Manchester School of Art Degree Show 2021

Every year I like to find inspiration in emerging makers and what a better place to start than the university where I studied for 3 years, Manchester Metropolitan University.

*Disclaimer: all images used in this blog post are from the Manchester Metropolitan University Degree Show 2021 website*

For the last two years the university has had to change the way it runs its degree shows due to covid restrictions, this year the degree show is online. I have had a nosey through the work and selected a few of my favourites to share with you. Understandably, the students have worked harder than ever and produced great work considering the uncertain circumstances. The university have promised to create a physical degree show for 2020 and 2021 graduates in Spring of 2022, I really hope this can go ahead and I really look forwards to seeing the work in a physical setting as well as meeting the creatives.

Right. Lets get on to my favourites from the show.

(please note that I have picked these individuals because I like the work- please do check the whole exhibition out and make your own collection of favourites)


Ok, i'm going to jump straight in with some heavy story telling with these two animations.

Mollie Jone's 'Fin' animation is powerful and quite a hot topic more recently- especially with documentaries like 'Seaspiracy' highlighting issues within the fishing industry and the environmental impact that our oceans are undergoing. The story is told without words, just drawing and music to narrate the short film. I enjoyed the basic colour palette, simple shapes and lines in this one.

Another water related animation, Osian Roberts' film Tryweryn tells the story of Capel Celyn. This animation is a great way of bringing history to life by drawing and is narrated by Osian in Welsh. The story of Capel Celyn was one that I wasn't aware of until today but i'm glad that Osian has told it's story and brought it back to the surface in a very sensitive way.

Illustration With Animation

I've always been drawn to stop-motion animation and I was instantly taken in by this set up by

Bobby Needham. This set reminds me of being a young girl and peering into the magical world of a dolls house and it also joins my memories of visiting New York with my home city of Manchester. This industrial set up is very detailed and Bobby's drawings are equally as detailed and magical.

Ashleigh Blades

I've followed the development of Ashleigh's work since I discovered her sketchbook in the Manchester School of Art Sketchbook Prize in 2019 (see Ashleigh's sketchbook here). We've stayed in touch through various projects since then. During her time at university and through the pandemic, Ashleigh has created a zine and a book to share other people's experiences of lockdown and the impacts on their mental health. The illustrations are very thoughtful and gentle and the colours, textures and lines really bring it to life.

Lily Kroese

I came across Lily's work just before the degree show and fell in love with the muted colours she uses combined with the shapes she uses to describe people within her drawings. Lily created the book Bird Girl to connect with children about loss and finding their way in new situations.

I really can't wait to see this work in the flesh.


Jessica Neary's 'Navigating the Unfamiliar' took me straight back to my Grandad's greenhouse, we'd spend hours in there planting tomatoes and using bits of recycled materials to prop plants up and tying things together with old bits of string. The gentle colour palette that Jessica has used reminds me of a daydream-like state that somehow makes the objects seem familiar.

Textiles in Practice

Kathryn Webb

I selected Kathryn's work because she shares the whole process as she goes through each step of this sustainable and traditional process of using wool and natural dyes. Her open and honest approach is inspiring and her final pieces are functional as well as decorative. I really enjoy that simple hand stitched edge on the last image.

Three Dimensional Design

Here's another set of work that I can't wait to see in a physical form. Cicely Peers has created some beautiful objects that challenge the boundaries between mass produced and handmade. I find the work very calming and Cicely's process video was equally as calming and well constructed. There has been a lot of thought gone into this design and it can be used in many different ways to create different outcomes.

Fine Art

I keep finding myself disappearing into Annabelle Roberts paintings. The movement and colours in the different transparencies and layers of paint are mesmerising. I'm sure this work will take on a whole different level when it's viewed in a physical format.

Foundation Diploma in Art & Design

(For anyone who doesn't know, the Foundation course is a year long course that allows the students to try out lots of different areas and materials before choosing which degree they want to study- or even to see if a creative path is for them.)

I always love to have a nosey at the foundation work as it's always full of enthusiasm and experimentation - the students really throw themselves into the work. Due to the way the work has been displayed digitally this year, I've included the times in which these particular creatives appear on their subject videos.

Graphic Design and Illustration

'A Trip to Tesco' by Emily O'neill, (6:17 minutes into the video).

A trip to Tesco has been a main source of 'outing' for most of us in lockdown, I really enjoy the way Emily has focused on this very mundane task - something that was previously taken for granted by most of us. I particularly like the perspectives in this work too and the way the food is all lined up in a uniform way.

Fashion & Textiles

Grace Fordom-Bibby (5:14 minutes into the video)

I really admire these beautiful fabric sketchbooks created from on site 'drawings' in thread using embroidery. I really enjoy the way Grace has included the backs of her designs - the knots make a really beautiful line quality.

That's it from this year's Degree Show from Manchester School of Art, please add your favourites in the comments - I can't help but think I might have missed a few when I was navigating the website!

#MollyNewport #ManchesterSchoolOfArt

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