Warm, wonderful and woollen: the Interiors Collection @woolweek

wi2Campaign for Wool’s fifth annual Wool Week is celebrating the beauty and versatility of wool for fashion and interiors, and where better to hide from the blustery showers than in the pop-up Interiors Collection gallery in Southwark Cathedral.  The curated collection of more than fiftyl wool products features fabrics, flooring and furnishings from the high street to bespoke and designer pieces commissioned for commercial clients.  Here are my top ten:

wi3Roger Oates Stromness runner (70cm wide x 230cm long) is woven from pure un-dyed Shetland Wool in the UK.  Four natural colours, ivory white, light and deep grey and ebony, create bold stripes with a contrasting border.  The subtle hues of the un-dyed wool lend themselves perfectly to the geometric and monochrome trends of the moment.

wi10The Røros Tweed storm blanket (120x180cm, £195) from Toast, also uses the natural monochrome tones of un-dyed wool, this time from Norway.  Røros, established as a mining town in 1646, is on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. In 1789, when the director of the mine, Peder Hiort, died childless, he bequeathed his entire fortune to a foundation set up to provide training to the poor in handicraft and textile production.  Røros Tweed was established in 1940 to sell handmade textiles, and continues to ensure the whole process from raw wool to finished product stays in Norway.

wi9Mary Goodman‘s Seating Spheres, launched at Tent London, are a mix of British Swaledale and Herdwick wools.  The spheres are made to order and are a fun addition to any home office.

wi8For a less energetic seating solution, Galvin Brothers  (Completely) Imperfect Day Bed, upholstered in Melton Earth Cobalt and Boutique Islington grey from Abraham Moon would be a very sophisticated place to recline with a good book or simply find a moment of calm.  Firm, flat and fit for a daytime ‘power-nap’, it is also a single bed worthy of any overnight guests.  Made of solid oak and finished with Danish oil, the bed (180 x 44 x 80cm, £1,985) has the Galvin Brothers signature turned leg.  Their partnership with local supplier Abraham Moon, established in 1837 and one of one of Britain’s last remaining vertical woollen mills, means this piece of furniture is Yorkshire through and through.

wi4Bailey Hills’ Comati Stripe Metallic cushion has the striking motif digitally printed on to 100% wool twill.  The metallic shimmer is the perfect complement to Jonathan Adler‘s luxurious handcrafted Ingmar Chair (£2,250) with its shearling-lined seat.  What an indulgence.  wi6Kit Kemp for Christopher Farr Cloth’s folklore embroidered fabric, 100% wool with cotton embroidery (£280/m), is luxury with a colourful and artisanal flair.

The Tetrahedron and Falling Cubes cushions (£95) made for Pentreath and Hall by Fine Cell Work, a social enterprise that trains prisoners in paid, skilled, creative needlework, bring colour to geometric designs. Georgia Bosson’s Skeleton ‘Crosses’ cushion is made from industrial wool felt waste material overlaid on linewi7n.  From £55 each, the cushions are limited edition, and by the nature of their materials unique.

From the decorative to the utilitarian for the last of my picks, Hey-Sign’s collection wi5of laundry baskets made from 100% wool felt with 30°, 60°, 90° (35 × 27 × 75 cm) motif.

Wool’s versatile aesthetic appeal is long-lasting, as it is a resilient performance fibre.  Wool has many virtues being natural, renewable and biodegradable (if pure wool).  It is also multi-climatic, keeping you warm in winter, and breathable to keep you cool in summer.  In the home, wool is an effective insulator with anti-bacterial and hypoallergenic properties and is naturally fire-retardant.

wi1With such a strong British wool heritage, I look forward to an exhibition that captures stories from native breeds and traditional crafts to outstanding contemporary design and innovative materials.

The Interiors Collection is on display at London’s Southwark Cathedral during Wool Week – open from the 5th – 12th October 10am – 7pm daily (8pm on Thursday).  Admission is free.  If you can not make it there, then have a look at OneWool, the new online gallery showcasing the largest collection of wool interiors products.

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Rethinking at New Designers Part 2

liddardPart 2 of New Designers 2014 welcomed graduates from furniture and product design, visual communications, motion arts and theatre design.  I was delighted to see Oliver Liddard’s Rethink Sink.  In last summer’s dry spell, I could regularly be seen emptying water from my kitchen sink into the garden to revive wilting peas and beans.  My efforts at grey water recycling would have been much more efficient with Oliver’s RSA Award winning design.  Rethink the Sink uses two basins to make users visually aware of how much water they are using.  The first basin is plug less, so you have to consciously pour or ‘throw away’ water into the second basin.  This act enables users to intervene and recycle the grey water elsewhere in the home.  The design aims to decrease water consumption by making us aware of the volumes we use.  An elegant intervention.

keoghAfter the abundance of blooms at Part 1, one of the first works that caught my eye was Sam Janzen‘s Eco-System Composter.  Designed for an Electrolux Design Lab competition, the gravity-fed system takes food waste in, and fresh food out with the system sitting on top of a seed incubator.  The green-fingered amateur was also in the mind of Joshua Keogh when he designed Cultivate, as a client project for Joseph Joseph.  The self-watering system uses two silicone pots of different sizes making it easier to repot in the early stages of plant growth.

IMG_0022To propagate and cultivate plants, we need bees, and Jon Steven is a man on a mission to make bee-keeping more accessible with his eco-friendly and affordable Pine Hive.  Made of economical pine, with hemp rope handles, the hive has the same internal dimensions as the National Hive, and allows interchangeability of pre-existing parts such as frames and mesh floors, reducing waste from potential upgrades, and is stackable, so it can be readily expanded.

For a splash of colour,  Effie Koukia has developed paint and print products that are literally good enough to eat.  Effie set out to replace the hazardous chemicals in spray paints used for graffiti with a safer and healthier alternative.  The dyes and solvents used in the EXTRACT range are derived from 100% natural products and biodegradable.  The paints are available in three formats (paint, spray paint and screen-print) and safe for users, including children, in case of contact with the skin, ingestion or inhalation.  The hot pink on show was picture perfect!

yamazakiRecycled plastic bags provide inspiration and material for Reiji Yamazaki‘s work.  Heat is used to shrink the bags into a durable, flexible material that Reiji used to make colourful accessories.  seaibyWael Seaiby reminds us that one million plastic bags are used every minute around the world and around 93% of these bags end up in landfill.  With PLAG, Wael recycles some of these discarded bags into hand-worked vessels, that would bring a vibrant splash of colour into anyone’s home.

DSC_0003At last year’s New Designers 2013 I enjoyed Kai Venus Designs‘ Bambureau, made of formaldehyde-free bamboo ply, so I was delighted to catch up with him at One Year On. This year Kai exhibited a cabinet of curiosities made of birch ply, up-cycled kitchen knives and ash chopping boards.  The chopping boards are made from ash from Kai’s uncle’s farm that has been seasoned for several years, rather than months, revealing a deep grain and rich colour.  The “Zero-Carbon Knives” are made from up-cycling used saw blades, finished with handles of hardwood off-cuts.  The high-carbon spring steel used for saw blades is the same as that of Japanese sushi knives, so provides a razor sharp edge, which stays sharp for an exceptionally long time.  You just have to clean and dry the knife as soon as you have used it so the blade does not discolour.

obtineoStorage1Kai’s knives would be perfectly complemented by Tom Hutchinson’s considered and elegant Obtineo Storage jars made in the UK from the finest solid ash, felt and glass.  The glass is hand-blown at a works that can trace its roots right back to 1612. The felt, made of 100% wool, is from one of the last British felt factories.  Each of Oliver Richardson‘s three Kitchen Totems provide further decorative function to the rituals of eating an egg, steak or evening glass of wine.  Michael Papworth’s design project, sponsored by black + blum, looks to influence our drinking habits, designing a water carafe, based on black + blum’s charcoal products, as a functional table centre piece.

hpatelAs my children grow, I am left with a litter of toddlers’ toys, so the future-proof design of Heena Patel’s baby walker that transforms into a smart Scandi-style occasional table really appeals.  hknowlesHannah Knowles approach to changing lifestyles is to design modular, flat-pack furniture from everyday products such as pipefittings, ash dowels and pipes.  The copper adds a sense of luxury to her affordable, functional and fixable occasional table.

hongYonghui Hong’s stools are recyclable, biodegradable and compostable.  An eco-friendly alternative to polypropylene, PLA (polylactic acid) is a thermoplastic derived from plants (corn, sugar-cane and tapioca roots).  Yonghui designed two stools: the first, is injection-molded from Fibrolon F8530, a compound of PLA and natural fibres; the second, designed for low volume batch production is made from a composite of PLA woven with Biotex flax fibre shaped on a heated steel mould.

IMG_3345Monica Prieto Alzate won an Ercol design contest for her reinterpretation of a Windsor chair, Lucia.  Her bijoux vanity set, Kyo (pictured right) suits space-constrained urban-living and her decorative laser-cut hanging solutions, Familia, would be an affordable hanging choice.  A sensitive choice of materials and playful nature permeate all her work.

numaDaniel Brooks tackled another blight on life in a small flat, getting your clothes dry without the space or cost of a tumble dryer. His design, Numa, which won the Wilko Award for Innovation, is a heatless clothes dryer that can try up to 5kg of wet clothing 3 times faster than an airing rack, at a cost of 5p an hour.  A top-mounted fan creates constant air flow, encouraging evaporation, and a dehumidifier then extracts the moisture from the air to prevent damp and mildew.  Brilliant.

osborneFor a final decorative edge, Emilie Osborne, a paper artist, One Year On, displayed her three-dimensional surface designs.  Made of paper that is 75% recycled and 100% recyclable, the geometric designs create optical illusions of shape, depth and perspective.  The effect is decorative, dynamic and bang-on trend.

Image credits: Daniel Brooks, Effie Koukia, Kai Venus Designs, Monica Prieto Design, Purplewax, Tom Hutchinson Design

 

 

 

Abundance of blooms at New Designers Part 1

holmesAesthetic beauty was blooming at New Designers Part 1, the first chapter of an exhibition that shows work from over 3000 UK graduate designers over two weeks.  Part 1 showcased textiles, fashion, contemporary applied arts (including ceramics and glass), jewellery and metalwork.

Fauna and particularly flora (Laura Holmes pictured left) provided a deep well of inspiration for many of this year’s graduates, with bold, outsized, colourful prints of flowers greeting you as soon as you walked. Flashes of tropical colour from Sophie Painter,  Loughborough University, who garnered a “John Lewis Loves” label sat alongside, the ethereal, wintry prints from Robyn Dark.  Amy Malcolmson, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, also won a “John Lewis Loves” label for her clean, crisp spring and autumn floral series.  Her hand-painted wallpaper samples echo the fresh, vibrant, if whimsical florals of Dame Elizabeth Blackadder.

cravenLayering images to depth and structure to floral was a popular technique.  Ellie-rose McFall‘s handprinted textiles, which overlay wildflowers on cracked surfaces, are inspired by the Garden Bridge, planned for London in 2016.  Sophie Tattersall, De Montford University, Leicester, uses layered photographs to create delicate floral patterns.  Sophie Thompson, Nottingham Trent University, builds up layers of detail taking inspiration from nature, enhancing hand drawn imagery with digital techniques.  I was drawn to “In the Undergrowth”, with a mix of birds, bugs and silhouettes.  Charlotte Raven‘s wallpaper (pictured right) is a like of snapshot of a summer garden in bloom.  Malin-Charlotte Ødemark work draws on landscapes creating a subtle, earthy palette that worked to great effect as upholstery on Ercol’s classic sofa.

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Natural beauty went more than skin deep for Emily Buchanan, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design.  Her work, Living+Dying displays the wonderful array of colours accessible from nature using traditional craft methods.  Red cabbage, red onion, eucalyptus, and other plants dyes, two mordants, time and a couple of serendipitous accidents were used to dye peace silk a rich spectrum of soothing tones.  buchanan2Peace silk allows the silkworm to emerge from their cocoons. The silk is degummed and spun like other fibre, instead of being reeled.  Conventional silk is made by boiling the intact cocoons, which kills the silk worms.  Emily is a passionate advocate of the joys, and beauty, of natural dyes.  She continues to run workshops with schools and interested groups.  There were a couple of interested parties at the show.

From the natural, to the utterly fabricated, Laura Holmes makes fantastical floral displays from recycled plastics.  Laura works with milk bottles, coke bottles, offcuts of acetates, sequin film and all manner of plastics.  They are cut, painted and flocked inspired by colours from the aquarium.  The result is almost fantastical.

healy2Karoline Healy‘s Domestic Mining is also an ethos that makes good use of the things that we find in our homes.  Karoline was first inspired by reading0 Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough and Michael Braungart.  A visit to India and encounters with street vendors and road-side workshops prompted Karoline to design a kiosk.  The kiosk is constructed from household objects, an old shredder, file, bicycle chain. Discarded plastic bottles are shredded, moulded, marked with the appropriate recycle sign and then a watch assembled from the flat pack kit.  No glues, nails, paints, or varnishes are used, so the watch can be readily repaired or recycled.

rosakSophie Rosak’s table lamp with a shade of naturally-tanned leather, and copper, is simply constructed and so easily dissembled at its end of life. Its industrial style is softened by the warm tones of the leather and copper.  priceA simple aesthetic defines Rebecca Price’s work.  Scouted by the Design Council’s ‘One to Watch’, her food storage jars (pictured left) are covetable for any contemporary kitchen.  The lid of each vessel is also a portion measure.  What is more the vessels nestle snuggly together saving precious space on your worktop.

More covetable vessels were on display as part of One Year On, which showcases the work of 50 emerging designers in their first year of business. I was delighted to catch up with Isatu Hyde, who I met at New Designers 2013.  hydeAfter a stint with Kilner to develop her foraging project, Isatu is now an apprentice with Marches Pottery in Ludlow.  Isatu has worked with terracotta for the first time to throw distinctive coffee drippers, carafes, cups, and milk jugs, as well as continuing to develop her own distinct style.  I fell in love with these bowls, inspired by those used by Medieval monks.

boonsNext door was Sofie Boons, the Alchemical Jeweller, a graduate of the RCA, 2013.  Available as a recipe book and kit, with an elegant silver pin, I was lucky enough to experience Sofie’s solid perfume.  Grapefruit zest, TicTacs, mint, cardamon, coconut and salt were put in small pouch and pinned as a brooch to my chest. My daughters thought it smelt good enough to eat.  I was reminded of Lauren Davies Alchemists Design Table, encouraging a transparency and honesty about what we put on our skin.

The show was a feast for the senses.  Appreciation of the environment was visually evident, but scrabble around in the undergrowth and the homage rarely has the opportunity to go deeper.  There was a desire to design textiles and surfaces that take their appreciation of the natural world to a more tangible level, constrained by cost, college facilities, and a sense that demand is limited.  As the exhibition for emerging design it would be great to see more innovative and sustainable textiles on show as they begin to be adopted more widely, especially by contract clients.

New Designers Part 2 will be at the Business Design Centre in Islington from 2nd until 5th July.

Related links:

https://carefullycurated.co.uk/2013/07/08/new-designers-2013-2/

More Carefully Curated @Clerkenwell Design Week

IMG_3480There was so much to see at Clerkenwell Design Week, I could not see it all, but here are a few more favourite finds.

Firstly, a step into Forbo Flooring Systems who make linoleum, project vinyl, carpet tiles, and flocked flooring for commercial and residential customers.  With a clutch of environmental awards to their name, including BREAM, Cradle-to-Crade and Nordic Swan, theInfographic_April_2014y are proud of their commitment to responsible raw material procurement and manufacturing processes.  Forbo use Life Cycle Assessment to evaluate their products’ environmental footprint, before, during and after production.  The info graphic, Creating Better Environments shares some of the highlights.  For example, marmoleum (linoleum) is made from 97% natural materials with natural antibacterial properties, contains 43% recycled content, has total VOC 30 lower than the norm and CO2 emissions 50% than other resilient floorings.  It could soon be on the floor of the family bathroom! 

Instyle Textile WallI had to stop at Brands ,a few doors down, to hear about the “holistically reared sheep” (as pitched in the Icon Guide to CDW) whose wool is used for the LIFE textile range from Instyle.  LIFE textiles were developed along  Cradle to Cradle principles, made from 100% low-pesticide wool that is processed with biodegradable detergents, and heavy-metal free dyes.  Wool has many virtues, and this cloth, suitable for upholstery or screen use, is also recyclable through Instyle’s Revive programme.  Instyle Green Feel Bags LondonTo show the colours and weave to their best effect, the fabrics have been made into covetable backpacks by Cherchbi, a British leather goods company that prides itself on using the best natural raw materials such as vegetable-tanned English saddle leather and discarded wool from the ancient Herdwick breed.  The bags are a playful way to show the beauty and versatility of the LIFE Textiles and Cherchbi craftsmanship.

IMG_3479I had a quick perch on a (very comfortable) bed at Ensemblier London to hear from founder Emma Storey about the craftsmanship invested in their customisable headboards.  With designs inspired by the rich archives of the Victoria & Albert Museum, the headboards are handmade in small workshops in England using traditional skills and sustainable materials.

photoCraftsmanship and traditional skills were also in evidence elsewhere.  The beautiful copper and terracotta objects (pictured at the top)from Hend Krichen are the fusion of a London-based design practice and a network of craftsmen in Tunisia revealing the country’s natural resources and artisanal heritage.  The perfect complement to the kitchen I am coveting after seeing this bar (pictured right) at the Benchmark Furniture stand.

IMG_3495 IMG_3497I caught my breath with a perch on Neb Abbott‘s Geffrye stool.  The stackable stool is based on a commission for eight benches as temporary seating for the Geffrye Museum cafe. Neb is about to graduate from the CASS School of Art, Architecture and Design.  Alongside the stool stood the Wasp series of chairs.  The playful exploration with materials (my favourite is the webbing) belies the serious design consideration to providing lumber support.  It is seriously comfy!

allo_high1Studio 23, founded by Naori Priestly, a Royal College of Art graduate, works with the Allo Club in Sankhuwasabha, a small mountain village in eastern Nepal, to produce handmade fabrics from the Himalayan Giant Nettle (known as Allo). Allo grows naturally in forests above 1500 metres, helping to stabilise the fragile soil in mountainous areas.  Local peoples harvest allo, as they have done for generations, boiling and beating the stem bark and then spinning the fibres and weaving them into sacks, bags, jackets or fishing nets.  As a social enterprise, Studio23 aims to preserve the community’s skills, the landscape and provide another source of revenue.  The natural fabric is strong and durable.  It would look great as chair seat, or cushion, particularly the subtle herringbone weave. IMG_3481 Or cover a sofa, add a few hand-knitted cushions from Rose Sharp Jones (pictured left), and then relax…..

 

Photocredit: Brands Ltd; Forbo Flooring Systems for the info graphic; Studio23 and the rest are mine.

Related post: Design Factory @Clerkenewell Design Week

 

Maps of fantasyland with the House of Fairy Tales

Claire_Brewster_small_largeFollowing the SustainRCA discussion about the “Rights of Nature and the nature of value”, my antenna has been alert to the role of artists as protagonists in defence of nature. So I was drawn to the latest portfolio, Cartography, from the House of Fairy Tales (with support from TAG Fine Arts) that is currently on show at the House of Barnabas, a charity helping the homeless back into work, supported by a members club in Soho.

I have a love of maps. They speak of adventure, romance, fairytales, and tell the story of power. Often what is left out, says more than what is left in.  Cartography encapsulates these wonders.  The portfolio consists of 12 screen prints and lithographs on the theme of the ‘lay of the land’ from whole continents, and wildernesses, to more familiar, but perhaps equally foreign inner world.  Sir Peter Blake and Rob Ryan are among the distinguished role call of artists.

Of the portfolio, I was drawn immediately to Claire Brewster’s ‘Sweet Dreams’ (pictured above).  The mix of collage and painting on a 1965 map of Aldabra Island in the Seychelles creates an exotic landscape for an imagined journey. The birds, flowers and insects cross over boundaries with ease, immune to the clinical lines of the map. A dual metaphor depicting the contrast between a cartographer’s precision and the vibrant, unruly real world, as well as showing the limits of man’s efforts to tame and contain nature. The piece is typical of Claire Brewster’s work with obsolete maps to create beautiful paper cuts. Retrieving the discarded and celebrating the unwanted.

Red Road Butterfly 3Susan Stockwell’s work also finds hidden treasure in waste, recycling everyday materials to comment on issues of ecology, geo-politics, and global commerce. Maps allow her to illustrate society’s networks of power and communication. The Red Road Butterfly screen print (pictured right) portrays a city’s life-blood as its road network with flows of goods and people in and out. Butterflies are a popular motif of transformation. Their fragility, transience, and beautiful.

These works, and others, ask us to pause, and prompt inquiry into our relationship with the world around us. They tell a story that is the beginning of a conversation about community, society and environment.

Sales from the Cartography Portfolio support of the work of the House of Fairy Tales, an artist-led charity that champions creative play for all, including the disadvantaged and marginalised. Established in 2006 by artists Deborah Curtis and Gavin Turk, House of Fairy Tales combines artists, educationalists, performers and scientists to create events and materials that coax individuals and communities to explore a love of curiosity, learning and doing. In the pipeline for later this year is the HOFT Examiner, a children’s online player creating a new mythology of forests in conjunction with the Forestry Commission.

The exhibition runs until the end of June and is available to view by appointment at the House of Barnabas and Home House.  So find a moment to enjoy this fantastical world of Cartography while you can.  TAG Fine Arts will exhibiting other works by some of the artists at stand 37 of the London Print Fair opening on Thursday 24th April at the Royal Academy of Arts.

Related links:

http://howtospendit.ft.com/philanthropy/52683-the-house-of-st-barnabas-cartography-portfolio

Picture credits: The artists courtesy of TAG Fine Arts

What a hottie!

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The cold winter nights are still with us and one way to warm up is with a hot water bottle.  Who wouldn’t love a cuddle with one of these?

The warm tones of the Seed hot water bottle from Seven Gauge Studio (pictured left) alone will spark an inner glow.  Each cover is knitted on a hand-powered machine from top quality lambswool, then individually washed and slightly felted for a softer cuddle.  They are priced at £45, including the bottle, and made to order in England.

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The hottie covers from Laura’s Loom (pictured right) are made from Bluefaced Leicester wool that is sourced from the Yorkshire Dales.  The lovely colours of these Howgill fabrics deliberately evoke the colours and textures of Britain’s northern landscapes.  All Laura’s Loom products are designed, sourced and made in the UK, proudly celebrating Britain’s woollen heritage.  The hotties are available in the three colours shown, priced £24, and fit a standard 2l bottle (not included).

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An upcycled alternative, is the selection of hot water bottle covers made from vintage Welsh blankets that have been damaged beyond repair available from Jane Beck.  The blanket remnants are salvaged to make limited numbers of mini and full size hot water bottle covers.  Prices from £19.99 for a mini hottie, with bottle included.

hottiebottie400px_250pxx370_99241f4dd82b68b3c9669f6c284a545bFor a homemade option, the Hottie Bottie hot water bottle cover felt making kit from Gilliangladrag includes the wool tops, ready cut plastic template and full step-by-step feltmaking instructions written by Gillian Harris, author of “Complete Feltmaking” and “Carnival of Felting”.  A basic felt making kit (bamboo mat and net) is also required.  I am quite tempted to sign up for a Learn to Felt course, £65 for the day at the Fluff-a-torium in Dorking.

cherrystonebagThe cherry stone bag from Momosan is an original, and understated alternative to  conventional hot water bottles.  The 100% African cotton bags are filled with cherry stones that are a by-product of jam and kirsch making.  Apparently, Swiss distillery workers traditionally heated bags of the stones on warm stoves to sooth bumps and aching muscles.  If you don’t have a stove to hand, you and I  can heat the cherry stone pillows in the microwave to soothe muscular tension or warm feet in bed.  The bag can also be chilled for use as a cold compress on sprains or headaches.  The bags are available in 9 different patterns and cost £22.

Nights need no longer be chilly!

All pictures are from the suppliers websites.

Window shopping at the New Craftsmen

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You can’t exactly window shop as the New Craftsmen pop-up store is in a garage in central London, but I have been trying to find a moment to peak behind the big black doors for a while.

I was immediately struck by the beautiful turquoise glazed, embossed tiles on the walls. What beauty, and expense, to adorn what would have been stables and a  carriage house.  The tiles reflect an attention to detail that is the essence of the New Craftsmen.

Before popping-up, the founders spent two years  touring the country, meeting exceptional makers of traditional crafts, masters of skills that are often centuries old, and capturing their stories.  New Craftsmen is the result.  A selection of beautiful, and useful wares presented to customers in a place, and space that also shares the stories of the people and processes that make them.

Some pieces are produced just as they always have been, such as the Sussex trugs (gardening basket) handcrafted from locally coppiced sweet chestnut and willow by Thomas Smiths since 1829.

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Other things are a contemporary take on a classic piece, such as the Coventry chair, pictured.  Made by Sitting Firm in Coventry, the chair is one of a number of variations on the classic Windsor chair that are stocked by the New Craftsmen.  Chris Eckersley designed the chair during a green-woodworking (also know as bodging) project at Clissett Wood, in Herefordshire.  This intensive designer mash-up, now named ‘Bodging Milano’, inspired spin off events such as the ‘Elves and the Chairmakers’ in the Lloyd Loom factory in Spalding when seven chair concepts emerged over two days.  I love the notion of designers’ creative energy sparking off one another to hot house new concepts and experiment freely with materials in their environment.

Bashot_0466_copysmallercropped_compactck to the New Craftsmen, where my eye was caught by a Taylor’s Eye Witness lambsfoot pen knife.  Sheffield, the City of Steel, has a tradition of knife making dating back to the 14th century, and Taylor’s Eye Witness have been fine exemplars of the local skills for over 150 years.  The knife is made entirely by one craftsmen (and comes with a certificate bearing its maker’s signature) from stainless steel and an ironwood handle.   To see how,there is a video on the Taylor’s Eye Witness website. The knife has a reassuring weight in your palm, and yet the wood grain on the handle has a delicate beauty.  Pen knives remind me of my grandfather making all manner of things for us, from whittling sticks to rope ladders. It would make a special present for someone.  A thing of beauty to enjoy forever.

Related articles:

East London Design Show – the CC edit

935606_748233341857996_477679725_nIt was a trip for all the family to the East London Design Show.  The website said, “Bring the kids” so we did, and they were catered for making hats, colouring and perusing the stands.  Their edit might have been different to mine.

Like a magpie draw to the bright and brilliant, I honed in on the Galapagos stand.  I have admired their uber-luxurious take on up-cycling before at Tent London, and there were plenty more mid-century chairs reupholstered in colourful, contemporary prints  to covet  at the ELDS this weekend.  The founder of Galapagos, Lucy Mortimer, is on a mission to provide “high design products without the environmental impact”, and to make buying vintage furniture as accessible as buying new. The chairs are so beautifully reupholstered they look like new too.  I love the latest collaboration with Parris Wakefield (thats the chevron print on the chair to the left).

clock

Re-purpose is at the heart of [re]design, a social enterprise that promotes ‘Good and Gorgeous design that is friendly to both people and planet’.  Here is a picture of clocks made from playing cards, a neat re-use of that deck of cards that is missing a few.  For the instructions on how to make the clock, and other things such as a pallanter (that is a planter made from a pallet, get it?), or a bath mat from a wetsuit, have a peak in [re]craft, a book full of everyday designs to make at home, from waste.   For more seasonal inspiration, try “Why don’t you…[re]design Christmas?”  I can’t help having a flashback to 1980s kids TV programming….

480774_10150923607836059_462348813_nMore making good use of the things that we find, was on display with Eco-pouffe, a social enterprise.  The pouffe is handmade in Shoreditch from recycled car tyres, bicycle inner tubes and legs turned from recycled timber.  The stool is traditionally upholstered using cotton felt (a by-product from mattress-making) and covered in fabric from Holdsworth, suppliers to the Tube, or a fabric of your choice.  It is certainly built to last.

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From London to Laos and the beautiful, subtle textiles of Passa Paa.  Founder Heather Smith, a graduate of Chelsea Design School, combines traditional handcrafting techniques with innovative materials to create textiles that are firmly rooted in the patterns and symbols of traditional textiles in Laos, but re-interpreted for today.

The Hmong people of Laos have long used hemp for clothing and household items.   Pass Paa hand screen print the hemp with indigo and black environmentally-friendly dyes to make these stunning cushions, some of which are finished with applique work.

58_8b3b438d-645c-4ae7-b0b8-83edf31f535c_largeAlso from the east, and drawing on traditional skills are the place mats, storage boxes and picture frames from cuvcuv. The debut collection, ‘Wild One’ is  made from mendong, a rapidly renewable (growing!) aquatic grass grown in North West Java, Indonesia.  cuvcuv founder, Ruth, has been working with a small family business to develop this, first range for four years.  As a former buyer for Fortnum and Mason, Ruth knows a thing or two about quality, artisanal skills and provenance, and her new venture, cuvcuv is full of them.

Around the corner was another new (ad)venture in renewable materials, Mind the Cork.  I only had chance for a fly-by chat with Jenny Santo as the kids were hungry by this point.  Suffice to say, Alice (aged 3) loved the place mats, or more specifically the holes that had been punched through the cork to create a floral design. I love cork, its look, feel and material qualities.

I was all touchy, feely with the gorgeous jumpers at  Monkstone Knitwear.  The wool for Monkstone knitwear comes from the Monkstone flock at Trevayne Farm, a mix of Black Welsh Mountains and Dorsets.  After the sheep are shorn, the fleeces are washed, and spun into yarn for hand or machine knitting. You can buy the yarn (£5 per 50g of undyed, naturally colour wool) or a delightful chunky jumper that is ready to wear.

Other stands we flew by wishing we could linger longer were HAM to admire the playful, minimalist prints of a pig, horse and rabbit on 100% British homewards; and Group Design to talk about their bamboo shelves.

And then we were off!

 

Crazy capes

 

cape

My daughter and I were caught in a deluge this morning. Thankfully we were outside a cycle shop where we picked up a rain cape or poncho made from bioplastic by Equilicua.  The raincoat is made from potato starch, so it is a 100% compostable and biodegradable garment.  It is light enough (80g) and small enough (carry pouch is 17x22cm) to be carried in a satchel, handbag or boot of the car in case of unexpected showers.  The capes have wrist straps, adjustable straps around the hood and waist and are available in three sizes, S, M, L.

The cape’s function is to be disposable, not durable, but with a fruitful reincarnation.  A tiny bag of seeds nestles in the cape’s breast pocket to be planted with the cape after a year or so of use.  The cape comes in three patterns or flavours – potato, tomato, or garden pea.  They are available directly from Equilicua and some cycle shops.

In truth, it is hard to cut a dash in waterproof clothing, but this is a fun, functional and eye-catching in a positive sense.  And capes and ponchos are on-trend this season, so I am told.