It’s no secret that the design industry has a worrying gender imbalance. Research from a 2018 Design Museum study revealed that just one in five designers in the UK are women, despite the fact that seven out of 10 students taking art A-levels are female.
We thought we’d take the opportunity this International Women’s day to shine a light on the emerging creative talents that are making waves in the design world – and hopefully inspire yet more young women to pursue a career in design.
So, who better to help us come up with a shortlist than the women who have already left their mark on the industry? Nipa Doshi, Bethan Gray and Sally Mackereth to name but a few have each nominated their one to watch, so remember these names…
Nominated by designer Bethan Gray
How do you design your glass vessels? I’m inspired by landscapes: I capture beautiful sunsets and sunrises, as well as fields, through photography, sketching or printmaking. I then use the colours in my sculptural glass vessels.
What is your glass-making process? I use an old Venetian technique called ‘submerso’, which normally involves lots of different furnaces with pots of colour in them, which are gathered and layered on top of each other. I’ve transformed that process because hot shops today don’t have the capacity to have lots of furnaces, so instead I layer solid pieces of coloured glass on top of each other.
Are you influenced by particular artists? The shapes of master glassmaker Lino Tagliapietra influenced a lot of my early work, and the bright colours of Neil Wilkins are similar to mine. I’m also inspired by the glass-blowing of the late 1960s, when artists started making more robust, statement pieces, and Swedish, Danish and Czech artists, whose work is thicker and more dense than those of English and Venetian craftspeople. bethgatesglass.com
Nominated by designer Eva Sonaike
What drew you to ceramics? My father is a sculptor, and I used to help him out in his studio in my early years. I then studied fine art at Chelsea College of Arts, where I played around with clay in the ceramics studio. When you first experience clay, it’s like everything is relaxed – you melt into the material and it absorbs all of your woes.
How would you describe your approach to your work? For me, the process is as valid as the final piece. It takes time and when the piece is fully glazed, fired and finished, there is a stillness that compels me to move on to the next.
You also teach ceramics – how does that fit into your work? I’m drawn to helping people and during the last lockdown I was teaching every day. I want to help ease the fear and desperation people are feeling while stuck at home and I know pottery is a therapy for many. This is a really important aspect of my work. Selling the final objects is just the cherry on top. freyabramblecarter.com
Nominated by Fromental Co-founder Lizzie Deshayes
What drew you to ceramics? I was raised and studied in Stoke-on-Trent, and my grandparents worked at the Potteries. From a young age, I was encouraged to use clay. For me, it’s like sketching in 3D.
Tell us about your use of animal imagery... We often use animals to represent ourselves and I like to explore this idea in my work. I’m inspired by literature, such as Crow by Ted Hughes and George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Initially, I capture an expressive snapshot of live subjects through drawing, painting or paper sculpture. I then abstract these into ceramic figures or use my drawings to inform the surface designs for my murals, platters and vessels.
How do you plan to develop your work? I’d like to apply my style of painting to even larger murals, vessels and ceramic furniture. jasminesimpsonart.cargo.site
Nominated by designer Kirath Ghundoo
What drew you to chinoiserie? I first discovered it at university and liked how chinoiserie wallpapers were non-repeating panoramics. I also love nature. When I joined a handmade chinoiserie wallpaper firm in the UK, they sent me to China to learn to paint on silk with natural brushes.
Tell us about your approach… Chinoiserie wallpapers are so lavish, and often only available to the extremely wealthy. I want to share them with the world at a more affordable price. My technique is quite unique in that I paint onto pure silk, which is specially treated and backed with paper, using watercolours. I use two brushes, one loaded with paint and the other water to create a perfect gradient. I then paint very fine details with a precision brush.
Where do you draw your inspiration from? Mostly 18th-century Chinese and Japanese art, particularly woodblock printing for the beautiful compositions and colours, as well as Indian miniature paintings. dianehill.co.uk
Nominated by architect Sally Mackereth
Tell us about your practice, Matter Space Soul… Our aim is to advance how the places we create can improve quality of life and wellbeing. In 2015, we won a competition for innovative solutions to the housing crisis. Our concept related to how large-scale development can be done at a human scale by paying attention to how people want to live and creating a sense of community. Since then we’ve implemented different aspects of this through various projects.
What are the challenges facing cities? We’ll soon start to see the long-term impacts of the pandemic, with the reimagining of offices and high streets, and the strengthening of neighbourhoods. There is an opportunity to bring about new approaches in this moment of disruption. matterspacesoul.com
Nominated by Pinch C-founder Oona Bannon
Tell us about your brand... I wanted to show that British wool is a beautiful material not to be dismissed and relevant to contemporary design. My philosophy is to celebrate local, sustainable materials in their purest form. I use undyed British wool in natural shades, some of which I commission myself from small, family-run mills.
How do you transform the material into objects? My grandmother introduced me to knitting when I was young and, since then, I’ve always looked at things and wondered how they are made. I view textiles as a form of construction. The patterns featured in my textiles are woven in by hand as the fabric is knitted – it’s almost like drawing and results in something very tactile. The pieces are always finished with hand stitching.
What do you hope to achieve next? My ambition is to employ more women to work alongside me. I also want to produce more pieces on a larger scale and make bigger3D shapes, while still maintaining the handmade quality of my work. @thegoodshepherduk
Nominated by Tatjana Von Stein, Director of Sella Concept
Tell us about your work... As an interior designer, I work with traditional materials and artworks, and need an emotional connection with each piece. I started designing my own furniture a few years ago and I’m launching a collection of rugs this spring. Making custom rugs allows me to paint, collage, work with other designers, travel and support women weavers in Jaipur, India.
How does your initial training as a classical musician feed into your work? There are no boundaries between the arts. They all feed into one another. Music has been an anchor throughout my life – beautiful music and beautiful design have a similar effect on the soul: they lift the spirit and change a situation or place for the better.
Who or what are your design influences? I’m influenced by Brazilian modernists such as Lina Bo Bardi and Martin Eisler; Sergio Scaglietti, who sculpted the classic 1950sand 60s Ferraris; furniture by Charlotte Perriand; tapestries by Alexander Calder; and the life and work of woodworkerGeorge Nakashima. sussycazalet.co.uk
Nominated by critic and author Alice Rawsthorn
How did you come to work with textiles? I’ve worked with textiles in a non-formal way for a long time before studying the subject during my degree. I developed my current methodology on the Contextual Design course in Eindhoven.
Tell us about your master’s project... This Work of Body/This Body of Work is inspired by factory workers who reclaim time through sabotage. I work with discarded textiles that have a family history, and subject them to a slow process of undoing and redoing. I refer to it as ‘non-productive productivity’.
What are your ambitions? I think of my work as the first of many contributions to a larger discourse about sustainability and the value of material and labour. meghanclarke.cargo.site
Nominated by designer Nipa Doshi
What drew you to design? I’ve always loved to invent things. I went to school in Paris and then worked for Doshi Levien in London, where I discovered a world of shapes, colours and a passion for hand-drawing.
How would you describe your work? I trained in industrial design, but discovered print at the start of my career. Now I love to use the endless possibilities of print to make graphic, functional objects in paper or cardboard. I set up my studio with Raphaël Pluvinage in 2015. At that time we were developing a book of toys made with conductive ink. Since then, we’ve been working on technological, playful and graphics objects, some for clients such as Hermès.
What are your long-term ambitions? As a studio, we’d love to develop our approach internationally and work with new materials and technologies. pinaffo-pluvinage.com
This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration March 2021
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