Interview with Khadine Khan-Parkinson

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Editor Frank Scott (FS) from DesignPRWire has interviewed designer Khadine Khan-Parkinson (KK) for A’ Design Awards and Competition. You can access the full profile of Khadine Khan-Parkinson by clicking here.

Interview with Khadine Khan-Parkinson at Friday 22nd of April 2016

FS: Could you please tell us more about your art and design background? What made you become an artist/designer? Have you always wanted to be a designer?
KK: I’ve always wanted to be a designer and have always had an interest in art and interiors. I studied Fine Art in high school and exhibited and sold several paintings over the years. While studying for my business degree, I also attained a diploma in interior design and upon graduation I established a residential interior design company based in the Caribbean. After running a successful design service for five years I wanted to explore the product oriented side of the industry. I then moved to the United Kingdom where I first did a foundation degree in Art and Design before undertaking a Bachelors in Three Dimensional Design Craft. My winning design, Nouveau Tudor, was developed as part of my final year project which I went on to refine and manufacture after graduating with First Class Honours.

FS: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
KK: Castara Designs was founded in September 2014 in London, United Kingdom. Castara launched its first collection of tableware and kitchen linens in 2015 and is set to launch additional products to its Nouveau Tudor range at Pulse-London in May 2016. All the products are currently manufactured in Great Britain and available to purchase online though and other select online retailers. In addition to Castara’s own collections, we collaborate with other designers to develop products and share ideas. This May we will be extending this service to small independent retailers in an effort to bring more variety to the market and create products that have some connection with the communities and localities in which they are sold.

FS: What is "design" for you?
KK: ‘Design’ for me is the union of function and beauty. Personally I see no point in creating something that is purely functional or purely beautiful. I believe that objects, be they large or small, should not only useful but also a joy to use and even when not in use should be objects of beauty when observed.

FS: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
KK: I find clay quite relaxing in terms of making. I could spend days quite happily building, moulding and carving. In terms of technology I love the magic of 3D printing, I watch the models being produced layer by layer and find it so satisfying when you see it completed. You could probably tell that it was merging these two things is what led to the development of my porcelain-handled flatware.

FS: When do you feel the most creative?
KK: I feel most creative when I am able to get my hands dirty. I would take being in a workshop environment over sitting at a computer any day. It’s the stage after sketching or digital modelling that I find most rewarding. It’s when you wrestle with the material to get it to do or behave the way you want it to and then the challenge of adapting your design when the material will not co-operate. I love problem solving and believe that this is the mark of a good designer.

FS: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
KK: After function, colour and form are the main areas of focus for me as I believe that this strongly affects the overall balance and harmony of the finished piece.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
KK: Throughout the design process I experience the full spectrum of emotions. You can feel totally inspired and optimistic at the beginning, annoyed and dejected when things are not working the way you expected and eventually proud and content when you create something you are happy with. There are two emotions I never feel when I design- sad or stressed. It’s never stressful because I enjoy the challenge of it and I am never sad because if something did not work it means it’s not over, it’s just one step closer to getting it right.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
KK: There is an immense sense of pride and accomplishment when you get to hold and touch your designs. There is also a sense of relief that something turns out the way you visualized it in your mind.

FS: What makes a design successful?
KK: Personally it's when it develops into something more or better than you first envisioned. It’s when it fuels me on to doing another project because I learnt something that I now want to apply other work.

FS: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
KK: For me it has to be function. If something is beautiful but not fit for purpose, it is not good design.

FS: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
KK: Designers have one of the most influential roles in society and I believe they have the capacity to not only safeguard but improve our environment. It is the role of designers to solve modern society’s major problems ranging from climate change to food shortage to excessive consumerism. By creating products that last, using sustainable materials and processes and shifting away from fads to produce objects that are treasured instead of thrown away as seasons change.

FS: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
KK: I think the ‘design field’ I stepping up to take a more responsible and sustainable approach to creating everything from buildings to clothing. The future of design is bright and filled with no only the possibility but the necessity to take humanity forward and to ensure that there is a world left for future generations but one that is not dystopic.

FS: When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
KK: My last exhibition was at the Bevere Gallery, Worcester, United Kingdom which is a major centre for modern and contemporary studio ceramics and pottery in January 2015. I am hoping to launch three new collections within the next eighteen months.

FS: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
KK: I tend to look back at history a lot in my work. I am constantly amazed by the craft and workmanship that went into ancient buildings and objects. I frequent museums and galleries and travel to places with interesting architecture. In our technology driven world I am intrigued by the level of detail, the vast quantity of decoration and the time invested in making objects in the past using what would be considered low-tech or even no-tech methods and processes. I enjoy looking at an object which doesn’t completely reveal itself with just one glance.

FS: How would you describe your design style? What made you explore more this style and what are the main characteristics of your style? What's your approach to design?
KK: Classic, refined old world. While I adore embellishments and decorative motifs I don’t find that I could live with how busy they can become. I like to distil these elements and give them room to breathe and space to observed. I take elements that may otherwise be lost in their original surroundings and isolate, enlarge or repeat them to create new patterns and apply them to different objects. For example taking exterior architectural decorations and translating them to interior products. My approach to design is extracting the very best of the past and modifying to our modern lifestyle so you have a piece that has a place in today’s world but retains a deep sense of history.

FS: Where do you live? Do you feel the cultural heritage of your country affects your designs? What are the pros and cons during designing as a result of living in your country?
KK: What are the pros and cons during designing as a result of living in your country? I currently live in England and have done so for the last eight years, but I am originally from Trinidad and Tobago. I feel quite divided as a result and this comes through in my work. My current collections read like a tale of two cities. The influence of England is quite evident in my Nouveau Tudor collection while Veranda collection is almost its polar opposite as it is inspired by the gingerbread chattel houses of the Caribbean featuring vibrant colours and curvaceous silhouettes. The best thing about living in England as a designer is the love of craft and making. There is an extensive history and deep sense of pride in industries like the potteries and fabric mills so you have access to some great production facilities but the major con is the cost of production compared to other parts of the world.

FS: How do you work with companies?
KK: I love the idea of collaborations because it gives you a brief and having boundaries really help me to focus. It also makes the process more challenging and these challenges are what help me to grow as a designer.

FS: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
KK: Does that designer understand your brand and are they willing to listen to what you are looking for while simultaneously encouraging you to push your boundaries and perhaps try something new.

FS: Can you talk a little about your design process?
KK: The brief is very important for me. I start with a clearly defined brief and then move on to research. I first look at what has already been done- this is to ensure it’s not already out there and to also see how you could bring something different to the table. Then I create a mood board with inspirational images, material samples, and descriptive words. I usually have this in a prominent position where I can walk by it or sit and look at it for a while. Once I’ve absorbed it and clearly understand what it is I want to produce I then begin sketching and modelling before moving on to testing and prototyping. During the making process I may continue to add to the mood board or remove elements that are no longer working. I also find making notes in my sketchbook to be quite beneficial just so that all those thoughts are not floating around in my head.

FS: Can you describe a day in your life?
KK: No two days are the same. I wear several hats as a designer and an entrepreneur. Some days I can be an artist, a potter or a woodcarver. Other days I’m an accountant, a marketer or a delivery driver. I thrive on the variety each day brings and the freedom that comes with it.

FS: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
KK: Strive to be different, it is your uniqueness that is most valuable. Don’t ever let someone say you can’t, if you know you can, do it. If it doesn’t work out the first time, you still learnt something and try again. Discipline is so important, keep doing a little every day to reach your goals and they will happen.

FS: What skills are most important for a designer?
KK: I believe creativity and objectivity are the most important skills of a designer. A designer should be able to come up with ideas, work on developing them and then be able to step back and critically evaluate their work in a non-biased way.

FS: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
KK: Having done a degree in 3D Design Craft afforded me the opportunity to work across a diverse set of materials and processes. I start with pencil sketches, I may add colour using watercolours or coloured pencils, depending on the project I may move on to digital modelling using Adobe Creative Suite or Rhino. Next comes prototyping which can range from hand building with clay, carving balsa wood or modelling foam or 3D printing. From then on I move on to selecting materials and getting samples made.

FS: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
KK: For me I find that scheduling time to do specific tasks does not always produce the best results. I tend to have a broad idea of the things I want to accomplish on a weekly basis and then I may spend blocks of time working on different projects. There are days when inspiration strikes and I feel like I just need to draw or make and there are other days when I feel like I need to focus on the practical aspects of running a business. One thing that I’ve found to never work is to sit down stare at a blank sheet of paper and then decide to design something.

FS: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
KK: I work on several projects simultaneously so it’s a bit difficult to give a specific measure in terms of days. I like having more than one project at a time because sometimes it is necessary to step away from a design, work on something else and leave your subconscious mind to get to work to solve a problem you may be facing. I may have set deadlines to meet but I work in a very fluid way so there may be periods of calm where I may be thinking and working things out in my mind followed by flurries of activities when I’m testing ideas or making. Even when I come to the end of a project I may still have moments when I think ‘I wonder how this would look/work if I did this…?’

FS: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
KK: The first year of business can be very uncertain where you are still finding your voice and developing your style. Now that I’ve tried different things the next step is to take stock of what worked and what needs improvement. From this point I want to focus on building my company’s brand and defining its identity. I want to continue to create well designed products that enrich people’s lives and of course aim for a platinum award the next time round.

FS: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
KK: I work independently during the design stages but seek second opinions and a fresh set of eyes when I feel like I may not be evaluating things objectively.

FS: Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
KK: I am currently working two new collections which are strongly influenced by my home country of Trinidad and the wider Caribbean. I want these collections to redefine Caribbean style and create products which the Caribbean people can relate to. I want to incorporate native crafts and making techniques and explore new uses for some traditional materials. I want these collections to show that Caribbean décor is not just palm fronds and sea shells but a rich multicultural tapestry steeped in history.

FS: How can people contact you?
KK: The best way to contact me is via email. I can be reached at or .

FS: Thank you for providing us with this opportunity to interview you.

A’ Design Award and Competitions grants rights to press members and bloggers to use parts of this interview. This interview is provided as it is; DesignPRWire and A' Design Award and Competitions cannot be held responsible for the answers given by participating designers.

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