”

In terms of the opportunity and the prestige of recognition by the National Trust, she said: “I couldn’t have won a better an award and I’m so excited to start creating a new collection.”

Alice Topple
Alice’s engaging work explored a dystopian theme, looking at the role fabrics play in an age of mass consumption and pollution. Images linked by the theme of digitisation such as circuit boards permeated her designs and gave a sense of coherence and purpose to her collection. Asked about her time in Nottingham, she felt that Trent has been good for its resources and the techniques she has learned.

Alice enjoyed the opportunity to show her work to experts as part of the week at New Designers and has already lined up ‘industry meetings’.

It was clear that students like Alice were grateful that Nottingham Trent had given them the chance to follow their own initiative. Where there was some sense of uniformity (or, at least, a ‘house style’) from the other university exhibitors, Trent students’ work was diverse and engaging – seemingly as a result of the freedom they’d been given. 

Alice's website

Alex Turner
Alex Turner’s stunning garments were further evidence of what can be achieved when artistic freedom and diversity are embraced. As with all the Trent students we spoke to, Alex was clearly passionate about the sustainability of his work and embracing the challenge of mitigating the impact of mass production on the environment. He said: “Design responsibility is at the heart of my work, I try to use as many re-purposed materials as possible as well as the use of sustainable natural dye while promoting ethical production in fashion and textiles.”

He was also complimentary of the university, reflecting on the university topping the recent national poll for student satisfaction: “Trent is definitely on the up.”

Alex has several exciting interviews lined-up and is also hoping to one day be selected for the Embroiderer’s Guild.

Alex's website

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