Runners up in the Blackwood Design Awards 2016 - we speak to the charity Demand!

It’s a very cheery voice that greets me at the other end of the line when I call up Lynnette Smith from the charity Demand. ‘All of our projects start with either a phone call or an email, just an enquiry from someone who has a challenge that they need some creative help with’, Lynnette explains. Demand is a charity that provides creative solutions when there’s nothing suitable to buy that suits those needs. And there’s no shortage of creative thinking at Demand.


Lynnette has had a varied career at Demand, starting out as a designer and working on a variety of projects include the Frieasel (more on that below) but these days she takes care of the marketing for this vibrant and inventive organisation.

Demand has helped many people over the years from mum Laura who needed one off designed changing table so she could change her baby girl’s nappies to Keen pianist JJ who was not forced to give up the ivories thanks to Demand’s sturdy cantilever that can support a digital piano to hover over his bed at an angle.


The Frieasel was first prototyped by Lynnette although she specifies that a good few people have worked on it since its inception. The opportunity for something brilliant came about in an ordinary way for Demand - ‘In this instance the phone call came from a lady who was teaching a painting class at a care home quite local to us. She was running a weekly painting class and had helped with a lot of adapted paint brushes and found ways for people to start expressing themselves.’


There were however some aspiring artists who struggled to reach the canvas, the teacher along with her assistant had to physically hold it in place for them at a suitable angle.


‘She came to us with two questions really. She had one artist who had a very strong impulsive movement with his arms. If he was using a normal easel the painting would fly off; it wouldn’t stay in place. She also had painters who couldn’t reach their arms out far enough to reach the canvas, so that was when she had to hold the canvas close to them. So we started designing and we thought it would take two solutions but as it turned out the Frieasel that we came up with was strong enough and sturdy enough for Mark, who paints with strong uncontrolled arm movement, but it was also flexible enough for the painters who can’t reach their arms out any distance to get to the canvas.’


The Frieasel was first designed in 2011 and since then 2 more prototypes have been developed. This year four of the artists gave a presentation and exhibited at the Royal Academy of Art. In their speech they spoke about how their painting had developed since using the Frieasel. Not taking away from the brilliant tuition they have received from Anita who is their painting teacher, the Frieasel nonetheless gives them a lot more control and freedom to explore their creativity.


The Blackwood Design Awards


In late 2016 Demand officially entered the Frieasel into the Blackwood Design Awards in the ‘Best New Concept’ category. Lynnette explains whys Demand entered:

“We were big fans of the S’up Spoon which won just last year. One of our previous design students had actually worked with 4c Design when they were developing it. So we were big fans of that and just watched the success of it really. And we saw that the Blackwood Design Awards was growing this year and having two different categories so we wanted to have a shot ourselves.”


Frieasel soon established itself as one of the favourites in its category and the competition overall, and in mid-December Lynnette got the notification that Frieasel had gone through to the final of the Blackwood Design Awards.

‘We were excited. We’ve not won competitions in anything for our designs before because we don’t tend to get publicised much. So it’s great to see our stuff on the internet and getting shortlisted.’ Unfortunately for Demand however, this would ultimately not be their year for the trophy as after much deliberation, the judges opted for another finalist in the ‘Best New Product’ category. Lynnette has no regrets though, and speaks fondly of the competition. ‘The thing I really love about entering competitions like that is just seeing everyone else’s entries. It’s a really good forum new designs and new ideas to get out there and get seen.


The Blackwood Design Awards attracts brilliant and innovative designs and concepts that can help people who have disabilities live more independently. Before we draw our conversation to a close, Lynnette gives a small spoiler that guarantees 2017 will be another great year… As we finish talking about the competition she just quickly adds in, ‘I’m sure you will hear from our team again next year!’


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