'I was working in an agency in London and we were involved with a lot of projects in Ireland, which meant I was very aware of a lot of exciting things developing here. This constant focus on Ireland only emphasised how much I wanted to be in Ireland working on these things from here, not from the UK. I also just missed the craic...' Kate Brangan grew up in Dublin, studied in IADT and Central Saint Martins, and has found herself back in her home town again. She's one half of design and risograph studio Or Studio with Jo Little, and is now part of the teaching team in NCAD's Department of Communication Design.
'A new Illustration honours degree sits alongside the newly-titled honours degree in Graphic Design and it will give students with a particular interest in illustration the opportunity to study their practice in a focused and dedicated way. That said, there's a broader skillset required within the creative industries and all students within the department will be educated in the fundamentals of design process, which I'll play a role in teaching. I really enjoy teaching: any experience I have to date has lead me to fully recognise the importance of nurturing a culture that values effective design, challenges the existing, questions the familiar and encourages curious minds. I feel incredibly fortunate to have been given an opportunity to share that in a stimulating learning environment. I am working as part of a great team with fantastic students and it’s exciting to see where things will take us in the next few years.'
As exciting as it is, not just to see changes unfold in NCAD at the moment, but to be part of them, Kate nevertheless keeps up an interesting and varied design practice at Or Studio. Based in Dublin 1, Kate and Jo generate their own content, projects and initiatives, while also taking on client work. Recent projects include Shape the Future, a recent DCCoI exhibition, and Bookshelf in Press, the cafe of the National Print Museum. 'The bookshelf is a space that I built (not very complicated, it's a plank of mdf!) and use to share any publications and magazines that I have picked up in other cities or online. It was 100% inspired by Hansje Van Halem's Schrank 8 Gallery. The acts as a sort of “living library”, which I update every couple of months with new issues or journals. It's so simple in its aesthetics but provides access to new ideas in a pleasant environment and therefore, for me, represents something much larger than its meagre physicality would suggest. The shelf leads into this idea of sharing knowledge and tools in the hope of elevating dialogue and experiences for everyone.'
Of course, above all else, at least for now, is Riso, with which an ambition for Kate and Jo is to get going as a publishing house for work of their own as well as other artists, designers and illustrators. 'We are familiar with a lot of the Riso studios internationally and it's always exciting to see what they are creating using the same tool as we have. There’s something really fun about not knowing how the inks are going to blend, or what you’re going to get out of the machine, but you have to kind of test and experiment and play around and see how the materials behave. It's also really nice to be able to share this tool with other designers and artists and this sharing economy approach is something else that really excites me.'
Like with everyone else we've spoken to for In With the New, we ask Kate what her current obsessions are. She responds with a list of books, projects and music recommendations: The Experimenters, a book about John Cage, Josef Albers and Buckminster Fuller and their three different approaches to experimentation while teaching at Black Mountain College, the music of Kate Tempest and Norwigi, a project called The Clearing... 'Also this book – totally down with the Wabi Sabi vibes!' And the other crucial In With the New question, what's the most important thing she's learned so far? 'Tricky one! I feel like the most important thing I have learned so far, I learned from Maurice Sendak, when he repeats “Live Your Life” three times at the end of this conversation.' We recommend you take five minutes to watch it, but have a tissue close to hand, just in case...