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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

New Designers Celebrates 30 Years: an interview with One Year On curator Rheanna Lingham

An interview with the curator of the 2015 One Year On exhibition at New Designers. Rheanna Lingham is a jewellery designer and co-founder of cult design store Luna & Curious, based in Shoreditch.

Written by Amelia Gregory

Rheanna, portrait work
Jewellery by Rheanna Lingham, photography by Emma Dalzell.

Rheanna Lingham trained as a jewellery designer on the brilliant Middlesex University course (read my review of the 2015 graduate show here). She then opened Luna & Curious with fellow creatives Polly George and Kaoru Parry, specialising in British made products featuring high quality craftsmanship, traditional skills and excellent design. This year she curates the 30th edition of the preeminent graduate show New Designers. I got the low down on her role…

Rheanna Lingham photo by Karina Twiss
Rheanna Lingham, photography by Karina Twiss.

Why has New Designers been so instrumental in the careers of so many graduates? What did it do for you?
New Designers has been going for 30 years, which is a fantastic achievement. It has long established itself as the go-to show for the industry who are seeking out fresh creativity. The creative industries can be a little lazy and London-centric, so it’s an opportunity for all the other parts of the country to put themselves on show to a wider audience. One of the lovely things about New Designers is the things you see on the way round, we all have our own specialisms that we focus on, for me it’s jewellery, but take the long routes and a wander through the textiles can be so inspiring, you can just let your attention be grabbed. I apply this same rule to visiting the V&A, you are always guaranteed of uncovering a surprise like this.

Rheanna Lingham necklace
Rheanna Lingham necklace.

For me New Designers was very successful: from the show I was selected to show at Galerie Marzee in Nijmegen, Holland as part of their International Graduate Show. Obviously, this was a fantastic opportunity, but really it was such a confidence boost to know that people were interested in my work. It’s very scary to leave university and keep up the momentum of your creative practice, so as many people cheering you along the way is the best kickstart.

Theo Adamson, Group Image – New Designers 2015 One Year On
Theo Adamson – New Designers 2015, One Year On

How has your work as co-founder of Luna & Curious informed your practice as a curator of design?
Having owned and run Luna & Curious for nine years now, we have sold a huge selection of designers, most of which we have found in the early part of their career, so I have picked up a thing or two about what sells, pricing, design etc. I also have been making and selling jewellery since 2005, my work has sold internationally, so I understand the whole spectrum, being a designer-maker, buyer, visual merchandiser and retailer. It’s one of those things where it is really hard to quantify experience, it’s generally a gut instinct that leads my decisions, however this is backed up with a knowledge gained over the years.

Robyn Hinchcliffe - Rugs - New Designers 2015 - One Year On (3)
Robyn Hinchcliffe – New Designers 2015, One Year On

What were you looking for in your choice of designers for this year’s One Year On show, and what has been the most enjoyable part of the process?
Good design is evident, but a good designer is something different, they must understand their product and its place in the market, they must be able to work to deadlines, sort production issues, market and retail their own work. This is a huge undertaking and involves much plate-spinning. The One Year On designers have all been brave enough to give this circus act a go and I want to support them all the way. As we get nearer the event, the excitement is building for all of us, and I can’t wait to be on the stand with all the designers, proud of what they have to show.

SO KLARA - Sample (2) - New Designers 2015 - One Year On
SO KLARA – New Designers 2015

How do you think we can better inform and support talented young designers to forge a valid career in the creative world? What is most missing from their current training?
I’m past being shocked by how little practical business skills are taught within university, most courses think there is an adequate provision for this, but they are falling vastly short. Students must learn how to cost and price their work, about mark-ups, securing an agent, even understanding how VAT works and the accounting requirements of being self-employed. There are amazing graduate mentoring schemes such as Hothouse from the Crafts Council and The Goldsmith’s Company Getting Started programme, which can really help support new designers. I had a year in industry which was such a fantastic experience, I learnt such a lot, mainly from listening in rather than direct advice.

Charlotte Beevor - Wallpaper - New Designers 2015 - One Year On
Charlotte Beevor, BDC New Designer of the Year New Designers 2014, Leeds...
Charlotte Beevor Silk Scarves – New Designers 2015, One Year On

What advice would you give those graduate designers now showing at New Designers, who are looking ahead and hoping to be featured in One Year On next year?
Listen… that’s my greatest bit of advice to designers. Too often we get sucked in to the performance of a show, that we must have all the answers and the spiel along with it. Those visiting New Designers are fully aware that the exhibitors are graduates, barely stepped on to their professional career paths, they want to have conversations with you, see what inspires you, learn about your practice and see how this can work with their own businesses. They too have been in your shoes and have much experience to share. Then take time to reflect on this and work out the best way of developing your creative process. Focus on one thing at a time.

Jake McCombe Jewellery - Bracelets & Pendants - New Designers 2015 - One...
Jake McCombe Jewellery - Bracelets - New Designers 2015 - One Year On
Jake McCombe Jewellery – New Designers 2015, One Year On

How often do you find new talent at New Designers that is ready to go straight into your store? And can you tell us more about any of these discoveries?
As soon as I saw the work of Jake McCombe on the selection day, I knew it was perfect for Luna & Curious, we have been selling his chunky geometric jewellery in store since April and it’s going down fantastically. I have had some amazing conversations with designers at New Designers who haven’t quite got their product ready, and maybe two-three years on, we are now having the opportunity to discuss their products as potential items for us to stock.

Beth Lewis (Williams Ceramic Lighting), Towerblock 1 and Ramsgate - New ...
Beth Lewis-Williams Ceramic Lighting - Escapist - New Designers 2015 One...
Beth Lewis-Williams Ceramic Lighting – New Designers 2015, One Year On

Middlesex University, where you trained, is closing it’s innovative and much loved jewellery course next year. Why do you think this has happened and how do you feel about the loss of a degree that has trained so many amazing designers?
Extremely saddened. I will also add that the fantastic Art Foundation course in Maidstone, at which I studied also closed last year, I had also been teaching on this for six years and I was made redundant. So within ten years of my graduation, both courses I studied on have now closed, and these were exceptionally good courses too, the level of teaching was superb.

I went to a talk by Christopher Frayling a few weeks back where he quoted a statistic that between 2007-2013 the number of higher education craft courses fell by 46%. These are expensive courses to run, they require demanding student-teacher ratios, they need workshops, technicians, space, the results are hard to quantify in terms of employment as most go on to self-employment which is not always the most lucrative. With the lack of apprenticeships, the problem is even more confounded, and yes I could get on my soapbox about this for sometime… it’s the combination of education and profit-making that will always jar.

Charlotte Beevor - Silk Scarf A - New Designers 2015 - One Year On
Charlotte Beevor Silk Scarves – New Designers 2015, One Year On

How is your own practice as a jeweller developing over the years, and what are you working on at the moment?
This year I have taken a bold step to put the pliers down and pause the jewellery making for a bit. Luna & Curious is growing with such speed, Polly, Kaoru and I are fully immersing ourselves into developing the shop. We have our own ranges of accessories, knitwear and homeware launching this year and we are expanding our womenswear and childrenswear considerably for AW15. I have never been able to do just one thing, so OYO has been keeping me really busy and was the perfect project after my teaching redundancy, I was sorely missing working with a creative group, so was thrilled to be asked to curate the show. Bubbling away on the back burner is a very personal project which I will launch later in the year, focusing on British rural folkore and customs, an ongoing obsession of mine.

The 30th edition of New Designers opens soon, make sure you get along to discover a plethora of talent from all areas of art and design (full info in my listing here). I am super excited that I have been asked to take over the New Designers instagram feed from both part 1 and part 2 of the shows, so watch out for my top finds on Sunday 28th June and Sunday 5th July. I can’t wait to see what’s in store this year!

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