Our Top Picks & Quick Chats from UWI’s 2017 Art & Design Show (Part 1)

Published on: April 30, 2017

The 2017 UWI Art & Design show opened at the National Museum and Art Gallery on Wednesday April, 12th  to a large gathering of students, lecturers, well wishers and guests eager to see works of the most recent graduates of the University’s Visual Arts Programme.


We weren’t sure what to expect of the graduates. However as an online publication with a Graphic Designer at the helm, we attended the exhibit ready to see a lot of drawings, paintings and sculptures but instead we were greeted with not just visual art but graphic design, furniture design and product design. And this got us excited!


Shown below are two of the four students whose work we loved, along with a quick chat with the young creators. We learned a bit about the design process behind their finished products, as well as their thoughts on studying at the University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago.


Design Project: NEST

Description: A furniture and home product brand that up cycles used materials.

Student: Amaara White

Hometown: Lange Park, Chaguanas

Alma mater: St Augustine Girls’ High School


Di: You chose furniture design utilizing recycled material as your final project. Please tell us about your choices and a bit on the design process that went into Nest.

Amaara: My first proposal for the final project was about making a product that didn’t leave an ecological footprint. I wanted to try to make products with leaves. A challenging idea looking back, and my lecturers encouraged me to think about what surrounded me.

About two weeks into the process of developing my final project, I decided on using textiles that were otherwise destined for disposal… My grandmother passed a few months prior and she left an assortment of sheets and curtains that were going to be burnt or discarded.

It also didn’t hurt that used textiles are free and final year projects can get very expensive!

My aim was to experiment with the materials to find a way to use them efficiently. I went through different iterations of products until I wrapped them in a way that used a significant amount of the fabric to make a chair. That chair didn’t make it to completion but the idea of a product that is useful, cosy and that you can form a long-term attachment to stuck. Furniture tends to be a very slow moving product that can take decades before it is thrown away. It felt like the perfect solution.


Di: What made you decide on the name ‘Nest’ for your project and your branding?

Amaara: One of my initial product drawings was an actual nest made of fabric. Though it’s a commonly used name for different brands, I felt it touched on every point of my products, from the materials to the technique. 

Nests are made with bits and pieces of what can be found: birds often use natural materials and mix them with thread, hair or even pieces of fabric. The act of nesting and the connotation of comfort and home were also very important to me.


Di: Is this (furniture design) an area you’d like to pursue further?

Amaara: For now I want to explore different areas of design and continue learning new things but I’m not ruling out revisiting furniture in the future.


Di: Your degree is now complete. What was the UWI Art & Design experience like for you? What would you say are your take-aways and your most memorable and valuable experiences?

Amaara: Overall, the experience was a positive one. I felt like I gained a lot of experience in a short time. The degree is very broad and the opportunity to engage with several different types of art and design was important to me. The programme is a small one and there is a limit to the resources we have available but it helped me to become so much more resourceful and self-sufficient, which I appreciate.

I’ve been able to gain a lot of insight and knowledge from a few people, lecturers and even classmates.

Most memorable would just be how much fun I had being able to work with my hands, group projects with friends and creating with everyone else in my class.


Di:  What’s next for Amaara?

Amaara: I’d like to gain some work experience and continue exploring different areas of design. I definitely have plans to continue my education but first I need to process my undergraduate experience and figure out what area I want to delve into further.


Di: What were your earliest thoughts when deciding to pursue the Visual Arts program at UWI?

Amaara: At the time I had recently and unsuccessfully left a medical programme that wasn’t right for me. The only thing I really enjoyed and felt I was somewhat good at was art, making things and using Photoshop and Illustrator. I have never had any formal art or design education prior to the Visual Arts programme so, even though I was excited to explore this side of myself, I was afraid of being behind the class and failing at something else. My main goal, though, was to just gain as much experience as I could and discover my own potential.


Design Project: BONGO with MR. BONES
Description: A beautifully illustrated educational book for young Trinbagonians based on the Afro-Caribbean folk dance: Bongo. The main character, Mr. Bones, helps to portray the basic steps of the bongo dance in a book is of a solid paper stock, which is perfect for withstanding the play of a young child and includes fold out pages, which add interest and excitement to the design. The colour palette of the book remains red, black and white throughout, as a subtle yet strong nod to national colours of Trinidad and Tobago

Student: Maryssa Beckford

Hometown: Maloney Gardens

Alma mater: Bishop Anstey High School East


Di: I love that you created a book. As a practicing Graphic Designer, I have a particular love for printed design but I will admit that I was not expecting to attend UWI’s Visual Arts exhibit and fall in love with a book design. Can you tell us a bit about the making process behind your work?

Maryssa: I’m glad that you fell in love with my book and that I was able to do that as a young graphic designer.

To create this book, Bongo with Mr. Bones, was truly a lengthy process. It did not initially start with Mr. Bones but simple hand drawn outlines of the human figure. Over the course of six months or so, it went from the human figure (both hand drawn and computerized clean cut versions) to cartoon drawings of little children, to what you saw in the exhibition, Mr. Bones.

The target audience for the book was children between the ages of 5 to 10 and, because I have some experience working with children, it wasn’t difficult to articulate the message and idea, but it still proved a challenge to make sure the book was informative and also interactive. It was also very tricky to choose a language style and the right font.

Creating the character, Mr. Bones, was also not an entirely different process. It was while re-reading the manuscript for the book that it dawned on me that bongo was a dance that honours the dead, so why not use a skeleton as my main character?

The issue then arose to make the skeleton look child friendly and not morbid or dark. This was possible with some research and the end product is what you saw in the book. After having created Mr. Bones, I then had to get him as involved in the book as possible and make sure he was interactive throughout.



Di:  What is the main feeling or thought you’d like an observer to take away when they see your work?

Maryssa: When someone looks at my work, I would like him or her to feel like they are discovering the rich culture we have to offer in Trinidad and Tobago. I would like the child to be amazed and excited about learning more about a culture that might not have discovered yet. I’d also like it to be an opportunity for the parent and child to bond.


Di:  Your degree is now complete. What was the UWI Art & Design experience like for you? What would you say are your take aways and/or most memorable and valuable experiences?

Maryssa: The UWI Art & Design programme was truly an eye opening experience. I was able to perfect my skills and learn so many new things throughout my journey. It provided me with many opportunities to further myself as an artist and to find my way and discover the type of artist I am.


Di: What’s next for you?

Maryssa: Once I have completed all the requirements for my degree programme, I hope to return to working in advertising or possibly become a teacher, given my love for children. I also have intentions of becoming a set designer and having my own event management/planning business, as I have been able to plan and organize events before which were successful in their own right. 


Di: What were your earliest thoughts when deciding to pursue the Visual Arts programme at UWI?

Maryssa: I was a bit unsure about whether it was the right choice, as I was also interested in dance and theatre. But after a few discussions with people in each field, as well as my own feelings, I felt that I made the right choice.

How you feel about your UWI experience now that it’s completed? What’s changed since you first started the programme and your studies?

I’m excited to be finishing. I started my UWI experience wide-eyed and I participated in everything possible. I kept that attitude throughout my three years at UWI and was able to pursue other things, such as starting a dance club and hosting concerts, while obtaining my degree, which I believe has made me a more well-rounded artist. It gave me a chance to practice some of what I learned over the course of my programme.


The University of the West Indies 2017 Visual Arts Degree Show
At the National Musem & Art Gallery. Port of Spain, Trinidad.
Showing dates: April 12th – May 6th
There are still a few days to see the show if you haven’t yet!



​Writer & Interviewer: Tanya Marie

Tanya Marie is a Designer & Brand Consultant and she is also the Founding Curator of Designer Island.

Co-Editor: Nicole Martin
Nicole is Creative Professional and Writer based in Trinidad and Tobago.



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