LDF23: UK’s GREEN GRADS Is Set to Change the World (Design Milk) | Katie Treggiden Skip to content

LDF23: UK’s GREEN GRADS Is Set to Change the World (Design Milk)

GREEN GRADS is a UK initiative founded and curated by design journalist, Barbara Chandler, to platform UK graduates who are engaging with environmental issues, such as climate change, the circular economy, and biodiversity. Barbara talks about the work she chooses to feature as “running the gamut from art to engineering” and Roberta Schreyer’s Dreamstones (above) are firmly in the former camp. Her soft sculptures draw attention to the climate crisis and our broken relationship with nature. “My work exhorts humans and nature to live in balance on a beautiful Earth,” she says.

Now in its third year, this fledging initiative has flown the nest taking over the entire floor third floor of the building that houses iconic British department store Heal’s, and showcasing more than 50 of the most innovative and important projects at the London Design Festival.

Christopher Fronebner presented “Fishing for Nets” to tackle “ghost gear” – dumped fishing equipment that comprises the majority of plastic pollution in the ocean. Working with experts and using his own first-hand experience, he has developed a tool that makes clearing old nets from beaches easy and fun. He is making it available on an open-source basis, and it can be 3D printed from filament made from discarded nets.

Caroline LA Wheeler is an artist, researcher, and jeweler and her project for GREEN GRADS, “Grains and Chains,” uses a historic Gunter’s chain to raise awareness of the depletion of the second-most used resource on Earth – sand – and its impact on the landscapes and habitats it is extracted from. A series of short texts and images tell the story, while the 66-foot-long surveyors tool she deploys as a metaphor dates back to the 1600s and would have been used to measure out both the British Empire and the American wilderness as it was turned into early settlements.

Jessica Kirkpatrick is seeking to establish the contribution textile designers can make to reducing the pollution and waste currently inherent in the printing process. “Sustainability and circularity are a constant in my work as I evolve my practice to support our planet’s growth rather than hinder it,” she says. Her detailed research involves experiments to extract the most vivid of colors from local plants in her home county of Lancashire.

Elena Branch presented The Climate Collection, a collection of illustrative designs for wallpaper and upholstery textiles inspired by Russian Constructivism that speak directly to the perils that face us if we don’t act. “I’m using illustration and prints to raise vital awareness of the current climate crisis,” she says.

Dùthchas is a Gaelic word that is difficult to translate directly, but Maisie Keery sees it as “the intersection between landscape, nature, culture, and community – a place of home” and chose it as the name for her collection. Inspired by her Shen (grandfather)’s village of Cromor in the Isle of Lewis, and traditional crofters’ wear. She collected wool off fences and hand-dyed it with materials collected from the village such as food waste. “A village once rich with textiles is now being slowly forgotten,” she says. ” As a statement, I worked in the same way my ancestors would have done.”

Lucianne Canavan (above) describes herself as a multi-disciplinary artist-designer not wanting to be pinned down to a single material or approach, and it’s to her a credit. She collaborated with Lucy Ralph (below) to create a Repair Hub offering live mends throughout GREEN GRADS as well as showcasing her own work – for which she combines traditional repair techniques with her own unique combinations of patching, darning, and felting.

Lucy Ralph, aka “Lucy Trousers,” is the other half of this dynamic duo and her work explores the idea that we often discard clothes, not because they are damaged, but simply because we have grown tired of them. Her bold brand of visible mending seeks to both bring a sense of newness back to older garments and to communicate how long clothes can – and should – last.

Irish-born, London-based Royal College of Art graduate Joanne Lamb specializes in creating almost impossibly delicate woven baskets that represent the seasons, with the aim of inspiring people to appreciate nature more and to create “using their human instincts or drawing on their own cultural heritage.” The Imbolc Collection, her first, is named for the ancient Celtic holiday celebrating the earliest stirrings of spring. “I’m sharing my everyday urban experiences, bringing together art, nature and joy and pointing the way to a fairer and greener world,” she says, and has further collections inspired by summer, fall, and winter planned.

“It’s firewood at best” were the words Brighton University design and craft graduate Sholto Murray wanted to challenge. “We should be using timber that is otherwise wasted,” he says. He has sourced discarded wood from across Sussex to make vessels that retain their imperfections and irregularities. “Using local timber, felled to increase biodiversity or decrease the spread of disease, I will continue developing a style of my own. I’ll use What3Words to help increase the traceability of my material and engage the public with my craft.”

A textile artist who specializes in working with offcuts and waste fabric, Isabel Fletcher recently returned to university to study for a Master’s in textiles at the Royal College of Art. “For me, the way something was made leaves traces on otherwise disregarded offcuts,” she says. “Waste is often an extension of skilled hands and old craft. Let us value it, learn its stories, and see its beauty.”

“Industrial Offcut Studies: Hard and Soft” (above) is a series of sculptural pieces Isabel created especially for GREEN GRADS using the waste from the show’s sponsors, Benchmark, Naturalmat, and SCP. These sort of pieces would usually emerge as part of her research and development process – “thinking in three dimensions” – and this is the first time she has shared anything like these as finished objects in their own right.

Interdisciplinary designer and algal research artist, Emma Money, has come up with Cyanoskin – a “living paint” that transforms buildings into carbon-absorbing structures, in collaboration with biologist Holly Souza-Newman and business expert Antionette Nothomb with support from Carbon 13, Barclays Eagle Labs, and UKGBC. It needs care and maintenance once painted, but for as long as it stays alive, a detached house covered in the paint could absorb as much CO2 as 95 mature trees.

Henry Davison’s Frond is a leather-like material made from kelp – an incredibly fast-growing seaweed that absorbs more CO2 than trees – he found a way to stop it from rotting and has made a wallet as well as the seat and back of this chair (above) to demonstrate its strength and durability. He won the Design Council award when he exhibited at New Designers this summer.

Linnéa Duckworth grew up in rural Dartmoor in the southwest of the UK and has a background as a dancer – now, inspired by her childhood, she creates naturally dyed and pleated fabrics, designed to fade and unfold over time. “I focus on the beauty and joy of the natural world as a catalyst for change, inviting a reawakening in the body and an emotional connection with the environment,” she says.

Photography by Katie Treggiden.

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Katie Treggiden is also the founder and director of Making Design Circular — an international membership community and online learning platform for environmentally conscious designers, makers, artists and craftspeople.
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