Edinburgh-based designer maker Beth Lamont is carefully packing up her ceramics to head for London as one of the Scottish designers who will showcase their work in Northern Lights, the V&A Dundee’s show at the London Design Festival this month.
Held at the V&A in London, the show highlights a slice of the vibrant Scottish design scene with everything from hand-crafted wooden furniture to ceramic jewellery. As more Scottish-trained designers choose to remain north of the border to develop their careers, their increasing confidence is giving a boost to both the economy and the flourishing art world in Scotland.
As well as the Duncan of Jordanstone educated Lamont, who specialises in ceramic jewellery and accessories, the Caledonian creatives taking part in Northern Lights are: Angus Ross (bespoke furniture), Hayley Scanlan (womenswear), Instrmnt (minimalist watches and products), Isabelle Moore (contemporary chairs and swings), KellyDawn Riot (sustainable menswear), LAT_56 (premium luggage), Scott Jarvie (product and furniture design) and Tom Pigeon (crafted products).
Northern Lights is a partnership between V&A Dundee, Scottish Enterprise and Creative Dundee as part of the Scottish Government’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design 2016, a celebration of the nation’s global contributions to architecture, design, engineering and science.
“Being selected by V&A Dundee for Northern Lights is a huge honour,” says Lamont. “Dundee was my home for four years while I studied design at university and from a very young age I fell in love with the magic of the V&A, so being a part of this milestone in Scottish design is beyond what I could have imagined for my small business.
“The opportunity this exhibition gives to shout loudly and proudly about all the amazing design happening right now in Scotland is phenomenal. I’m absolutely ecstatic to be a part of it.”
What is your title?
What is your job?
I design, make and finish every piece of Beth Lamont ceramic jewellery in my studio.
What is the inspiration behind your collections?
Minimalism, colour and fun are the biggest inspirations for my work. I always design around the idea that the piece needs to be fun to wear and this inspires the shapes, colours and adjustability of the knots.
What was the inspiration behind the latest?
The 180 Longline Collection (from £45) is my latest range of statement necklaces and is an evolution of my classic arc collection. This collection was designed as a longer pendant style with a bold, white ceramic semi-circle roped up with four bright cotton cords. They are all adjustable, easy-to-wear and as always you can select a rope colour which best suits your style and taste.
Which is your most popular design?
This summer the white arc necklace with yellow cord is a definite favourite – maybe it’s people trying to encourage the sun out but this combination has been flying out of the studio.
Who are your customers?
It sounds a bit clichéd but it does seem to be everyone. I like to think this is because my designs are so minimal that they span all styles and generations.
My customer can tailor each piece to their style by choosing the ceramic colour and rope, allowing them to find the perfect combination that makes a statement about their own personal style.
Where are you based?
In the sunshine of Leith in Coburg House studios. It’s a great studio with all different crafts under one roof, the perfect place to create and bounce ideas around when you get stuck.
Where are your products made?
I design, produce and finish every piece by hand from my studio. I like the control this gives me as I can make sure that every stage is perfect. I also love the physical aspect of making with my hands to produce something from start to finish.
What’s different about your product?
The versatility and adjustable nature of the knots and rope colours not only make my products different, but each piece is completely unique depending on the wearer and their individual style.
You can choose the ceramic and rope combination that best suits you and your style, and depending on what outfit and neckline you’re wearing that day the necklace can also be adjusted to your preference.
What is your career background?
I studied jewellery and metal design at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee. Sadly the ceramics department shut down years before I studied there but with the help of the former ceramic technician Sean Kingsley I was able to learn ceramics while studying jewellery design.
I also learned a lot from interning with other established makers Craig Mitchell, Pauline Edie and Rebecca Wilson. Every skill and technique I’ve learned has come from their expert help and guidance and it’s been the kick-starter to my business.
Why did you choose to stay in Scotland?
Edinburgh is where I’m from and I studied in Dundee, so Scotland is home and I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else. The creative community in Scotland is such a supportive one that it makes running my business here the obvious choice.
What does it mean to be part of the V&A exhibition?
Everything! I only graduated in 2013 so the opportunity to show at the V&A with V&A Dundee during the London Design Festival is crazy.
This opportunity is a total dream for any designer, let alone someone who is still carving their way in the industry. Getting to show alongside such an amazing selection of creative designers from Scotland is really exciting.
Why is Scottish design strong at the moment?
I think a lot of why Scottish design is so strong is to do with the support the design and creative community give. There is so much to be excited about that people are really taking notice of the amazing diverse talent in Scottish Design, the fact that the V&A will be opening in Dundee is a fantastic spotlight of this thriving industry.
What challenges have you faced putting together the collections?
Because I work by myself, creating new pieces can be a long and testing process. I hand carve my necklace shapes and then make a plaster mould of them in my studio to slip cast the ceramics in. This process can be fiddly and I always find getting the pieces to a level where they are ready to be a finished collection always takes longer than I think it will.
Were there any surprises?
The best surprises are when people react well seeing a new piece. I can be working on something for months and it’s really nerve-racking showing people for the first time, so when people love a new piece it’s a lovely surprise.
What is the fun part of your business?
It’s always fun getting to meet customers and seeing people pick their colour combination. It’s quite a personal process and it’s interesting seeing people find their perfection combination.
What have you learned?
Patience. I need it when I’m designing, making, finishing and when I’m getting my work out to stockists, galleries and the big wide world.
The slow and slightly unpredictable nature of ceramics sometimes forces patience on you. When a month’s worth of work is all inside a kiln there isn’t much more you can do about it other than cross your fingers and pray to the ‘kiln gods’ they turn out okay!
What’s your style philosophy?
My personal style philosophy is always to buy and wear pieces that make you feel good about yourself and give you confidence. I like keeping my colours simple, layering items and adding a statement necklace to finish a look off and add a pop of colour.
Which items do you have at home?
One of the perks of making work is that I get to keep any slight seconds so I’ve built up quite a rainbow of combinations at home. I wear the white arc with light blue rope most often as I love combining it with a Breton-style top. I’ve also started to wear the grey arc with black rope. It’s a dark combination but it’s very striking with a black or grey outfit.
What is your aim now?
Right now I’m really focused on getting ready for V&A Dundee’s Northern Lights show and building up stock of my new collection. I want to make sure I see as much as possible when I’m down in London at the exhibition and I can’t wait to meet all the other designers too.
Beth Lamont, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.bethlamont.co.uk. Northern Lights will be at Gallery 55 in the V&A in London from Saturday until 25 September.
Northern Lights: www.angusross.co.uk, www.hayleyscanlan.com, www.instrmnt.co.uk, www.isabellemooredesign.com, www.kellydawnriot.com, www.lat56.com, www.scottjarvie.co.uk,