Going places, finding myself

VBAT’s Annabel on making a new start.

Written by Annabel Loftus
Creative Intern at VBAT

Collection of work by Annabel Loftus

My art teacher had always told me I had a loose style and I should keep it — because it was different. The influence of the impressionist painter Pierre Bonnard made me think about colour and dimensions in a looser form. I thought if how he painted was possible, then anything could be. For someone who loved art I wanted to explore more, such as to explore design — the way of shaping art.

‘’It is still colour, it is not yet light’’ Pierre Bonnard
Drawing from my first live drawing class back when I was 17. Source: Annabel Loftus

Being the odd one out on purpose, I’d always try to dress differently from the other six formers. There was a need to be unique all the time so I had to express my identity externally. As I am half Thai and half English it was an advantage to appreciate culture on both sides. The disadvantage, however, was most of the time people assuming whether I looked more one half than the other half. I grew up in Bangkok for 18 years, and then decided to study art foundation in Falmouth in the UK. This was the chance to understand my identity more.

So, in 2014, in art school full of pretentious students (including me) I moved from specializing in 2D to 3D. There was a realisation that I wanted to do design when the process of thinking was exciting to me — referencing Bonnard’s quote, the possibilities were endless when it comes to perfecting something. At the end of the course — the result was a 3D sculpture installation which represented space can be experimented with, through form and light. This led to a random outcome, slightly pretentious as this was a student trying to understand design.

One of my pieces for my final exhibition at art foundation. Source: Annbel Loftus

I decided to join the world of Interior Design by starting the bachelor’s degree in 2015. The meaning of Interior Design is actually so vague people assumed I decorate rooms with tables and chairs! I wanted to prove people wrong, by thinking about redefining, and adapting design to a more unconventional purpose.

There were, of course, restrictions in identity expression when it comes to clients. By the time I got to my second year of studies I was interested in production design for films and exhibition design. It was good to be open to any kind of design because interior design is actually a broad subject. The course was rewarding as it covered projects ranging from hospitality, brand to installations. Learning how to create from computer programs was different from hand drawings, I learnt how to use different kinds of rendering to express my designs. It didn’t matter if some projects were not executed well in the end — the process of thinking was the most rewarding part.

Interior design had changed me — from someone who had a loose style, I was good at maths and became interested in the technical side of design as well. Drawing lines in CAD programs was therapeutic but stressful at the same time. I came into the course expecting it to be a bumpy ride, rather than a smooth one.

By the end of the third year of studies, an interest in staircase design had arisen — it was an artistic form of technical difficulties. Designing a hedonistic hotel called ‘Inn-ferno’ based on the seven deadly sins was a massive project. The ideas for this were never ending and overwhelming. I worked so hard for this project, for 10 weeks I stayed on campus everyday even the weekends because of dedication — my degree show had to look good. I even designed a helical staircase that was a nightmare to calculate because I kept having to adjust it all the time. The effort I put in for this was 100%, the result was being highly praised and winning a star pupil prize for such a daring scheme.

The ‘Helli-cal’ Staircase — made out of pure hell.

Coming to terms to entering the design industry, what I learnt was experience is the most important thing. The way we perceive things is a huge factor on how our experience would be like.

My projects were immersive — the motivation was to create a change on how clients define the word ‘hotel’ ,’swimming pool’ or ‘restaurant’. My final degree show (‘Inn-ferno’) was based on emotion manipulation where there was a user hierarchy as all the sins were different. It led to my philosophy that, to get what I want there is the principle of pleasure and the principle of pain.

Me, dressed in red to correlate with the theme at my degree show. Source: Annbel Loftus

So here I am, in Amsterdam as a creative intern at VBAT. Just for new experiences, having to leave the people I love once more for a new start. There is a further future intention to go to different places to work and ‘find myself’ (just like gap years but not as pretentious hopefully). Expecting a bumpy ride once more, I shall refer to Bonnard’s quote once more but replacing the words ‘light’ and ‘colour’ –but in a more positive manner.

“It is still right, it is not yet wrong’’ — Annabel Loftus

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written by Annabel Loftus, Creative at VBAT
edited by Connie Fluhme, PR at VBAT