by Vitaly Volodchenko

Today I spoke with a young woman from Plymouth College Of Arte, Laura, a great lover of her work and to know new experiences

In April of this year, I had the exciting opportunity to travel to the town of Gijón in Northern Spain.  A few weeks prior I had answered the call out from a poster for young designers to take part in a ‘creative jam’ focused towards sustainable design.  My own research revolves around the use of digital design and hand blown glass to make a sustainable artisanal practice. So naturally, this call out caught my attention.  Admittedly I did not know much about the Atlantic Youth Creative Hub who was hosting the event, but nonetheless, I submitted my application and later I received the great news that it had been accepted- time to pack my bags and take a little break from my MA studies!

I arrived at the train station early on the morning we were due to depart, and one by one the whole Plymouth team arrived.  We began the mammoth journey to Gijón via London and Asturias.  The journey allowed a chance for us all to get to know each other- I was incredibly surprised by the diverse range of practices we came from; from illustration to textiles, to product design.

After nearly 15 hours of travel, we arrived at our hotel, right on the seafront in Gijón.  We all agreed that we felt instantly at home here.  The weather was warm but not too hot, and occasionally rainy- what we’re used to.  But more than that, Gijón seemed to remind us all of hometown AYCH hub, Plymouth with its maritime history and town layout, and relaxed seaside mindset.

The AYCH Creative Jam took place on the university campus in Gijón over the next three days with young attendees from Portugal, Spain, France, England and Northern Ireland.  There were a series of workshops on subjects ranging from anthropology to eco design to electronics. Our very own Ben Mundy from Fablab Plymouth facilitated a 3D printing workshop that had a brilliant response- particularly from attendees who wouldn’t normally have access to or experience of a FabLab.

On the final day, with all the new knowledge and skills we had learned, we were randomly allocated to a team and mentor.  During a 6 hour intense ‘hackathon’ each team had to come up with, prototype and create a presentation of an idea. There was great freedom at this point to develop whatever idea we were excited by and believed in.  My own team, influenced greatly by the idea of co-designing and sustainable cities and communities, developed an online platform to allow town members and local authorities a place to design together their shared spaces within their community.

The next stage was a pitch in front of a panel.  12 teams in total pitched, and 6 were selected to present in front of the full audience of attendees, mentors and staff- over 70 people! I was blown away to see how each team reacted to the challenge, and to see the creative responses- an audience interactive virtual reality simulator to bring realities of devastating climate change to our city centres,  and an online community called Seed Link to share agricultural knowledge for home growing fruit and veg, to name a few.

The 3 days spent at the event in Gijón were truly wonderful and path changing for me.  I am so glad to have been offered the opportunity by the AYCH team here at Plymouth College of Art.  As a result, I met and talked to others engaging in exciting sustainable manufacturing research, and I even managed to sell one of my products.

In a few months time, I will be travelling to France to visit two of the AYCH hubs on a residency.  This has allowed me the opportunity to launchpad when I finish my MA studies in September later this year.  Consequently, I hope to take part in an exciting design research residency abroad next year for 4 months- but ssshh I can’t say too much about that yet!

Taking part in this event has reassured me that there is an energetic, and supportive network to travel and work with to continue my research and making practice beyond my studies.


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