Emily Maloney is a final year BA (Hons) Visual Communication student, and one of the first recipients of a Leeds Arts University Alumni Fund Bursary.

We caught up with her to find out why she applied to the fund and how the bursary has helped to progress her practice.

Why did you apply for the Alumni Fund bursary?

I’m an upcyclist designer in furniture and accessories, trying to raise awareness towards sustainability in the interior design industry and how upcycling old items instead of making new products is better for our environment. I was keen to work with experts in the field and was lucky enough to meet up with Max McMurdo, a well-known upcyclist, at the Ideal Home Show in Manchester. Max invited me to his workshop in Bedfordshire on a four day placement to get hands on experience and see how I could utilise my skills in the real world.

My practice usually has many restrictions due to life's circumstances; having a toddler to care for, being a student and a parent means funds are tight. Applying for the bursary helped to fund my travel and accommodation, alleviating some of the financial pressures, which allowed me to gain experience I would not have otherwise been able to fund.

Image: Emily with Max McMurdo

So how was the placement? What did you learn?

I worked with Max on a project to bring upcycling workshops into primary schools, using upcycle designers across the country. I helped Max to finalise his designs for the after-school workshops, including a bird box and a pallet calendar. I also helped him make a chair, which we used in a day-long workshop in the school

I also worked with Max on a design for ‘homeless bench’; a safe shelter to sleep on using pallet wood and a pivot design. I also helped to install a pallet border around a chalkboard in a tattoo shop Max is helping to make-over.

As well as developing the skills to help me plan and deliver my own workshops for children, I got to try out wood charring, and learnt to hold a drill correctly!

How has this experience helped to develop your practice? Where do you see this taking you next?

This experience has helped me improve my product design skills and upcycling knowledge from one of the best in the industry. It has also led me to design workshops for young children, something I wish to carry on during my last module at Leeds Arts University and for after-school-clubs when I study my PGCE in September. I hope this will make me a teacher with an edge, keeping the arts industry within primary school whilst focusing on sustainability and creativity at the same time. 

I would not feel as confident as I do right now towards moving this project forward into schools without the placement with Max. It has been a valuable experience and I would like to send a massive thank you to the University alumni who funded the bursary and to Max McMurdo for kindly supporting my placement.

The Alumni Fund Bursary has been made possible through generous donations from former students of the University. To find out more about the bursary, or if you are interested in making a donation please visit our Supporter Page here.