We kick off this year's New Designers celebrations by asking our first Conran Shop New Designers Award winner, Manchester School of Art's Bruno Schooling, all about his award-winning 'Ground' collection, inspirations, and ambitions.
1. Congratulations on winning the Conran Shop New Designers Award; how do you feel, and what does this award mean for your future and practice?
I feel massively honoured to be awarded a prize from such a prestigious design name and company. I am incredibly proud to be selected as the quality of work and innovation shown at New Designers was fantastic.
In regards to my future practice, the Conran Shop prize will allow me to continue developing the project, making the narrative and final objects more accessible whilst hopefully creating a wider network of collaborations across makers, farmers and chefs.
2. Please tell us more about who you are and your project.
I am a multidisciplinary maker, with an inquisitive, process-driven approach to materials and making. My project, 'Ground,' has been an ongoing collaboration with Keepers Cottage Organics to source bones from outdoor reared, organic animals and wild, foraged clay from the land they graze on. Using these local materials and by-products, I have reconceptualised the 18th-century recipe for bone china to make a series of narrative-led, ceramic objects that characterise the landscape of the bone and clay's origin whilst responding to the ethos of nose-to-tail cooking.
My work hopes to engage a wider audience with the importance of a circular approach to working, not only through ceramics but also through cooking and organic farming methods.
3. As to your work, who inspires it, and do you have a particular process that drives your craft?
Collaboration is not only critical to my practice, but an ongoing inspiration for my work, from my consistent interest in the relationship between environment, maker, and material, to the collaboration of differing crafts and practices.
Another key inspiration for my practice is the material's origin. By collecting and processing all my own materials, the final form, texture, or colour will inherently reference their provenance. As I work with the material in an unrefined state, the clay body contains rocks, lumps and other natural impurities. Technically, these inclusions are uncooperative and awkward; however, working this way provides me much greater inspiration and satisfaction in both process and outcome.
In addition, work that creates a dialogue between food, objects, and a specific site, such as Adam Silverman's 'COMMON GROUND,' Atelier NL's 'Polderlunch,' and Cooking Sections' 'CLIMAVORE' projects are massively inspiring to my practice and thinking as a maker.
4. Are you familiar with the work we do at The Conran Shop and Sir Terence's legacy? If so, did it have any influence on your work?
Sir Terence Conran has been an ongoing and wide-ranging influence on my practice and thinking as a maker. From growing up using his thoughtful yet elegantly designed objects to learning about his innovative design philosophies whilst in education, I feel his legacy lives on and educates the new wave of designers, like myself, about the importance of accessible yet beautiful objects.
5. How important do you think something like New Designers is for emerging designers?
New Designers provides an immense opportunity for graduate designers to not only showcase their work but connect with other emerging makers from across the country. Alongside the fantastic awards and opportunities it provides, I think the space it gives graduates to create a network of makers, galleries, and industry experts is so important.
I also believe that New Designers can inspire the next generation of emerging designers. Hundreds of school children visited throughout the week, and I feel this exposure to what design and craft can be is so crucial for the future of the discipline.
6. Looking around, did you see any emerging trends/shared concerns/materials with your fellow designers?
Across New Designers, I felt there was an embedded understanding of how design and craft can create sustainable practices. From exhibitors, across disciplines, utilising by-products, found objects or innovative materials.
Although not a new theme, I think it was inspiring to see that sustainability was just the backbone of each project. Lots of works had a narrative that referenced the value of materials or a circular approach to design, but were still beautiful objects in their own right.
7. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing emerging designers?
I feel that a big challenge facing designers is to justify why and what they are making; although this can limit the outcomes of a project, I think it is a crucial mindset for emerging designers to have to ensure there is not an endless stream of unnecessary products being produced.
Another challenge for designers across the world is to find a niche within the broad area of design. Due to the likes of Instagram, designers' work is more accessible than ever, and although this can be massively inspiring, I feel it can also be daunting for new designers, and it can feel as if every idea you have has already been done in multiple different ways. However, I feel this again drives new work and makers to push the boundaries of process and material.
8. What are your ambitions for the next five years?
Over the next few years, I would love to expand my 'Ground' project across different farms throughout the world, investigating how different landscapes can affect the final form and narrative of each object whilst referencing traditional, site-specific craft practices.
9. What, in your opinion, makes a design timeless?
Difficult question… In my opinion, a timeless design is one that is not only functional but also personable. An object or design could be timeless to one individual and worthless to another. To me, that is one of the great joys of design. However well designed an object may be, the connection or story between maker, object and user is what I feel can make something timeless.
10. Lastly, which is your favourite piece of design history, and who is your best-loved designer?
Regarding design history, it has to be Enzo Mari and his amazing set of open-source designs in the 1974 book Autoprogettazione. His work provides a basis for anyone with access to a hammer, some nails and a set of wooden boards with the ability to not only make furniture but also customise and adapt each design.
To decide upon one most loved designer is very difficult, I am inspired and constantly in awe of so many amazing designers. However, one that has been a consistent inspiration for the past five years is Max Lamb and his questioning approach to widely used materials and processes.