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Cleveland College of Art & Design graduate, and home wear designer for Orla Kiely, Maria Cooper passes on her experience and knowledge to current CCAD student Hannah Suffell, 21, of Middlesbrough

A TOP North East designer has returned to her former college to help students draw up plans for their future.

ARIA Cooper, who works for Orla Kiely and is a former designer for retail giants H&M and British fashion icon Zandra Rhodes, spent a day in her old art college studio working with textile and surface design degree students at Cleveland College of Art & Design (CCAD). Originally from Shotton Colliery, Durham, Maria, 30, who graduated from CCAD in 2004 with a BA (Hons) in textile and surface design, is now based in London with a career that takes her all over the world.

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“CCAD is a very intimate college where the students are really looked after and nurtured.” Maria Cooper

ABOVE: Designer Orla Kiely

“It’s ironic really that the reason I chose to go to CCAD in the first place was that I was a bit of a home bird and didn’t want to leave the North East,” said Maria. “It also had, and still does have, amazing facilities and it’s great to be able to come back and pass on my experiences to up and coming young designers.” After graduating from CCAD, Maria studied for her Masters Degree at The Royal College of Art, before moving to Stockholm to take up her role as print designer for H&M.

ABOVE: Maria formally worked for design icon Zandra Rhodes

“I’d always been able to draw, so I knew I was destined for a creative career.” said Maria. “It was great to work for such a prestigious company as H&M straight after leaving college but after two years I was ready to come home.” After contacting CCAD on her return Maria was invited to take on a teaching role at the college for six months before accepting a position with A list designer Zandra Rhodes. “Working with Zandra was an incredible experience,” said Maria.“ She has designed for so many amazing people and I got the opportunity to work closely with her and other amazing creative designers like Jimmy Choo, Anna Sui and Kaffe Fasset.”


Maria has now taken up a new challenge working for global designer Orla Kiely designing her current collection of home wear including bed linen, lamps, sofas and ceramics.

“It’s ironic really that the reason I chose to go to CCAD in the first place was that I was a bit of a home bird and didn’t want to leave the North East—now I have a career that takes me all over the world.”

For further information on creative degrees at Cleveland College of Art & Design, contact (01642) 288888 or visit www.ccad.ac.uk

“I am still surprised sometimes when I think of how successful my career has been but I know that if it wasn’t for CCAD I wouldn’t have gone to The Royal College of Art and things could have been very different,” she said. “CCAD is a very intimate college where students are really looked after and nurtured and I feel very honoured to be asked back to try and pass on my knowledge and experience in the design field. “I’ve seen some great work today, very on trend and some really good ideas and I hope that I’ve been able to give the students some inspiration and

ABOVE & LEFT: Maria passes on her experience of the textile industry to student Hanna Suffell

tips on how to get ahead in a very competitive industry.” Textile student Hannah Suffell, 21, of Middlesbrough, added: “It is really inspiring to learn from someone like Maria who has been in the same position as we are now and who has been so successful as a designer.” Maria is one of a number of graduates who have gone on to work with leading design studios and companies. Other graduates are working with companies including House of Holland, Hallmark, Nordstrum and Roberto Cavalli.


Cleveland College of Art & Design student Tina Frank, 30, working on her leather designs for her final degree show costume based on the film Amadeus

IT’S hats off for a North East arts student after her innovative millinery designs earned her a prestigious educational award.

LEVELAND College of Art & Design student Tina Frank, 30, of Middleborough, received a £4,000 grant from The Worshipful Company of Leathersellers after impressing them with her handcrafted headwear and leather costumes.

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“I was literally down to the last £2 in my pocket and was £400 in debt when I heard I’d been given the bursary,” Tina Frank The cash bursary will enable Tina to continue with the final year of her BA (Hons) Entertainment Design Crafts course and help kick start her own hat making business. “I was literally down to the last £2 in my pocket and was £400 in debt when I heard I’d been given the bursary,” said Tina. “It was looking like I would have to apply for an emergency loan or even give up my studies and find a job just to survive, but now I have a real chance of making it.” The Leathersellers’ Company has been supporting education at all levels since the 17th century.

A selection of the millinery designed and made by Tina Frank that impressed the Leathersellers


ABOVE: Tina works on her miniature replica set of Amadeus and puts the finishing touches to the leather designs which will be fitted to her final year degree show costume

It was founded by royal charter in 1444 and given the authority to control the sale of leather within London and now devotes its energies supporting charities, education and the British leather trade. Despite being a strict vegetarian, and not wearing leather herself, Tina found her talent for using the material within her costume designs at CCAD.

“Having the bursary and the support of CCAD will make a real difference.” Tina Frank

Above: Tina with the leather work for her final degree project Amadeus inspired costume and one of her acclaimed hat designs

“I’d made a leather gladiator outfit in my first year which I took to my interview,” said Tina. “I also took my portfolio and some of the hats I’d been working on and the panel seemed very impressed not only with my design and creative skills but also with my business ideas for the future.”

As well as starting her own business Tina has also applied to The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art to continue her art studies. “I knew I always wanted to do something creative involving entertainment,” said Tina. “I originally came to CCAD on a film and television production course but I wasn’t really that good behind the camera. “I was given the opportunity to be a runner on a film called The Tournament, which was co-written by my brother Jonathan Frank, who also studied at CCAD, and when I saw the work that the art department did creating props and costumes I knew that that was what I wanted to do. “Having this bursary and the support of CCAD will make a real difference in helping me achieve that goal.” For further information on creative degrees at Cleveland College of Art & Design, contact (01642) 288888 or visit www.ccad.ac.uk

CCAD in the Press - April 2013  

Stories which went to press in April 2013