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University of Ulster design students are among the enthusiastic band of volunteers on hand to welcome the growing number of visitors to the popular London Street Gallery in Derry~Londonderry.

The School of Creative Arts & Technologies staged its annual end of year show to showcase the students’ creative talent in the gallery a couple of weeks ago and thisweek the students took centre stage at the summer graduations in the Millennium Forum.

Among them was Emma Byron, a mature student from Buncrana who graduated with BDes Hons degree in Creative Practice.

After leaving school in the early ‘90s, Emma studied fashion at Grafton Academy of Fashion Design in Dublin. She returned to Donegal and set up her own fashion design business, creating a wide variety of ‘one-off’ garments, from wedding dresses to themed costume party garments.

When commissions dried up with the economic downturn, Emma decided to go back to school and completed a HND in Fine Art. Although she had her sights set on getting a degree, Emma thought she would have to put her plans on hold for a few years as travelling to Sligo or Belfast was not an option for her as she had a young family.

“By chance I was shown a flyer for the BDes in Design for Creative Practice at Magee. I had previously been doing installations and exhibitions involving film and decided this would be a good opportunity to advance my skills in 3D design and filmmaking and to learn to create a more polished look for my work and at the same time, learn some new and creative ways to develop good art and design.

She continued: “I really like the diversity of choice in the modules which included graphic design, animation and product design.

“The atmosphere at Magee is second to none, both students and lecturers are friendly, inviting, helpful and knowledgeable. It’s a wonderful place to study.”

Emma admitted that it sometimes was a challenge juggling family commitments when she was working towards her degree.

“Finding enough time was the biggest challenge but anything is possible in the right situation,” she said.

Emma intends to return to Magee to complete her Masters.

“This will help consolidate all the elements from my degree and help me create work for installations and exhibitions.”

She also plans to continue volunteering at the London St Gallery and working with local schools on design projects.

“I’ve already worked with a number of schools in Derry and Donegal found it really enjoyable. It’s a very rewarding experience when you’re working as an artist and designer to be able to give something back to the community.