Fanny Shorter COADG Confessions of a Design Geek Bursary Katie Treggiden 2014 Home London Blog

This is something I have been meaning to do for a long time and after two years of wild procrastination here it is. Perhaps now that two years have passed it is actually easier to recognise how great an impact the bursary had on my business. I'm therefore going to look on the time lapse between the event and this appallingly belated post as almost necessary. 

In 2014 I won a bursary organised by journalist Katie Treggiden. Katie is a passionate design writer and has enthusiastically championed many young designers and businesses through her blog "Confessions of a Design Geek". In 2012 she launched the COADG Bursary in order to give one young design business a leg up. The bursary included a stand at the trade show 'Home', a photo shoot and advice from a group of mentors to help with every aspect of running a start up design business from PR to stand layout. Since then the bursary has mushroomed and now includes an invaluable abundance of advice and opportunities from industry professionals. 

It's that time of year again and with the 2016 shortlist on the immediate horizon I thought it might be a apt moment to acknowledge how grateful I am to Katie and all the mentors (there is, if you haven't got it by now, a Noah's Ark of mentors) that worked with her to provide it. (If you want to apply follow the link here but you'll need to be quick as the bursary carriage turns into a pumpkin midnight on Sunday).

At the time I applied I had been in business for a year or so. Things were ticking over but I knew there were aspects of the design industry where I felt madly out of my depth (although, for the record, it has become apparent that that feeling never leaves you). I had never done a trade show, in fact barely sold to trade, and was so anxious about seeming inexperienced or unprofessional that I rarely asked for help. The bursary seemed like business manna and, as it turned out, it was.

I was short-listed with four extremely talented designers: Annabel PerrinKeith Varney, Nancy Straughan and Taz Pollard and the voting went public. I have to say that, horrendous as this prospect was, as a previously fully subscribed PR hermit, it forced me to become more comfortable with social media and talking about my own work in a way I had never had to before. I had desperately been trying to overlook the fact that if you don't talk about your work at this stage, really, who is? I won purely by the miracle that is social media and swallowing my pride and emailing anyone I'd ever met. I wouldn't want to go through it again but I am certainly less shy about the prospect of talking to people about my work and sometimes (although I can barely admit this) even enjoy it.

The advice and support I received through the bursary was invaluable. Katie's enthusiasm for design and her optimism is infectious and the friends and mentors she had on board reflected her vision and energy. The bursary gave me the opportunity to look into every aspect of my business, build on what I already had and consider the future possibilities. I had advice on how to market my work, display it, present it and sell it. There were elements I hadn't even imagined and those that I knew I needed but hadn't been able to afford.

The bursary made my first trade show a success instead of a blundering, anxious mess and provided me with the confidence that I wasn't going to balls it up ('it' being everything in general). I learnt that feeling like you don't know what you're doing is entirely natural and that however far you get this will almost always be the case. My business is more established and professional because of the bursary. I have a clearer vision of what it is I want to achieve and how I want it to happen and without the friendly encouragement and generosity of everyone involved it would have taken me a lot longer to find my feet.  

Thank you again to Katie, Yeshen, Adam, Richard & Aaron, Jo, Patricia, Blair, David, Justyna, Daniel, Julia, Ingo, and Keith & Mark.

Fanny Shorter The Alhambra Travel Blog Journal Inspiration Spain

Navigating Granada in a rental car is not my idea of a fun way to spend a hot, overcast day. We were on a family holiday in Andalucia at the end of September last year, staying in the village of Montejaque just outside Ronda and had driven for the best part of three hours (with me in the middle seat with what I can only imagine was on-coming surprise sciatica in my backside) to be greeted by the endlessly barren industrial landscape that so often seems to welcome you to even the most beautiful of European cities. The route up to the fortress took us via the newer side of the town, through a labyrinth of increasingly narrow, one-way pedestrianised streets, inconclusive arrow-based signage and dead ends, up to a wide road that snakes all too slowly away from the grey plain of cranes and scaffolding and pink and white cement. We reached the top only to descend again into a tarmac helter-skelter of miniature roundabouts, squashed fruit and escaping coaches to the tiered concrete car park leading down to the ticket office. And still no real sign of anything to make it all worthwhile.

To me, up until this point, the Alhambra had been a somewhat imaginary place. In my mind, prompted by some mention in a story tape we had growing up, it existed in the past as some romantic, opulent, Arabian pleasure palace where Sheherazade mooned around fountains in fashionable trousers and if I'd been pushed I probably would have had to admit I wasn't entirely sure if it had ever even existed in reality it was so exotic a concept to me (naturally I'd kept this quiet when the trip had been suggested. Less: "Oh the Alhambra's a real place not like Eldorado?" and more:  "Always wanted to go there. So excited. Can't wait."). So, having discovered that my fantasy palace did, in reality, exist and having journeyed through at least half an Arabian night to get there it all felt like a bit of a let down and I could only think about ejecting myself from the middle seat (and getting some snacks out of the boot).

It was only free of the car park and the other side of the ticket office, walking in the heavy green light of the trees around the high stone walls to our entrance point (of which there are many, numbered, with timed entry slots) that I began to come out of my mood. Melanie was talking to me about the time she had visited as a teenager in the 60s with her mother when the palace was not often frequented by tourists and with this, and our now much improved view over old Granada, some of my previous glamorous expectations began to return.

The Alhambra Palace photo bottom right: Antonia Reed-Felstead

The Alhambra Palace photo bottom right: Antonia Reed-Felstead

It was as though the lacklustre build up had been an intentional part of the act. The twenty minute queue finally gave and we entered through a high doorway into the first room. Small and relatively dark after the Spanish sunshine and understated, given what was to come, but utterly beautiful. The walls were clad with a peach coloured plaster and intricately carved with broad bands of Arabic script and geometric patterns. A row of arched windows framed a postcard view over the old city neatly cropping out any undesirable modern distractions save the backlog of tourists forming behind us craning for a peek. Again I wavered on my expectations of the outing but from here, the bottleneck of backpacks and bodies burst and we scattered out into an adjoining atrium, the first of many. Put simply: the palace fulfilled everything my childish imagination had concocted.

Pillars and stuccowork in the Court of the Lions

Pillars and stuccowork in the Court of the Lions

Pillars and stuccowork in the Court of the Lions

Pillars and stuccowork in the Court of the Lions

Floors, walls and ceilings inside the palace.

Floors, walls and ceilings inside the palace.

The palace is a vast theatrical Moorish magic show of high, internal domes, meticulously sculpted and staggered in impossibly complicated arrangements. Clusters of slim, elegant pillars soar upwards meeting in enormous honeycombed expanses of delicate stuccowork. Long, flat rectangular pools are fed by straight, silent rivulets running in the marble floors and everywhere you walk the walls reflect an even glossy light. In comparison, the walled gardens of the neighbouring Generalife with their flights of shallow steps, orange and cyprus trees, neat, bright green shrubs, arcing spurts of water and trailing vines seem wildly exotic and untamed. Every part has it's own individual character and proves a more elaborate and romantic a stage set than the last.

The Gardens of the Generalife photo: Melanie Reed-felstead left and Antonia right

The Gardens of the Generalife photo: Melanie Reed-felstead left and Antonia right

Plants and flowers of the Generalife gardens

Plants and flowers of the Generalife gardens

Our walk through the palaces and gardens seemed like a prolonged meditation conducted in near silence - extremely unusual let me tell you. The obligatory menaces a family holiday abroad brings evaporated. The uninvited wasp contingent, shock summer cold (every man down), the small but acutely effective clan of neighbouring diggers that casually kicked into life just as you'd got settled by the pool with all your bits and the petanque tournaments of profound significance evaporated and we became quiet and refined. No one swore, no one was bored or complained or sulked. Conversation was gentle and complimentary. The visit was therapeutic and tranquil if only until we crammed back into the car to drive home. 

Dahlias in the Generalife gardens

Dahlias in the Generalife gardens

Alhambra_Plants_Garden_Fanny_Shorter_Spain_Blog_2013.jpg

The things we build up in our heads are so often the things most likely to disappoint but, for me, the Alhambra was built big and, surprisingly, has stayed that way. It had all the excitement and romance of the Arabian Nights and was over-the-top enough to satisfy the wild preconceptions of what I imagined to be a fairytale.