As a final year Interior Design student at Cardiff Met, I have come a long way in learning about my interests and passions within my course. In particular, my second-year work placement at Spittal VC School in Pembrokeshire was a career defining experience.
The project, sponsored by Arts Council of Wales, was a great opportunity for a variety of reasons. It gave me the chance to work on a live project, with real clients and real requirements. I was also able to gain some teaching skills by working alongside young children for 4 to 5 hours a day, and even learn some carpentry.
The original brief was to teach year 4 and 5 pupils about Interior Design, and about what Interior Designers do. Up until then, I had only ever explained this to adults, so it was a real challenge to make the kids understand about the many different aspects of my field of work.
Through lots of different hands-on activities designed by me and two other students on my course – Jaisy Davies and Jarret Williams – we taught the kids all about measuring, scale, perspective, modelling, and building. The activities weren’t always tidy and organised though – especially when spaghetti and marshmallows were the model building materials!
But work placement at Spittal ended up being a lot longer than other work placements, which generally last for less then a month – after the 7th week of the project, we finally stopped teaching and we went back to our University to work on a new design for the classroom.
Given that the classroom was a fairly small space, the design process ended up being very challenging for us. The brief for the new design was to create zones within the classrooms where children could work on different subjects at the same time.
Every week we went back to the school with new visuals and new ideas to show the children and the teacher. After several changes the design was approved and we started building.
With the help of Nigel Williams from the wood workshop at the university we built a beehive themed story-telling bench, with attached bookcases. This saved a lot of space in the classroom, gave the books a permanent home and also offered a few more seating areas.
Using metal bars, we created hoops by bending and welding them; we then covered these in colourful yarn, and hung them from the ceiling of the classroom to create the learning zones.
We also sanded, painted and polished the cabinets they used to keep various classroom materials, using different colours, each associated with a different subject.
In the art area, we installed a peg wall for the kids to keep all their working materials in one place, avoiding clutter and mess in the classroom.
As the budget was limited to £1000 we had to contain ourselves and some of our crazy ideas – of which were many! But overall, the project went great and we were able to produce a great design for the classroom which made the kids really happy.
This project was a great starting point for me and my future career, since both my dissertation and my final year project are about school design – and it was also a lot of fun!