For the past two months I have been tracking the progress of Amy Whitworth, Charlie Patterson and Jasper Van Den Bosch aka Vektor, Chloe Lee Carson aka Shlos, Chloe Owens, David Hallett, and Ellie Gregory and Steph Parr aka Homeslice Design. They each won a place on the Southbank Centre’s Boost initiative, with an idea or prototype and were given a mentor, a guaranteed order and six months in which to make their idea a reality. And they did it! All six products are now for sale in the Southbank Centre shop and taking centre stage in this fabulous window display.
I popped into the shop before heading over to the launch event at the Southbank Centre’s Festival Village. The sense of simultaneous relief and celebration in the air was palpable – and it was really nice to see all the designers again with their finished products.
Charlie and Jasper aka Vektor, who are still at University studying graphic design, launched CMY, simply designed to make cool bikes look even cooler. Mentor Mark Hampshire, one half of design duo Mini Moderns said that although he couldn’t ride a bike, the product appealled to him because it was Charlie and Jasper’s version of a Mini Moderns cushion: “You don’t ever need a cushion – you buy one because love it.”
Ellie Gregory and Steph Parr, aka Home Slice Design, said that the best advice their mentor, Helen Johannessen of Yoyo Ceramics gave them was to quite their day jobs. They hit upon the idea for their product range while sitting in a pub discussing the fact the people hadn’t paid homage to fish and chip shop signs enough and they thought that was something they should rectify!
Chloe Lee Carson named her brand Shlos, a family name, to remind her of her design approach which is to look to the past for inspiration. Her Exquisite Cups are inspired by the children’s game exquisite corpse. She said the best advice her mentor gave her was to “hurry up and get on with it”. She said that knowing when it’s time to stop tweaking and just get something done has been a key learning for her in this process.
Amy Whitworth’s whole family is involved in producing her Qubis dolls’ house coffee table – her Dad had helped her to make the furniture which is assembled from little wooden blocks with magnets embedded into them, and her Mum has stitched all the blankets and other fabric accessories. Amy’s mentor helped her to understand toy regulations and Amy’s advice to someone just starting this process would be: “do your research”.
Dave Hallett‘s Bright as a Button product was initially developed as a gift for his girlfriend, who “has a bit of a thing about buttons.” His prototype was well developed by the time he joined Boost, so his mentors, Keith and Mark of Mini Moderns mostly gave him advice on branding and packaging. He said he loved visits to their studio where he found all sorts of ideas amongst their “creative mess.”
Chloe Owens has a background in handmade textiles design and used Boost as a way to work out how she could apply her designs to other products, moving away from making every one by hand.
The Boost mentors didn’t escape a grilling either – from left to right Mark Hampshire and Keith Stephenson, Mini Moderns, Rebecca Chitty, Product of Your Environment, Ellen O’Hara, Cockpit Arts and Michelle Mason. Their advice included: “be original”, “realise that nothing is ever as simple as you think it’s going to be” and “if you haven’t got a mentor, pick up the phone to someone, convince them to go out for a coffee and pick their brains.”
Keith and Mark described the initiative as “life affirming” and I have to agree. It is so wonderful to see someone like Adam Thow, Head of Buying for the Southbank Centre (below left), going above and beyond the call of duty to make something like this happen, it’s inspiring to see so many people giving up so much of their time to help, and it has been really exciting to see the designs – and the designers – develop. (I think Mark’s socks are pretty life affirming too!)
Further reading for the especially geeky: