The Wooden Heart – Episode 35

When Asha finished, the man turned back to the original sketches for the design displays on the three mannequin figures allocated to her and nodded.

“I like your blend of fabrics – traditional and exotic. And I like the colours and patterns you used to complement the shapes. Can I have your notepad, please?”

With a few deft strokes of her pencil, he repeated the outline and essence of one of her designs.

“Now,” he said. “If you tuck in that fabric like this, and be more bold with the texture change like this . . .”

The pencil skimmed across the page, transforming her design. He straightened slowly.

“These adjustments make it professional, a potential winner, rather than a promising amateur exercise in design.”

The transformation was so spectacular that Ash felt no annoyance. Indeed, it was a natural development of her own thoughts.

“I like it,” she said simply, turning round.

He held out his hand.

“Turner, James Turner. I work with a small design consultancy in London. Where else?” He shrugged, smiling. “I’m on a busman’s holiday. You are Asha Melville? Tom told me he had unearthed a good ’un for his exhibition.

“What’s your background, Asha? What sort of experience have you had since college and what are your plans?”

On instinct, Ash liked the man. He was smart-casual in dress, like all businessmen these days, and in his early forties, she guessed.

He had a nice, relaxed manner. She found him easy to talk to and, in a relatively short period of time, she explained that she was still looking around, making up her mind which aspect of design she should take up, and whether to do this on her own or as an employee working in a team.

He nodded, completely on the same wavelength.

“What you need is an internship,” he said. “That’s a cross between a roving commission and an extended postgraduate course, working for a few months in textiles, then a few months in other fabric designs.”

He pointed at the design from her doodle.

“This one here could have so many applications. Repeating design is used on anything from curtains and carpets to wallpaper – even wrapping paper.

“With an internship, you’ll be working with other professionals, but your employer will be moving you around a series of different jobs to suss out where you might fit best, while you get a chance to learn and discover which type of work suits you.

“It’s hands-on learning without commitment until you’re ready to make your final decision.”

“I hadn’t really thought about that,” Ash admitted.

“Bear it in mind,” he said, glancing at his watch. “I must be off. I promised to pick up my wife from the town by four.”

Shaking hands again, he strode off through the other exhibits and out of the main reception area.

The other designer came back, smelling strongly of cigarette smoke.

“A customer?” he said. “Who was it?”

“No idea,” Ash said. “I’ve even forgotten his name. Jim somebody.”

The designer nodded.

“That’s useful,” he said. “Cuts the field down to about six million guys.”

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.