We like to think we’re a well-turned out website. You’ll not see any flashing banners, ugly pop ups or ‘you will be redirected to our site after this garish and frustrating advert for cosmetic dentistry’ pages. Or, in fact, anything remotely likely to earn us a few pennies to see us through Christmas. We’re high minded and idealistic like that. And poor, naturally.
But still, we’re keen to pick up a few aesthetic nods and winks this week at the excellent Liverpool Design Festival and Show – a showcase of the region’s sharpest visual taste-makers, keen to curl their impeccable tendrils around our homewares, lighting, winter wardrobe and, we dare say, personal bits and bobs.
The show, at St George’s Hall, is a shop window for our region’s creatives – but you don’t have to just restrict your activities to window shopping. You’re after the sort of Christmas presents no 3 for 2 can hold a finely crafted candlestick to? Trust us – this is the place.
Durning the ten day festival, expect Design-led events across the city, including talks about the use of design in landmark buildings, and a chance to meet and grill independent designers, makers and craftspeople in their studios.
Ahead of tomorrow’s opening, SevenStreets caught up with two of our favourite exhibitors, (we’ve already chatted to the lovely Ilsa Parry before) to give a taste of the wide range of design talent on show.
Kirsty Hull’s upholstery marries centuries-old traditions with striking, vibrant textile designs, while metalsmith Rebecca Gouldson’s bold artwork should look industrial and cold but, in reality, shimmers with delicate beauty.
SS: So, tell us about what you do – and what you’ll be exhibiting at the exhibition
Kirsty: I am an upholsterer and designer specialising in traditional upholstery of vintage and reproduction frames. Each piece I create is unique due to the hand embroidered top covers.
This year at the show I will be extending my collection with new footstools, headboards and lampshades as well as newly restored vintage chairs.
Rebecca: I make metal wall pieces, which are acid-etched with imagery such as photographs, drawings and prints. This imagery is often based on architecture, and particularly, for Design Show Liverpool, the local architecture in Liverpool.
From where do you draw your inspiration?
K: I studied Fine Art at Glasgow School of Art and a lot of my designs are a continuation of paintings and films I made while studying Fine Art. I aim to make really comfy chairs that have a unique and considered design. I use traditional stuffings and cosy fabrics like wool against brightly coloured cottons and embroidery.
R: As well as architecture, I’m often inspired by the natural environment, for example aerial photographs of rural farmland; dotted with trees, divided by hedgerows. In both the architectural and more natural environments, I’m interested in humankind’s fingerprint on the world; evidence of how we organize our lives through built structures and the traces left behind from years of human contact.
What’s the landscape like for a Liverpool designer? Are we a design-friendly city?
K: Liverpool has been such a support to me in developing my business. Be it advice from Train 2000, design clinics from Design Initiative or just the positive feedback and support I’ve had from interior designers and shops such as Oyster Grey and Two2Nine. Liverpool is most definitely ‘design friendly’ the design show is proof of this along with number of art and design galleries throughout the city. I think Liverpudlians have a real affiliation with craft and design – for example Liverpool’s John Lewis has the largest fabric selection outside of London, a sure sign you like to design and make things yourselves..
R: Liverpool is no doubt a creative city! We are lucky to have organizations like the design initiative to support designers through one-to-one support and training; I have certainly benefited from their support over the last seven years of living and working here as a designer-maker. I have found the Bluecoat Display Centre particularly important in my development from graduation to where I am now; the quality of work displayed there provides a benchmark to strive for, and I’ve found them particularly supportive of emerging makers, especially those local to the area.
Showing work here can lead to commissions from private clients so it’s an ideal showcase. A lot of my work comes from London, where I work with interior designers who put forward my work to corporate clients. The great thing about what I do, is that I can work here in Liverpool, but operate on a national and international scale from here.
K: As a small business you have to be creative not just with what you design but how to draw attention to your work. PR and advertising are expensive but without an even more expensive retail shop front they are imperitive to make people aware of what you do. There is a balancing act trying to find free PR and not overspend while making sure the brand is seen.
R: Organization is key; keeping track of what work is where, making sure old work is replaced with new in galleries and that everyone is updated with what you’re up to is vital, but something that can slip once you become busy! I think trying to be as professional as possible is also important, as reputation is everything.
For me, it was initially financially difficult to launch in to doing big national shows, but doing them was essential to getting my name out there, attracting galleries and commissions. Each year builds on the previous one, building clients lists, retail and press contacts etc.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned along the way?
K: Confidence. You have to sell as well as design. You can be too humble and miss out. If you love what you make have confidence and tell people about it.
R: Persistence is key! Whatever it takes to keep chipping away at your career, working part time in difficult times, working long and unusual hours, do it! I find life as a designer maker to be full of ups and downs, so its important to cope with both, keeping steady and focused. Taking regular periods of reflection to consolidate medium and long term goals is also really useful to keep on track.
How important are non-traditional routes to market for you?
K: My website and the reseller websites I sell through (such as notonthehighstreet.com) are so important to me. I do not have a shop front as such so these act as that for me, they also reach outside Liverpool to a larger market. Design shows also offer a temporary shop and a chance to be seen by trade and public very quickly.
R: I use my website as an online portfolio rather than a selling site; people like to view my work before buying. Shows have been essential to my career progress and so have interior designers and art agents who act as agents, finding customers for my work.
Who else do you think is producing great stuff right now?
K: Angela Cassidy – knitwear designer who is winning awards left, right and centre. Real attention to detail, she makes simple and beautiful pieces. Caroline Walker – paintings that will be worth a fortune one day, also an award winner and RCA graduate.
R: I’m really excited to see all the exhibitors at the design show actually, many are friends and colleagues. Apart from the show, I am particularly inspired by the metal work of Simone-ten-Hompel, Helen Carnac and Steven Follen.
Liverpool Design Festival and Show, 18-27 November
St George’s Hall
(Tickets £4 adv, £5 door)