For the National Craft Gallery, whose exhibition output has been prolific in recent years, this is the first time it has included an expanse of design disciplines including fashion, model making and architecture, as well as product design for the home.
What makes it special for visitors is that it reflects collaborations between designers from diverse backgrounds. For the exhibitors, it is, in some cases, the first time they’ve been involved in a show at this level, offering exposure to the public and other more experienced designers.
“It’s an opportunity to get all of these designers together,” says curator Angela O’Kelly.
“And to start conversations about what’s possible from collaborating in design. Fresh Talent is pushing boundaries, focusing on user-first designs and working across disciplines. Nothing is a challenge to them so it’s an exciting time in Irish design.”
It seems timely, and a natural follow-on to a design approach that developed out of recession (multi-functional furniture pieces and household objects) that now there should be multiple involvement in the actual design process too.
As head of design for body and environment at the National College of Art and Design, O’Kelly has been watching this development and the output of individual designers for some time.
“I was keeping an eye on graduate shows and design colleges, and also the Institute of Designers in Ireland awards, prior to putting the exhibition together. But I’ve also included makers who have been out there a long time and are now working across various disciplines.”
She cites Obeo, a spin-off company from the National College of Art and Design (NCAD) as a particular innovator.
Run by Liz Fingleton and Kate Cronin — previously the strategist and designer, respectively, behind domestic product design company Klickity — they recently turned their skills to the design of a biodegradable bag, also called Obeo.
This is used for gathering waste food together in the kitchen for clean and odour-free disposal in the brown bin.
“There’s also Gazel, another spin-off company from NCAD,” says O’Kelly.
“It was while they were at the college that they designed their clothes hanger as a student project.”
Gazel says it redesigns the everyday, and the hanger is one of its results. Automatically tilting when not in use so you know it’s free, it then balances with clothes on it.
And for anyone who hasn’t yet found a home for their keys and phone where they can locate them under pressure when rushing out to work, they’ve designed the Hook which is wall-mounted to hold keys and phone with a little hook beneath to hang a coat or handbag.
Gazel also has a novel but practical approach to lighting design and even the humble kitchen knife, which they’re launching soon.
So who else should we keep an eye out for in the future, who may well be one of the decision makers influencing what we have in our homes? “Furniture designer Orla Reynolds is one,” says O’Kelly. “She’ll be launching her ‘It’s From Nowhere’ shelves in Milan in April.”
Aptly named, “It’s from Nowhere” is a modular shelving system that hides four brightly coloured chairs in its structure, and two tables which can be placed together to form a dining table. It’s storage within storage and space-saving to boot.
O’Kelly also cites the intriguingly named Design Goat, a studio which works across a wide range of disciplines, including furniture, interior design and even food design.
One of their most interesting projects to date has been a commission by the Irish Museum of Modern Art to revamp the seating in its lobby following renovations.
Design Goat’s response was to create a collection of furniture that would invite museum patrons to sit, relax and browse, and uses an eclectic mix of solid ash and steel panels, collaborating with Si & Lu on upholstery.
The standard of work at Fresh Talent is high, but unlike other design exhibitions — 2015 is designated Year of Design by the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland — this one isn’t necessarily about finished products, although they are part of it.
If anything, it is more about the possibilities that can occur when two or more minds are applied to create what are often unexpected results, though always embodying the main principles of design: to be beautiful and functional.
Fresh Talent at the National Craft Gallery, Kilkenny runs until March 18.