From Freshers’ to Design graduates – Swansea College of Art inspires entrepreneurs


"Putting creativity and employability at the heart of our programme is really paying off for our students.”  - Surface Pattern Design Programme Director Georgia McKie.

Since graduating from UWTSD’s Swansea College of Art Surface Pattern Design degree programme in 2016, Nia Rist has steadily developed her own screen-printed interior product range which she launched to an international audience this summer at New Designers in London. And having recently been selected to exhibit as part of the Design Fresh breakthrough talent group, curated by 100% Design and Barbara Chandler, there’s no stopping her now!

Nia coincidentally found herself alongside another Swansea College of Art graduate, Product Design’s James Lewis at the prestigious 100% Design show in the London Design Fair, who completed his BA this summer.  Surface Pattern Design Programme Director Georgia McKie said: “This is a huge accolade for the Faculty and serves as such a motivator for returning students – to see recent graduates profiled at such a pivotal and influential event in the British design calendar is so inspirational for them. “

Programmes at Swansea College of Art are developing quite an alumni of design entrepreneurs who have set up their own labels, confidently taking them to national and international markets in relatively short spaces of time.  Georgia added: “The Surface Pattern programme instils a ‘can do’ attitude in our students – it is a wonderful experience for our team to watch these students journey from Freshers to Design Professionals.  We get an immense sense of pride from the work our graduates go on to achieve.  Putting creativity and employability on an equal footing, and at the heart of our programme is really paying off for our students. With Freshers’ 2018 now underway, we wonder what this next cohort of first years will go on to pursue once they graduate from Surface Pattern Design.”

Nia, says her journey so far has been one of self-discovery. “I have learnt so much about myself, most importantly how crucial it is to forward plan and take advice from experts, who know most about the business world. The help and support I have received and continue to receive from my lecturers at UWTSD, even though I have now graduated, has also been invaluable. They are with me every step of the way.”

Nia, who specialises in monochrome textile prints for interiors, said the attitude of staff at UWTSD continued to inspire her work. “Right from the start, we were encouraged to have a go at everything, so we could truly find our passion. With constant feedback and encouragement, it was easy to experiment and most importantly, dare to be creative and succeed.”

She added: “Being selected to showcase my work at New Designers and then the 100% Design Show, was a big turning point for me. Suddenly my work had an international platform. Whilst scary, it was finally out there, being seen by designers, who were keen to meet and speak with me and comment on my work. It led to exciting conversations with Not on The High Street and Tiger Print and suddenly my journey into the business world had begun.”

Nia said her business venture has also been supported by UWTSD's Associate Professor in Enterprise Education Kathryn Penaluna and Big Ideas Wales. “Kathryn has been a fantastic mentor, guiding and encouraging me all the way,” she added.

Kathryn Penaluna said: "Nia is a great example of our enterprising students, she challenges and questions the norms and always looks for new ways forward. Her imagination helps her to see the kinds of opportunities that others would miss, which is one reason that I love working with her – I learn so much too!"

For James Lewis, his journey started on a completely different path. “I was on a mechanical engineering degree course initially, but after a day spent in the Product Design studios at UWTSD, I was instantly hooked and decided to enrol here instead. I hadn’t considered Product Design before, but if you look at my designs now, you can see where I originally came from!”

New Designers and the 100% Design show also gave James renewed confidence in his abilities. “Like Nia, it was scary, but also amazing at the same time. Watching designers looking at my designs and getting constructive feedback and advice was fantastic. It has allowed me to start doing what I want to do and has given me the confidence to succeed. I can be one of these designers!”

James said he has also learnt a lot about himself during his time at UWTSD. “There’s a lot of pressure in the outside world to continually come up with new designs, new innovations.” he said.

"This university has taught me to continually challenge myself, to research my designs and to push ahead no matter what. I always have my notebook on me and I’m continually sketching new ideas. I’m not afraid of putting in the hard work and I know I can achieve. I also know that success doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of hard work, perseverance and networking along the way. The teaching and opportunities given to me at Swansea College of Art help greatly in all these areas.”



"I am a Screen Printer and Textile Designer specialising in graphical hand printed products for the contemporary interior market. My products range from hand printed lampshades, cushions, furniture and accessories. Printing both one off bespoke prints and repeated prints within my collection. 

With a distinctive graphical style, I use collage as a base to my ideas, which I then use and translate directly onto fabric using hand cut stencils.

Serendipitous plays a leading role within my practice, composing and printing as I go along, allowing me to play freely within my work. 

Screen printing has always resides within the heart of my practise, using this process to celebrate the relationship between graphical oversized motifs and repeated prints in a monochromatic light.”



"The Libra stools. 2018 is a product of research into the human curiosity in artefacts and the playful nature of exploration, the believable function of the product only being apparent when human interaction is instigated. One of the two furniture outcomes from the concept focuses more on work and commercial environment, ideal for breakaway areas and temporary seating.

Made from birch plywood with applied Formica, the stool features are inspired by nomadic movements and exploration. The components are CNC cut then assembled from flat pack, push-fit together with no glue via high tolerance traditional plywood joinery.

The other outcome, more suited to home environments, was an exercise in pushing my own knowledge of furniture design, learning new techniques and processes such as smocking. The main body of the stool has been crafted from the same solid beech tree, finally layered with a natural bee’s wax coat for protection and lending a golden colour to its aesthetic.

Struts join to a point of focus that has an interchangeable floor interface to suit the environment. The upholstery is an old-style English diamond smocked surface and begins with a four-meter length of fabric. At its heart is a firm foam core to support posture when used.”

Photo credits - Roseanna Wilson and Antonia Osuji

Stylist - Anna Lewis

Further Information

Rebecca Davies

Swyddog Gweithredol Cysylltiadau â’r Wasg a’r Cyfryngau

Executive Press and Media Relations Officer

Cyfathrebu Corfforaethol a Chysylltiadau Cyhoeddus

Corporate Communications and PR

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