Flash factories @designjunction

dj1I popped into 19 Greek Street where Diana Simpson was preparing for a process run through of GlassLab.  ‘Waste’ glass is in plentiful supply in the midst of Soho, and the recent introduction of a mechanical crusher enabled Diana to provide bar tops, tiles and other interiors products for the Library, a new private members, on time.  dj2I had a peak of GlassLab’s new rectangular floor tiles (which were also on show at Tent London, as part of the Material Council’s ‘Nooks, Niches and Crannies’ materials trail), and then it was on to designjunction at the Old Sorting Office.

Like a magpie, I was drawn to the sparkling brilliance of the Waterford Crystal Flash Factory.  Waterford is an iconic brand, so it was humbling to watch Master Cutter, Tony Grant, at the wheel, with a backdrop of glittering chandeliers and vases.  Tony began as an apprentice at Waterford more than forty years ago, and it is that depth of knowledge that lies at the heart of Waterford’s heritage.  dj3A moment in the shoes, or seat, of a master, provides a great appreciation of their skill, and I leapt at the invitation of a seat at the wheel.  The steady, subtle hand, precise eye and great knowledge of the material, are things the new generation of apprentices at Waterford will surely master, though I will not be one of them!

dj11Bringing a contemporary design twist to traditional craft skills emerged as a theme of this year’s designjunction.  Each of Pia Wustenberg’s Transformed Stacking Vessels celebrates craftsmanship and materials.  Each of the Vessels is unique as each of the three pieces is handmade: hand-turned wood; hand-blown glass and hand-thrown ceramics.  Each piece reflects the character of its maker, and adds a layer to the story.

dj8London-based designer, Hend Krichen, draws on her Tunisian roots to create elegant homewares that fuse artisanal skills and craftsmanship with a pared back aesthetic.   I was drawn to the warm terracotta and copper tones, and so it seems is the buyer for Paul Smith as products will be appearing in their stores soon.  Working with an ethical network of manufacturers, Krichen hopes to develop their understanding of the export market.  This rejuvenation and re-orientation of traditional craft skills, can play a vital role in securing a community’s heritage, and enhancing their livelihoods.

This model of reciprocal exchange, that is evident in the British Council’s Maker Library (seen at 100%design), underpins another of their initiatives, the Common Thread.  London-based designer Sabrina Kraus Lopez spent a month in the Atlas mountains of Morocco working with six Amazigh artisans to create a limited edition series of bespoke hand-woven rugs.  The Amazigh are traditionally a semi-nomadic people, with men tending livestock while women harvest wool, cotton and plants to dye the fibres that are then woven into kilims, or rugs.  The designs, based on the Amazigh’s traditional weaving techniques, are available via the Anou, an online platform and community of over 400 Moroccan artisans working to revive their community.  The platform enables artisans to sell their work directly to customers all around the world.

dj6Revitalising traditional industries including carpet weaving, cashmere production, and other artisan products to secure sustainable livelihoods is central to AfghanMade’s mission.  In collaboration with Wallpaper* and a number of prominent European and American carpet companies, AfghanMade exhibited a portfolio of contemporary rug designs in a huge space on the top floor of designjunction.  I was drawn to the deep turquoise pools of Michael Young’s design for Christopher Farr, Organic Fractals, made in wool and silk with hand-spun yarn and natural dyes.  One of the AfghanMade team is a leading authority on natural dyes, and the opportunity to work with him was a catalyst for Christopher Farr’s involvement in the project.  ‘Duck-head’ green is one of the hardest colours to achieve naturally, and as Michael Young’s design evolved the choice of colour was inevitable.  The rich teal colour is achieve first with a yellow dye from daisies, and then a natural indigo. The rug is 2.3m in diameter (though available to order in smaller sizes), around £6,750 and now on my wish list!

Stimulating cross-cultural collaborations between UK designers and African artisanal makers are also central to Africa Calling. dj5 The outsize, monochrome vases made from up-cycled textile ‘waste’ using traditional weaving techniques.  These vases, and other more colourful products with a similar provenance are available from Shake the Dust.

1411419976136Craftsmanship and provenance define the subtle, hand screen-printed linen fabrics and interiors products at Thorody.  The fabrics are hand screen-printed in London using water-based pigments (which exceed British Standard upholstery specifications for abrasion and pigment fastness for domestic use).   The natural linen is woven in Lancashire, or sourced from Belgium where it can be traced back to seed, and where the flax is sourced within 20 miles of the mill.  It is soft, but strong, two adjectives that also describe the abstract designs that Thorody characterise as “rustic modernism”.  They are considered, and timeless.

dj10Flax, and flaxseed or linseed oil is the key ingredient in linoleum, a material ByAlex chose to upholster the seat of their Neighbourhood chair.  Conceived as a contemporary dining chair to celebrate John Lewis 150th anniversary, the studio set themselves the challenge of making the chair from renewable materials.  Bamboo, which is ready for harvesting after only six years of growth, is used for the main body of the chair with moulded Plywood for the seat.

dj9After seeing her Wish List commission for Norman Foster, Tulipifera Sharpeners, and then Folded Chair, shortlisted piece for the Wood Awards at 100%design, it was pleasure to complete a hat trick and meet Norie Matsumoto.  Here she is pictured beside the Folded Chair, originally designed for “Out of the Woods” in 2012.  Matsumoto redesigned the chair using special hinges, and a smaller version that can hang on the wall.  The elegant and deceptively simple cylinder hooks, Deco (pictured in the background) are turned from solid wood.  Matsumoto chose to use solid wood to give the objects a strong presence that could be decorative as well as functional.

dj7As Matsumoto’s designs salute the strength of solid wood, Tom Raffield’s designs using steam-bent wood showcase other virtues of flexibility, crafting sensual forms through innovative use of steam-bending techniques.  His lamps cast delicate shadows in warm light.

dj4Finally, I was captivated by the evocative installation (curated by Anthony Dickens) of ercol and Anglepoise’s timeless classics given a bespoke overhaul as the part of the ‘A Child’s Dream’ silent auction.  A moment to pause and reflect on what dreams are made of for the young, and slightly older!  Some of the collaborations at designjunction have the power to be transformational.

Image credits:  Thorody

Related links:

https://carefullycurated.co.uk/2014/09/25/100%DEsign-for-a-day/

100%design for a day

9112210_imageGifMy visit to 100%design was worth the trip even before I stepped inside.  On the forecourt of Earls Court, Heath Nash was installed at the pop-up Maker Library with some shoes made from cardboard.  Nash has a long history of working with waste materials, and pioneered the use of plastic post-consumer waste as a raw material in South Africa.  Nash worked with a small team of craftspeople to create high-end decorative installations and lamps.  His signature flower balls were part of an installation at Africa Calling, a show case of the best of contemporary African design, at designjunction.

100design1 The shoes were the result of a design mash-up with acclaimed shoes designer, Marloes ten Bhömer.  As with many designers, Nash has frequently used cardboard to build models and prototypes, as it is after all in plentiful supply as a ‘waste’ material, but using cardboard for a finished material was a new experience.  Nash was adapting the shoe design as a slip-on or a closed shoe with a strap at the small workstation in front of the Maker Library Network Caravan.

After closing his studio at the end of 2012 to focus on design and creative process that he loves, Nash was invited to join the British Council’s Maker Library Network.  The virtual network builds connections between designers and makers in the UK and South Africa.  Each ML comprises a library, a make space and a gallery.  The libraries share the same core texts, and the make spaces the same tools.  The make spaces are deliberately small and mobile so they can pop-up unobtrusively in South African townships.  Nash describes an informal work station that invites interaction with the host community and works with the materials found there.  MLN promotes collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and has the ambition to expand to a world-world network.

Once inside, I made a bee-line for Thomas Matthews’ Materials Landscape, curated by SCIN Gallery and constructed by the Goldfinger Factory, the West London up-cycling and learning hub.  As well as hosting a fascinating programme of talks, headed by Sophie Thomas, founder of Thomas Matthews and the Great Recovery, the hub was a great opportunity to handle some exciting, and surprising, new materials.  As 100design3a snapshot of what SCIN Gallery has to offer the materials included StoneCycling, tiles and bricks made from demolition waste; Solidwool, a material made from wool and a resin with 30% bio-based renewable content; Eric Klarenbeek’s samples of 3D-printed living mycelium (fungi) mixed with local raw materials creating a structural, stable and renewable material once dried (pictured left); Marlene Huissoud’s materials made from insects; and Clayworks natural clay plasters which help regulate humidity in buildings, and have lower embodied CO2 than many other interior finishes.

100design4I made a short stop at Jennifer Newman Studios to admire the M-table and M-bench made of a 100% recycled aluminium frame, available in any RAL colour, and thermally-modified tulipwood top.  The same timber, also supplied by Morgan Timber, was used for Paul Smith’s Shed, designed by Nathalie de Level as part of the Wish List project.

occasional_peg_01-768x1024It was also a chance to catch up with Rob Barnby of Barnby & Day, reflect on their Wish List experience, and admire their Occasional Peg tables now available in a wider range of timber choices which can be mixed or matched to your taste.

100design6Further evidence of great craftsmanship and the beauty of wood was on show at the end of the pavilion with an exhibition of pieces short-listed for this years Wood Awards.  The breadth of work shortlisted for the Wood Awards illustrates the versatility of this sensual, beautiful and natural material, whether for architectural, interiors or furniture products.  The exhibits included a Sebastian Cox spot of the day, one of the pair of his Ten Species Tall Boy.  Sebastian Cox, known for championing under-utilised British hardwoods, chose to show off how diverse, beautiful and useful they are with a pair of five-drawer tall-boys.  With frames made from coppiced hazel, the drawers are made from ten other British hardwoods: Oak, Ash, Elm, Chestnut, London Plane, Sycamore, Cherry, Walnut, Brown Oak and Beech.  Earlier this year, Sebastian and his colleagues were to be seen crafting the drawers in the windows of Heal’s on Tottenham Court Road. The ten identical drawers allow you to see, and experience the different timbers.

100design2100design7I caught a glimpse of Lozi Designs‘s clean, contemporary geometric pieces of furniture in Emerging Brands alley; graypants outsize pendant lamps handmade from repurposed cardboard; and Anne Kyyrö Quinn’s fantastic geometric acoustic wall panels made from wool felt.  But then it was time for the mad dash across town to the SustainRCA Show & Awards.

Image credits: Barnby & Day.

Related links:

https://carefullycurated.co.uk/2014/09/17/the-wish-list/

https://carefullycurated.co.uk/2014/08/19/5-of-the-best-pendant-lamps/

https://carefullycurated.co.uk/2014/03/22/sebastian-cox-pop-up-heals/

Looking Forwards & Instigating Change @SustainRCA Awards

RCA.SustainThe SustainRCA Show & Awards 2014 preview was at the heart of my London Design Festival.  The event celebrates the work of some of the brightest of this year’s graduates from the Royal College of Art, addressing the big social and environmental challenges of our day.  This year is the strongest yet, with more than 100 applicants, 60 students shortlisted and 35 selected as finalists from across all RCA.  This was the first opportunity to see all the finalists together in a curated show, and together they present a powerful body of work charged with potential.  There are projects that take an innovative look at waste, water and other resources, but collectively the works show that sustainability is about more than efficiencies or climate science.  Rather sustainability is about our values and relationships with one another, and the environment, in its broadest sense.  In fact many of the tangible things we associate with sustainability are the symptoms or representations of imbalanced relationships that are at odds with values that many of us identify with.

srca1An independent, expert judging panel had spent the day deliberating over who to crown in each of four categories under the broad theme, “Looking Forwards“.  The theme suggests purpose and action.  The first category, Moving Minds confronts head-on the apathy that mention of ‘sustainability’ often generates. Works in this category might present the viewer with some uncomfortable realities or challenge the viewer to think about things we often do not.  As I walked into the Show, having criss-crossed London on my bike that day, I immediately connected with Tino Seubert’s The Colour of Air which filters Particulate Matter (PM) from car exhausts to produce lead for pencils, ink, or, as exhibited, dyes an outdoor sports outfit, PM_DYE.  The smog produced by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels polluting the air we breathe becomes tangible, even wearable, to those who inhale it everyday.  Wiping my ‘glowing’ brow, my handkerchief collects enough PM to make a contribution to Tino’s next piece, and a reminder that London’s record on air pollution is dire.

Nearby, another warning, this time of the often unseen impact of our relationship with so-called disposable plastics.    Alice Dunseath’s, Plastic Shores, are three stop-motion animations from bits of plastic found washed up on shores in Britain and Hawaii.  A simple, colourful story that reveals the impact of a throw ‘away’ culture in our closed, connected eco-system.rusak

Runner-up or Honourable Mention was given to Peter Shenai’s Change Ringing.  The haunting dissonance of six bronze bells cast in shapes mathematically derived from temperature data over the twentieth century sound the imbalance of our changing climate. Winner, Marcin Rusak’Flowering Transition explores the significant impact of flowers cultivated for the global cut-flower industry. with intensive use of fossil fuels, pesticides, water and genetic redesign.  The final chapter of Rusak’s design research project presents Flower Monster, the 3D-printed model  flowering chimera of commercial virtues.  Beware the monster we create in the search for the superlative colour, scent, shipping tolerant bloom.

4989ef0484eda1bc9d82d25501f719ebInspired Products emerge as a response to category one: once you have captured people’s attention, you need to offer them something they can do, otherwise a sense of impotence floods in.  Dunseath’s Plastic Shores animations were commissioned for a feature length documentary of the same name.  In 2011 global plastic production reached 300 million tonnes, over a third was for the disposable packaging industry.  An estimated 6 million tonnes of litter enters rivers and oceans every year.  As well as litter, every ton of PET produced for plastic bottles creates around three tonnes of CO2.  By way of response, Pierre Paslier, Guillaume Couche, Rodrigo García González’s Ooho!, winner of this category, and of the Lexus Design Award 2014, is an alternative way of packaging water inspired by nature’s use of membranes.  Ooho! uses brown algae, calcium chloride and the surface tension of the water to create a double gelatinous membrane; a process known as “spherification”.  A simple, cheap, biodegradable (even edible) alternative to disposable plastic bottles and as it is currently developed under Creative Commons license you can DIY at home!

fe3312e06ca52c99d4e956741d2612bfSolutions for Society is about scaling up interventions from products to systems and services that facilitate a fairer, more ethical and sustainable society.  The winner, with double honours, was Pierre Paslier‘s Advanced Activism, an open-source toolkit to inspire activists and campaigner.  Inspired by street art, the irreverent and playful tools include a remote-controlled drone (pictured right) to flyer hard to reach places, literally finding new platforms for alternative voices.  The instructions are available on streettoolbox, a collaborative platform for activists underpinned by the knowledge that debate and plurality are fundamental to healthy democracy.

nbennettVisionary Processes are new collaborations to facilitate Solutions for Society by stimulating innovation, or making production better.  Runner up in this category was Nell Bennett’s Coral3whose sacrificial alkaline structures are designed to be deposited by divers around coral reefs to help neutralise ocean acidification, one of the causes of coral reef degradation. Designed as part of a conservation programme that provides education, and sustainable livelihoods for the local communities, the sacrificial sculptures are the centrepiece of a system that engages and empowers a wide network of stakeholders.

mitsuiWinner Hana Mitsui’s New Value of Waste, transforms fabrics using a technique derived from a traditional Japanese process, ‘sakori’ to extended the life of worn fabrics.  Waste fabrics are shredded into thin strips and then woven over a fresh warp creating new luxurious clothes with distinct textures and patterns.  This tale of rags to riches highlights the value that is lost when we are so quick to dispose, and that can be restored with ingenuity and creativity.

Reflecting on the breadth work at SustainRCA, judge John Thackara said: ‘Products are the results of systems and processes, and we have to look at the systems from which the bad things came if we’re going to refashion systems so that good things come. There’s a whole vision of looking, thinking, solving, mobilising and empowering here.’

There is much at SustainRCA Show & Awards to challenge, provoke and inspire, the great joy of the show is that the work also offers positive and creative steps to move forwards.  Visit the show, and the momentum will be infectious.

The SustainRCA Show and Awards runs from 18 September–3 October, Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, London SW7 2EU.

Image credits: Pierre Paslier; SustainRCA

Related links:

https://carefullycurated.co.uk/2014/07/23/sustainrca-show-and-award-2014-finalists/

http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2014-04/01/ooho-plastic-bottle

https://carefullycurated.co.uk/2014/09/01/celebrating-and-sustaining-the-beauty-of-our-oceans/

The Wish List

wishlistThere was no better way to kick off my London Design Festival 2014 than The Wish List” at the Victoria and Albert Museum.  With a mentoring relationship at its heart, the project began with a conversation between Benchmark, Terence Conran and the American Hardwood Export Council.  They conceived of ten leading designers commissioning the object that they had always wanted but never found or had time to design themselves. The ten commissioners chose, or were matched with, up-and-coming designers, for whom it was the commission of a lifetime!

Each of the young designers was given a box of American hardwoods, and the design process unfolded, culminating in an intense, “Making Week”, or first furniture festival, at Benchmark working with master craftsmen skilled in traditional techniques, as well as the latest technologies.  Benchmark has embraced sustainability from its outset in 1984, after Sean Sutcliffe, co-founder with Terence Conran, was influenced by Jonathon Porritt. The commitment to sustainability, craftsmanship and expertise in timber (though they also have a specialist metal workshop and an upholstery studio), made Benchmark an ideal partner for AHEC in The Wish List. AHEC were keen not only to showcase the range and properties of American hardwood, but also share the AHEC’s work on life-cycle assessment (LCA) with the designers.

Wood has many environmental virtues: it is organic, renewable, versatile, and a carbon sink.  The area covered by American hardwood forests is equivalent to UK, France & Spain combined, and the AHEC estimate that the carbon footprint of all ten projects is less than one return flight to New York.  Wood is also probably the material that man has been working with for longer than any other.  Wood is sensual and tactile, overtime it responds our touch, changing patina, becoming smooth, or chipped, with each knock or indent becoming part of the story of the object.

RTEmagicC_Sebastian_Cox_2883_txdam9114_dfa4c8.jpgThe young designers made careful choice of their material.  Sebastian Cox asked David Venables of AHEC which were the least popular in the UK and deliberately chose to work with them, seizing the opportunity to elevate their status. Cox, who usually works with greenwood, relished the opportunity to experiment with red oak and cherrywood.  Initially Conran had wanted a rail and curtain to screen his desk, in response Sebastian suggested a curved, woven screen. The kiln-dried oak was too inflexible to weave, so Cox made use of swilling, a technique he recently learnt with Lorna Singleton to soften the timber so it was malleable enough to weave.  Swilling, or soaking, the timber in the stream at Barton Court, Terence and Vicki Conran’s 18th-century country home, connected the piece to the landscape of its future home.

wishlist2Known for his innovative use of wood, Alex de Rijke, Dean of the School of Architecture, RCA, and a founding Director of the architectural practice dRMM, pioneered the use of hardwood for cross-wishlist3laminated timber (CLT) for the Endless Stair he designed at last year’s London Design Festival, so it is unsurprising that he and Barnby & Day chose to use CLT made of American tulipwood.  But this fast-growing timber, that is is often overlooked, overpainted and “chopped through to get to the good stuff” is here given the Midas touch.  Nathalie de Leval’s shed for Paul Smith was made of thermally modified ash (pictured right, and below with Terence Conran, Paul Smith and Nathalie de Level).  Thermally modified timber (TMT) is heat-treated for three or four days in an inert atmosphere (no oxygen).  The process irreversibly changes the chemical and physical properties of the wood so that does not need additional treatment as it is more resistant to rot, fungi and moisture.

RTEmagicC_Wish_List_Hadid_Ves-el_Petr_Krejci_Photography_33_txdam9267_071dd1.jpgThe Wish List fused the craft of design and the craft of making.  A conversation with some of the designers, commissioners, and Sean Sutcliffe, chaired by Edwin Heathcote, explored the relationship between the two.  Heathcote recounted a recent visit to a design school without workshops.  Today industrial design is often separated from making with products moving from design to rapid prototyping and then manufacture overseas.  Sean Sutcliffe offered a definition of craft from Richard Sennett, author of The Craftsmenas when “the point of focus becomes the limit of the tool”.

The Ves-sel that Gareth Neal made for Zaha Hadid is a perfect example of engaging traditional process and digital manufacture.  Neal said he “provocated Sean to use the CNC router”, and Benchmark had to upgrade wishlist4its software accordingly.  Neal had been invited to Hadid’s company offices and use their modelling software to create the vessel’s design that captures the fluidity of Hadid’s designs, and functions as a water carafe.  One of the vessel’s was left unpainted, after consultation with Hadid, to reveal the natural colour.  The vessel is extruded along one axis, with a slit at the end creating what Neal describes as a ‘cathedral-like space’. If not monumental in scale, it is in complexity.  Sutcliffe described the object as an outstanding piece of craftsmanship, “the most remarkable thing we have ever made”.

Continuous involvement in the process, and evolvement of skill underpins the best craftsmanship, and several commissioners warn of the limitation of digital tools.  As Amanda Levete noted the link between intellect and hand becomes more remote with technology, an element of control is relinquished.  Something may seem perfectly resolved, but not be conceptually perfect, but without space for adjustment.  With rapid prototyping a hundred options can be quickly, and extravagantly, produced, but does this ease compensate for a lack of rigour at the design stage?  Making great objects is often an iterative process in response to the material.  For Alex de Rijke one of the constraints of digital technology is that computers do not have the same dialogue with materials or scale.  Alison Brooks, too, describes how computer design can quickly take a designer into complexity that they have to navigate out of, often through physical experimentation.

RTEmagicC_Win_Assakul_2755_txdam9130_dfa4c8.jpgThe “Making Week” brought many of these tensions to the fore.  With no experience of physical making, Win Assakul was persuaded to pick up hand tools to craft the 3m long serving dish he designed for Amanda Levete.  Hand-making is part of the story of the object, requiring considered, elegant solutions to the complex shape and presentation of the dish.

RTEmagicC_Banaby_and_Day_2425_txdam9093_dfa4c8.jpgThe “Table-Turned” Barnby & Day designed for Alex de Rijke presented the challenge of scale.  Weighing 170kg, and with a diameter of 2m, the table is quiet possibly one of the largest objects to be turned on a lathe.  Benchmark brought in specialist turner Mike Bradley to turn the table in 3 sections, with the largest section turning at 62mph on the outer edge.

wishlist6Even skilled craftsman, Sebastian Cox was presented with new challenges.  The Conran commission, “Getting Aware from it All” was, Cox said, “the most intricate and challenging thing that I had ever made, but how often will I get the chance to design for someone who is so important in the industry?”  If the screens were 1mm out at the joint, they would be 5mm our where they met. The rolling tambour is made from solid strips of wood, rather than cloth-backed and there is a secret drawer.  The compliment was repaid by Conran, “I have been making furniture for 60 years but I am still learning from Sebastian”.

RTEmagicC_Wish_List_Pawson_Room_Petr_Krejci_Photography_12_txdam9295_12e383.jpgNot all the project were conceived as one-offs. Felix de Pass’  “A Stool for the Kitchen” designed with Alison Brooks could in future grace our homes.  The series of architectural elements, “Room”, designed by Atelier Areti with John Pawson could indeed make the everyday more beautiful.  Simple, elegant forms finished with an incredible attention to detail.  For example, the grain on the dimmer knob of the light switch is aligned with that of the base plate when it is switched off.

wishlist7Wish list is about design, and beautiful materials. For the commissioners it was an unusual role reversal, a process Amanda Levete found moving as though handing the baton on to the next generation of inspiring designers.  It is also about the intensity of making, the joy of sharing collaboratively, and the richer learning that results: that was perhaps the real alchemy of the Wish List.  Sean Sutcliffe certainly hopes that seed has been sown.

The AHEC Wish List page has a playlist of short films of each of the pieces, but the installation is definitely worth a visit to the V&A!

Image credits: AHEC, or my own.

Related links:

https://carefullycurated.co.uk/2014/09/14/looking-ahead-to-london-design-festival/

Come & watch Lorna Singleton demonstrating swill basketry this Wednesday

Looking ahead to London Design Festival

logo Not that you can have failed to notice, but the London Design Festival started today, an event that promises to “celebrate and promote London as the design capital of the world.”  We can be certain it won’t disappoint, though perhaps less confident of seeing all there is to offer.

I will be making a beeline for the Victoria and Albert Museum to see The Wish List.  Sir Terence Conran, Benchmark, the London Design Festival and the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) paired ten emerging talents with ten design legends to design and make something that they have always wanted, but never been able to find.  The superlative bespoke commission, or ultra-mentoring scheme, however you choose to describe it, the results promise to be wonderful.

hadid-nealMy particular picks will be Sebastian Cox’s workspace for Terence Conran  and Gareth Neal’s carafe for Zaha Hadid. 

Also at the V&A is a demonstration of the circular economy in action as Ella Doran, Galapagos Designs, and the RSA’s Great Recovery Project deconstruct and refurbish several upholstered chairs in the V&A Design Studio.  The circular economy is a different approach to design, manufacture and material recovery that avoids losing valuable materials to landfill.  It might whet newlogoyour appetite to visit the Great Recovery’s new home, the Fab Lab London, which opens its doors on Friday 19th September.  There will be a Restart party to tend to broken electronics, ‘Fixperts’ and tear-down & design-up workshops happening all day to prompt visitors to think about products in a more circular way.

features_ecodb_materiallandscapeOpening on Wednesday 17th (and running to the 20th September at Earls Court) is 100% Design, the biggest of the contemporary design shows.  This is its twentieth year so there will be a rare vintage mix of design talent as well as five zones of British and international design products on show. I will be making a bee-line for the Eco, Design & Build hub, designed and curated by Thomas Matthews in partnership with SCIN Gallery. The Materials Landscape promises to take visitors to exciting new territory.  The Makers Carousel by Mette has caught my eye, with the Maker Library Network running a workshop making useful objects out of waste products on the 17th, including how to make bricks from business cards.  By the end of LDF we will probably all have collected enough raw material to join in!

jn1Elsewhere at 100% Design, I will be checking out Jennifer Newman Studio‘s M-Bamboo Table ; Lozi for his distinctive geometric furniture; Lucy Turner for her modern marquetry on upcycled mid-century furniture;  Pinch for the gorgeous, graceful pieces that I have been coveting for sometime; and the Wood Awards to see Namon Gaston‘s Fosse Desk and Sebastian Cox’s Ten Species Tall Boy.  The session entitled “The Big Question: What impact will synthetic biology have on design?” on Saturday 20th at 1pm featuring Daan Roosegarde, who has designed glow-in the dark trees using bio-luminscent qualities of jellyfish to replace street lamps, and Rachel Armstrong who designs buildings that repair themselves, sounds like an invitation to wonderland.

hgf02-8tct_IsixKfgucsy4VO7YNsksQ5fI_rcU7Jg0After a full day planned at 100%design, the evening of the 17th September is the SustainRCA Show preview and Awards.  With 36 finalists working with the value of waste, the plight of bees, great gadgets and smarter systems (the smart shopping app, Disclosed, is pictured left), the judges have a tough call.  Perhaps Mohammed J Ali’s A New Enlightenment which imagines a sharing economy around renewable energy, shared goods, services and information will triumph?  Ali used an independent Scotland as a case study, so by the end of this week it may no longer be an imagined scenario.

product_541062b2967991410359986145940Heading east is designjunction, taking place at the Old Sorting Office, New Oxford St. London from the 18th to the 21st of September.  I’ll be dropping in to see Made in Ratio’s updated Supernova table, with a new 100% recycled aluminium finish; marvelling at master craftsmen from Waterford Crystal and Bert & May at the Flash Factories; admiring ercol‘s and Anglepoise timeless classics given a bespoke overhaul as the part of the ‘A Child’s Dream’ silent auction (Tom Dixon’s design is pictured right); checking out Anthony Dickens light for new brand Made in the ForgeHend Krichen, cherchbi, Kristjana Williams, Africa Calling and Tom Raffield.  If it didn’t clash with the climate march, I would be back to hear Kathy Shenoy, Shake the Dust, and Heath Nash, South African designer and British Council ‘Maker Librarian’ discussing the rise in interest in regional artisans, craft and design work from around the world on Sunday 21st at 1.30pm.

sc1Further east still to Tent London at the Old Truman Brewery (18th-21st September) to catch up with (in no particular order) Daniel Heath glorious decorative finishes; Galvin Brothers new Cross Lap collection; Seascape Curiousities one year after launch; Sebastian Cox (Shake Cabinet, pictured left), as I can not attend an event where he is exhibiting without coveting his products; Seven Gauge Studios new woven cotton collection; and Tracey Tubb‘s geometric, 3-dimensional, folded wallpapers.

Around the fringe, The Big Small Show, at the Hoxton Basement Gallery (15th – 19th September) promises to be a thought-provoking with a group of recent graduates from the Royal College of Art’s Design Products course engage with contemporary contradictions of global versus local, craft versus mass-manufacture and more.

Bq_-6yMCQAALj3fAnother recent RCA graduate, Diana Simpson, is now designer in residence at 19 Greek Street, an innovative interior design studio, gallery,and materials library.  Simpson’s Glass Lab turns discards glass bottles into hand-crafted architectural materials, not least of which is the bar top at London’s newest private members club, Library (pictured right).

If you missed seeing Tom Raffield at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, he will be creating a woodland workshop at at Adventures in Furniture, Islington as part of the new Islington Design District.  Elsewhere, there is the debut of the Queens Park Design District, where I hope to sneak a peak at Christoph Behling’s woven wood.

revised_tracey_neuls_dps_1Oh, and there is also home, (co-located with Top Drawer) at Olympia from 14th-16th September for all manner of design-led homewares and interior accessories brands.  It will be a whistle-stop tour at best for me with so much to pack into one week.  And then it will be Decorex!

I”ll certainly be taking advantage of the West London Design District Visa promotion to invest in a pair of Tracey Neuls‘ shoes to ease my cycling around the city!

 

Image credits:  Benchmark; designjunction/Teddy’s Wish; Diana Simpson; SustainRCA; Thomas Matthews; Tracey Neuls

Related links:

http://video.ft.com/3775193342001/London-Design-Festival-Made-in-Britain/Editors-Choice

https://carefullycurated.co.uk/2014/04/10/what-a-lot-of-bottle-a-conversation-glass-lab/

https://carefullycurated.co.uk/2014/06/25/show-rca-ringing-the-changes/

 

Closing the loop and investing for the future

abundance1The rainy Bank Holiday was an opportunity to embark on some financial housekeeping, ISAs, company pension plans, children’s trust funds.  All the details in a blur of paper, opaque usernames and complex passwords.  For many years I have taken an interest in where my savings and pension are invested, though the available information is often limited. It takes patience and tenacity to reveal which actual companies underlie the many branded wrappers of the funds.  But, I am not alone in wanting to do so.
According to a survey published in July 2014 by the National Association of Pension Funds, which represents workplace pension schemes, there is a latent interest amongst pension scheme members to know where their savings are invested.  Of the 1064 respondents, 63% said they were interested in knowing where their savings were invested, including the types of companies, sectors and countries.  A large proportion of respondents (70%) felt it important for pension providers to invest in companies that avoid unethical practices, such as poor working conditions.  When presented with a choice, nearly half (49%) of respondents would prefer their employer chose a provider who invests ‘ethically’ despite this fund likely achieving a lower return on investments and being more volatile.  Interest was particularly high amongst those with a personal income over £50k p.a. (82%) and those aged 18-34 (74%).  Other recent surveys show similar findings with a survey conducted for Abundance, finding 71% of people wanted to know where their money is being invested, and 75% of people would be unhappy knowing that their money is invested in companies that damage the environment or are unethical. Similiarly research by the Defined Contribution Investment Forum  found 77% of respondents preferred a social investment fund over a conventional fund.  When respondents were told that they would receive an 8% smaller pot at retirement, 44% still preferred the social investment fund.
Activities such as the Green Light campaign, organised by ShareAction and Christian Aid, and Push Your Parents are further raising awareness of the £3 trillion currently invested in UK pension funds, and the powerful role this confers on investors as stakeholders.  With the introduction of auto-enrolment, there will be 6-9 million more savers in the UK’s private pensions system, and the appetite for greater transparency and choice is only likely to grow.  It is not just individuals whose interest has been piqued.  There are many trusts, foundations and other institutions with significant endowments that are reappraising their portfolios in line with responsible or impact investment strategies.  Widespread media coverage of the BBC Panorama investigation that found millions of pounds donated to Comic Relief  had been indirectly invested in tobacco, alcohol and arms, and more recently the Church of England’s indirect investment in pay-day loan provider Wonga highlight the associated reputation risks of not auditing investments.
Prudent investment selection can also provide further support for an organisation’s strategic aims, hence the phrase impact investment.  A number of large educational endowments have committed to fossil fuel divestment in the US.  Stanford University’s $18.7bn endowment fund is divesting from all publicly listed companies that focus on coal mining for energy generation by September.  Dayton University and San Francisco State University have also begun divesting from fossil fuels.  In the UK, University of Oxford is consulting on fossil fuel divestment, and in June the British Medical Association voted to end its investments in fossil fuels and focus on energy companies providing renewable energy.  Pensions, trusts and endowment funds by their nature have longer, often intergenerational, time horizons and duties of stewardship.  The beneficiaries of these funds have every incentive to support industries that combat climate change and support sustainability as they will be exposed to the risks of not having done so.
However, the decision to align investments with values can be difficult to implement.  ShareAction, a charity that promotes responsible investment, published a ranking of 20 of the UK’s biggest ethical funds providers, Ethically Engaged? in December 2012.  Nearly half of the providers surveyed do not publish the fund’s full holdings.  The survey scored providers on transparency, screening processes, and stewardship and ethical engagement.  Five providers (Co-Operative Investments (now part of Royal London), F&C Investments, Jupiter Asset Management, Standard Life, and WHEB Asset Management) were reported as demonstrating a strong commitment to ethical engagement with robust internal processes to ensure they respond and engage with current ethical concerns.  While some providers have moved beyond simplistic ‘screening’ approaches, traditional screening tends to be focused on excluding ‘sin stocks’ such as alcohol, gambling, tobacco and weapons whereas human rights and environmental concerns are generally higher priorities for people.  For example, 63% of providers surveyed by ShareAction screen out alcohol, and only 11% screen for child labour. The EIRIS guide gives an overview of funds’ policies on particular issues.
The most recent UN Global Compact- Accenture CEO Study on Sustainability  found that two-thirds of the 1,000 CEOs surveyed think business is not doing enough to address sustainability challenges.  Writing in the RSA Journal, Peter Lacy, Director of Strategy and Sustainability Services for Accenture and CEO Study Lead, cited investor resistance, as well as consumer apathy and regulatory uncertainty, as slowing progress.  In the 2013 survey, just 12% of CEOs regarded investor pressure as a major motivator on sustainability, as one respondent put it, “We still find it challenging to convey to mainstream investors why and how sustainability can drive value creation, but they’re starting to appreciate the risks of working in an unsustainable system.”  Speaking at the RSA in June, Lacy said investors say they are interested in sustainability but, “are unable or unwilling to factor performance into assessment and valuation”.  There is a gap an information gap.
7Since the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) initiative, supported by UN, was launched in 2006 with 20 institutional investors representing $2tn assets under management (AUM), it has grown to 1,260 signatories representing $45tn in AUM.  A PRI equity ownership study found that PRI signatories hold, on average, nearly half of all the shares held by asset managers,
in a sample of 379 listed companies with a combined market capitalisation of $19tn.  The challenge is to effectively convert sizeable ownership into collective influence in favour of responsible business practices and long-term strategies.  PRI’s collaborative platform, the Clearinghouse, is one example of a digital platform providing a forum for collective action.  The Clearinghouse is a private forum for PRI signatories, but one of this year’s SustainRCA finalists developed a digital app to help consumers to make informed choices that reflect their concerns. Marion Ferrec and Kate Wakely’s Disclosed, developed in partnership with a supermarket retailer, captures and displays information such as whether the product was organic, fair-trade, non-GM or low in salt, for example.  Disclosed empowers consumers to vote with their money, aligning their purchases with their values.
In the UK, as automatic enrolment brings millions of new savers into workplace pension schemes,  surely the technologies are available to us to provide greater transparency and choice so that savers, and investors can align their investment preferences and best serve their long-term interests.  A richer information set which enables investors to support transformational companies, that are driving value creation through innovative responses to global challenges, would close the loop of market capitalism and allocate increasingly scarce resources more efficiently.
Related links:

Celebrating and sustaining the beauty of our oceans

mission_blue_gif1_256_99_0_600“No ocean; no life. No ocean; no us” is the stark warning from Dr Sylvia Earle, 2009 TED prize winner, legendary oceanographer in the trailer to her new documentary, Mission Blue.  Earle has led more than 100 expeditions worldwide involving more than 7,000 hours underwater.  After decades at the forefront of ocean exploration, Earle is a passionate advocate for the world’s oceans.  Mission Blue is a rallying call to adapt our behaviour, and start to protect the oceans as we do land, with a goal of 20% protection by 2020.

A week after the release of Mission Blue on Netflix (on August 15th) a team of Southern Cross University biogeochemists published a research paper concluding that the rate of acidification in coral reef ecosystems is more than three times faster than in the open ocean”.  Ocean acidification, or the lowering of the ocean pH due to anthropogenic (caused by humans) inputs of carbon dioxide, is well documented. The change in chemistry significantly reduces the ability of corals, and other shell-forming organisms, to build their skeletons.  We have seen a 40% loss of corals around the globe in the last 30 years.  Coral reefs are incredibly diverse eco-systems, supporting many other species. and essential breeding grounds for viable fisheries.

SUSTAIN STUFF6For the roughly 500 million people worldwide who rely on coral reefs for food, tourism income and coastal protection, healthy coral reefs are a vital part of resource management.  Diving is a passion for Nell Bennett, recent RCA graduate, and SustainRCAFinalist.  While working as a conservation volunteer with blue ventures in Madagascar, she experienced at first hand the importance of community involvement in conservation initiatives.  Bennett designed t-shirts and comic strips to inspire and share messages about sustainable fishing practices, and alternative sources of income from aquaculture (farming sea-cucumbers).

nbennettMindful of this backdrop, Nell Bennett‘s final year project for her MA in Innovation Design Engineering at the Royal College of Art, Coral3, is a scheme to increase the pH of water passing through a coral reef using large alkaline structures placed upstream or within a reef.  These sacrificial structures, made of waste calcium carbonate and an organic binder, slowly dissolve, increasing the pH of the water.  The huge sculptural shapes could form a fantastical and unique underwater dive attraction for an eco-tourism project, bringing in revenue as well as restoration of a reef.

Designing the sculptures requires complex modelling of surface areas, densities, material properties, currents and water acidity to regulate the dissolution rate.  For example, you could design a form with a constant surface area, as it dissolved, or explore different densities of calcium carbonate within the composite.  Bennett talked with D-Shape, a pioneering robotic building system similar to a mega-scale 3D-printer.  D-Shape can print any feature that can fit within a 6metre cube.  They used 3D CAD software to design giant sculptural forms that would provide constant dissolution rates in water.

D-Shape’s technology works similarly to a large scape 3D printer.  Working from the structure’s foundation binder is strained onto a layer of sand (in this instance calcium carbonate).  The solidification process starts and a new layer is added, in 5-10mm layers with material that is not in contact with the binder buttressing the structure until it has solidified.  Once the solidified, any surplus material is released, and hey presto, the structure or sculpture is revealed.  My daughter’s glitter project ambitions could soon reach new dimensions!

As well as using binders, Bennett also explored the work of biomineralogist Damian Palin, a fellow RCA alumnus.  While at the RCA, Palin developed a casting process using bacteria as a low-energy catalyst to create artefacts.  More recently, Palin is developing a process that uses bacteria to biologically “mine” minerals from brine water that is residual to saltwater desalination.

Designing, constructing and delivering sculptures on a large scale would require infrastructure and funds from sponsoring partners.  The Coral3 framework, developed with guidance from the Bertarelli Foundation and blue ventures, describes a social enterprise to provide the host community with sustainable livelihoods.  The construction and delivery of sculptures on such a scale would require infrastructure and funds from sponsoring partners including local dive centres, resort hotels, a shipping company, and marine conservation charity.  The more modest sculptures exhibited at Bennett’s degree show were made by hacking a 3D printer, their delicate, ethereal forms reminiscent of the corals themselves.  These or even more simple, economical brick forms that could be replaced easily at regularly intervals may form the basis of a pilot project.

2014.8_Florida_nurseryBennett’s work may be included in a major exhibition at the Natural History MuseumCoral Reefs: Secret Cities of the Sea, opening in March 2015.  The exhibition promises stunning seascapes drawn from the Catlin Seaview Survey, which is sponsored by the exhibition partners, the Catlin Group, a global specialty property insurer and reinsurer.  The Catlin Seaview Survey is creating a baseline record of the world’s coral reefs, in high-resolution 360-degree panoramic vision.  The project started in September 2012, surveying the Great Barrier Reef.  In total 150km of 32 reefs along the entire length of the Great Barrier Reef and out into the Coral Sea were surveyed.  105,000, GPS located, panoramic images are being analysed by marine scientists around the world, and can be viewed on the free, publicly accessible online database, the Catlin Global Reef Record.  Everyone from reef managers to international decision makers will be able to see the current state of reef ecosystems, and monitor changes over time at the local, regional or global level.  It gives an unprecedented and common view of the health of these fragile ecosystems, a vital aid to management.

The sheer wonder I felt the first time I saw a healthy reef in the Red Sea was captivating.  The beautiful technicolor images are fresh in my mind more than twenty years later, I only hope the reef is still as brilliantly pristine today.  Soon, I will be able to check, revisiting the reef, virtually this time, thanks to the Catlin Seaview Survey!  A joy of digital and location-based technology that reveals the beauty of our oceans, and provides essential data to conserve and protect their vital eco-systems.

Coral3 has been selected as a SustainRCA Show and Award 2014 finalist, and will be on display at the RCA from 18th September – 3rd October 2014.

Image credits: Catlin Seaview Survey; Mission Blue; Nell Bennett/Sustain

Related links:

http://ideas.ted.com/2014/08/15/4-gifs-that-show-what-happened-to-the-oceans/

https://carefullycurated.co.uk/2014/07/23/sustainrca-show-and-award-2014-finalists/