Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Furniture commission opportunity - Jewellery Quarter

1000 trades is an independent craft bar due to open in the Jewellery Quarter in March 2016. The owners are keen to commission furniture particularly tables and chairs that celebrates craft in all its forms.

“This is an ideal opportunity for talented designers to showcase their work to a wide audience,” says co-owner John Stapleton

“We’ll credit all work and contact details can be affixed to items .We will of course pay for work but you will appreciate that we are working to a strict budget.”

The bar will seat approximately 50 people in total throughout. It will be split into two levels and food served will focus on casual dining.

Interested designers are welcome to visit the site on Frederick Street to get a feel for the new venue. The photographs below show the space as it currently exists before any redesign work.

Interior of Frederick St venue before redesign

·         The style of chairs may be varied as long as each offers a reasonable degree of comfort. In other words, no church pews.
·         Wood is the preferred material but happy to take other proposals.
·         Tables should be of a suitable height for dining/drinking. Likewise, chairs for sitting at those tables.
·         Re-conditioned furniture is fine. We will not be in a position to afford all commissions from scratch.
·         Everything needs to be quite hard wearing, and treated.

·         Two required to seat 6-8.
·         Several to seat 4 and several to seat 2.
·         Versatility is also desirable (space will have multiple uses).

Basic proposals
·         Brief description (example pics if possible).
·         Approximate dimensions.
·         Proposed fee.
·         Timescales.

For further information or to send proposals please email

Ground floor facing street before redesign
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Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Furniture Show 24 - 27 January, NEC Birmingham

Textile students from Birmingham City University will soon be showcasing their innovative designs again. They will be at the January 2016 Furniture Show  bringing to life two room sets:  'Strata' and 'Play' will feature textiles, ceramics, lighting as well as wall and floor coverings. 

Their designs, in conjunction with West Midlands and other UK companies, reflect trends predicted by international industry experts Global Color Research Mix Publications. 

"We are delighted to have been offered stand space at the January Furniture Show," said Charmaine Stint, programme manager of the Institute For Creative Innovation at Birmingham City University.

"This is the main furniture industry trade event  in the UK - a great platform for our students to present their ideas to a key audience."

“We work with a range of industry partners and collaborators to provide pieces such as a chair which we will upholster using a specific student design. This makes it a more tangible end product for visitors to the show to see how trends can be interpreted into initial concepts and then taken forward into end designs. We also show a range of sample pieces from all of the students’ body of work."

BCU textile student Chloe baker's design for Brinton Carpets

Online registration for the January Furniture Show has already opened and visitors can see the list of exhibitors for 2016 and secure their free badge by visiting

Laraine Janes, co-director of the January Furniture Show added: “This is a great opportunity to see what some of the potential stars of the furniture future have got to say when it comes to home furnishings and interior designs. We are looking forward to seeing what is unveiled at the show.”

BCU textile students work in 2015 'Tropic'

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Maker Monday Techno hacking

Maker Monday is an initiative, led by the Transforming the Region team at Birmingham City University. It aims to establish a maker community in Birmingham inspired by modern technologies.

Each event starts with a presentation by an expert usually focusing on a particular technology. A workshop follows on that topic.  Anyone can join in - you don't have to have a particular set of technical skills.

Oh, and beer and pizza is promised too.

The next workshop ‘Hack the Kinect’ (getting creative with Microsoft’s Xbox motion control equipment) is at Birmingham Open Media (Dudley St) on November 30 at 5:15pm. 

Benedict Sheehan, visual interaction expert and Kinect hacking pioneer will lead the workshop. Examples of Benedict's work are a visual installation at Glastonbury, creating videos with multiple versions of himself and an interactive waterfall.

Tickets can be booked at Eventbrite

Maker Monday also aims to connect artists and technologists on projects that continue between the workshops. Collaborations to date are:

  • Living Archive. An interactive hologram of a sculpture for art galleries and museums, which debuted at Birmingham Open Media's JHB archive exhibition in September.
  • The Internet of clothes. Clothes are tagged with RFID (radio frequency identification) chips. If they are not worn for a while an alert is sent to Oxfam, which posts out a donation envelope.
  • A communication tool for children with autism .It uses open tools and libraries to create an affordable keyboard with a voice synthesiser that can turn the text into speech. 
  • The 3D doodling wand. An affordable wand that allows anyone to create 3D drawings on their computer.

For more information please visit or email Gregory Hough:

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Sid keeps his business vision on track

    Congratulations to Sid Edwards who started his Ripseam company through ILF Venture programme back in 2013. 

    He showcased his company and his patent pending alternative to zip fasteners and spoke of his experience on 24 September at the Design Council's Spark awards at London's Somerset House. 

    Sid Edwards speaking at the Design Council Spark awards

    Of over 300 applicants to the prestigious support programme, Sid was chosen as one of 30 initial participants and then earned his place as one of the 10 finalists. 

    As part of his 'dragon's den' presentation ILF helped Sid film a focus group at Birmingham City University's Parkside Building last month.

    Sid at an ILF workshop in 2013
    Sid demonstrating his innovative product at Somerset House

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Thursday, 25 June 2015

Workshops available for designers and small businesses

In need of a modern workshop space? 85 Caroline St in the Jewellery Quarter may be just what you are after. There are six self-contained soundproof workshops in various sizes – the largest could be shared by four or five individuals or a small company. And, of course you don’t have to be a jeweller to take on one of the workshops.

Facilities also include kitchen, shower and courtyard and are protected electronically with 24 hour access seven days a week.

“The workshops are on the ground floor – behind a gallery - in a completely refurbished apartment block,” explains Michele White a jewellery designer who has spearheaded the development of the new workspaces with the help of the European Regional Development Fund.

“Six benches for start-up jewellers are already taken but the other six spaces would suit any individual or small business. The aim is to develop a creative community of people with skills who can interact and help one another in a pleasant and congenial environment.”

85 Caroline St, Jewellery Quarter

If you are interested in joining this creative community please contact Michele by emailing  or telephoning: 07801 418217.

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Wednesday, 17 June 2015

On a mission - to Milan

In the first week of June, ILF's Ruth Edwards and a number of our companies joined a delegation to the Milan 2015 Expo. The group, which comprised West Midlands businesses, members of Birmingham City Council and Birmingham City University travelled as part of Birmingham Made Me's regional support initiative.

This was a chance to exchange ideas with other UK and Milanese companies including factory visits to Alessi and M&Z Rubinetterie. Clifton Steel, CMA Moldform, HF Contracts, K4 Architects, Richard Snell Design and Rudd Macnamra also attended briefings by researchers from the Midland Economic Forum, the Politecnico di Milano and Birmingham City University.

"Amazing trip, truly inspirational and more than I ever thought possible beforehand," said Roger Shafi from Clifton Steel. "We would like to offer our services out to universities to help inspire the next generation of our business and help students and other designers to understand our products and production process."

Roger Shafi, Clifton Steel and Milly Taylor, AMMBA (standing)

"The showrooms visited inspired the notion of designing for storage and integrated lighting," said Richard Snell. "I am also going to explore further development of ideas for a design history of the Midlands exhibition."

Richard Snell, Ruth Edwards and Beverley Nielsen on a visit to M&Z Rubinetterie

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Thursday, 21 May 2015

"What colour! What imagination! What vibrancy!"

Brinton rug - award winning design by BCU's Amy Newman

And, just to prove it, here are some images from the Birmingham City University Trends stand at the recent May Design Series expo in London. It comprised two installations each interpreting a trend selected by GlobalColor Research

The work was a collaboration between third year textile students and companies, including a number of West Midlands businesses and Tektura Wallcoverings. The stand itself was designed by BCU architecture students.

David Roberts, Executive Dean from BCU's Faculty of the Arts, Design and Media, speaking at the event celebrated the achievement of all involved, adding "What colour! What imagination! And what vibrancy!"

The Tropic set featured chairs by HF Contracts and carpet by Brintons. Brink showcased work by mrfdesign ltd, Textiles by St Anne's, Tiled Space and Interface Flooring.

"Best of all though was the inspiring work produced by Birmingham City University"


The second day of the exhibition featured the hotly awaited student awards. Visitors had voted throughout for the best wallpaper design. Angela Paterson from Tektura presented Sarah Meredith with her prize and acknowledged the high standard of all the student wall covering designs.

Sarah Meredith and Angela Paterson from Tektura Wall Coverings

Hannah Malein from GlobalColor also admitted that her judging had been made very difficult by the level of expertise displayed in the student work. The prize for Tropic went to Amy Newman for her Brintons' rug design. Shuangyuan Zhang took the Brink award for her  mrf design's s230 Flare Chaise.

Shuangyuan Zhang, Hannah Malein Globalcolor Research and Amy Newman

Brink - ceramic tiles by Tiled Space - fabric ones by Interface Flooring

Brink - s230 Flare Chaise by mrf ltd with award-winning design by Shuangyuan Zhang
Tropic - chairs by HF Contracts on Brintons rug and award -winning wallpaper by Sarah Meredith

In their blog Global Color Research™ said: "May Design Series featured several well considered and inspiring shows within shows………. Best of all though was the inspiring work produced by Birmingham City University, taking our trends Brink and Tropic as inspiration for both installations and fabric samples; with superb results.”

And the ILF team Ruth Edwards, Kathryn Burns and Adrian Burns

Photographs by David Boynton

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Tuesday, 12 May 2015

May Design Series London

The ILF team will be down in London 17-19 for the May Design Series at the ExCEL exhibition centre.  We'll be supporting three of our companies and Textile Design students from Birmingham City University.

So if any of our West Midlands companies are there, please call by stand BCU1. And, if that happens to be Monday afternoon (18 May) you'd also be welcome to join us for the the student awards session from 2pm.

The work of Tiled Space, Textiles By St Anne's and HF Contracts will feature on the stand, which showcases the skills of final year textile students.

'The Trends Project 2015 continues a long term strategic partnership with UBM Live, Global Color Research™ plus international digital wall covering manufacturer Tektura. It engages final year Textile Design students and associated academics with considerable industry and research experience to create two striking room sets showcasing news designs in response to Global Color S/S 2016 trends – Tropic & Brink. '

The ILF team, companies and students at the 2014 trends stand

May Design Series 

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Friday, 1 May 2015

That was the event that was!

We thought it would be good but team ILF was bowled over by the  buzz yesterday (30 April) at  'Make it in the West Midlands - meet the manufacturer and grow your design potential'   - but we really must come up with snappier shorter titles!

Between 8.30 and 2.00 over 200  people visited the stands in Parkside Atrium and Shell. As well as the industry visitors many design students turned up to quiz the manufacturers and designers including a delegation of Year 10 pupils from Highclare School in Birmingham.

Without going all Oscar acceptance speechy, we owe a huge thanks to all the exhibitors who put in a supreme effort in from 7 in the morning until close of event at 2 in the afternoon. This was matched by our guest speakers who when not presenting held impromptu meetings with visiting companies and exhibitors.

For more about the exhibiting manufacturers see here. For the designers go here.  And, don't forget to check out our speakers Patricia van den Akker and Sheridan Chaffey.

Meeting the manufacturers and designers, BCU Parkside Building
Ed Nash from The English Leather Company

Mark Wood from Tiled Space

More picsMake it in the West Midlands photos

Some of the feedback

"One of the best organised exhibitions that we have been to in Birmingham. It's been great networking  with similar-minded people as well as learning about their making processes."

"Great event & really inspiring for our 1st year students currently exploring fabric concepts!"

"very interesting couple of hours, met some great companies so a big Thank You from me to the people responsible for organising the event"

"We thought it was brilliant for our students,  The talks also were very good for them - I think it hit home exactly what the course is preparing them for in the commercial world."

"Met a lovely chair company. Got a cheeky snap of my cushion on their rocking chair."

"A great opportunity to network and meet manufacturers under one roof. Great insight and useful tips from the speakers. Thanks to ILF for their continued support, such a lovely team."

Photography by Adem Ince, Birmingham City University student

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Thursday, 16 April 2015

Design Zone joins ILF 'Make it in the West Midlands...' event on 30 April

The Design Zone will be a small display of work by local designer makers - five young companies who set up through our ILF Venture programme and two companieswho took part in our Visioning workshop.

And, if you want to come and  meet them and our exhibiting manufacturers on 30 April register for free now through Eventbrite. More about the event here

Cofi Coo is an award-winning children's soft furnishings company. It believes in providing beautifully designed quality soft furnishings, which are entirely designed, digitally printed and manufactured exclusively in the United Kingdom. Products are collaboratively designed by Navita Uddin Jassi and the Cofi Coo design team.  Website

Some of Cofi Coo's quirky children's furnishings

Jodie Laura Designs hand makes high quality home and fashion textiles that are customisable. The 
range includes cushions, door stops, lampshades, accessories and figure flattering aprons that can be worn in the home or as business uniform. Website

Stylish apron design from Jodie Laura

Lloydie Apparel is a unique streetwear brand founded by recent fashion design graduate Lloyd Taylor. He creates high-quality unisex t-shirts, hoodies and accessories with elements of tie-dye. Website

Tie dye from Lloydie Apparel
Magnino Fine Furniture Armando Magnino designs and makes fine furniture. Some of his work is one off bespoke commissions for private clients but he has also developed a range of designs that can be manufactured in small batches for retail and exhibitions. Website

Slider extending coffee table in English Oak  by Magnino Fine Furniture

Magnus & Bella are artist jewellers and designer makers, trained in traditional craft skills but with a talent for contemporary design and materials. As an English company with a strong focus on their eco-credentials, they are proud to state that all of their precious metals are recycled and smelted by British refiners, their high-tech resins are made in England and their packaging is hand made in Britain. Website

Sterling silver napkin rings by Magnus & Bella

Rachel Richardson-Jones is a gifted surface designer whose prime inspiration comes from exploring camouflage theories and optical effects to create a range of design-led products and patterns. As well as collaborating with other design brands Rachel has created her own limited-edition range of interior products featuring two design collections: camoufleur and dazzleblue. Website

Dazzleblue by Rachel Richardson Jones 

Yanii Akeliah creates exquisite photorealistic printed textile products for interiors.She loves evocative colour palettes, herbal tea and exotic flowers. Website

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Make it in the West Midlands – meet the manufacturers and grow your design potential

We are delighted to announce that Interiors & Lifestyle Futures is hosting an event for our community of companies on Thursday 30 April 2015. 

‘Make it in the West Midlands’ will provide an excellent opportunity for design-led businesses and design professionals to research alternative methods of manufacture and use of materials and explore design possibilities of the processes available to them.

Register now for free through Eventbrite.

Exhibitors to date include 17 local manufacturers and service providers -  detailed below -  ranging from lasers cutters to digital printing and plastic moulding to electroforming. To name but a few. 

They will be joined by keynote speakers Sheridan Chaffey, Director, New Channel Developments Ltd and Patricia van den Akker Director, an online business school for designers and makers.

Patricia van den Akker and Sheridan Caffey

Sheridan is a founder member of the Institute of Digital and Direct Marketing, a former marketing director for Kays Catalogue in Worcester and these days enjoys helping SMEs sell more. He will outline case studies of how companies have placed products into major high street retail, covering some of the nine sales channels they use.

Patricia is passionate that creatives create businesses they are proud of, exploring their unique talents, creating products and experiences with real impact, and making money too. She is a regular speaker at events, workshops and webinars across the UK, and has written 100s of blog posts on wide range of creative business topics. At our event Patricia will explore the topic of identifying and selling more to dream clients.  

Speakers' schedule
9.30-9.45: Sheridan Chaffey
11.00-11.30: Patricia ven den Akker
12.30-12.45 Sheridan Chaffey

‘Make it in the West Midlands’ will run from 8.30am to 2.00pm at the Birmingham City University’s Parkside Building in the city centre on Thursday 30 April 2015. 

Exhibiting manufacturers

3D Creation Lab is a 3D printing bureau with ten x 3D printers, five different technologies, scanning facilities, 2D & 3D CAD,  file fixing and project management. Website

3D Creation Lab

A Wardle & Co (casters) Ltd manufactures caster of precious and base metal items, including jewellery, silverware, brassware and hardware. ( Raw casting through to finished item if required). Website

Blacktapesociety is a mutual group dedicated to the support development and distribution of creative media throughout the West Midlands.  As well as offering a laser cutter and photographic studio hire, Black Tape provides dedicated investment into the creative sector, through the provision of grant funding, training and workshops, mentoring, incubator space ('studios') and one to one support including advertising and networking. Website

CMA Moldform Limited produces high quality scale models in resin & rubber & metal; Rapid Prototypes & limited volume production of resin & rubber parts for numerous industries. Bespoke artwork for artists, sculptors, interior designers, architects, films, advertising and exhibition events on a worldwide basis. Website

Coleshill Design is part of the Coleshill Plastics Ltd Group, which celebrated 40 years in the plastics industry in 2014.  Their design arm designs, manufactures and supplies independent, national and international retailers with British made high, quality, decorative home wares.  The company also supports and works with many designers and artists enabling them to have their own designs moulded on to Coleshill's products, helping them to expand their brand into the home wares market easily and quickly.  Website

Etch Components provides photo etching for a wide variety of businesses from the car manufacturing industry to the jewellery trade and model engineering.  They work with brass, silver, stainless steel, aluminium & bronze. Website

The English Leather Company is a leather finisher and supplier specialising in the production of traditional English bridle leather. It supplies numerous leather goods manufacturers whose products are sold worldwide. It ensures that quality and ethical standards are met when production is carried out, selecting only producers it already works with in order that these standards are achieved. Website

Glass Monkey's Robert Garner makes decorative pieces of glass for domestic and commercial customers.He also makes furniture with glass in it and services include a broad array of frosted and etched glass, sandblast engraving, domestic and commercial contemporary or traditional designs, acid etched glass, deep sculptured glass bespoke kitchen and bathroom splashbacks, etc. Website

GM Glass

Metalier Coatings is part of Granlyn specialist coating. It supplies and creates specialist finishes, redefining the way  businesses work with metal giving them the ability to mix metals and create their own unique Metalier alloys, finishes and effects. Website

Rudd Macnamara prints and forms plastics and metals. nameplates, badges made out of Aluminium, brass and stainless steel, printed anodised and chemically etched, also vac formed plastic panels for point of sales display, which are often illuminated. Website

The Silk Bureau Ltd is the UK’s leading digital textile printing company producing 5* printing for high end fashion, International retail, New York, Paris, Milan fashion week and more. Website

The Silk Bureau
Sitting Firm Chairmakers specialise in modern and traditional Windsor chairs with over 300 designs in their range. They have an international reputation for the quality and services they provide in their purpose-built Midlands factory. The company stresses that creative collaborations are essential to their strategic aims. Website

Tektura Ltd is the market leader in manufacturing and supplying commercial wallcoverings and digital printing for architects, interior designers and end users in the specificiation industry It works closely with  specifiers on updating new designs, assisting on budgets and ensuring stock is available when required. Website

Textiles by St Anne’s manufactures soft furnishings for the domestic and contracts market. It also provides a bespoke product development service for new businesses working on product ranges including cushion, wash bags, pencil cases, purses and aprons. Significantly, it undertakes small runs for start-up companies. Textiles by St Anne's is part of BITA Pathways, Birmingham’s leading mental health charity. Website

Tiled Space uses its own patent technology to print images into the surface of glazed products such as ceramic and porcelain tiles, glass and enamel. Images are fired at high temperature fusing the image into the structure of the glass particles.  Sister company, specialises in sourcing ware for customers and printing designs on to mugs, cups, saucers, plates, and tiles with all work hand decorated by skilled professionals. Website

Register now for free through Eventbrite.

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Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Tight budget? Create a marketing strategy for free

In our Visioning workshops for small businesses, it is frequently clear that there is little if any budget for marketing. One thing they can do, points out Vanessa Merit Nornberg, is to develop a narrative that becomes a cost-free marketing strategy.

Vanessa suggests three overlapping options:
  1. Tell your company story
  2. Tell your product story
  3. Tell your personal story

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Student design competition - deadline 3 April 2015

As part of the Affiliation of Rotomoulding Organisations (ARMO), the British Plastics Federation (BFP) is launching a competition open to all UK and International design students.  There are financial prizes for each winner and a six month work placement for the overall winner.

"The Challenge
Rotational moulding is a production process that offers extensive creative possibilities to designers in terms of shape, strength, size and functionality. To find out more about the rotational moulding process click here.

The design challenge is to create a product that demonstrates an appreciation of the many advantages of this moulding process within one of the following categories
  •   Our green environment
  •   Illumination
  •   At leisure
A representative of the BPF Rotational Moulding Group would be happy to give students a presentation on the roto moulding design competition if required. Course leaders should contact Paul Baxter on for more information."

"Entry Submissions
  •    Maximum 4 x 2d/3d illustrations/sketches/renderings from a minimum of three perspectives.
  •    A4 Product poster
  •    A brief essay (max 300 words) on your design highlighting features and USPs
Entry Deadlines
  •    All entries for the competition must be received by the BPF by 17.00 GMT on the 3rd April 2015
  •    The winning entries for all categories will be announced on the 22nd May 2015"

To read more about this including details of criteria, prizes and sponsors plus link to submit entries please see : ARMO/British Plastics Federation

For more on the BFP including typical materials and products used please see here

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Wednesday, 18 February 2015

How To Create A Brand

It is from a couple of years ago but this article by Marjo Johne in Canada's The Globe and Mail has some excellent points to make about brand creation. It includes Axle Davids, of Distility Branding in Toronto, sharing his thoughts. 
"The classic misconception is that branding is just about a logo or a name.” To do it right, he advises, start with these questions:
"Who is your target audience? Before you say “everybody” – which many businesses do out of fear they might limit themselves – think hard about who your most important customer is. That’s your primary audience, Mr. Davids says. Then identify your secondary and tertiary audiences.
What’s the competition doing? How are they addressing your target audience? This is easier to determine if you’re in a mature market with one or two well-entrenched competitors.
What’s your brand position? What sets you apart in your market? If you can’t answer this, then you’re losing on a critical concept of branding: how to differentiate yourself.
What’s your brand promise? Determine what you’re passionate about, fuse that with the needs of your target audience and you get your brand promise – the benefit that you promise to deliver.
What’s your brand personality? In what style will you deliver your brand promise? Will you be dependable but surprisingly fun? Will you be the hero, with better-than-the-rest deals that don’t compromise on quality?"
For the full article and links to other items on start-ups, entrepreneurship and blogging please see here.

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Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Cofi Coo's Alina gets triple entrepreneur nominations

Interiors & Lifestyle Futures is delighted to learn that one of the stars of our 2012 Venture programme has been nominated for three business awards. 

Alina Masood, co-owner of Cofi-Coo with her sister Ammara, is a nominated finalist in three categories of Birmingham City Council's Business Catalyst Awards 2015:  Entrepreneur of the Year, Female Entrepreneur of the Year and Innovation Award for Business. The awards are aimed at the City's leading businesses and most promising start-ups.

Alina and Ammara took part in our second phase of the Venture programme in 2011-12, establishing children's soft furnishings brand - Cofi Coo, which had early trading success in the Birmingham Made Me shop in the Mailbox. 

The awards will be held at Hotel La Tour later in February and tickets will be available on Eventbrite.

We are keeping our fingers crossed for Alina and Cofi Coo. Find them at and follow them on twitter; @CofiCoo

Alina Masood
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