Day of achievement as art and design students celebrate top honours across the North East

Students from Cleveland College of Art & Design (CCAD) celebrated their academic success as the third graduation ceremony got underway at the Christ Church in Hartlepool.

134 students received their certificates in degrees ranging from Illustration for Commercial Application, Creative Film and Moving Image and Textile Surface Design to Costume Interpretation with Design, Production Design for Stage and Screen and Fashion.

With proud families and friends watching on, the students were recognised for their hard work and academic achievement during their studies in a ceremony attended by Sir Peter Bazalgette, Chair of the Arts Council England and Prof Jane Rapley, Governor of CCAD and former Head of College at Central Saint Martins, as well as local dignitaries and teaching staff across the whole College.

Sharron Bates, 45 from Newton Aycliffe, graduated with a first class honours degree in Textiles and Surface Design. After successfully selling her work at a New York-based textile trade fair earlier this year, Sharron has gone on to achieve an even greater level of success after Belgium-based AV Design Studio commissioned her to create a collection of designs.

Anneke Vercammen and Romain Saillart, owners of Atlas Wallcoverings, flew to Hartlepool to meet with Sharron after they bought her Art Nouveau wallpaper panel in New York at the Surtex Trade Show in May. They loved the hand-rendered work that Sharron had produced and are looking to replicate the designs with etching and 24 carat gold leaf.

After studying the degree part-time for six years, Sharron said: “The meeting was very positive and it was decided that not only would I produce a repeat wallpaper design for them inspired by the panel, but that they would like me to create a collection of wallpaper designs incorporating Art Nouveau styling.

Sharron has been invited to Belgium as a guest on completion of the collection to see how they produce their wallpapers, with a view to creating further wallpaper collections with them in the future.

She added: “I am overwhelmed and incredibly excited to be working with this amazing company. This has happened just at the moment I was beginning to consider how I would move on in my career following my graduation. I have worked as freelance artist alongside my degree, and I knew I wanted to continue to work for myself, so this opportunity has helped to realise this dream.”

On graduating, Sharron said: “I felt really daunted on the day until they put the mortar board on, then it felt right! This was the final chapter before I embark on this journey that I have wanted to do for so long. As a mature student, I gave it my all and wouldn’t have settled for anything less than a first and will enjoy the hard work by celebrating with my family.”

44-year-old Jo Stenberg from Kenton in Newcastle has graduated with a first class degree in Textile and Surface Design, and as well as celebrating her academic achievement, she has also recently won a national design competition by leading brand, Absolut Vodka.

The New Designers exhibition at London’s prestigious Design Centre – where over 3,000 of the most promising graduate talents from Britain’s leading design courses exhibit – Annie entered Absolut’s competition, now in its fifth year, to create a new design for its iconic vodka bottle.

Jo specialises in natural forms but with a modern twist, often taking inspiration from naturally occurring shapes and geometry and combining this with contemporary techniques, materials and aesthetics. Speaking about her achievement and the inspiration behind her design, Jo said: “My design was a mixture of melting ink spots and x-rays of fruit to create my ideal Absolut drink, but mixed with my concepts of blending science with art and nature.

“It has been an amazing and invaluable experience to work with industry people and see how it all works. It hasn’t really sunk in yet, as it was just something I did before we went to the New Designers show. I spent the afternoon putting a design together and then all of a sudden I am there, creating my designs in a day.”

On graduating, Jo continued: “To graduate as a mature student with a first is the most fantastic achievement, and is what I wanted and worked hard for. I am so relieved to have achieved what I wanted, as when you go back as a mature student, you feel you should give it your absolute best. My children are so thrilled and over the moon, my parents and husband are so pleased for me and proud, so we will celebrate tonight with some champagne!”

She added: “After graduation I will continue with my small business as a dressmaker but in addition to that I plan to design and sell clothing and homewares featuring my own surface designs. Through my studies I’ve also developed a strong interest in fine art and would love to continue my studies and create my own pieces in the future, perhaps even to exhibit in local galleries.

After judging by a jury from New Designers and Absolut, Jo was chosen as the winner and will receive £500 of artists’ materials, and her work will be exhibited for one year in the foyer of the Absolut UK London offices.

Kyle Dollard, 23, from Roseworth in Stockton, graduated with a first class honours degree in Creative Film & Moving Image Production. On graduating, Kyle said: “It feels fantastic, as it has been a long three years with lots of stress but in the end it is worth it. The course has given me plenty of opportunity to be creative and to pursue what I want to do in my career, and one of the highlights of this course is that we could follow what we want to do. I am so chuffed to get a first as I didn’t think I would. We have all worked as one big team so a big thank you to everyone who helped.

“After graduation I hope to make some movies! I want to stay local for a little while then possibly move down south or Edinburgh to get into the industry. I am working on a few local video-based jobs as a freelance but then want to get into the TV and film industry.”

Hannah Johnston, 21 from Acklam in Middlesbrough is celebrating achieving a first class honours degree in Fashion. She said: “I wasn’t expecting that result at all and I am totally over the moon. I aimed for a first but you never think that you will actually get one. I was really excited about graduating, although a little nervous on stage, and will celebrate with a family meal then some well-earned drinks afterwards!”

After graduation Hannah plans to move to London to develop a career as a fashion buyer, and hopes to work for a high end department store.

Pat Chapman, Head of Employability and External Relations, said: “Graduation is just one step on ladder to a career in the creative industries which these talented graduates started when they joined CCAD. Through their time with us we have been preparing them for work as well developing their creative skills. Through real project work for external clients, exhibiting work overseas, and working with our extensive network of industry partners, our aim is to create career gateways for students and maintain our status as UK number one for graduate employability in art and design.”

Martin Raby, Principal of Cleveland College of Art and Design, said: ““It gives me great pleasure to see our 2016 students graduate at the awards ceremony in Hartlepool. It is not only an important day for graduating students, but also for their family members and friends who have supported them through their studies. The College has been a feature of life in Hartlepool for over 140 years and this is an important day for the College and for the town.

“On behalf of the College staff and Governors I offer my congratulations to each graduate and wish them great success in their future endeavours. I hope that they will keep in touch with us so that we know how our alumni are faring in the creative sector, and that occasionally they will return to visit us.”

Professor Stuart Bartholomew CBE, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Arts University Bournemouth, said: “Arts University Bournemouth is proud of its association with Cleveland College of Art & Design, and also extends its sincere congratulations to all those receiving an award.”