What I Saw At The Degree Shows Part 3 : Manchester School of Art

I got to have a really good look around the Manchester School of Art show, attending the opening night and leading school tours the following week, so I managed to get a broader view of the work on offer and explored Textiles and Embroidery as well as Graphic Design.

So, let’s get straight into it…

sculptural piece made from knitted plastic tubing and stereo speakers

Bethan Kynaston’s work is a vital exploration of the way traditional crafts, such as knit, can be used in the digital age. However, it was purely the beauty of her work that appealed to me. The use of such knit and needles alongside wire, speakers and plastic tubing was a striking combination of old and new, offering a possible glimpse of the future for knit technology.

long dress made with purple fabric with flower design

Elizabth Moore’s work also suggested the future of textiles, using digital printing techniques to create fabrics that can be viewed with or without 3-d glasses.

fabric plaque with metal rings sewn on with embroidery thread

My personal interest in the political applications of craft techniques was piqued by Kerry Tudor’s working, using embroidery techniques to communicate distressing statistics about violence against women. The use of coloured thread, combined with the harsh metal, made the statistics starkly clear and raised interesting questions about the gendered nature of materials.

victorian copy book with pages spread in to a circular pattern

Frustratingly I’ve failed to note down the maker of this work, but the transformation of now obsolete copy letter books really appealed to me and my current interest in bureaucratic design. I will admit that I felt a little pang of sadness that these fine examples of copy books had been lost to art though!

illustrated book cover with hand drawn title and illustrations

There was so much to take in in the Illustration and Graphic Design shows that I’ve barely taken any photos, as I was being overwhelmed by the work on display. A couple of pieces really stood out to me though, and for rather obvious reasons. The first was Natalie Burton’s illustrations accompanying ‘The Mariner’s Revenge Song’ by The Decemberists. I love this song. And I loved having the opportunity to retell it to my friend alongside Natalie’s illustrations, which were pitched just right to match it.

six pack of beer bottles with simple hand drawn branding

I was also taken by this ‘6 o’clock beer’ branding. I like beer. Particularly when it is well branded, and not explicitly gendered. This branding fits that bill. And I think it was designed by Grace Kalinowski, although I got confused by the labelling of the exhibits so I can’t be sure.

3 small notebooks with red, blue and yellow covers showing maps of scandinavian cities, with the title 'ted baker'

Another designer that I can’t be sure of, but I thought these Ted Baker promo books, taking inspiration from Field Notes and Scandinavian fashion, were spot on.

2 samples of knitting, one with plastic tubing and grey wire, one with plastic tubing and green wire

More knitting with unexpected materials in Emma Delaney’s Textile Design work. There’s just something about the way such versatile materials can be knitted together that really appeals to me.

5 typefaces (din, futura, helvetica, century gothic and lobster) cut from black vinyl alongside album covers inspired by the type

I thought the Foundation work was particularly strong this year at Manchester School of Art, and I’ve picked out a couple of pieces that jumped out at me from the huge amount of good work on offer. Andrew Page’s typographic work combined so much good stuff (Futura, album cover design, laser cut type and soundwaves), it was a really interesting way of presenting type. (Although I will confess I didn’t actually have chance to listen to the accompanying sound pieces…)

mock up of a medical prescription prescribing books to treat anxiety


glass jar filled with small books, with mock up of medical label on front

Jessica Ward’s work about the potential for prescribing books for mental health issues really effectively communicated the idea, and the visual language of the prescriptions was so accurate it demanded a second look.

people sat around large table with fabric top, quilting onto fabric


text on wall, accompanying quilting table, with handwritten theme


box of coloured threads and assorted sewing notions

I think Ellie Livermore’s ‘Participatory Quilting’, part of the Interactive Arts show, may be my favourite piece from all the shows. It’s such a simple idea that could mean so many things, I was kicking myself that I hadn’t thought of it! It seemed to attract a lot of interest from visitors and I’m really looking forward to seeing how the finished quilt looks.

And there you have it! A bumper crop of Degree Show picks!

You can also view all the courses that exhibited at Manchester School of Art, and learn more about graduates, on the website degreeshow.mmu.ac.uk.