Last Chance to see Useful + Beautiful

ub1Over a hundred years ago William Morris advised “have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”.  The current exhibition at the Geffrye Museum useful + beautiful: contemporary design for the home revisits Morris’ ‘golden rule’ bringing together products from a range of emerging designers and established names. Each of the products is innovative in some way, whether through its use of a new material, technology or adaptation to the way we live today.

What is more, 2014 is the centenary of the former almshouses’ conversion into the Geffrye Museum, so it is fitting that the exhibition celebrates the local furniture-making trade of London, and Shoreditch in particular; one of the original aims of the museum.  

As Annabelle Campbell, Head of Exhibitions and Collections at the Crafts Council notes, “Good design is about innovation, it’s about elements of sustainability”.  Design is also dialogue, influencing the way we live, as well as responding to it.  The form and function of the objects around us influence our physical and emotional experience of a space.  ub2Climbing inside Freyja Sewell‘s felt cocoon, Hush, you have an immediate sense of retreat, even sanctuary in the midst of the museum. Our lives are so immersed in the omnipresent worldwide web, and constant connectivity of digital technology, solitude and respite are rare.  Hush creates an immediate moment of calm.  The pods are cut from a single piece of 10mm industrial wool felt and lined with padding made from recycled wool fibres, a by-product of the British carpet industry.  Wool is naturally flame retardant, breathable, durable, biodegradable, and provides great acoustic insulation, hence the name, Hush.

PLUMEN-in-John-Lewis-150-years-pop-up-exhibition-currated-by-Design-Museum-3-250x160Digital technologies are providing new materials, new ways of making and marketing products.  Crowdfunding sites offer designers the opportunity to leverage their fan base for financial support, for example, Hulger, the company behind designer-low energy light bulb brand, Plumen, raised the $20,000 they needed in a week on Kickstarter.com to launch their second product, 002, an energy efficient alternative to the 30W incandescent light bulb, in January 2014 (they eventually raised nearly $60,000).  The original Plumen 001 is exhibited at useful+beautiful, and as part of the Design Today exhibition (pictured left) celebrating 150 years of John Lewis  until August 31st.

ub3The internet enables distributed manufacturing models such as OpenDeska global platform that connects local makers and international designers.  As the customer you can browse a range of furniture collections, download and then make the furniture yourself, or get it made on demand by a maker close to you.   The Edie child’s stool (or bedside table) was designed by David Steiner and Joni Steiner to be made from a single piece of plywood on a CNC router with ‘air-fix’ construction. The OpenDesk platform provides an affordable route to designer products made in your community, and you can customise the finishes!

ub4Using the same technology as cardboard tubes, Seongyong Lee developed a process for making tubes from thin wood veneer.  The tubes are further strengthened with a coat of laquer and used as legs for the Plytube stool.  The stool weighs less than a kilo, making it more energy-efficient, and is very strong.  Plytube was part of the Craft Council’s Raw Craft exhibition earlier this year.   

ub5Both Plytube and William Warren‘s reinterpretation of the traditional woven-top stool reflect a renewed appreciation for traditional craftsmanship.  The Weave Stool is made from four identical plywood forms, with black  ash veneer, that slot together.  Simply elegant.  

Jack Smith’Folding Stool, also made of ash, is similarly clean and considered in its design, and so versatile.  The three hinged legs meet in a Y-shaped hole in the stool’s seat.  Sitting down gives it strength, yet stand, pick up the handle and the stool folds flat for easy storage in our space constrained homes.ub6   Pia Wüstenberg’s colourful, sensual and tactile vessels for Utopia & Utility illustrate Alvar Alto’s observation that “Beauty is the harmony of purpose and form”.  Stacked the vessels are decorative sculptures, but each of the ceramic, glass and wooden parts is a bowl with its own use.

With the aid of technology design can now be mass produced.  ub8Good design is available to everyone, along with the bad.  As prices of goods have fallen, so interiors now have seasonal colours and looks that are ‘bang on trend’.  The products on show at useful + beautiful have more than fleeting appeal.  Many of the designs have also consider the lifecycle of the product.  Piet Hein Eek‘s Scrapwood classic cupboard is made of new and found wood.  Hein Eek has been experimenting with offcuts and scrap wood for more than twenty years and the range now includes a chair, table, sideboard and wastepaper basket.  The Scrapwood collection is available from SCP.  ub7The Tip Ton chair, designed by Barber and Osgerby, is manufactured from a single mould, without any mechanical components. The chair is made entirely of polypropylene, so it is durable and 100% recyclable.  The chair’s forward tilt position helps to keep the spine and pelvis straight, allowing better circulation to core abdominal and back muscles while at work or rest. Greater well-being certainly makes everyday living more joyful!  The Tip Ton chair is available from Vitra, and other stockists, in eight colours. 

useful + beautiful is a wonderful prompt to consider more than the aesthetic of the things we choose to live with.  Products that have form and function are beautiful everyday!

useful + beautiful: contemporary design for the home runs until 25th August 2014 at the Geffrye Museum, so see it while you still can!  

 

 

5 of the best pendant lamps

tr-212butterflyoak1200247x247Pendant lights, hanging from the ceiling, can literally raise our gaze from the mundane to the magnificent.  Whether striking a considered statement in your entrance hall or providing essential task lighting in your kitchen, pendant lamps can have both form and function.  Here are five of the best pendant lamps that have caught Carefully Curated’s eye.

Choosing things that will be loved, cherished and enjoyed for many years is a great, and sustainable, rule of thumb.  A recent article in the Financial Times Weekend notes that after years of cheap furniture, British consumers are increasingly keen to buy handcrafted products that can become collectables. Quality craftsmanship is at the heart of Tom Raffield’s design practice.  Based in Cornwall, Tom Raffield is influenced by the natural beauty that surrounds him. It inspires a sense of adventure.  Through experimenting with traditional techniques of steam-bending, Raffield eventually developed a new method that enabled him to create the complex, sensuous 3D forms he desired.  Steam-bending is a low energy method of manufacturing, with little wastage and without the use of toxic or harmful chemicals.  Unseasoned, green or air dried timber is sourced from sustainably-managed woodlands that are local to the workshop, where possible.  Earlier this year, Raffield’s work was part of the Green Room, a space dedicated to eco-sustainable UK design at EDIT by design junction at Salone Internazionale del Mobile to showcase British creativity and design under the slogan, Green is GREAT.  Tom-Raffield-Bloom-pendant-WALNUT-bottom-Plumen-bulbThe Butterfly Pendant (pictured above) is inspired by the movement of butterflies in full flight.  Handmade from sustainably sourced oak and finished with an eco-friendly, non-toxic, water-based varnish, the small pendant is 42cm high with a diameter of 52cm.   The light takes a 25 watt energy saving bulb, though the award-winning Plumen low energy light bulb is recommended for a distinctive twist (pictured right).  The light is priced £325 (there is currently a summer sale with 20% off).  You can see Tom Raffield’s work next month at Decorex International   as he  has been commissioned to make a special set of furniture pieces for the VIP Lounge.

dpritchard1From future collectables, to current vintage finds.  A recent visit to Drew Pritchard’s warehouse in north Wales revealed a treasure trove of lights.  There were elegant opaline pendants with pressed brass fittings; a staggering pair of cast bronze and cast iron gate pier lanterns 138cm tall; Art Deco alabaster plaffonier ceiling lights; feminine fluted holophane lights; and utilitarian factory lights.  From £99 to £7,500 (for the pair of bronze gate lanterns) there were fittings for nearly all occasions.  6945I was taken with these industrial pendant lights (H: 26 cm W: 21 cm D: 21 cm, priced £195 each) from Poland made of prismatic glass in the 1960s. The polished galleries add a sophisticated finish.

For a contemporary take on the industrial look, Offkut, an independent design company based in London, makes 4412practical, durable, that are, they hope, affordable.  As the name would suggest many of their pieces are made from up-cycled industrial wood.  The knots, grains and splits in the reclaimed wood means each furniture piece is unique.  Their pendant lamps are a series of hanging steel cages.  The Corset (priced £235) is like a generous hoop skirt that tapers to a waist as narrow as those sought by nineteenth century belles.  The aesthetic is definitely industrial, but softened by the delicate, carbon filament bulbs which are handmade in Switzerland.  The larger globe bulbs will burn for around 5000 hours.

EGG_OF_COLUMBUS_SELETTI_MG_0783The Egg of Columbus lighting collection designed by Valentina Carretta is inspired by the waves and pleats of vintage lamps.  Using compressed cardboard from recycled egg cartons, Carretta created three eye-catching designs for pendant lamps. The raw, rough packaging material takes on a clean, yet decorative aesthetic.  The pendants are available from the Conran Shop for a very economical £25 each (diameter of piece shown is 22.5cm).

Heath Nashlight-8-e1407173457405‘s pendant lamps made from recycled plastic have an altogether different look.  Nash pioneered the use of plastic post-consumer waste as a raw material in South Africa, working with a small team of craftspeople to create high-end decorative installations and lamps.  The first piece of work Nash made from ‘waste’ materials was a leaf ball,  colourful flower balls and drum lights followed.  The award-winning designer will be exhibiting an installation at Africa Calling, a show case of the best of contemporary African design that launches next month as part of the Africa Utopia festival (12th-14th Sept) at the Southbank Centre, and then to designjunction for London Design Festival (18th-21st Sept). Nash will also be running workshops at Africa Calling, and be a guest panelist in our Africa Calling debate session at Design Junction.  I can’t wait to see the work in progress!

Related links:

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/b9e6e47e-1d8a-11e4-b927-00144feabdc0.html#slide0

Image credits: Africa Calling; Valentina Carretta; OffKut; Plumen; Drew Pritchard; Tom Raffield Design

A conversation with the creator of the Artichair

kizis1This month, in collaboration with the SCIN Gallery, Carefully Curated is delighted to present the innovative materials researcher and designer Spyros Kizis, and his Artichair, made from artichoke thistle fibre.  SCIN describe Kizis as a materials-Superman and are buzzing about both his current work and his future plans, “Definitely one to watch!” 

Edinburgh School of Art graduate, Kizis’ design approach explores not only the material, but also the systems and processes that support the material’s extraction, the product’s manufacture, its distribution and disposal.  As we approach Global Peak Oil, Kizis wanted to find an alternative to oil-derived plastics, without the associated negative environmental impacts.  He developed a composite of Greek artichoke thistle fibres and a bio-based resin, made from waste cooking oil.  Artichoke Thistle (Cynara Cardunculus) grows readily without the need for pesticides or irrigation. Grown easily in a Mediterranean climate, he sees it as a way to encourage local production in his home country, Greece.  The material is created from renewable, sustainable plants, and is 100% biodegradable.

kizis2The Artichair dining chair, pictured above, is moulded and set on simple wooden legs.   Influenced by a classic Eames chair, the material is celebrated in a clean, contemporary shape.  The lounge chair is more generous in its proportions, and with warm honeyed tones it seems to invite you to linger.

1. You are currently featured in the Plausible Implausible exhibition. Can you please tell us more about how you started to experiment with agricultural waste, turning it into new materials?

The whole project started as an investigation into alternative ways to redevelop the Greek economy after the financial crisis. The main idea was to take advantage of local natural resources to design and make products.  After lot of research I ended up using the Artichoke Thistle, which is produced for biofuel purposes at extremely low cost, and the waste was the starting point for this project. What is fascinating about this process and all projects on the same principles, is the journey from nothing to something of value, or if you wish, from something useless to something useful.

2.  What do you think is people’s perception of design when using a new material? How do you feel the Artichair fits into this rapidly evolving design scene?

In my opinion, there is a totally different way of design-thinking behind so called “materiality”.  Instead of traditionally thinking what material could we use to built a specific project, the process is now reversed: what could we built with a new awkward material that we have in our hands? In this way we explore new potentials, new designs, and new concepts. I believe that Artichair really fits this developing scene. My ambition, though, is to go further and instead of being limited to a craft scale, or cool experimentation, to be part of a sustainable mass production system which effects considerably more of our lives.

3.  What future do you envisage for your material? Do you have any large scale plans for it?

The future plans are quite big and exciting. I was lucky enough to be approached by people that saw this as an opportunity, that are sensitive in environmental issues, and very open to giving young people, and new designers a chance. I am now to the Schaffenburg office furniture company from the Netherlands.  We are now designing a new chair which they are going to put in production soon.

4.  Can you see your material being used in other industries?

I could see the material being used in other industries, particularly in interiors and panels. What I would find really interesting, though, is a collaboration with chemical engineers to extract the cellulose from the plant and make a bio-plastic suitable for injection moulding techniques. This would really increase range of applications for the material in different industries.

5.  Are you planning on experimenting with any other waste materials in the future?

Experimentation with other waste materials is a way I would like to continue to work, but that does not mean that I will not continue to work with more traditional commercial techniques. At the moment, I am working on a project about pendant lights, experimenting with wood ashes, waste polystyrene boxes and bio-resins.

Kizis’ work is part of the Plausible/Implausible exhibition currently on show at the SCIN Gallery until 3rd October.

Image credits:  Photos provided by SCIN Gallery

Related links:

http://www.themethodcase.com/spyros-kizis-artichair/

http://www.scin.co.uk/blog/2014/8/12/0ru6yx4v73bs9c65uz5edevtubhf2z