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29 Jun 2022

New Designers & The Worshipful Company of Weavers

New Designers is the longest-running and leading design graduate showcase in the UK: it presents the work of 2,500 hand-picked design talents from around the country and supports the UK grassroots design sector. These talented graduates have the opportunity to connect with industry employers, buyers, media, and the public through this exhibition and it can be an important springboard.

As champions of British design and manufacturing ourselves, we look forward to the New Designers show each year, but we also have a very special personal connection.

We spoke to our very own Harriet Wallace-Jones about her personal experiences of New Designers and how she became involved with the Worshipful Company of Weavers.

"I’ve been very lucky to have exhibited at The New Designers Exhibition at the Islington Business Design Centre, not once but twice! The first time was when I graduated from Central St Martins in 1988 after finishing my three-year Textile degree course. The second time was upon leaving the Royal College of Art in 1990 having completed a two-year MA in Woven Textiles. The New Designers Exhibition hadn’t been going for very long and at that time, I seem to remember that it was a showcase for Textile graduates only. Today it covers many other design disciplines.

Whilst showing my work for the second time, under the umbrella of the RCA, I was thrilled to be awarded The Weavers' Company Award. Each year, various Livery companies look around the show and they each have a specific prize to award a deserving student. I was very surprised to be selected, especially as the award was for £1000! Neil Kinnock, the then Leader of the Labour Party in opposition, awarded me my prize so it was a very exciting event. The late Peta Levi, the founder of New Designers, was a wonderful ambassador for young designers and fledgling new design businesses. She involved many captains of industry, and important and relevant companies who supported students and gave awards during the exhibition, with the aim that some of them would also offer jobs."

"After the excitement of being selected, I set up a studio with my graduating partner, Emma Sewell and we both applied for Craft Council grants to help us set up our studio and pay for space. The scheme was brilliant and a lifeline for young designers: the grants would pay 50% towards machinery or equipment costs. I was able to purchase my loom with a Craft Council grant and a generous contribution from the Worshipful Company of Weavers too.

Emma and I began to grow as a business, designing our scarf and throw collections, selling to shops, galleries and private customers as well as teaching in colleges. In 2007, we were presented with the Silver Medal Award given by The Worshipful Company of Weavers for our contribution to designing and teaching which was a great honour.

A few years later in 2011, I was approached by Angela Swan, a fellow weaver, highly respected and very much involved with The Weavers' Company, who had put my name forward to be selected into the Company. I was delighted and soon progressed to receiving The Freedom of The City of London (I could then, in theory, drive my flock of sheep across the river into the City!) and was made a Liveryman - a full ‘member’ of The Weavers' Company."

"To many, it’s a mystery as to what role the City of London Livery Companies has. The Weavers' Company is the oldest Livery Company in the City of London. Most importantly, they are wonderfully philanthropic: the Weavers specifically support students following textile-related degree courses, the textile industry, prison reform and primary schools. My initial involvement was working with a very dedicated and interesting group of experienced textile specialists from the industry, discussing student support and grants as well equipment for specific colleges. I am still part of the Textile Committee and I have begun to be involved in other committees which is fascinating and extremely rewarding.

I have been very lucky to have become personally involved with The Worshipful Company of Weavers'. I shall always be eternally grateful to have been given so much support when graduating as a designer and in the early stages of my weave career. As a member of The Worshipful Company of Weavers' Textile Committee, it’s such an honour and a pleasure to now be one of the judges who will attend The New Designers Exhibition 2022 this week and select a graduate who will receive The Weavers' prize just as I did!"

We can't wait to see the exhibition ourselves and the team will be visiting this week.

New Designers opens to the public tomorrow and runs for 2 weeks, with different disciplines exhibiting each week.

Week 1: 29 June - 2 July
Textiles and Fashion
Costume Design
Jewellery and Precious Metalwork
Ceramics and Glass
Contemporary Design Crafts

Week 2: 6 - 9 July
Product and Industrial and spatial design
Graphic design
Illustration and animation
Motion and digital arts

We would really recommend a visit for an inspiring day out, and to support the graduates who have produced amazing work despite the difficulties of the last 2 years. If you can't make it in person, you can browse the website or follow their social platforms for daily updates.