The Wooden Heart – Episode 34

This was a mistake, Ash thought.

Everything about it was wrong. The space which had been given to the young designers’ exhibition was a side area in a vast reception hall of one of the big internationally famous mills.

Glass display cases were everywhere else, with beautifully lit blended cashmere and tartans. These drew visitors’ eyes, so that most people walked past the Living Design exhibition with barely a glance.

Most of the visitors were coach parties to the main mill. They either hung together like uncertain sheep, waiting for their guided tour to start, or bolted into the sales area and headed for the reduced racks.

The few who did drop into the exhibition were typically middle-aged husbands and wives, heading back to resume their car trip, and taking a cursory detour into the young designers’ space on their way out.

Barely a handful were interested enough to come over to the designers on duty and ask questions. Rather, they stood behind your workspace and stared.

It was unnerving to feel like an exhibit; the silent critical presence became more disruptive than any questions would have been.

Serious design work was quite impossible. The other young designer on duty sighed and pushed back his chair. He mimed drinking a cup of coffee and left.

On her own now, Ash listened to the chatter of a waiting coach party and began to doodle on her notepad. Her mind blank and depressed, she let her pencil follow its own path.

Somewhere around her third doodle, she stopped and frowned. She reached for her sketch pad.

With the large blank sheet of paper in front of her, she studied that last doodle, mentally reducing it to its essential form and pattern.

Picking up her pencil again, she began to draw tentatively, with frequent glances back to her doodle, then, with growing confidence, letting her pencil flow.

This design was different from her usual shapes and not really suitable for her ongoing textile work.

It was an image which developed its own life and began to evolve across the page, then flow seamlessly into a repeating pattern.

Increasingly absorbed, Ash never noticed the visitor until he had been standing at her shoulder for some time. She started in surprise and her pencil suffered a sharp change of direction.

“Sorry,” the man said. “I didn’t mean to surprise you, but I’ve been watching you for ages.”

He leaned over, looking more closely at the sketch.

“I like it. It has dynamism – or life, if you prefer. Can I see your portfolio of other designs, please? Better still, can you walk me through them?”

It was her first real interaction with the public so Ash forced herself to be calm and brought forward her files of design sketches.

“These early ones are from college,” she began.

“Yes,” he said. “Keep going, please.”

Ash leafed through the designs, saying a few words here and there, but quickly realising that there was no need to explain.

This man clearly knew his way around designs, working sketches and studios. His questions were quiet and professional, like dealing with one of the senior tutors in college.

She relaxed, letting the designs speak for themselves.

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.