Foraging with award-winning Arts University Plymouth student Zara McDermott
BA (Hons) Illustration student Zara McDermott has won a Global Challenges Award at Arts University Plymouth for an innovative zine that she designs about ethical foraging, designed to promote good health and wellbeing in a sustainable way.
The zine was created in response to the global challenge themes that are embedded across the curriculum of Arts University Plymouth, challenging every undergraduate student to link their creativity to their families, communities and nation, finding new ways to create meaningful world impact through their work.
Second year students were asked to create a piece of artwork inspired by a challenge that the earth faces today. Four winning projects were voted for by staff and students at the arts university, with BA (Hons) Illustration student Zara McDermott selected as one of the winners.
Zara said: “My foraging zine is a representation of my love for illustration and health and wellbeing. By sharing this information in a visually appealing way, I hope to educate and inspire others to explore the world of foraging and discover the many benefits it can have for our overall health. Having my zine nominated this award and then winning was such an honour and fulfilling experience. It was really rewarding to have my work recognised and celebrated. I'm hugely grateful for this opportunity, and want to continue pursuing my passions and sharing with the world.”
Originally from Kent, Zara discovered Arts University Plymouth at New Designers, the leading annual showcase of the UK's most innovative emerging design talent. Last year Bonnie Mustoe-Whitehill, a BA (Hons) 3D Design Crafts graduate from the arts university, was awarded the Runner Up award for New Designer of the Year at the showcase, while previously BA (Hons) Illustration graduate Jake Williams won first place as New Designer of the Year.
Speaking of her experience at New Designers, Zara said: “I just loved the work being exhibited, and then when I visited Arts University Plymouth not long after, I knew it was the place for me. When it came time for me to apply for university, I didn't apply anywhere else. This place was my top and only place I wanted to go.
“I love my course, it's everything I wanted it to be. I feel like I've learnt so much already and I’m only half way through. Being surrounded everyday with like-minded people is such an amazing thing. It's such a good space to work in. The tutors on my course are all really great, friendly and always happy to help. The location is great too, one of my favourite things is seeing the sunsets from our studio space during the winter months and the view of the sea from the top floors.”
When asked about the inspiration behind her work, Zara said: “Inspiration is everywhere, I try to take in as much as possible. I think it's really important to celebrate and take inspiration from where you are and who you are. No one has your perspective and experience of the world, so showcasing that is how I believe we can thrive most as creatives and also people. There are so many creatives and illustrators who inspire me and are amazing at what they do, like Lily Kong, Mark Conlan, Natalia Oskiera, just to name a couple of my favourites.
“I think I would describe my work as wholesome, I like to create work that uplifts others. Over the years I've realised the importance of my practice and how I can create work that is visually appealing but also informs others. I'm really passionate about physical and mental well-being. Merging my love for Illustration with promoting good health is my biggest goal/dream.”
Zara combines hand drawn elements and digital illustrations on her iPad to create her unique style. She was heavily inspired by Micheal Pollen, the author and journalist for her foraging zine. Zara said, “Michael Pollen inspires me hugely, he explains how eating plants and wholefoods is so important for our health and well-being. Learning this and researching the advantages of being in nature for a previous project, I discovered that foraging combines these two benefits together. I've been intrigued about foraging previously, and the only knowledge I had of it was picking blackberries when I was younger with my grandparents. I thought making an introductory book to the world of foraging was the perfect project for global challenges.”
Zara’s foraging zine has now been entered to the 2023 Creative Conscience Awards, which are designed to celebrate exciting projects that focus on social or environmental impact. Last year Arts University Plymouth BA (Hons) Illustration graduate Kate Channing won the Gold Creative Conscience Award for her innovative entry to the ‘Packaging Design’ category.
BA (Hons) Illustration Lecturer Phillip Trenerry said: “Zara created an artefact that welcomes new audiences to the world of foraging. Her publication identified positive benefits to this activity, including engagement with and care for green spaces, dietary awareness and improvement of mental and physical health. Zara's advocacy was delivered through vibrant illustrations and a warm written tone and she was careful to consider the ethics surrounding her project, from health and safety through to accuracy of information. Zara worked openly and positively with art direction throughout the creative process. She is a pleasure to work with and a well-deserved award winner.”
Associate Professor Stephanie Owens at Arts University Plymouth said: “Zara’s work is an excellent example of what can be possible when students embrace the global challenges element that was recently introduced to our undergraduate curriculum. We strive to offer a porous curriculum that is always connected to the changes and challenges of the world in which we live. Our students are free to specialise and develop their own unique interests and pathways, but we structure our curriculum in a way that encourages every student to address what we have in common, embrace difference and think about how best to bridge divides. Whether this means building bridges between subject areas, peoples, culture or broader difficulties faced by society, it’s vital that we empower students to recognise that what they do and what they create lives within a broader societal context, helping them foster meaningful impact in the world outside of their studios as well as within them.”