Interview BIAD Designer in Residence Rachael Deas

Rachael Deas‘ work demonstrates how broken, abandoned and out-dated designs can be converted into functional pieces of art. Each object is dismantled, restored and enhanced with several workshop techniques to create a bespoke piece of lighting design that reflects the item’s original purpose and preserves its beauty.

“The biggest attraction to taking up the Designer in Residency at BIAD was the opportunity to learn from the 3D Design course… it will really help develop the skills I have already gained as a Jeweller and will hopefully allow me to push my work further.”Rachael Deas

Rachael Deas, Little Meter (low res)

Rachel DeasYou studied Duncan Jordanstone School of Art, What made you pick that university? Would you recommend it after your time there?

I picked DJCAD because it is one of the best! Yes, being a Dundee local did heavily factor into my decision to apply, but I just find it lucky that one of the top UK art schools is in my home town. Recently the teaching programme has been altered and adapted to create a greater sense of community amongst the students. For example, I studied Jewellery and Metal Design, but we were encouraged to make use of facilities and staff in other departments. We also regularly gave presentations on our projects to those students and worked together when our classes were mixed for other modules. I found this open way of learning meant that we were comfortable exploring new materials and techniques and possibly even collaborations, all of which has a positive impact on personal work. The modules were also developed to prepare us for what was to come after graduation, something I found wasn’t the case in all schools (after speaking to other students at New Designers). I chose to learn about advertising, branding and design in business and have come away with a great base understanding of how to set up my own business as a freelance designer. In short, if you see Art and Design as a career option, then I would highly recommend Duncan of Jordanstone.

What projects are your working on at the moment? Do you have a particular favourite project you’ve completed so far?

I studied Jewellery and Metal Design, however, my degree show ended up being a lighting collection, which is the path I am pursuing now. I decided in my final year that Jewellery design wasn’t for me, instead, I used the skills I had learnt throughout the course to create the ‘Make Light Trio’. A collection of three lamps, designed and made from obsolete vintage machinery to become functional pieces of art. At present this is my first and only completed collection, as my move into lighting design is still fairly recent. However, more is soon to come! I have just moved down to Birmingham to be a Designer in Residence on the 3D Design course at the Birmingham Institute of Art and Design (BIAD). In preparation for this I have collated a library of sorts that contains various types of vintage machinery for me to work with.

What attracted you in taking up the role at Birmingham Institute of Art and Design (BIAD)?

The biggest attraction to taking up the Designer in Residency at BIAD was the opportunity to learn from the 3D Design course. On the programme they study woodwork, plastics, metal and ceramics which will really help develop the skills I have already gained as a Jeweller and will hopefully allow me to push my work further.

How have you found the city so far?

I have been in the city for just over a fortnight, and so far I have been pleasantly surprised! Before I left home I heard a decent number of negative reviews on the apparently ‘grey city’. Yes, Birmingham is very business orientated and there are a lot of suits, but there is also beautiful architecture, more canals than Venice and a brilliant atmosphere! The new BIAD campus is in a great city centre location and looks fantastic. So far, so good!

Rachael Deas, Magic Lantern (low res)

What was Dundee like growing up, does it have a thriving creative scene aside from the university?

I grew up in a beautiful coastal suburb of Dundee, called Broughty Ferry and my whole family is very creative. My Dad is a landscape painter, my Mum an excellent seamstress, my Uncle a photographer and my cousin is a very successful Illustrator who also studied at DJCAD. In addition to the University we have: Dundee Contemporary Arts (the DCA) and Generator Projects both of which are fantastic modern galleries; Discovery Point and Verdant Works, both museums about the history of Dundee and an abundance of music venues that host a thriving local music scene. We also have organisations that organise events and bring creative people together like Creative Dundee, Tin Roof and the Rusty hip collective to name but a few.

Where do you find the inspiration for your projects? Do you prefer online/offline?

I have always loved vintage clocks and machinery. I find the intricate cog-work fascinating and love the elegance of the old fashioned dial hands, particularly when they’re set against good typography. When I made the move into lighting, I loved the idea of ‘up-cycling’ (despite hating that term) as it is a great way of preserving beauty in an otherwise outdated design.

To begin with I visited the Tayside Recyclers emporium in Dundee and gathered an assortment of different objects including a gravy bowl, builders helmet and fire exit sign to name but a few! I took to the sketchbook and tried to come up with a design I could use, but to no avail! On my second visit to the recycling centre I spotted an old electricity meter, fell in love with the old fashioned dials and aesthetic and so ‘Little Meter’ was born! Since then I’ve sought out objects with a similar feel and settled on a style, for now. The designs all stem from the object itself, I would never start to draw unless it was there in front of me.

Which designers and creative inspire and influence your work?

I don’t often find that there’s one particular designer who influences my work, instead I feel inspired by the object itself that I have found to adapt. I get so excited looking through vintage and antique shops and Ebay listings imagining how the objects in front of me can be rejuvenated. Having said that, I do have one favourite piece that I think is so clever and fascinating it would be a talking point in any room, which is something I strive for in my own work. The designer is Reima Honkasalo who creates fantastic lights using recycled objects, my favourite however is the Light Mincer, so clever yet so simple.

What were the biggest things you learn exhibiting your work at your degree show & New Designers?

The biggest thing I learned at Degree Show is that not everybody ‘gets it’. Being the girl who made lamps in the Jewellery show, I had to do a lot of explaining and demonstrating to bring people around to my way of thinking, but that’s okay. By the end of Degree Show I was very competent and confident talking about my work and why I didn’t make jewellery and by New Designers that was probably the thing I was most praised on. You have to be able to talk about your work and why you do it, you have to be confident and aware that not everybody will get it, but the ones who do love to see enthusiasm and a designer that genuinely enjoys what they produce. I found out first hand that by doing that you are far more likely to get a sale, commission or possibly a job, and that’s exactly why I was asked to apply to BIAD, for my enthusiasm and eagerness to show people my work.

Do you have any favourite people to follow on twitter?

On twitter, I follow a lot of other design graduates, I love to see how what everyone else is accomplishing after Uni. I am also a huge fan of interior design and illustration and love to see recent work on Twitter. In particular, @Inspirationf for motivation @TheOnion never fails to amuse with fun news,@StyleAtHome handles my interiors fix, and of course @DesignJuices for interesting articles on various creative characters and their work.

Away from working what are your favourite ways to relax?

To relax I just need music. I’m a pretty traditional girl and love Scottish folk music, but I’ll listen to everything! I sing and play guitar so when I need to set my mind to something other than work, it’s normally a song.

What would be your favourite albums and artists you like listening too at the moment?

I really don’t have favourite artists as such. I like so many different genres of music that my favourite depends entirely on the mood I’m in at the time! My I-pod ranges from Blazin Fiddles (Scottish folk) through Beirut, Two Door Cinema Club and Disclosure to Blue Oyster Cult.

Rachael Deas, Coin Meter (low res)



Rachael Deas, Little Meter 2 (High res)

Rachael Deas Design Website | Facebook | @rachaeldeas