INTRODUCTORY COURSE IN INTERIOR DESIGN AND DECORATION - From 7th to 10th November

Can I be a Designer?

Alan Hughes, Principal of Interior Design School discusses how Inchbald can equip you to become a designer and answers the most common question he is asked at interview; can I be a designer?

Every year, in the course of my work, I interview a lot of students; young people starting out on their career and older ones who wish to change the pathway of their work, who would like to concentrate their energies on “something I have always wanted to do”.   And all my interviewees have the same concern – do you think I am good enough to earn my living as a designer – am I creative enough to justify aspiring to success in this profession.

There is much uncertainty around the issue of creativity, and the methodology of communicating and implementing creative ideas.   One of the problems is that artistic skills of any kind have too often been subject to elitism.   This has a great deal to do with early education, when artistic children must demonstrate a high level of talent in order to be taken seriously as contenders for any artistic profession.   This is a selective process which in itself downgrades the natural talents and possibilities of those who could so easily excel with more informed encouragement.

Put more simply, if you have a flair for maths then you are perceived as having the potential to be a successful accountant and encouraged accordingly, but creativity is a more elusive talent and the artistic professions are seen to be more rarefied.

The fact is that we all have an inbuilt reaction to our surroundings in terms of our personal choices of dress, food, comfort and more specifically environment; Thus the average person in the course of their life makes thousands of selective decisions which are dominated by knowledge or education – or the lack of it.   Those reactions are halfway to the point when we actually wish to improve, and begin to design.

However, students aware of the challenges need to know if they can be sure their natural talents will be sufficient in a professional situation; and this includes those who may have had considerable success with their own houses/gardens or those of their friends.   Without benefit of disciplined study such minor success does not necessarily convert into professional achievement.

Often the next uncertainty may be voiced as “I can’t really draw”.   This is a skill which is much easier to learn than my students anticipate.  We teach students to draw far quicker than they anticipate, and of course we teach them the magic complexities of computer aided design.   Once mastered, CAD is almost too easy; equipped with these two systems of communication everyone will find it simple and rewarding to translate their ideas smoothly onto drawing board or screen.    Drawing, like CAD, is a tool, not an end in itself, and in realising this the worry about the skill involved will evaporate.

With those initial fears conquered comes the freedom and exhilaration of design reality together with the pure pleasure of expressing ideas and implementing them.   Students who doubt their ability can take heart from the fact that good and concerned education supporting their own talent and discipline will take them into a successful and very rewarding career.

Any career is a challenge but good education equips us all to face those challenges and overcome them.

Alan Hughes, Principal

Birds still flying at the Tryon Gallery

Birding and Sporting Art: 21st Century Update

On June 22nd I was invited to the Rountree Tryon Gallery for the Charles Stanley Summer party.   I hadn’t been to the Gallery for many years, perhaps when Aylmer was still alive; the collection has widened a bit since his inspired limitation of subject to sporting and wildlife.

My particular interest is in bird painters and I found an enchanting little Thorburn in the back of the gallery, featuring ducks. I note from the website that they have number of distinguished bird painters in their collection.   I am personally interested in Harry Bright, a 19th century illustrator whose bird paintings I have collected for several years.   In my view, he is as good as Thorburn where the subject is similar, in some respects better, but I am not aware he ever took an interest in sporting subjects.   It is in this respect of course that Thorburn so engaged his English public and his popularity has still not waned.

Mallard – Archibald Thorburn (1932)

Aylmer Tryon was as active in his sporting life as he was in his chosen profession and I believe he was responsible for the group who inaugurated the English interest in the River Hofsa in Iceland.

I once spent a very happy week there with friends in the late summer.   The river was as seductive as are all rivers, but allied to the flat landscape, the breadth of the sky and the birds, so unused to human presence that they lacked any fear, I found something very special about Iceland.   And we did catch fish!

The ducks remain in their gallery – Thorburn’s popularity has become exceedingly expensive, but it was a lovely party.

Jacqueline Duncan, Dean

David Harber’s Eaton Square Event

The hottest day this summer found me walking with David Harber through the gardens of Eaton Square to view his spectacular new collection, this time of garden sculptures.   It was a wonderful venue made available to him by the late Duke of Westminster.   The garden planting, the immaculate level of upkeep both went towards an impressive backdrop to sculptures, mostly of metal, conceived to provide particular interest in a garden landscape at once both empathetic and dramatic.

One piece, a pierced ball of bronze petals, each petal gilded on the inside, created an extraordinary effect of captured sunlight and last Wednesday was certainly the right day to appreciate the inventive skill of its author. This piece, called Mantle, can be lit from inside creating a shimmering and evasive light effect in the darkening twilight.   Another ball, made of tiny flat obsidian stones, has been seen at Chelsea, devised as a fountain, the water sliding evocatively across the stones so that the obsidian is presented with a permanent soft gleam.   Another similar model has a quarter lined out of it like a ripe fruit, the new surfaces lined with mirror to conjure and delight the eye.

David Harber’s Eaton Square Sculpture

It was a privilege to be escorted round such an exciting exhibition by David Harber himself, surely the Grand Master of his profession in every way.

Find his work on his website. Forget the bust of Ceres and the Grecian urns; invest in a work of Harber’s art to intrigue and provoke all who visit your garden.

Jacqueline Duncan,Dean

NLA Annual Lecture 2017 by Sir David Adjaye OBE

It was a privilege to listen to architect and designer Sir David Adjaye OBE, in conversation with Peter Murray, the founder of the London Festival of Architecture at the Royal Geographical Society.

It is clear from Adjaye’s work, and his words, that he is an extraordinary talent but what came through most strongly was a really investigative approach in terms of how the response to a brief can develop. It is perhaps obvious to say but his attitude to each client, each job that he spoke of ‘authoring’, is one of an open view as to where the project might lead. Commenting that a consequence of public recognition often makes the audience assume they will get something that they could identify as an Adjaye style building, he was very clear to emphasise that clients would be disappointed as he and his collaborators approach each new project from a very individual standpoint resulting in an appropriate outcome, rather than one that could be identified as having the Adjaye look.

The development of a personal style is often a concern for new designers; Adjaye is a great exponent of those who utilise an ‘approach to the process of design’ as their style. He advises that the outcome can and should lead anywhere.

The collaborative element to Adjaye’s work was much discussed. With offices in the US, Africa and London, he stressed the diversity of his fellow designers in studio and celebrated the varied cultural influences available particularly in London. “I am lucky to travel all around the world, the people I meet, they envy London its diversity, its creative energy as a centre for culture and design”. He collaborates with many other architects, running what seems to be a multidisciplinary studio; Chris Ofili, Deyan Sudjic, James Turrell to name but three, pulling on all areas of fine art and design. His sustainable approach indicates a broad view and is “more about lifestyle and how we live” than simply focused on material and carbon footprint. He thinks about the use of a space for everyday life, mixing in with what is already established. Idea Store in Whitechapel High Street showcases this approach as a community library, presented in a completely democratic manner and rubbing shoulders with market stalls and regular ‘high street’ activity, completely at ease in such an achievement.

Questions from young, and older architects completed the evening with encouragement and advice. His message, decide what you want to do and follow that decision but do it with passion. Clear, sincere and eminently good advice, the passion from the speaker was obvious.

Alan Hughes
Principal

The Wonder Of Trees

Jacqueline Duncan OBE, Dean reflects on the use of large trees in garden design on her visit to Audley End, Essex.

Last weekend I took the opportunity  to re-visit the tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) at Audley End and found it, handsome as ever and still in flower.

Audley End, Saffron Walden, Essex

Audley End is one of the most extraordinary of the great English mansions.   Once a monastic foundation more than twice its present size, it has served as a royal palace and latterly as a private home.   There is much to admire in the house, but surely the pride of the estate must be the magical parkland setting with a rich variety of specimen trees; and included in this collection is a magnificent tulip tree.   Find it to the left of the restaurant area as you look at the front elevation;  not yet at its peak it is the perfect size and spread, the curious rather fat leaves giving the plant a particularly attractive texture.   It is presently in the midst of flowering, the pretty bell shaped blooms with golden petals and orange stamens, the tree still covered in buds.

Liriodendron tulipifera

Through this exceptional parkland flows the Cam, with a small tributary running alongside the Walled gardens  featuring a fine double herbaceous border and some interesting orchard planting which will look magnificent in maturity.

Last year I planted a handkerchief tree (Davidia) purchased from Landford Trees and must wait some years for it to flourish the remarkable white sepals that appear in the late spring – here in Eccleston Square is a well established specimen that emphasizes the drama and the joy of trees.   This autumn I shall order a tulip tree from the same nursery and hope that some future guardian will benefit from its mature beauty.

If you find the notion of such a major tree in your garden overwhelming, then look at Cornus Eddie’s White Wonder, a beautiful plant of more modest size but offering a spectacular and long lasting flowering in the late Spring.

And go to Audley End – it is so worth a visit.

Garden Water Features

How To… Use Water Features In Your Garden

Andrew Duff

Water features of any size are a great asset to the garden.  Not only do they provide a focal point but they also give a sense of well-being. Whether still or moving the tranquil effects of water can calm or uplift any space.

For the small garden think about scale.  We assume that a small garden requires small features and that everything needs to be in proportion.  This makes the space seem even smaller, a sort of miniature garden.  So, have fun and take a risk!  Large sculptures or pots add a sense of drama.  Large leaved plants backed with smaller leaved plants help accentuate the depth, making the garden seem larger.  Do not limit yourself to a very small water feature; for water to work well you need at least half a metre square of surface area.  And remember the rule about using an existing measurement – try the door or window width or even a path dimension; coordinating measurements will anchor any feature you choose to introduce.

So, have fun and take a risk!  Large sculptures or pots add a sense of drama.

Materials are important. Do you want the feature to stand out or blend in?  Link back to a material that is already in the garden in order to harmonise. If the house is brick introduce brick again.  For a cottage garden galvanised metal or rusty steel can be both contemporary and traditional.  Is your water feature flush with the ground or is it raised?  In a small space a raised pool often works better.  A 1 m2 pool raised 450mm high provides an exciting focal point, is large enough for dramatic reflection and, the rim is the right height to sit on and enjoy.

Fountains can make or break.  Think subtle and sophisticated.

A large fountain in a small pool is totally out of scale.  Try a small bubble fountain fixed just under the water’s surface; the jet will gently babble away creating a calming movement and sound, or use a very fine jet and keep it simple.  One arching spray of water on the centre is more than adequate. For a Mediterranean feel locate a jet in each corner of a square or rectangular pool and aim them to cross each other. The Alhambra Garden in Spain is a great resource for inspiration.

Still water requires a little more maintenance to keep it clean and it will also evaporate quicker.  A little black dye will help heighten the reflective qualities and stop algae growing.

The Alhambra Gardens in Spain

Do not overcrowd a pool with lots of plants; remember the design mantra that less is more.  Again think scale. You don’t want a miniature water garden, but you do need to choose plants that are appropriate to the pond size.  Miniature water lilies can work well if planted alone. For contrast plant large oval-leaved Hosta around the edge and sword-shaped Iris directly into the water.  If you are looking for inspiration I would suggest visiting the flower shows or have a look at their websites – RHS Hampton Court Flower Show is generally the best one for water-plants.  (Try not to look at the larger water gardens; this is not the look you are trying to achieve.)

Safety, with water in the garden, is paramount.  A raised feature is safer, especially if you have young children, but I would always insist the client has a metal grid fitted just below the water surface so that if a child falls in, the grid would protect them.

The History and Application of Wallpaper

Jacqueline Duncan: Lecture by Diana Lloyd – The History & Application of Wallpaper

Jacqueline Duncan, OBE, Dean of Inchbald visited the Mendip NADFAS (National Association of Decorative and Fine Art Societies) Branch recently to listen to a lecture on the History and Application of Wallpaper given by Diana Lloyd.

Long ago Diana was a particularly successful student at Inchbald; shortly after completing her course she started lecturing at the Victoria and Albert Museum on glass. She became a regular lecturer on decoration at Inchbald and soon took over the Directorship of the History of Design Faculty. With the advent of children she pursued an independent career as a lecturer on the Decorative Arts and her range is very broad, as NADFAS members across the UK will know to their benefit.

Diana is renowned for forensic research into her subjects and a sparkling delivery which captivates her audiences’ attention. I was particularly interested in the manner in which she handled her subject, bringing a fresh perspective to the fascinating story of wallpaper’s origins and subsequent decorative history.

The NADFAS organisation, founded some years after the 1960 foundation of the Inchbald School of Design, has made available a wondrous programme of lectures dedicated to the Arts, and promulgated both education and enjoyment in this wide subject, making it available across the UK to so many people of all ages and interests.

Jacqueline Duncan

Inchbald Online Spring Induction

The Inchbald held the Spring Induction for the Online courses in Interior and Garden Design on 25 – 27 April.

This is a three day introduction to the designing eye, supported by extensive instruction in the Inchbald teaching/learning methodology.

The programme includes the London Walk comprising a day spent visiting the art and architectural wonders of this great city, together with sketching exercises in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Students have the opportunity to meet and socialise with their tutors, who will pay such an important part in their life during the Courses.

This group includes applicants from as far away as Australia and Egypt, Dubai and Europe. The mix of nationalities and cultures enriches the online experience, which is forum based, so that students and tutors are interacting with each other, exchanging views and information, throughout the whole course. Many overseas students attend the inductions, but where this is not practical there is a special Online Induction session designed for them.

There are a number of courses of varying length available to those who wish to study design on line; Inchbald has now been educating students in this manner since 2007 and their studies are proved to lead to successful and rewarding careers.

The Spring intake of the Inchbald Online Courses left very happy – ‘it was more like a holiday’ said one of them. That is the joy of working in design related subjects – it is life enhancing.

How important is CAD in the creative process?

“But surely CAD is critical for our portfolios ” say my students.   Certainly it’s important: once mastered it is an easy and professional option but there are other considerations in the creation of good design.  As a tutor I have heard this comment many times and I am certainly not alone; design tutors everywhere will be familiar with the resistance to drawing skills, the reliance on digital technology.

So before the Digital Crusader derides my point of view let me explain.  I am not against technology and the advent of the digital age.  In fact I encourage and welcome it, but in the student’s evolution into professional designers there are other important lessons to be learnt.

It is a tutor’s responsibility to encourage students’ investment in vital core skills and these include conceptual thinking, supported by drawing and sketching.  These are attributes which will lead to a proper understanding of their profession, including their role as a designer and their responsibilities to their client.

I was encouraged recently by an article in the RIBA Journal (April 2017) by Pamela Buxton reviewing the work of Deanna Petherbridge.  A passionate advocate of drawing throughout her working life, Petherbridge describes the importance and relevance of drawing when discussing her work, expressing concerns about the ‘loss of value placed on drawing as designers increasingly rely on computer-aided design – particularly the loss of the immediacy and sense of scale that drawing on paper encourages’.  Pertinent for me however was Petherbridge’s observation that, whilst using CAD, designers are ‘always at second or third hand – the (computer drawing) system has been set up by someone else. You think you’re controlling it, but it’s controlling you’.

Increasingly within the teaching environment I find myself straining to express the relevance of investment in fundamental core skills before the countenance of digital software.

The design profession must take some responsibility for the determination of students to be more ‘Tech-Savvy’.  Studios automatically assume CAD skills when interviewing prospective employees..  Whilst this in itself is a necessary and valuable skill, it should never be at the expense of the development of young designers.

Too often the disappointing result of students’ work is the consequence of a rush towards ‘an impressive digital presentation’, with students seemingly convinced that it will sway opinion in their favour when pitching for their first position of employment.  It certainly helps but there is much more in the training of a designer.

Cultural awareness supported by reading, personal experiences gained by travel, and the capacity to make mistakes and recognise them as such are key development factors.  These are all discussion points capable of further elaboration within the learning environment and they provide a framework to build upon.

Thus I would urge more time spent on research and drawing skills, both important and primary functions for any student.  Swanky digital presentations can easily obscure the true substance in the work.  Experienced potential employers will see through the superficial success and make decisions about how they perceive employment capability.

Consider the further impact from the new ever-emerging technologies such as virtual reality presentations, currently a big buzz in the profession.

The ability to immerse clients directly into the spaces that they will inhabit, walking from room to room, able to make first hand decisions about what they are likely to receive from the designer can only further engage the dialogue between the two parties.  However it remains the case that without core skill developmental capabilities, it may also highlight the lack of substance.  The challenges we face in in our personal development are really about continuing to challenge ourselves.  Debates about what software to master, whether it is AutoCad or Vectorworks, are not really the debates that we should be having.

We must never lose sight of the ability of these digital programmes to enhance, but only enhance, the viability and visibility of our own, cultivated, potential creativity.

Computers are the brilliant products of a brilliant mind.

Computers do not design.

Tony Taliadoros
Senior Lecturer
Inchbald School of Design

RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Andrew Duff: How to make the most of RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017

Marcus Barnett, Inchbald School of Design

With the RHS Chelsea Flower Show just around the corner I would encourage you to visit if you can.  This year the RHS Chelsea Flower Show runs from 23rd – 27th May 2017.  Chelsea is the main event in a garden designer’s calendar and a rich source of inspiration.

As with any great show it is essential to plan ahead.  The RHS Chelsea website is excellent for this; it lists all the individual show gardens, their designers, a drawing of the garden and the plant lists.  It also lists all the main exhibitors from the garden furniture stands right through to the nurseries in the main marquee.

My plan of action is to print off the map well in advance:  this gives me an opportunity to plan a route through the site.

I start with the main avenue and those jaw-dropping show gardens, then work my way through the main marquee for a little light relief where I look at the nursery stands before embarking on the smaller gardens, the exhibition stands, and finally the gardens set amongst the woodlands.

Serena Fremantle, Inchbald School of Design

Don’t forget the gardens are not always as they might seem; lots of the show gardens have their plants forced in heated glass houses or held back in a refrigerator so you can never be sure that the planting combinations you see are realistic.  Instead look at flower shape.  A few years ago Luciano Giubbilei’s blood red peonies and bronze fennel were amazing, this can easily be reproduced with roses or other round flower shapes with grasses.

Make sure you grab a plant list. 

The designer or a member of their team is often on the garden and there is always the chance to ask them questions. That is what they are there for!

Watch for colour trends – last year’s brilliant-white and plum-red stole the show.  The year before acid greens and pale blues worked their magic.  Check out quirky ideas such as different mulches, different path edges and other innovations.  Look at style.  There is often a certain style running through the show; last year it was very strong and proud, all making a statement.  This year I predict an altogether softer approach.

If you have not been able to beg or borrow a Chelsea ticket this year, all is not lost.  The RHS website is still worth researching and you can get tickets for the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show, which although it doesn’t have the same kudos as Chelsea, it is equally interesting and informative.

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