Case Study: Julie Phillips Designs

My experience of NaturalsCool design courses...

As a ‘backdoor’ architect, stepping sideways into architecture from interior design, through an opening created by a throw away remark, I have looked for new ways to make up for my lack of formal training.

After a good few years as a drawing board slave with some other deviations along the way (including crewing on yachts, working as a varnish girl, cook, curio shop assistant, plate painter, and restaurant manager..to name but a few.) I found myself about to become a single mother and needed to get serious about work. And when the designer I worked for ran out of work, the only way to stay afloat was to find my own clients, and so I started out on my own, in the deep end.

With no formal training I felt daunted, but soon learnt to steal with my eyes and to ask somebody who knew the answers, if I didn’t.

In this process I stumbled upon Keith Struthers who’s fresh and curvy take on architecture was something I had not encountered before. When I mentioned to Keith that I was about to build my own house he said to me ‘ I hope you will be using some curves' “ oh no, I replied “ I don’t know how’ To which he responded ‘it’s easy peasy, I’ll show you how’. And so my curvy house was conceived and Keith showed me easy ways to create a dynamic form.

At first the builders cursed me, but as the beautiful shapes emerged they became, excited and enlivened by the experience and thrilled to be going over the usual edges.

When Keith was initially conceptualising the courses he invited a group of wannabe’s to participate in the course for the price of materials. We couldn’t believe our luck. Years later when finally Naturalscool was officially launched, I was delighted to once again do the, now refined, modules.

Although the fees were now not insubstantial, I knew the course would be worth every cent. I knew I would have fun, I would get to play, interact and engage with new and interesting people and get to do things I simply wouldn’t expect to be doing. I knew it would be an intensely thought provoking, multi-dimensional, stretching experience, presented in a fresh innovative and holistic way. It would be so much more than just architecture and how to represent and apply curvilinear forms.

Having now Gone over the Edge and Played with Polarities I can say that it was all I had anticipated and more. To add to the allure, the venue was fabulous and the food sublime. The only dry thing about the course is the humour, and there is lots of it. Oh and you get a whole lot of CPD points by the way as an added bonus. Roll on Module three.

How do I integrate this into my practice? Well, I haven’t quite gone round the bend as it’s not often that I get to incorporate curvilinear forms into my straight designs. I find my clients fairly reluctant to be experimental. However, that has not even been the point for me. Some of what I have gained from the courses has been...

A wonderful connection with like minded people who have, over the years, remained connected and willing to share their skills and experiences. This has been invaluable.

Discovering the value of collaborating with others.

Being reminded to keep creativity alive by keeping loose and playful when starting out on a design (or anything in life for that matter)

Learning the value of working 3 dimensionally – with your hands

Learning to give positive and supportive feedback. This has made dealing with clients a much easier process and made my interaction with them far more relaxed, fun, flexible and productive.

And then occasionally I do get to do a beautifully curvy building.

Whether you are dedicated to organic and curvilinear design or just want to bring back the joy into your daily grind you won’t be disappointed. I dare you….to go over the edge… life will never be the same again.