My 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.
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 a 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.
I 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.
It 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.
Further 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.
I 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.