When Fabia Hully, the Design & Technology (D&T) teacher at Trentham High School emailed us to say she’d seen our jewellery in the Design Museum shop in London and that she was intending to set her G.C.S.E students a project based on our brand, we were really excited!
Then, when we realised that they would not be using a laser cutter but would be using fretsaws, needle files and wet and dry paper, in the same way that we do, we were even more keen to get involved.
Here are all of the students finished projects, they’re so much better than what we made when we were at school!
Before his retirement, Ruth’s Dad was Head of D&T at Christ’s Hospital School, Sussex. (He’s not really fully retired though as he still teaches us the odd trick and new skill from time to time!). Ruth, therefore spent a lot of time in and out of the D&T department whilst growing up, making lots of stuff, so this all gave the project more resonance for us.
We use a fretsaw that we ‘borrowed’ (ten years ago!) from Ruth’s Dad, to cut out all of our components, before we clean them up and piece them together by hand. We like to do it this way as we believe it gives a lovely finish, and each item we make is truly unique! This is also the way that we did it when we were at school, in the days before laser cutters were widely used.
We like to have some kind of narrative or humour behind our designs, so we were really interested to see how the students wove this into their own projects.
We suggested to Fabia that she could refer to Victor Papanek‘s application of Bisociation brainstorming technique of picking random words from a dictionary and then ‘work-shopping’ them. We’ve had fun using these and other word association games when coming up with new designs or adapting existing ones.
We were really pleased to hear that the students got on well using an online random word generator, and that they managed not to be too precious about their initial ideas.
We particularly liked reading one student Alice’s description of how she had the word ‘crust’ come up, and went from this to the crust of the earth, and eventually made this lovely globe necklace design from acrylic with an aluminium moon charm!
It was also interesting to hear how the students had to adapt their designs as they were making them, realising that some ideas were too complicated and working out how to get the same effect in a more manageable way.
One of the students, Ellen, had planned to cut out the inside bits of a birdcage design, but it was proving too difficult to achieve as it was too small and intricate to do by hand. She ended up using vinyl stickers for the shapes instead, which also proved to look more effective!
This is what often happens when we try to realise an idea, we have to admit defeat and go back to the drawing board! So it was great to see that they were prepared to deviate from their initial plan for the sake of a better design solution!
We had said to Fabia that we could do a limited run of the winning design, as a prize, imagining that we would need to adapt it a quite a lot and refine it etc. to fit with the brand (remembering what we had managed to make in D&T at the same age!).
But when she uploaded all of their finished projects we were stunned by the breadth of their ideas and the quality of manufacture. We quickly had to re-evaluate our judging position and decided that we were going to need to give more prizes or it just wouldn’t be fair!
We ended up picking four winning designs, to make as ltd editions, under the category ‘Best Design’ that we felt really fitted the brief.
Meg’s Apple brooch, Emily’s Cupcake brooch, Harry’s Iguana brooches and Lydia’s Princess & the Pea necklace:
We have adapted these designs ever so slightly, and are making a limited edition run of them that are now available for sale on our online shop, with any profits going to the chosen charity of that student.
Five of these fell under our ‘Originality of Design’ category. These were designs that really embraced the ideas and design stage but that we felt would be maybe too complicated or too niche for us to ‘mass-produce’ at a reasonable price:
Kieran’s Unicorn, Alex’s Parachute Man, Ellen’s Birdcage, Chloe’s Love Letter and Alice’s Globe & Moon.
The other three designs we put under the category ‘Use of Techniques’ – these students had really excelled in the making of some very ambitious projects with great attention to detail and finish, or using a great mix of materials:
Tish’s Flamingo, Becky’s Pineapple and Athena’s Owl.
We gave individual feedback to each student for all of the projects, as even though we only gave 12 certificates, we felt that all the projects deserved this attention and merit.
Lydia, who designed the Princess & the Pea said this about the project:
“I have loved every single part of the ‘I Am Acrylic’ project. It has been one of the most exiting, interesting and most fun projects we have worked on! The best part of ‘I Am Acrylic’ was when we were faced with the design brief and then generating ideas. I thought of the princess and the pea necklace by coming up with a theme; fairytales, then developing it into an individual idea. When I found out my design was chosen to go into production I was ecstatic and I am still extremely excited to know that it is going to go into production and all proceeds going to charity! This is one of my greatest achievements so far and I can’t wait to see it selling on the ‘I Am Acrylic’ website!”
We were really pleased to have been able to offer extra incentive by way of a mini competition, and also in giving a context for their jewellery projects.
We’re excited to see how many of the winning designs we can sell for them and their chosen charities!