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Brainchild winner announced

A range of cushions and upholstery using fabric designs derived from the 200-year-old patterns of the Strangers of Norwich are being prepared for high street retail after their creator Sue Foster won Brainchild 2011 – a ‘Dragons’ Den’-style enterprise competition run by Norwich University of the Arts.

Sue Foster and Laura Garrow holding the competition winning cushion designs

Brainchild 2011 winner Sue Foster (left) displays her fabric designs with last year’s winner Laura Garrow

The competition provides a series of workshops on professional skills to NUA students and recent alumni, before inviting them to submit their business ideas for judgment by a panel drawn from local businesses. Sue, who graduated from a postgraduate textiles course at NUA in 2010, made a final shortlist of six before claiming first prize of worth £6,000, including professional mentoring and £1,000 cash.

Second placed Emma Daniels was congratulated on her intricate laser-cut wall hangings while April Keats earned third place for her designer wristbands which carry the wearer’s encoded personal information. All three prize winners will enjoy dedicated mentoring from each of the competition’s corporate supporters: networking organisation Norfolk Network, chartered accountants Lovewell Blake, Farrows design agency, Barclays Bank, web design agency Selesti and solicitors Steeles Law.

Chair of the judging panel Bev Hurley, founder of Norfolk Network, announced the winner in a ceremony held in NUA’s Duke Street Building Foyer on Wednesday 23rd March. She said: “We’re always impressed with the creative talent and imaginative proposals that are presented to us during the Brainchild competition. This year the judges were particularly impressed by Sue’s passion for her project.”

The range of brightly coloured patterns Sue has created stem from three years of work researching the fabric books of the Strangers in conjunction with the Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service. The Strangers were Dutch and Flemish immigrants invited to settle in the city in the 16th Century by the Norwich authorities to boost the local textiles industry, injecting a love of bright colours into the city’s textiles output and raising it to become the biggest seat of textile manufacture in England.

Sue Foster said: “The colour and variation in the Strangers’ design is what attracted my interest. They look really modern even though they’re 200 years old and are just asking to be developed into a fabric range. I’ve derived my patterns from their original pattern books and will use some of the proceeds of their sales to preserve these documents.

“Entering the Brainchild competition has given me confidence that I have a good idea – I’ve come out of each workshop more confident and positive about putting a business together. It’s a great platform for students to become more professional and I think NUA is becoming increasingly reflective of what industry requires in creative professionals. Students are realising they have to become more focused on what they will achieve post-study.”

Keith Bartlett, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of NUA, said: “Business skills are a focus for all our courses as we prepare students to enter and thrive in the professional world. Brainchild offers a unique opportunity for our students to gain valuable face-time with business professionals and get enthusiastic about applying their knowledge, skills and creativity in their own venture.”

Sue Foster, John Last and Bev Hurley

Sue Foster with NUA Vice-Chancellor Professor John Last and chair of the judging panel Bev Hurley

Emma Daniels

Second-placed Emma Daniels holds up one of her laser-cut wall hanging designs

April Keats

Third-placed April Keats with her wristbands encoded with personal information

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