Ilsa is an award winning design practitioner, with advanced specialist knowledge of 3D design, art direction and product commercialisation. She is managing director for Rethinkthings LTD, a cross disciplinary design consultant to industry and a musical performer with three organisations. She is named inventor on granted patents in the US and UK and is a Senior Lecturer at University of Lincoln.
She previously founded community venture 5ml Design Collective which took the work of emerging graduate designers to trade shows throughout Europe, and more recently, she set up bricks and mortar gift shop MYNE boutique in the historic Bluecoat Chamber in Liverpool. This ran for two years assisting local crafts people to sell their work alongside established design brands.
Her creative practice is broad, highly conceptual and collaborative, and in the past has been very much commercially applied, designing industrial products for clients and developing self branded product ranges for trade and retail purposes. Previous clients include United Utilities, Jamie Oliver, Lego, Phil Redmond CBE, McDonald’s, Unilever, Philips, BoConcept, Heals, Calligaris, Kartell, Magis, MCSaatchi GAD, Landor and Sony.
Ilsa has served as a writer for Design Exchange magazine, and been published in a range of books and press articles. She has been a guest on BBC radio 4 Women's Hour, co-presented a documentary on Brazilian design for the Discovery Channel (2011) and been a contributor to two BBC2 TV shows (Design for Life with Philippe Starck 2009 and Victorian House of Art and Crafts 2019).
Through continued practice development, Ilsa strives to become more community focussed and employ divergent thinking and design strategy to design immersive, multi-sensory, experiences to bring about connection and leave lasting impact.
Born in Liverpool, UK in 1980, Ilsa Parry has worked and lived in Liverpool, Manchester, Oslo and Paris. She began her career studying Three Dimensional Design at Manchester School of Art in 2000 and worked part time as clinical support worker at Manchester Royal Infirmary. Her degree was heavily craft based and allowed her to experiment with materials and processes related to furniture making, silversmithing, glass blowing, ceramics and plastics manipulation. She later spent three months Living in Norway and learning the art of woodturning. In exploring material properties and inherent abilities, she discovered that each "thing" she produced had the potential to subliminally communicate values about culture, identity and purpose and make connection with the user. Her interest in the relationship between objects and people encouraged her to further explore the impact of design in all its forms on the human experience.
In 2004, Ilsa began teaching at Calday Grange Grammar School in Wirral, Merseyside UK. She taught product design at GCSE and A Level and encouraged students to question objects and materials and the purpose behind their designs. Within two years she reached middle management and, with the help of 65 staff, she was made responsible for broadening the knowledge base of sixth form students and enriching their experiences beyond their subject specialisms. In 2007, she moved away from school education to take up a full time position lecturing at The City of Liverpool FE College and set up her first studio in a shared community space.
In 2008, Liverpool was awarded "European Capital of Culture" and local opportunities to exhibit work and network with other creatives grew substantially. As a direct result of this Ilsa launched her first product collection of conceptual lighting entitled "rethinkthings" at the Liverpool Design Festival. Whilst exhibiting here, she was invited to apply to participate in her first TV appearance. Later that year, she set off for Paris for 3 months to film "Design for Life" with Philippe Starck. Here she was challenged to "design a product to help humanity to survive" and pitted against eleven other contenders. The show's format eliminated the designers week by week whose work did not meet with Starck's approval. It was here that Ilsa designed the patent protected "Flo Standing and Walking Aid" and went on to win the programme outright. Her prize was to work at Starck Paris Agency for a 6 month period as a paid intern.
Whilst working in Paris, Ilsa was exposed to contacts and working methods of a much higher level. She learnt how to use CAD software and for the first time, her work moved away from handcrafted conceptual lighting sculptures and more towards industrial product design resulting in her design work now employing an even broader range of materials and mass production processes. Her understanding of how to create marketable products grew immensely from this experience. On her return to the UK in 2009 she formally registered her "rethinkthings" brand as a private limited company to create interesting products which challenged our perceptions of everyday existence and offer something of value as a result. Ilsa also began to work at a number of Universities as a visiting lecturer.
Ilsa continued with similar work for a number of years whilst also setting up and running a partnership venture with Mike Cloke and Tom Sutton entitled "5ml Design Collective". This enabled her to take graduate work to trade shows around the UK and Europe to exhibit alongside her own collections and sell to retailers. She embarked on a masters degree in Design and Art Direction, again at Manchester School of Art. This process helped her to formalise her service offer and refocus her product brand into something that was both more understandable to industry and sustainable to manage.
The focus on branding led in 2015 to her setting up another business in the form of a bricks and mortar shop In Liverpool's Bluecoat Chambers (MYNE Boutique), selling her own products alongside the work of local crafters and design led gift labels. Having direct contact with customers and end users on a daily basis assisted her to refine ranges into the Rethinkthings offer that exists today. this consisting of mainly print based giftware that aims to enhance the emotive transaction of gift giving by offering products which communicate aspects of cultural identity. The continued development of this branded giftware range sits alongside her ongoing work to commission and her part time responsibilities as a practice led academic at University of Lincoln.
In 2016 Ilsa took up samba reggae drumming, furthering a lifelong love of music and performance with a realisation that the issues she cares about (consistently embedded in her design work) can be also applied across a variety of cross-disciplinary, cultural artforms. It was with this mindset that she applied to participate in BBC2's "Victorian House of Arts and Crafts" in 2018. This involved living and working collaboratively with 5 other craft specialists to discover, interpret and reproduce the work and lifestyles of William Morris and Co in the late 1800's. Using only traditional materials and processes, this experience is pushing her to develop her practice collaboratively, with a greater emphasis on community, social action and a resurgence of craft. All of these influences are now helping Ilsa to develop projects that bring about a strong multi-sensory immersive experience.
Ilsa has appeared on a number of TV shows both as a contributor and co-presenter.
Victorian House of Arts and Crafts BBC 2 2019
In January BBC2 will air this 4 part arts and history documentary, tracking the experiences of 6 crafters living and working in the Victorian arts and crafts period. They have to work and live together in a closed commune harnessing traditional tools and skills to breathe new life into their home room by room, just as William Morris and Co. would have done.
Articles written and edited
Design Exchange Magazine Winter 2010. Issue 21 – Innovation for Designers.
Liverpool Design week preview.
Design Exchange Magazine Spring 2011. Issue 22 – Fast Forward Page 128. Liverpool Design Show review.
Design Exchange Magazine Autumn 2011. Issue 24 - Collaborate Feature no 14. Commerce, community, skills & credit. Where does collaboration come into it?
Design Exchange Magazine Winter 2011. Issue 25 – Places and stories. Feature no 13. Are you sitting comfortably? Then let me begin.
Stables, K. (Prof.) 2010. ‘What makes an idea be worth sharing…or maybe recycling…or maybe shredding? What do we want learners to ‘take home’?’, Design and Technology Education: An International Journal, issue 15.3.
McGlashan, A. 2014. “Intervention through Design: Encouraging a creative approach to learning in Technology”, Australasian Journal of Technology Education. Volume 1, P.42.
Publications featured in
Star Products Designers by Irene Alegre, Published by Harper Design, 2013, ISBN: 0062210262.
GO Superlambananas by Fiona Shaw, Published by Guy Woodland / Cities500, 2008, ISBN: 9781905547081.
Lighten Up by Redesign, Published by Redesigndesign, 2008, ISBN: 9780955712913.
The Peripatetic Pursuit of Parkinsons by Lindy Ashford, Published by The Parkinsons Creative Collective, Inc, 2013, ISBN: 0989326608.
Technology Education for Teachers by P.J. Williams, Published by Sense Publishers, 2013, ISBN: 9789462091597.
RE Craft by Redesign, Published by Redesign, LTD edition, 2013.
Capture Manchester – the book, Published by Cube Gallery Manchester, LTD edition, 2009.
2016 – GNCCF. MCR
2015 – Pop up shops. Manchester / Liverpool
2013 – Design Junction. London 2013 – Museum (Science and Industry). MCR
2013 – Dalslands Konst Museum. Sweden
2013 – Spring Fair International. Birmingham
2012 – Manchester Gift Fair. MCR
2012 – NCCD. Lincolnshire 2012 – Naidex. Birmingham NEC
2012 – Home. London 2011 – Design Mart. Newcastle
2011 – Design Festival. Liverpool
2011 – Tent. London
2011 – Pulse. London
2011 – Ideal Home Show.London
2010 – Design Festival. Liverpool
2010 – Maison et Objet. Paris
2009 – Eco Show. Liverpool
2009 – Bluecoat Display Centre. Liverpool
2009 – Open Eye Gallery. Manchester
2009 – 100% Design. London
2008 – Biennial Independents. Liverpool
2008 – Design Show. Liverpool
2008 – Australian Int. Furniture Fair. Melbourne
2007 – Lighten Up Tour - All UK
2007 – Redesign Contains - Newcastle
2005 – Inner City Living Exhibition - Preston
2004 – The Lighting Show – Birmingham NEC
2003 – Make Me - Manchester 2003 – Designers Block - London
2003 – New designers - London
2013 - Winner - Innovation prize Liverpool Chamber of Commerce
2011 - Runner up - Service design project Design Council
2011 - Short-listed - Eco Home Showcase Ideal home show
2011 - Short-listed Hothouse showcase WGSN
2011 - Short-listed - Gift of the year
2011 The Gift-ware Association
2009 - Winner - Recycled art competition Liverpool Chamber of Commerce
2009 - Winner - Innovation award LJMU and Liverpool Vision
2009 - Finalist - One good chair competition Sustainable Furnishings Council
2009 - Finalist - Grand ideas awards Shell 2009 - Short-listed gift of the year
2009 The Gift-ware Association 2008 - Winner - Design for life with Starck (BBC)
2008 - Winner - 08 Bench Competition Liverpool Echo Newspaper
2008 - Finalist - Green Award Australian International Furniture Fair
2005 - Semi Finalist - Design education awards Audi
2003 - Winner - The Lighting Award Phillips
2003 - Runner up - Student Design Competition Corus Metals