Royal College of Art graduates:the next generation of designers you need to know about

Discover the work of new RCA graduates on the road to commercial success.

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While learning about new materials and processes, some of this year’s canny Royal College of Art graduates also made a point of mastering the art of marketing.

Realising that the products they design will be of no use to anyone if they don’t actually get made and bought, a number already have their work in production.

Keren Hu from China, a graduate in the Design Products department, turns his attention to the appearance and multi-functionality of small appliances for homes with limited spaces. “We need products that serve the way we live,” he says.

His Teawith — a Scandi-looking electric kettle — sits on its own heating stand, but can be used as a teapot as well as a kettle. It’s already on sale in China and will be available here shortly, priced £50-£80. Keren is putting the finishing touches to a free-standing one-pot cooker — a removable cast-iron pot on an induction plate with 80 heat settings. It will also be in production soon. Expect to pay about £200.

One-pot wonder: Design Products graduate Keren Hu’s free-standing cooker will be priced about £200

Clea Jentsch’s solution to limited cooking and storage space is MEaltime, incorporating a variety of serves-one stackable plates, dishes, bowls and a board.

Food and drink is the stimulus behind the projects of many other graduates, including Jane Kim, who produced a range of drinking glasses called simply Glasses for Water. A set of four crystal tumblers is £75, with a crystal carafe at £35.

Kawther Alsaffar’s brass and recycled bowls are also for food, but her motivation derives from her wish to ensure that traditional Middle Eastern skills are preserved. This resourceful young woman persuaded traditional craftsmen in Kuwait to work with her to make contemporary takes on classic vessels. These include interesting combination metal pieces as well as a glass-topped metal table. Bowls start at £300, coasters are from £37.60, and the table is £1,600, from Saffar Crafts (

Easy-squeezy: sculptural juicers in a range from Elinor Portnoy, priced from £450 to £1,200

Over in Ceramics and Glass, products for food are top of the agenda. Manos Kalamenios used to be a chef at the Four Seasons in Canary Wharf, and since studying ceramics he has produced several tableware series, including a project with the Michelin-star Lima restaurant in Fitzrovia. His pieces start at £40. Christina Liu, a former businesswoman with a passion for food makes pieces especially for chefs, including for the Kitchen Table restaurant in Fitzrovia. Her tableware starts from £25 for small bowls to £60 for larger plates, and teapots from £120. Both makers are supplying specially made tableware for the Tate Modern extension.

Elinor Portnoy uses glass to make sculptural lemon squeezers, ice cream-coloured containers and covered dishes in her own version of pâte de verre. Prices from £450.

Gorgeous glassware: from Michèle Oberdieck, with prices from £450 to £1,100

Colour and pattern also preoccupy Michèle Oberdieck. A former textile designer, her subtly coloured vases and vessels, from £450, have a painterly feel.

There is a similar handling of colour in the textiles department. Chloe Frost weaves modernist-feel tapestries from merino wool with a mixture of silk, cotton and Lurex detailing. Tapestries start from £1,500 — and to commission.

Making 3D textiles is a trend this year. Claire Hunsinger weaves muted 3D fabrics in copper wire and silk, and textured yarn that can be manipulated into different shapes. From £600.

Grace Gallagher’s approach to 3D is to cut into paper and leather and scrape off the surface, or to CNC-mill Corian to make screens and tables with striking geometric 3D patterns, with prices from £950.

Kim Norrie is also keen on 3D, making huggable cushions, poufs and big, soft strokable blankets. Cushions from £125, poufs £1,200.

  • See the work at two free RCA graduate shows: one, covering design and communication, is at Kensington Gore, SW7, the other, in Howie Street, Battersea SW11, covers textiles, glass, ceramics and metals. Both run from June 26 to July 3 (closed July 1), noon to 8pm. Visit RCA Show 2016.

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