STUDENTS from a Sunderland academy have been learning first-hand the skills of working with glass and ceramics, thanks to a collaboration between National Glass Centre (NGC) and the Victoria & Albert, the world’s leading museum of art, design and performance.

Seventeen students from Year 10 at Castle View Enterprise Academy tested their creative skills in a series of workshops at NGC last term.

The sessions were organised by the V&A to support the teaching of art, design and technology in secondary schools as part of its national educational initiative ‘DesignLab Nation’.

During their three placements at NGC the students were given hands-on experience in a total of six techniques or skills. These were sandcasting, hot glass, thrown ceramics and slip cast ceramics, flameworking glass and new technology – in this instance, a water jet cutter.

They were then tasked with creating their own six-piece sculpture, each element reflecting the different techniques they studied and also reflecting the principles of ‘Memphis design’ – an Italian-based movement from the 1980s which often features colourful and abstract decoration and draws its inspiration from Art Deco and Pop Art.

Many of the historical objects the students studied at NGC were loaned by the V&A, complemented by contemporary works from the centre’s own collection.

DesignLab Nation, the V&A’s flagship educational initiative launched in September 2017 in Coventry, Blackburn and Stoke-on-Trent before expanding to Sunderland and Sheffield in September 2018.

DesignLab Nation brings together secondary schools, local museums and local designers, practitioners and industry to inspire and preserve the essential role of Art, Design and Technology education.

Young people are encouraged to make their own contemporary responses to historical processes and to gain an understanding of how historic collections can inform new ideas. The programme has been designed to help support the new Design and Technology GCSE and deliver this subject in the most exciting manner possible.

Following their sessions at NGC, the Castle View students travelled to London just before Christmas for a day at the V&A, alongside Rachel Groves, Senior Learning and Engagement Officer at National Glass Centre and north east-based glass artist, Erin Dickson.

They were given an introductory tour of the V&A before starting work on a brief given to them by Erin Dickson, taking inspiration from the glass and ceramic pieces in the V&A’s world-leading collections.

Julia Stephenson, Head of Arts at National Glass Centre said; “Over the course of a year three schools will bring groups of young people to National Glass Centre to work with local artists and lecturers, technicians and students from University of Sunderland.

“As well as trying out glass and ceramic making techniques, the groups and the general public can also see some of the finest international examples of works in our Collection Gallery.

“DesignLab Nation is a fantastic project for National Glass Centre to be involved in, at a time when the creative industries are a growing sector and an area for future employment.”

“This has been a fantastic opportunity for the students,” said Keiron Sawkill, Head of Department for Design and Technology at Castle View Academy.

“They loved the hands-on practical sessions at NGC and the trip to London to work in the V&A was a great way to end the four weeks. The project tied in with our Design & Technology GCSE curriculum but also gave the students a chance to see how these disciplines could be part of their lives beyond the academy.”

Director of the V&A Tristram Hunt, added: “National Glass Centre has been transformative for Sunderland, strengthening its cultural pride and celebrating the city’s manufacturing heritage as the home of glass-making in Britain. So I’m delighted that the V&A is loaning over 20 objects to National Glass Centre to support the teaching of Design and Technology in local schools through our new education programme DesignLab Nation.

“By linking up with regional museums, secondary schools and industry across the country, the V&A is proud to support the wonderful work of local museums and teachers, share our world-class collections and inspire the artists, makers and designers of tomorrow. Sunderland has an incredible history of making and manufacturing, and I hope this V&A-Sunderland partnership will encourage a whole new generation of Wearside designers

The works loaned by the V&A and others in National Glass Centre’s collection studied by the students as part of their project are all on view to the public until next autumn, in the Centre’s Collections Gallery.

DesignLab Nation is generously supported by Art Fund, The Foyle Foundation, Sarah Nichols, The Barbour Foundation, the William Brake Charitable Trust, The Fort Foundation and The James Neill Trust Fund.

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