When Cork artist Darragh Casey was commissioned to design new trophies for the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition, through a call out from the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland (DCCI). he had one of those lightbulb moments. The Rathcormac man was sitting outside his son's hospital room reading the brief for the commission when he had his moment of revelation.
“An idea just hit me, and I knew how I wanted to make it: 3D printing. It’s an innovative process, and a Young Scientist’s trophy needs an innovative process,” recalls Casey.
“It’s the kind of design that takes on the importance of its role, being awarded to bright and innovative young minds for their research and development in the various fields of science, viewed as an end goal to hard work and lifted aloft by the eventual Young Scientist of the Year.” The BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition (BTYSTE) has moved online for 2021 due to Covid restrictions, and will take place this week, from Wednesday to Friday.
“I had the idea of the winner lifting the trophy overhead, and that moment being something special, that gives that young person a sense of power. You see these superhero movies where they have power in their hands - this trophy represents that. I started with the base, with the BT logo, and the top of it the ‘YS’. I started by playing with geometry between these spaces, creating something you could see from every angle, while creating something that was realistically printable.”
As well as the design aspect, Casey is involved in the trophy's manufacture, created from clay via a 3D printer, and plated with gold.
“It’s a mixture of really exciting and absolutely terrifying, seeing a real-life version of this thing that’s been floating around on a screen for weeks. We went straight to clay: a malleable, flexible material that could collapse. You’re hoping and praying that people don’t bump into the table as those layers are reaching the top. That’s part of it, and it’s important to engage with that development too.
“Like, in the geometry, I initially visualised straight vertical lines. What the printer is doing is making these lines take a certain flow, reinforcing the idea, and creating something unique. You have to embrace it, and treat the printer like a colleague, I guess.”
Casey’s work as an artist has taken him around the world, from London to Barcelona and commissions from the likes of the UK edition of Vogue magazine.
“I went to school in Fermoy, and I had a really good art teacher who really encourage me, didn’t pigeonhole me. My parents really didn’t set boundaries, either. My dad, he’d never really admit it, but he’s very creative, in an untraditional way. I’ve also been inspired by people like the furniture-maker Joseph Walsh, who have been reinventing craft, and bringing it forward.”
Over the years, Casey has developed an entire body of work that questions peoples' relationship with everyday items like home furniture, fittings, and the like, adding creative spins to their everyday function.
“I did my Master’s in furniture design, and I didn’t want to be someone that churns things out for mass production. I wanted to make things that made people stop and think. It’s not the most financially-rewarding or stable work, but I really wanted to find that link between poetry, craft and design, which means making things that are critical, humorous, and change the way we see the world.”
Casey runs a freelance practice for his design, as well as providing workshops, lecturing, and consultancy. The events of the last few years have obviously brought many challenges for working in design and construction in Ireland, the UK and the EU. Casey talks about the state of play for the sector, and the academic work that accompanies his practice.
“I’ve never made life easy for myself - moving to Barcelona meant giving up a comfortable position in a studio and really freelancing, making things work, establishing myself, and making a living from my practice. Teaching has allowed me to verbalise my thoughts and ideas. My classes are about my projects and the challenges I’m facing.
“The current situation is about resilience, and not necessarily about problems, but also opportunities - design forms part of solving our problems in the objects we encounter on a daily basis. It’s our responsibility to be creative in this world now, rather than waiting for a return to normal.” It's a message that will likely be embraced by the delighted young students lifting up Casey's trophies later this week.
- The BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition takes from Wednesday to Friday, Jan 6-8: btyoungscientist.com