The future generation of artists and designers are putting their talents in the spotlight as the annual degree show at Cleveland College of Art and Design (CCAD) opens on 7 June at the university-level campus in Hartlepool.
Students will be exhibiting their works from ten degree courses at an exhibition at the northern school of art, including fashion, photography, textiles and surface design and costume interpretation with design.
With last minute preparations well underway and the excitement building for the opening night, students are putting the finishing touches to their display of final major projects in anticipation of the thousands of visitors expected to see the exhibition over the nine days of the show.
21-year-old Hannah Postlethwaite from Chesterfield in Derbyshire, who is living in Hartlepool during her studies, is a final year student on the BA (Hons) Production Design for Stage and Screen degree at the leading specialist art and design college.
For her final major project, which will be featured at the degree show, Hannah was given an exclusive ‘live’ assignment by Opera North – England’s national opera company in the North and one of Europe’s leading arts organisations – to design a theatre set for La Boheme.
Earlier in her studies, Hannah’s talent secured a week of work experience at Opera North with the prop making department during the second year of her degree in 2016. At the end of the week the arts organisation said they liked working with her and the following January they asked Hannah to come in for a week’s paid work, which turned into a week and a half, and then again in September 2017 for almost three weeks.
Hannah said: “I learned a great deal while there, including just how fast you have to work. At college you might have the luxury of spending a couple of days or even a week making a prop, but in the real world you’ve got a couple of hours. What I enjoy the most, aside from working with a great team, is the feeling I get knowing a piece of work I have made is being used on stage. I get a great buzz from that.
“So I approached Opera North about my final major project, as I knew I wanted to do a theatre design. I had gained a good relationship with the people there so they were more than happy to get involved. They gave me an option of three operas to choose from and I chose La Boheme.”
Hannah conducted two presentations at Opera North’s home theatre in Leeds, the first with a white card model of her interpretation of the classic opera set design. This was followed by a second formal presentation with the complete project and a description of each act, scenery, props, characters and costumes. In a surprise twist, Hannah took the setting of the original romantic opera from 18th Century Paris to Havana in 1962 during the Cuban missile crisis, and as part of the brief, she qualified the reasons behind her choice.
For the updated interpretation of the set design, Hannah chose this location as it was a visually romantic city with dramatic architecture, music and art, which matches the passion of the original play set in France. A radio on stage would also reflect the passage of time with news bulletins to reduce the need for set changes, alongside an image of JFK as a visual metaphor for the political climate.
She continued: “However, there were challenges, as Cuba is a warm country and La Boheme is set in the winter in Paris with the first song highlighting the bitterly cold weather. So I created a set with props which emphasised the ‘cold’ revolutionary period of the time during the missile crisis and hostile civil unrest. I also featured images of Fidel Castro ‘burning’ instead of a fire for the actors to sit around, which Opera North really liked as it represented the idea of the location being ‘politically warm’.
The presentation to Opera North highlighted the different set design changes and Hannah’s understanding of the challenges faced for the production team, which she had learned during her two years’ experience with the company. Following the final model presentation, Opera North is now considering costing the whole show to see if it is within budget.
Of the build up to degree show, Hannah said: “So far I have mainly been focusing on my final presentation at the Opera North, which did require many 12 hour days at college and a lot of late nights. Now that’s done I can focus on preparing for the degree show, which should be fun! I’m really looking forward to it, it’s going to be great to show my family and friends what I’ve been up to and celebrate with my course mates. I’m not nervous but definitely excited!”
After graduation, Hannah is planning to move back home to Chesterfield and begin her career as a freelance prop maker, as she has developed industry connections with companies and other prop makers in the Midlands. She also would to carry on designing theatre, and plans to use her design for Opera North to apply for the Linbury Prize – the UK’s most prestigious award for Stage Design.
Aimee Monkman, 21 from Hartlepool, is presenting her final coursework for her BA (Hons) Contemporary Textile Products degree, and was inspired by a very personal subject.
She said: “The theme for my final major project is on the deterioration of my own eyesight and contrasted with weathered surfaces to produce a series of experimental, mixed media, textile-based installations.
“I have really enjoyed all my time at CCAD, as I carried on my educational and creative journey from CCAD’s Green Lane site in Middlesbrough where I studied a diploma in design crafts, through to the campus in Hartlepool. CCAD has been a big part of my life, providing me with the best support with my studies through my time.”
Aimee was also a finalist in a national competition by Specsavers in collaboration with Red or Dead, designing a collection of six pairs of spectacles and accessories.
She added: “I was delighted to make it to the final thirteen in the competition and to be invited to a panel interview in London. I entered the competition as I thought it was really relevant to my final major project work about vision. So I created sets of glasses with images of weathered textured surfaces, and in the interview the panel loved my designs and even loved looking through my sketchbook.”
The degree show is open to the public from the following times:
- 10am until 4pm on Fri 8, Sat 9, Thurs 14, Fri 15 and Sat 16 June
- 10am until 7pm Mon 11 until Wed 13 June