Made in Hereford! Helping students jumpstart their design careers

Thanks to the grant from our HCA Fund graduates were able to exhibit at the New Designers show

Final year students at Hereford College of Arts (HCA) were keen to make their mark by exhibiting at New Designers in London. The two-week show is one of the country’s most important events for fresh design talent, putting the best graduates in front of key industry players, from buyers and media to a design-hungry public. However, this opportunity comes at a price. With HCA making a financial contribution and the students each paying £200 towards the stand, as well as covering their own costs for food, transport and accommodation, there was still a shortfall. The students made a successful application to our HCA Fund, securing a much-needed grant of £2,500 towards the exhibition space.

With their own degree shows at HCA completed, the students packed up their work and headed up to London. A year later, we caught up with the graduates to find out what difference the grant had made in helping them start their careers. They shared some amazing news – of the twenty-eight students exhibiting at New Designers 2023, fourteen could directly credit the show with specific employment opportunities which have transformed their career trajectories. In addition, all attendees were positive about the impact the show had on developing their networking skills and providing an insight into the professional design scene.

A few highlights include:

Joe Shevelan who scooped the New Designer of the Year Runner Up for his collection of Lake District-inspired jewellery. Joe studied Artist Blacksmithing and, with his prize money, was able to add essential equipment to his home forge in Cumbria.

Rowan Lickerish and Gabriel Showell Nicholas, also Artist Blacksmithing graduates, also greatly benefited from their time at New Designers. Both were offered places at numerous shows and exhibitions, with Rowan being invited to attend the London Design Fair 2024 and offered a show in Maine, New England! Rowan’s work has also been featured in Dezeen, a major design and architecture publication. Gabriel reported success from commissions and sales as well and with his new-found confidence has exhibited at events such as the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair and Cheltenham Craft Festival.

The show paid off fabulously for a couple of the College’s Textiles Design graduates, too. Rosie Merriman has just spent the past six months developing her haute embroidery skills, as one of only six students selected for the prestigious Chanel and King’s Foundation Métiers d’Art Fellowship. This has led to opportunities to exhibit at London Craft Week, Downing Street and the Chelsea Flower Show, as well as a feature in Vogue magazine. Meanwhile, Mia Rowe’s trip to New Designers led to a conversation with the president of The Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, landing her an invitation to exhibit at their Summer Conference. Trendease International also scouted Mia to show at their Surface Design Show. She’s planning to head back this year as a visitor herself.

Olivia Barber, a ceramics artist who studied Contemporary Design Crafts, has found many great opportunities since the show, exhibiting her work all over the country. New Ashgate Gallery selected her as a Rising Star, showing her work at their summer exhibition. Olivia’s also been shown at Handmade Oxford, a Handmade in Britain craft fair, for two years running.

Finally, HCA jeweller, Will Barrett, made the most of chatting with visitors at New Designers to develop his product pitch for future showcase opportunities. Cambridge’s
Primavera Gallery offered to buy his entire collection after meeting Will at the show. And Diana Porter Jewellery also invited Will to show his work in an exclusive exhibition at their Bristol boutique, getting him noticed by Crafts Council and added to their ‘top graduate makers’ feature.

Herefordshire Community Foundation is thrilled with the feedback from the graduates and will look forward to watching their talent achieve even more recognition in the future.