June 18, 2016

The Free Range Star | Summer du Plessis

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The graduate shows are back in town and boy am I excited. For me there’s nothing more rewarding than meeting budding designers who have finally had the weight lifted off their shoulders after a year of damn hard work – I like to catch them later on in the evening when they’re all a wee bit tipsy and less nervous about presenting, that’s when you get the real gossip!

As of Thursday, design week at Free Range opened it’s doors and you still have tomorrow and Thursday to get down to The Old Truman Brewery to check out work from students of Middlesex, Goldsmiths and UCA. In the second show of the upcoming weeks, design week is always my favourite and this time I was particularly on the hunt for one person to fire some questions at about their work, the event and what the future might hold for the graduates of today.

Just like last year Middlesex impressed me with the breadth of their work, the sheer effort they made with their curation and the variety of talent they have on their courses. A personal highlight for me was the work of Summer Du Plessis, a printmaker, writer and illustrator originally from Namibia, whose penchant for striking colours and artistic references had me at hello. When you’re referencing Hotel Chelsea in your work, I’m sure to be intrigued and I just adore the psychedelic colour variations and freedom I feel when looking at her pieces. Vivacious and organic, the style is unique and captivating,  I hope to see much more of it in the future, hopefully with even more of a bohemian nature. Wonderfully, Summer quite kindly agreed to let me be nosy, so read on for a little bit of chit chat with the lady who stole the show…

Can you describe your work for me in three words?

Colourful, unsettlingly so.

Where do you seek inspiration and do you have any key people who influence your work?

I am inspired by things that are colourful on the outside but sinister or melancholy on the inside. Things that are not what they appear, bright yet broken, like the life of Frida Kahlo, the disintegration of the hippie movement, theatre and carnival. My influences change so frequently that it hard to pin any down, suffice to say that I try to look at everything from comics to photography, fine art to film, literature as well as illustration.

How are you finding Free Range so far? Any other students we should be looking out for?

So enjoyable! If a little bit exhausting. I managed to see most of the Middlesex show yesterday, and I might be a little biased but I do think Illustration really stands out. We’re a small, tight course but incredibly diverse, and our tutors are all about nurturing the individual. I was also really impressed by Middlesex Jewellery. This is the last year they’re running the Jewellery course at Middlesex and they’ve based their show around this ‘the last jewellers’ identity. Well worth a visit!

What are you most looking forward to now University is all over?

Lying in bed for an entire day and reading a book! Just generally catching up on all the culture I’ve missed out on while I’ve been so focused these last few months. Going to the cinema, going to exhibitions; I particularly want to see the one on Russian Children’s books at the House of Illustration. I’m going to Valencia for a week in September and I can’t wait to lie on the beach and draw!

Where would you like to be in a years time?

That is probably the most difficult question at this point. All I can say is that if in a year’s time I am still managing to draw almost every day, regardless of what I’m doing for a living, then I’ll be happy. I am very lucky to be part of a great collective, Drawn Chorus, so we’ve got a couple things on the cards, including an exhibition in brick lane next summer. In the long term I love to get into small press publishing, so if I was a little bit closer to making that a reality that would be great!
I’m thinking there won’t be any problems for Summer in the future and I can’t wait to keep updated with her progress with Drawn Chorus. What do you think of Summer’s designs? Give her a follow on Instagram and Twitter and be sure to go and say hello in person too. Thank you so much to Summer for answering my questions. 

INFO: Free Range, The Old Truman Brewery. Ely’s Yard, 15 Hanbury Street, London, E1 6QR


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Emma Jane Palin is a freelance art consultant, interior stylist and multi-award-winning blogger residing in Margate, UK. She has worked with various home and lifestyle brands not limited to West Elm, Apple, John Lewis, Habitat, MADE, Caran D'Ache + No.3 Gin. Emma is also a regular contributor to Hunker where she writes about design trends and interior advice.

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