New Designer Daniel Embleton
BA (Hons) Textiles & Surface Design Graduate and Designer Daniel Embleton has gone from strength to strength since finishing his degree with us this summer! From wowing visitors at our final show with his amazing display featuring a diverse range of original art work, prints and an impressive product arrangement he has gone on to win the prestigious New Designer Liberty Fabric Studio Award with his design concept ‘Savage Garden’.
“New Designers was such an amazing experience, being able to exhibit my work to the public for the first time was exciting. I was using this experience to determine whether to find a design job or start my own business in the interior sector depending on the reactions towards my work. My dream and goal from the start of my first year of university was to exhibit and win an award at New Designers when I left university and this was something that I worked towards for the entire course…I felt so lucky and privileged to be the winner of this award and was so excited to see what would happen next.”
Alongside showing at The Surface Design Show 2022 next year, being shortlisted for Arts Thread Global Graduate Design Show and being featured in The World of Interiors Magazine, Daniel has just launched his business Embleton Interiors.
We caught up with Daniel to find out all about these amazing opportunities and the impact it has had on his young career, read on for the full interview!
Tell us about New Designers and what it felt like to win New Designers Liberty Prize and the project that you submitted?
My submission was based on my ‘Savage Garden’ design looking at different species of carnivorous plants and how they were discovered, documented and drawn. The motifs were created using Procreate and Photoshop based on the photographs I took whilst visiting Kew Gardens. I intended this pattern to be used as a statement wallpaper that challenged current trends and what was seen as being commercial. The use of bright colours was a way of making these unusual and somewhat ugly plants look bold and luxurious.
When I received an email from New Designers saying that I was shortlisted I was so excited and amazed that my work was liked by Liberty, which is one of my favourite department stores in London. As a reward for being a shortlist I was given the opportunity to show the Design Manager my portfolio to receive feedback on my work. It was amazing to talk to the manager and learn about what happens behind the scenes in the fabric department. I think the most interesting point Liberty made about my work was the fact they loved the way I used ‘ugly plants’ that are usually avoided when creating designs, and how I made them look aesthetically pleasing and bright.
A week later I attended the awards ceremony online along with my friends and tutors from university which was such a lovely experience itself. I was so nervous about the award and then they said my name. I couldn’t believe what was happening and was in disbelief. I remember saying ‘I can’t believe it’ for about a week afterwards. I felt so lucky and privileged to be the winner of this award and was so excited to see what would happen next.
The prize for the competition was a visit to the Liberty archive and to see the Design studios and team of designers in London. This was such a fantastic experience where I learnt so much about the Liberty store and design process. I had a tour of the department store and learn the heritage of Liberty and how it started out. I was then taken to the archive where I met with staff from the design and bespoke departments who showed me some of Liberty’s commissions and collaborations within the design industry and discussed my plans for the future and the possibility of me being the new post graduate intern for a year. As my day concluded the Liberty team awarded me with my certificate and a bag full of branded products from around the store.
The entire experience of New Designers has helped me become more confident in myself and my designs which is something I lacked before my New Designers experience. I have gained so many opportunities from exhibiting such as Arts Thread, World of Interiors Magazine and The Surface Design Show.
Tell us more about Arts Thread and the other opportunities!
When Arts Thread contacted me I was surprised and excited as they suggested I entered my work into the Global Graduate Design Show, which I have now been shortlisted for that has been super exciting to hear. After this I was contacted by The World of Interiors Magazine which was such a great opportunity to showcase my work to a wider audience. My work will be featured in the November and December issues in the Design Report section where I will be with other small businesses and interior brands. I have also gained a mentorship with Alicia Rowbotham who is also helping me take the plunge into self-employment and launching my own brand. The fact that these opportunities were all from this one exhibition has shown me that it is worth putting your work forward for every opportunity that comes your way, because you never know who is looking or what will come out of it.
Whilst I was preparing for New Designers and my final show I was also given the opportunity to have portfolio reviews with some industry leaders from the textile and interiors industry like Lakeland, Creative Sparrow and Hallmark which all gave me feedback on my work and areas I could refine and improve to develop a successful portfolio for industry.
You are showing next year at the Surface Design Show to exhibit in London 2022. Tell us about it, how did you get involved and what are you doing to prepare for the show?
The Surface Design Show is a trade show mainly for interior designers and architects, who look for new and exciting surface designs, products, and materials to use within the home. I was contacted by the organiser after she saw my work on the New Designers website and asked me to put an application forward with a proposal for the stand and details about my work. After completing this I was then selected to be one of 35 graduate designers successful and given the chance to exhibit in February 2022. I will be exhibiting in the New Talent area of the show in the Business Design Centre in London. This was such a surprise and again got me thinking about starting my own business.
I am planning to use this opportunity as a way of launching my business next year and to gain contacts within the industry. I am going to make more products for the show and will be planning my stand and the trip down to London in the coming weeks. I will be exhibiting lampshades, footstools, floor lamps, fabrics and wallpapers with the public in the hope that I will gain wholesale orders, contacts and collaborations with industry. I will also be creating some new designs, which will be launched at the show for the first time.
Tell us about working with Gillian Arnold?
Whilst studying at university I was given the opportunity to take part in a work placement with Gillian Arnold where I designed her new collection that launched at Spring Fair 2020. This was such a great opportunity to develop my digital skills and knowledge of what is commercial at the time. I was given a job as a production assistant where I oversaw the sublimation printing process and learned how to use the sublimation printers, fabric presses and roller press. I also had the opportunity to work with prints created by FabFunky which was pressed and made into lampshades. I gained experience in Lampshade production and running the shop. I have recently left this job to pursue my dreams of running my own business as I feel this is the perfect time to launch my brand especially with my trade fair in February next year.
Tell us about the projects you are working on, how you want to develop your practice
I have just started to set up my own design business which is going well at the moment. I am super busy with lots of side projects now, including preparing for my stall at The Bowes Museum Christmas Market in December and working alongside Graduate Collection on a wallpaper collaboration. I have also won the Moth Paper wallpaper competition that is in collaboration with Artrepreneur, which sees my work printed onto wallpaper and sold to the public.
I am starting to expand my range of products to include floor lamps, footstools, washbags, art prints, postcards and bookmarks alongside my lampshades, cushions, and lanterns. This is my main goal for now however I have plans to create new design collections based on abstracts, under the sea, cultures of the world and history.
I am hoping to launch my business by opening a shop in the North East soon, selling my own interior products and designs to the public. I am also in conversations to collaborate with a fabric printing service in Europe to expand my current range of products and fabric types. In terms of my designs, I am wanting to explore cyanotype a lot more and hopefully launch a new range of original lampshades from this. I am also working on gaining some stockist of my work within the Northeast to sell my lampshades and cushions.
How is The Northern School of Art special for you?
When I started university I had basic skills in drawing and design however wasn’t good enough to start a career or business. Once I started it seemed like everything was falling into place, I learned how to draw in different media, sew and print. I even overcame my fear of sewing machines and started to create products and final pieces using machine embroidery. My experience on this course and the support of the tutors has helped me to develop and refine my skills as a designer, allowing me to be the best I could be. With the support and guidance of the staff and tutors has helped me to become confident and believe in myself and artwork.
Whilst at university I took part in my first trade shows and exhibitions which gave me a good understanding of what it would be like to be a freelance designer. The encouragement to take part in work placements has given me the opportunity to connect and take part in activities that I wouldn’t normally do like workshops and community arts. I also gained my digital skills from my work placement with Gillian Arnold during my second year which I used greatly in my final year project. The encouragement from staff to take part in every opportunity gave me a broad range of skills and contacts within industry. Things like Graduate Collection, Bradford Textile Society and Portfolio reviews with New Designers and guest speakers have all given me the confidence and contacts to start my design career. I was able to talk to Davinder Madaher and Isobel Armstrong who gave me constructive feedback on my physical work and portfolio. Trips to London and Paris were the first times I had been to these places and are amongst the highlights of my university experience.
The trade shows that I took part in including DecoSit, Premiere Vision, Spring Fair and New Designers have given me a broad understanding of both the fashion and interiors industries and have given me the chance to pitch my work to multiple companies and brands. The best thing about my university experience was the networking and contacts that I have gained including friends, guest speakers and business contacts.
Any advice for future creatives/ new students?
The most important thing I could tell someone on my course is not to compare yourself to others, everyone does work in different ways and you should be true to yourself and your style. Make sure to use all the techniques and equipment available to you and use this to enhance your portfolio. Try not to worry about grades and marks, just enjoy your time studying and the results will be amazing.
You do your best work when you are enjoying what you are doing and not worrying about the result. My biggest mistake I did was I planned my projects too well, I would always have a picture of my finals in my head at the beginning of the design process which didn’t always let my creativity flow, holding me back at times. I also think you need to try not to get upset when things go wrong and instead do it again until you get it right. In my second year of study, I was introduced to cyanotype which didn’t seem to work very well for me, things didn’t expose and was a complete disaster, however in third year I tried it again and it worked extremely well and was one of my main techniques I used within my drawing collection.
I would also recommend that every opportunity that you have the chance to be a part of you take up and take full advantage of. Guest speakers are there to be helpful, make sure to ask questions and for their advice on your own work and career paths. Try to think outside the box when designing, if you want to do florals or architecture, look deeper, try to see what is missing from the market you are pitching to. Could you look at historical periods in relation to florals or draw architecture based on a certain time period or place.
I think the most important thing to remember is that everyone is better at certain things than others, and the key is to make up for this when doing things you are good at. If you are not great at repeats but have amazing drawing skills, really explore your strong skills and maybe try something different from normal when it comes to design. I also think that you have to plan your time out effectively, don’t leave it till the last minute but do a small amount often to help make sure that you don’t experience ‘burn out’. I also think that you need to be honest and constructive when talking to tutors and writing reports and evaluations within your work. Don’t make things up because that is what you think people want to hear, if you didn’t have time to finish it all or just had a total mind block when you were designing, it is best to be honest as this shows you are conscious of your issues and will be able to rectify them in the next project.
If you try hard throughout your university experience right from the start of first year and respond effectively toward feedback and your tutors you will be a successful designer and will come out with all you need to thrive in the design industry. Keep developing and refining your skills throughout your time at university and by the time you leave or put up your degree show at the end of third year you will have a great collection that will get a lot of attention and hopefully contacts.
Our BA (Hons) Textiles & Surface Design degree has a long standing record of producing skilled and successful young designers, make sure you check out our course page to find out more!