• QEST Scholar Eleanor Lakelin to Feature in ‘Conversations in Wood’ at Marchmont House


    Built by the 3rd Earl of Egremont in 1750, Marchmont House was in poor condition before a recent 7 year project to restore the Palladian mansion in the Scottish Borders to its former glory. At the helm of this renaissance was Hugo Burge, who made his fortune in the online travel booking industry and has a long-held love of craftsmanship and woodwork inspired by a teacher at school. As such it is only fitting that the latest exhibition which opens on 3 August, is a rich and fascinating celebration of wood. Organised in collaboration with Visual Arts Scotland, The Scottish Gallery and Craft Scotland, Conversations in Wood showcases contemporary makers using wood within their process from across the Scotland and beyond. One of the featured artists, QEST Scholar and wood-turner Eleanor Lakelin is renowned for her stunning vessels and sculptures carved and chiselled from wood. She says, “I peel back bark to reveal the organic chaos that can exist in the material itself and build up layers of texture through carving and sandblasting. I use the vessel form and surface pattern to explore the layers and fissures between creation and decay and the erosion of nature.”


    Eleanor’s sculptural objects are created using a traditional woodworking lathe and centuries-old chisels and gouges alongside modern carving techniques. A deep knowledge and a passionate interest in the natural properties of wood result in forms that seem true to the spirit of the material and which encourage us to look at the complexities of nature with a new perspective. Her work is rooted in the rhythm of growth, the eroding power of the elements and the passing of time. Her use of, and focus on, the raw properties of the material remind viewers of our elemental and emotional bond with wood and our relationship to the earth.


    ‘Conversations in Wood’ is open 3-5 August –

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  • QEST Scholars Selected for ‘A Day to Remember’ at Heal’s

    Robin Day was one of Britain’s greatest 20th century designers, with his furniture widely admired for its beauty, durability and comfort. Fifteen leading designers from the world of textile design, including QEST Scholars Beatrice Larkin and Hannah Waldron, have been invited to pay tribute to him by providing new upholstery fabrics for one of his most recognisable pieces, the iconic ‘675’ chair.

    The project, called ‘A Day to Remember’, has been organised by Case Furniture in partnership with Heal’s and the Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation. It aims to improve the future of young British designers by supporting the educational work of the Foundation, through an exhibition display and live online auction. The fabrics range from colourful graphic designs to illustrative patterns and calmer schemes. The chairs will be on display at Heal’s flagship store on Tottenham Court Road from 1st – 21st August when they will be auctioned, with all proceeds going towards supporting young British designers.

    Beatrice Larkin was awarded a QEST Scholarship in 2012 and has now set up her own studio specialising in modern woven textiles, accessories and interior products with her distinctive, softened geometric designs. Hannah Waldron creates a range of print textiles and her 2018 QEST Scholarship funded a trip to the Kawashima Textile School in Japan for a course in Kasuri, a process whereby threads are bound before dying in order to create patterns in the woven cloth.

    As well as the QEST Scholars, other featured designers in the project include Eleanor Pritchard, Cristian Zuzunaga, Christopher Farr, Donna Wilson and Margo Selby.

    Robin Day firmly believed that good design had the power to improve people’s lives. In 2012 his daughter set up a design education charity, the Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation to continue promoting his ethos. The Foundation collaborates on educational projects, runs an awards scheme and is developing a digital archive as a resource for exhibition curators, design historians and writers. and 

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  • Traditional Boat Builder Gail McGarva launches The Story Boat

    Gail McGarva is a traditional wooden boat builder based in Lyme Regis, Dorset. Her specialist area is the building of replicas or as she prefers to call them, daughter boats, breathing life into a new generation of traditional craft.

    A QEST Scholarship in 2009 enabled Gail to build a daughter boat to the lerret Vera. Fishing vessels particular to Chesil Beach in Dorset, lerrets were in danger of extinction and she was keen to preserve the lineage of this craft and the art of boat building ‘by eye’.

    Vera has since been retired from the sea but Gail has given her a new lease of life on land as The Story Boat. She has been up-turned and transformed into an intimate mobile maritime oral history ‘museum’ where people’s memories are preserved and shared. Gail believes all boats have their own unique story to tell about their communities and their shores, and with her background as an actor and workshop facilitator in Theatre Education, she is well-placed to communicate them.

    Supported by the Thelma Hulbert Gallery in Devon, Gail is currently visiting schools with The Story Boat and holding Tree to Sea workshops inside her. She shares the story of the mother boat and teaches the skills of traditional copper riveting of miniature planks of larch, which the children take home as a keepsake of The Story Boat. Gail finds it immensely rewarding and inspiring to see the primary school children beating copper, sanding planks and capturing a memory of their experience drawn or written on the wood.

    The headteacher of a school where The Story Boat spent a week in residence wrote to Gail to express her gratitude, “A huge thank you for bringing Vera to us this week and for your workshops. The children have had a truly wonderful time – in fact some of our younger ones were in tears this afternoon when we got back as they were so sad The Story Boat was leaving! Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful creation with us.”

    Huge congratulations to Gail for such an inspiring project.


    Photo credit: Simon Tutty

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  • The Met Costume Institute in New York Features Work by QEST Scholar


    The Met Costume Institute, New York is currently showing CAMP: Notes on Fashion, an exhibition exploring how humour, parody, pastiche, artifice and theatricality have been expressed in fashion across the centuries.

    “Camp’s disruptive nature and subversion of modern aesthetic values has often been trivialized, but this exhibition reveals that it has had a profound influence on both high art and popular culture,” said Max Hollein, Director of The Met. “By tracing its evolution and highlighting its defining elements, the show embodies the ironic sensibilities of this audacious style, challenges conventional understandings of beauty and taste, and establishes the critical role that this important genre has played in the history of art and fashion.”

    Among the 250 objects on show, dating from the 17th century to the present day, is couture milliner and QEST Scholar Deirdre Hawken’s Cauliflower Headpiece. With green ruffled outer leaves, crisp stalks, and hand-sewn pearl florets, it exemplifies the playfulness of her designs along with her exquisite craftsmanship.

    Deirdre won a QEST Scholarship in 1999, at the age of 54, and was awarded £9,000 to study couture millinery with the Queen Mothers milliner, Rose Cory. As part of her award she also carried out a work placement with the acclaimed milliner Stephen Jones. 

    Her work is now included in the permanent collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, The Metropolitan Museum, New York, the Institute of Costume, Kyoto, Japan, the Philadelphia Museum of Art USA and the Hat Museum, UK. 

    The exhibition is open until 8 September 2019.

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  • Ettinger Launch Limited Edition Notebook with Proceeds to be Donated to QEST


    To celebrate its 85th anniversary, Ettinger has launched a beautiful limited-edition, leather-covered notebook with 15% of the proceeds to be generously donated to QEST.

    QEST are thrilled to be partnering with Ettinger for this project, with their shared recognition of the appeal and importance of hand-crafted objects. As Robert Ettinger says, “Ettinger passionately believes in supporting British craft.  The heart of Ettinger is our craftspeople, without them the brand would not exist. QEST helps British craftspeople improve and further their skills and careers to ensure that their expertise is never lost and importantly allows them to pass on their knowledge to future generations.”

    The paper notebooks inside are crafted by Barnard & Westwood with illustrations on the leather cover and inside the notebook by Rory Dobner. In reference to the 85th anniversary, only 85 have been made and each one is clearly numbered to make them truly unique pieces.

    The illustrations feature drawings of Rory’s idiosyncratic character, ‘Nigel the Owl’. Striding out, bedecked with a bowler hat and an umbrella firmly under his arm, he is a fitting nod to company founder, Gerry Ettinger. Nigel is sporting an outfit that Gerry himself might well have worn during Ettinger’s early years and he was never seen without his handcrafted umbrella under arm.

    On the inside of the notebook’s leather cover, illustrated pocket watches hang from fob chains over the Ettinger and HRH Prince of Wales Royal Warrant logos, with the watch hands poignantly set at 8 and 5 o’clock to acknowledge the company’s 85th anniversary.

    The notebooks are selling for £265 and are available from                       

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  • QEST Scholars Feature in Two New Exhibitions at the ICA in Milan

    The ICA in Milan is currently holding two ceramic art exhibitions which feature the work of QEST Scholars.

    The collective exhibition Nuovi Canoni (Towards New Canons) – Ceramics and Contemporary Art in Great Britain includes work by 2012 QEST Scholar Matthew Warner. The exhibition shows the complexity and liveliness of different approaches to ceramic sculpture, combining works by six contemporary ceramicists. Warner’s work is widely admired for its elegant functionality and included in the exhibition is his Garniture II, revival vases inspired by Wedgewood which reference the tradition of collecting. Early garnitures were personal collections of pots often displayed on mantelpieces. Warner explores the balance, proportion and integrity of composition within his work and he believes the objects we choose to collect are a reflection of our own ideologies.

    Equivalenze (Equivalence) by 2004 QEST Scholar and one of the UK’s top potters, Julian Stair, emphasises the juxtaposition of contrasting scales in order to highlight the formal quality of the object. The show investigates the functionality of everyday objects such as tea cups, vases and mugs of different shapes by displaying them in unexpected proportions.

    Both exhibitions are open until 15 September 2019.

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