A fast and varied career in the world of interior design has taken Emma Smetham all over the UK and parts of Europe.
“My practice has become increasingly interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary with an emphasis on visual communication,” says Emma.
Emma teaches Interior Design at our Harrogate site. Her professional expertise spans the Faculty of Art and Design to include Hull and Harrogate. She is also our Quality Improvement Student Support Manager at both sites has recently been involved in Open University validation events; and offers academic advice and support where she is able to within the faculty.
Emma began to diversify into teaching in the early 1990s and has taught higher education at Harrogate since 2007.
Reflecting on her own academic background, Emma says:
“It was An Art and Design Foundation course at Nottingham Polytechnic in 1988 that sparked my interest in interior design, engaging in the design process including 3D design. “I was very lucky to have tutors that guided me in the right direction.”
After graduating in Interior Design from Leeds Polytechnic, Emma went straight into industry, working with an architecture practice in London. The next rung on the career ladder took her to another architecture practice in Nottingham this time as project designer on large-scale commercial interior and architectural projects.
By 1990, she was working on large office environmental design projects throughout the UK planning and specifying high spec. system furniture for large office environments.
Here, Emma developed a niche area of expertise in commercial lighting, specifying for a variety of internal and external environments. Again she diversified into another area of Interior Design working initially for a German lighting company and then an Italian lighting company and subsequently designing a range of bespoke fittings for a variety of clients and concepts.
For Emma, teaching combined with research and consultancy is the natural career progression.
Her research interests include issues surrounding regeneration and renewal of industrial architecture in Yorkshire and beyond.
In 2012, Emma completed an MA in Image and Time-Based Media based around her research interests, which allowed her to maximise existing skills and learn new ones, such as photo-etching.
“I based my MA on the theme of regeneration and renewal of existing industrial architecture located in textile towns in and around Yorkshire,” she says. “One of the focuses of my investigation was a building called Pioneer House in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire which was once a co operative and now a Grade 2 listed building. Working with Kirklees Council, I looked at ways in which its legacy could be continued by regenerating it for a variety of uses and opportunities with in a once thriving and now struggling community. I feel we have a responsibility as designers to look at ways of regenerating communities and areas that are sadly in deprivation”.
The social responsibility of designers is a recurring theme in Emma’s teaching, practice and research. Organisations such as English Heritage, Urban Splash, Urban Renaissance, The Prince’s Regeneration Trust are all influences.
“My work is a fusion of my industrial experience, research and teaching,” she says. “This involves raising awareness of personal and professional responsibilities as a designer, being aware of environmental issues, utilising sustainable design and developing a strong identity and philosophy.”
Consultancy work in the interior design industry has been a constant throughout Emma’s career. She aims to achieve a balance between having an awareness of contemporary current industrial knowledge and experience which ultimately feeds into her teaching.