How do creative companies evolve and flourish in the 21st century? Five of the best, based in Bristol, tell their stories here at Bristol’s home of design – the Ken Stradling Collection.
We explore what our icons design and make, how they came into being, and how being in Bristol helps them flourish. Bristol’s strong presence in the world of film and animation is represented by Aardman Animations, a key player in the City. The amazing and fascinating advances in technology supporting medicine are seen in the work of Limbs & Things and Kinneir Dufort, both winners of Queen’s Awards for Industry. Amalgam Modelmaking Ltd create extraordinary things in extraordinary ways for extraordinary people, while Xylotek create amazing structures using advanced timber technology.
All in all, these companies prove that long after Brunel’s ambitious and futuristic plans for the City, it is still a joyous and creative place for us to imagine our future.
This exhibition celebrates Bristol’s 650th year as a City and County by showcasing five iconic design stories.
The KSC gratefully acknowledges help from all our exhibition partners, patrons and Friends and particularly Peter Lord of Aardman Animations who has generously supported the exhibition.
The world famous, four times Academy Award® winning animation studio, creators of Wallace & Gromit, Shaun the Sheep, Chicken Run and Morph
“It was the early 1970s, and we were still at school when David Sproxton and I formed the partnership … creating animated films using plasticine as our medium of choice…
“And we set up shop in Bristol, which was more a lifestyle choice than a business decision.
“We created everything from music videos and TV series to commercials and feature films … at every stage we were assisted, guided and inspired by craftspeople, technicians and artists working in Bristol …
“Hands on and hand-made – we persist in a style of animation where the viewer is constantly aware of the craft and the love that has gone into it.”
Peter Lord, Co-Founder and Creative Director of Aardman
Amalgam offers an extensive range of creative services to develop and make models, displays and prototypes
Established in 1984 by four talented model makers, Amalgam quickly gained recognition in the architectural industry, becoming a preferred supplier for renowned architects like Norman Foster. Over the years, the company expanded its services to include prototyping, exhibitions, and point of sale projects.
Amalgam offers product development, design, and prototyping services to clients ranging from individual inventors to multinational corporations providing comprehensive support from concept to production. Clients include the BBC, Dyson and Rolls Royce.
User-centred design and product development consultancy creating innovative solutions our global medical, consumer and industrial clients
Founded in Bristol by Ross Kinneir and Francis Dufort, Kinneir Dufort has been designing and developing innovative products for companies around the world for 45 years.
Much of Kinneir Dufort’s work is in healthcare. Products include: respiratory inhalers (see photo), injectors, blood glucose meters, colostomy bags, diagnostic instruments, hospital equipment, prosthetic limbs and digital healthcare apps.
“Design thinking is about building an innate understanding of your end customer and finding meaningful ways to engage with them. Our team spoke to a patient who said that in 20 years of having, and being treated for, his condition, no-one had ever talked to him about his needs or asked him what he wanted.”
Craig Wightman, Chief Design Officer
Limbs & Things
Makers of medical task trainers and simulators to train healthcare practitioners to become more competent and confident professionals
Medical artist Margot Cooper believed that doctors and nurses should be able to learn and practice skills on realistic models. In 1990, with the help of her solicitor husband Nic, she established medical simulation company Limbs & Things.
“Right from the beginning, we made a number of products in darker skin tone … we were very active in Kimberley in Australia, which is home to many Aboriginal people. We now offer over 90% of our products in the dark as well as light skin tones”. Cooper explains.
All models and products are designed and made in Bristol and are shipped to customers internationally. Today, extensive skills training on models is accepted as essential for doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals across the globe.
Specialists in the design and delivery of advanced timber structures working with architects, engineers and directly with clients
Xylotek was founded in 2018 by directors Charley Brentnall, Oscar Emanuel and Martin Self with the aim of bringing together their diverse experience and shared passion for wood, to serve projects seeking high ambition for the application of timber in architecture.
Operating internationally with a remote design and management team, they have a design and workshop hub in Bristol.
With a varied client base, their specialism is in the delivery of non-standard timber structures that need innovative solutions: in seeking a well-designed low-carbon future, their driving motive is to change the world with wood.
Collector, entrepreneur, retail buyer, raconteur and founder of the Stradling Collection
Desk and chair 1935, designed by Marcel Breuer and made by P E Gane, Ltd., Bristol
This iconic desk and chair represent an extraordinary friendship between the Bristol furniture manufacturer, Crofton Gane, and the Bauhaus designer whom he befriended in 1935, Marcel Breuer. Breuer came to the UK as refugee and was extensively employed by Gane, notably to furnish his Bristol house as a demonstration of Breuer’s modern design. This is the desk from the house, which was illustrated in the Architectural Review at the time: it is part of a collection of pieces from the house in the Collection and also at the City of Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. These pieces are currently held by the Stradling Collection and will be on display as part of this exhibition.
“I’m interested in design generally, whether it’s pottery, glass, industrial design or crafts, it’s all design to me and that’s why I can go from one to the other.” This is Ken Stradling voicing the philosophy which, from 1948, created the remarkable Bristol Guild.
Surviving postwar austerity, the Guild became a centre for modernist design discovered by Ken through regular visits to Scandinavia and importers like Danasco, and his nurturing of individual craftspeople. The Guild was much more than a retail shop: for the sculptor Sid Burnard, “The Guild was my university, Ken was my tutor”. By the mid ’60s it had expanded to present a complete model of how the contemporary home should look.
Underpinning it all was Ken’s core belief that “learning to look can be as creative as learning to make”.
As a visitor kindly said of Ken in our visitors’ book, “… you and the Guild have informed my artistic taste since I was a VIth former at Bristol Grammar School.”
Photo of the Bristol Guild in the 1960s, shaping the tastes of the south west and Wales from the postwar design revolution onwards.