We first met the lovely Yuen-Ying at the start of this year when she took part in our January course, Get Started with Product Design, in collaboration with the Prince’s Trust. So shy at the beginning, we watched her grow in confidence as she went on to take up work experience at Makerversity and then return full circle to help out with our latest learning workshop in May.
As a sculptural textiles artist and with her love of materials, we paired Yuen-ying up with Material Driven for one of three work placements organised as a follow up to the Get Started with Product Design course. Here’s the story of her time and journey with us …
Hi Yuen-ying! So how did you find yourself at Makerversity?
After graduating from my bachelor degree in Fine Art, I felt at a loss for the right career path to follow. I knew I loved materials and making my artworks and sculpture with my hands so thought maybe I would like to learn to make other things with my hands. I looked on the Prince’s Trust website for a programme to join, hoping to build confidence and learn some hard skills. I chose product design because it was similar to my specialism, sculpture, and I enjoy making physical objects.
What were your first impressions when you arrived?
There were so many participants from different backgrounds. It would be a great opportunity for me to learn from their creative processes and to see the various possibilities of artistic outputs.
What did you work on during the Prince’s Trust programme?
We were introduced the circular (closed-loop) design concept and asked to develop a product from recycled plastic that was either functional, beautiful or valuable. We were taught hands-on how to identify different types of plastic and several ways of melting, moulding and marbling it. With the help of Hattie, Tom, Jean-Luc, Sam and other helpers, I designed and made a soap dish to encourage the choice of soap over bottled liquid shower gels. Throughout the week, we also met many designers who came to show us their sustainable products. They shared with us their idea inspirations and their design journeys from making prototypes and material sourcing to finding collaborators and marketing. I finished the programme with the realisation that anyone could self-initiate their design process with the right tools.
What encouraged you to apply for a work experience placement?
I applied to work with MaterialDriven because I always had an interest in tactile materials, and knew I would love to discover the vast amount of innovative materials currently existing, especially those which were sustainable and cruelty free, and the makers and creation processes behind them.
What did you enjoy the most?
What I enjoyed the most was knowing and working with Purva, Adele and Jo, because they were really lovely and supported me with the opportunity to practise interpersonal, curatorial and administrative skills. I was assigned a variety of tasks to contribute to their current projects which allowed me to touch materials in their library and research even more new exciting materials which I never knew existed. I was also invited to shadow meetings and meet with material makers and manufacturers, which made me understand how to make contacts with professionals in the industry.
What was the most challenging task?
I found it very challenging to talk to other designers at Makerversity because I often felt anxious in front of strangers. However, after I plucked up the courage to approach them, I found all of them to be super nice and open to sharing the projects they were working on, materials and processes they used and even how they arrived at their current career position. This positive experience certainly helped me build confidence in speaking to people in the future.
What surprised you?
I was surprised at how many phone calls, emails and meetings Purva and Adele, as well as other members at Makerversity, had to make in order to carry out their projects! They showed me the importance of excellent communication skills and it’s encouraged me to be a lot braver and try to put myself out there more.
Any advice for those looking to apply for a Get Started programme?
Register your interest on the Prince’s Trust website. The staff from Prince’s Trust and Makerversity are all very friendly and helpful. This particular programme is very fun, requires no previous experience, teaches many things about product design and helped me feel stronger and more positive about my life.
And you came back and helped us with our latest Prince’s Trust course! How was that?
I had wanted to continue exploring design and plastics so was really excited to be invited to return to Makerversity to help the team run the next Prince’s Trust course in May. I loved working with the team and Tom and understanding how the course is run from the other side! Not only did I love engaging with the amazing plastic recycling process again but I learned so much about presentation, communication and confidence. This time, rather than focusing on materialising my idea, I had the wonderful opportunity to be inspired by the new talented participants from seeing them discuss and develop initial ideas, solve problems together and individually, be creative with plastic waste, and then on the last day present their final outcome so confidently to other Makerversity members. I felt really fulfilled to have been able to contribute to the course and learnt so many useful skills that I could take forward.
What are your plans moving on from here?
At the moment I’m volunteering and trying to look for paid work in a design/art organisation. But I also found the course so inspiring and I’ve been collecting plastic at home – I’d like to design and develop more of my own products out of recycled plastic. A longer term goal will be to invent some new sustainable materials myself to reduce waste on Earth.
Thanks Yuen-ying! We’re super excited to see what you do next.