Outset Partners

DesignLab Nation, 2019–2020

The V&A was awarded an Outset Partners Core Grant to support its flagship national schools programme, DesignLab Nation, launched in September 2017.

Working in five regions, Sheffield, Sunderland, Stoke-on-Trent, Blackburn and Coventry, DesignLab Nation brings together secondary schools, museums and local industry, complemented by loans of V&A objects, to support the teaching of art, design and technology education. It also provides teachers with training and CPD opportunities to develop new and innovative ways of teaching design. DesignLab aims to inspire a new generation of creative practitioners as well as broaden young people’s understanding of the designed world around them, how it is made and its impact on society and the environment.

Highlights for 2018/19 include a ceramic tile by the Turner prize-winning artist Grayson Perry to Blackburn Museum, a brightly coloured scarf by luxury fashion designer Mary Katrantzou to the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry and an assortment of works by Christopher Dresser to Museums Sheffield These objects have been loaned by the V&A to support DesignLab Nation.

In this second year of the programme, the V&A partnered with the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent. The 60 participating students attended three local schools: Birches Head Academy, Co-op Academy Stoke-on-Trent and Thistley Hough Academy.

The students worked with Neil Brownsword, a ceramicist, installation artist and former V&A Artist-in-Residence. The projects focussed on the theme of Perfection vs Imperfection, challenging students to embrace mistakes and flaws as they work through a range of creative processes. With Neil and museum learning practitioners, the students experimented with ceramics to question their own perception of perfection using moulds, hand-building and plaster casting.

The need for outstanding creative education is particularly acute in the industrial areas of the Midlands and the North of England, where Outset’s support during 2019/20 will enable us to work with young people from 15 schools, and achieve wider impact through teacher training and object loans. We look forward to discussing the project further with you as it progresses.  We are delighted to be partnering with Outset on this initiative, which simply could not take place without the exceptional commitment of the Partners.

Dr Tristram Hunt, Director, Victoria & Albert Museum