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Class of 2021: Plural

Portrait of five women holding baskets on the heads
Portrait of five women holding baskets on the heads
Paula Camiña Eiras, MA Biodesign
Written by
Teleri Lloyd-Jones and Zara Roberts
Published date
17 August 2021

On the Graduate Showcase you'll find a collection of work by students who place collaboration at the centre of their creative practice. Here, we pause on three projects – from mental health to material innovation – that rely on connection and codesign.

PLURAL is a collection of work co-curated by Pentagram and Do The Green Thing. Celebrating collaboration in its many forms: "They can be seamless – where it’s hard to see where one contribution stops and another starts. They can be amplifying – where multiple voices ring louder than one. They can be catalysing – where the collaboration makes new things possible."

Shielding by BA Graphic Communication Design student, Cameron John, is an intimate, socially distanced documentation of the daily routines of people that had to shield because of COVID-19. Shielding refers to people that are clinically extremely vulnerable and are at a high risk of serious illness from COVID-19. During the pandemic, 2.2 million people in the UK were advised by the government to shield by remaining at home and avoiding as much face-to-face contact as possible.

A friend of his family was shielding and Cameron became aware of the intense isolation of that experience. “I felt they deserved more recognition,” he says, “I wanted to create some form of platform”. With a combination of friends, family and social media, Cameron found more shielding volunteers aged from 16 to 90. He asked them to record their daily routines using disposable 35mm cameras, free to document anything they wanted. Alongside the photography, volunteers also wrote down reflections – some wrote pages upon pages, others very little. Once lockdown restrictions were lifted, Cameron visited each volunteer to take their portrait.

  • Esther-120-1.jpg
    , Cameron John, BA Graphic Communication Design
  • Stella-120-02.jpg
    , Cameron John, BA Graphic Communication Design

All these components were then compiled in one publication, a chapter for each person. The final document doesn’t focus on why the participants are shielding but instead presents their view on that experience. Keen to minimise his control within this collaboration, Cameron made no edits to the texts or corrections to the photographs, in fact each chapter closes the full contact sheets (you can support the project at its Kickstarter page)


Cameron John

They've given so much to the project. And at the end of the day, it's about their experience. My portraits give an idea of who this person is, but their emotion is in their pictures, the ones they took themselves, that’s the real narrative of what they'd been experiencing.

— Cameron John, BA Graphic Communication Design

Graduating from MA Graphic Communication Design, Lily Kong explored loneliness with anonymised contributors. For I’m Fine, she requests people’s stories of small incidents that trigger loneliness and then she illustrates them. Those illustrations, shared on Instagram, share glimpses of other people’s experiences, at once so specific and, yet, universal. Everyone who submits a story receives a postcard of a stranger’s story. At the centre of the network, Lily had created a platform of anonymised connection during a time of pandemic isolation.

I'm Fine

Lily Kong

As the illustrator, Lily frames the stories with a gentle humour. The title of the project I’m Fine closes each story, puncturing any sadness with self-deprecation.

Speaking to Creative Review, Lily said: “I always try to find humour in these upsetting stories and make myself feel better. It became particularly significant in the year of the pandemic. I wanted to introduce it to my friends and audience, hoping that they will feel better about being alive. I decided to subtly introduce a more positive attitude towards upsetting stories, hence I started the project I’m Fine.”

Paula Camiña Eiras’s project for her MA Biodesign began in lockdown, while she was at her home in Galicia, Spain. Looking to the local fishing industry, she found that 602 tonnes of seafood exoskeletons were wasted annually and began exploring biomaterials that she could make from the shells of seafood. The result was a flexible and elastic biomaterial that biodegrades, and in those material properties, she reflects: “I see so much potential.”

  • Rodri-Porcelli-32.jpg
    , Paula Camiña Eiras, MA Biodesign
  • Rodri-Porcelli-108.jpg
    , Paula Camiña Eiras, MA Biodesign

At the same time, she saw how basketmaking and its craft knowledge was in decline in Galicia. Demand had fallen and reforestation in the area introduced non-autochthonous species, reducing the plants that had, for centuries, been available to basket makers.

In the past, basketry and the seafood industry had been closely connected because the fishing traps were made locally; Co-Obradoiro Galego reinstates this collaboration. Paula approached makers with her extruded material, asking them to explore the material possibilities. Her intent is to retain the traditional forms of basketry in Galicia while incorporating this new sustainable material. In conversation with basket makers, she designed a series of vessels sensitive to those traditions.

It was the first time these particular makers had been approached to collaborate but they were so open with me... They always work with local materials, seeing what is around them. For them, this material is very attractive because it is sustainable but also local, connecting again with the seafood industry. It is a beautiful collaboration.

— Paula Camiña Eiras, MA Biodesign

Co-Obradoiro Galego

Paula Camiña Eiras

Through Co-Obradoiro Galego, Paula demonstrates how designers can rethink the relationships between industries. Working at home due to the pandemic only emphasised her contextual perspective: “As biodesigners, we need to always take the local approach and look for local solutions.”

Support Cameron's Shielding project on Kickstarter. Explore more collaborative work in the Plural Collection on the Graduate Showcase.