We’re continuing our ‘meet the winners’ blog series with an interview from Emma Boyd Madsen, who won the John Lewis Award for Design and Innovation. Read on for an insight into her creative practice and first steps since graduating.
Tell us the story behind you and your design background
I studied BA (hons) Textile Design at the Glasgow School of Art (GSA) and specialised in knit design in third and fourth year. I enjoy working with unconventional materials and creating 3D fabrics – knit gives you lots of opportunity to do this. I love pushing boundaries within knit and creating organic, three dimensional forms that are both practical and beautiful. Whilst working for Danish fashion designer, Stine Goya, in Copenhagen last summer I developed my drawing and print designing skills as well as my use of colour which is always an integral part of my work. I am currently developing my fabrics to be used as interior products such as seats, wall hangings and poufs.
How did you become interested in design?
I have always been a visual and practical person and enjoy being hands on, making things and seeing things come to life. I am half Danish and have always been inspired by by Danish design and had an interest in interiors – I love the simplicity and quality of danish design and their use of materials and colour. My mum is a graphic designer and has always asked me for design feedback which I believe has helped me develop a good eye for colour and design.
Where did you study and what was the most useful thing you learnt from / best things about your course?
GSA gave me the opportunity to try out all aspects of textile design in first and second year but also develop my textile specialism in third and fourth year fully. My class was very small so we were a close group. It was very inspiring being around such talented people, sharing ideas and learning to give and take critique. Working together on the fashion and end of year shows helped develop good teamwork and communication skills.
How do you think your internship/ placement will contribute to your career pathway? / What are the 3 learnings from your placement?
Winning the John Lewis award has been of huge importance to me. It has given me more confidence and belief in my work along with lots of ideas about how to move forwards. When visiting the JL design team, I was fortunate to meet both furniture and textile designers. This gave me different perspectives and ideas of how my designs can be developed and what type of products they can become. As well as invaluable design advice, I was given a wealth of business advice and the team shared vast amounts of knowledge about the market and industry. Visiting the John Lewis design team has given me direction and clear ideas on how I can develop my designs and turn them into products for the interior market.
Give us an insight into your thought process to design your work – where does your inspiration come from? Who are your design mentors and why?
For my graduate collection I found my inspiration whilst in Copenhagen. I was drawn to the organic architecture and interior design, particularly looking at the innovative materials used such as cork and copper. I like looking at unconventional shapes and forms and working out how they could be translated into a knitted textile. I am also hugely inspired by interior and furniture designers such as Ligne Roset and Patricia Urquiola because of their unique use of material and colour.
What one technique, material or tool could you not live without?
A technique that I couldn’t live without would be knotting, there are so many ways it can be developed by playing with scale and experimenting with different materials.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? / What piece of advice would you give to future graduates or those thinking of studying design?
Don’t compare yourself to others, it doesn’t matter what they’re doing it matters what you’re doing.
How do you think other brands like the one you’ve had your placement at can help nurture design and creative talent in the future?
Respected brands, such as John Lewis, can offer up to date guidance and advice which can provide graduates with real opportunity to progress and develop their work in directions that increase the chances of creating products appropriate to current markets.