For universities across the country early summer is graduate degree show time, where final year students have the opportunity to show off their work to family, friends, possible employers and the public. The work on display is the final unit of their degree programme and sometimes called “Major Project”. Each year I visit at least one university, I do this not only for pleasure but also to see and take note of what each new cohort of students is bringing to the subject. This weekend I attended the University of Huddersfield preview night.
So why might it benefit you to visit a degree show? All textiles students whether studying at a distance, like you, or in a ‘bricks and mortar’ university ought to take note of their contemporaries creative outcomes. Through the external examiner system, parity is maintained between students in different universities. In other words students from the OCA are examined side by side with students doing similar programmes, thus ensuring all degrees are equal.
I suggest you approach a degree show in the same way as any exhibition but this time bear in mind that these are your contemporaries and your work will be judged against them. Look generally and then in detail. Are there any overall themes or styles? Do these link to wider trends in textiles? This could be in the use of colour, materials or techniques. When looking at details search out innovation and quirky inventiveness. You are not going to like everything you see so use your more academic thinking skills to view the work with an open mind. Examine the standard of craftsmanship, finishes to fabrics and consideration to the use of materials. If you are attending a preview night take the opportunity to talk to the students, ask them where their ideas came from and how they developed them. Most students are very willing to discuss their work and whether they have work or further study lined up. If they are on display look at sketchbooks and research files, this will give you some indication of the students working methods. Take photos, business cards and look at their websites so you can add more depth to your investigation.
There was a wide variety of work at the Huddersfield University degree show, with what I felt to be some strong themes. The first of these was colour which was youthful and exuberant. Much of the work used robust bright playful colour palettes that frequently combined oranges, yellows and pinks. This adventurous colour clash led to energetic and fresh pieces. There was also lots of textures and loose painterly prints. Shapes and placement were irregular and organic with forms that reminded me of basic life forms in petri dishes. Conventional techniques like embroidery, weave and knit were combined with new technologies and materials to create depth of surface and original creative conclusions. Alongside the investigative approach to design there was attention to detail leading to professional dexterous outcomes.
The University of Huddersfield degree show is open to the public until 22 June 2018.
Featured Image: Alice Bailey, University of Huddersfield.