Women in Design

An evening of inspirational discussions

Last week NOW Gallery hosted a special evening called Women in Design to celebrate the work of Phoebe English whose work featured in the gallery this summer. The event, themed ‘texture’, saw some of the most talented female designers in the UK come together to celebrate and discuss their work including Sonnet Stanfill who curates 20th century design at the V&A and Helen Arvanitakis from Tom Dixon Studio.

The evening opened with a talk from rising star, fashion designer Phoebe English, who has created new commission for NOW Gallery; a suspend sculpture made form 70KG of glass beads, the work is accompanied by an exhibition showing Phoebe’s drawing’s, fabrics and textures that inspire her and her designs.

Phoebe, in conversation with NOW Gallery curator and artist Jemima Burrill spoke about her pathway from student to fashion designer, her love of using traditional ‘forgotten’ crafts including knitting and reimagining them and that she feels incredible lucky to work in an industry which has ‘no creative confines’.

Phoebe went on to describe her pace of work ‘I’m responding to an internal urgency’ which often sees her working late into the evening.

Much of Phoebe’s work is made in London and the UK, she still makes many of her textiles herself.

Guests included Alys Fowler who has designed the new gardens at Greenwich Peninsula, which sit behind the gallery, architect Alison Brooks, Annie Warburton the Creative Director at Crafts Council as well as Geraldine Hemingway from Hemingway Design, Jane Howard from Tracey Neuls and art director Sania Pell who designed the event, working with an all-female designer-maker team to create the wonderfully detailed table settings for the evening.

The evening continued with garden designer Alys Fowler describing her inspiration for the design of the new gardens at Greenwich Peninsula. Alys spoke in detail of her inspiration from the history of the space and it’s previous uses as an orchard, vegetable gardens and it’s industrial past.

The gardens are the first public space Alys has created and she went on to describe that she wanted to see the public have an input in how it’s space ‘I wanted a space where people made determined how the space would be made’.

Alys has aimed to create a garden which is rich in texture and flora, creating a a rich insect life, she went on to talk about nature and that if given a space in the city nature “will move in very quickly!”

The evening went on to hear from Helen Arvanitakis from Tom Dixon Studio who spoke about her the design concepts and inspiration behind the studio’s work and described some roof the features in the products in the show apartments at Greenwich Peninsula. Helen talked about her work with the studio and Tom Dixon’s passion for design.

The evening’s last speaker, Sonnet Stanfill gave guests an insight into her role at the V&A as a curator and a buyer for the museum.

Sonnet went on to talk about curating large scale exhibitions, and feeling as though some designers are still present within their work and when asked by Jemima Burrill if the purchases she made for the gallery were academic or intuitive she replied ‘design is the filter.’.

The event ended with a night of informal discussion with food provided by chef Steve Parle and his neighbouring restaurant Craft London.

The evening gave women designers from many disciplines the opportunity to come together to discuss their work. It was an event that stimulated debate and celebrated the wealth of talent the UK has creating exceptional design.