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:


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.


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:


Show RCA ringing the changes

RCA1Show RCA 2014 is the Royal College of Art‘s annual graduate show.  With 575 art, design and humanities postgraduate students, from over 40 countries, six different Schools, and 22 programmes in total exhibiting their work, the breadth and scale of the show is almost overwhelming.  For SustainRCA, the RCA’s specialist sustainability department, it has been a fantastic year. Sustain’s annual awards scheme welcomed nearly 100 applications, of whom nearly 70 made the long-list (denoted by a * below).

Students at the RCA are encouraged to tackle concepts with freedom.  I was immediately struck by the search for better alternatives to current forms of democracy and economic development.  Alternatives on smaller scales, shaped by new technologies and reflecting different values.  isobeldaviesIsobel Davies*, State of Emergencyimagines nuclear survivals kits and strategic infrastructure for a domesday scenario.  Images of a Romantic English landscape contrast with the infinite greys of a post-Apocolyptic landscape (pictured right).  Michael Currin’s* My Resilient Community is an off-grid platform for urban communities to mobilise when extreme weather events disrupt telecommunications networks.  Kathryn Fleming’s* Endless Forms/ Endless Species foresees a new age of wildlife parks, and asks what will be the outcome of our selective protection of charismatic species.  In lighter tones, Tom Price* (Indispensable Infrastructure) designs housing developments that reuse the structures of decommissioned oil platforms, and Ja Yoon-Yoon* hopes to re-appr0priate disused petrol stations as “wellness centres” (or Breaks!).

breadcompanionCommoning the Cloud started with a cartographic study of a personal ISP address which routed via 22 companies to causing Matthew Powell* to question the tacit contracts we enter without understanding the value of our data. Commoning the Cloud describes a meshed network run as a community co-operative to retake ownership of our data.  Mohammed J Ali’*s A New Enlightenment plays out an imagined Scottish independence based on the sharing of energy, goods services and information fuelled by peer-to-peer energy grids.  Matthew Lydiatt‘*s byMe is a local marketplace based on trust and great homemade food, perhaps including Julia Georgallis*, Bread Companionthe travelling bakery that encourages sharing an honest loaf (pictured left).  This theme of disaffection or dissociation from the global and passion for local initiatives chimes with a new report from the Fabian Society, Pride of Placerecently discussed by Lucy Siegle in the Guardian.

Other projects address our consumer culture, whether Adam Peacock’s* cautionary tale of the Validation Junky in all his disproportionate forms focused on individual contentment, or Zoe Hough’s* Smile, the fiction has already begun which questions the pursuit of happiness as a political goal after the 2011 UN resolution that encouraged all member states to measure happiness.

hgf02-8tct_IsixKfgucsy4VO7YNsksQ5fI_rcU7Jg0Some question how our values can be translated into action.  Fotini Markopoulo’s* Cityzen is a digital voting system that aims to make voting easier, to provide clearer mandates as a better resource for government and spur greater civic engagement when you see your vote can count.  Pierre Paslier’s* Advanced Activism is a playful, open-source toolkit for direct action.  Disclosed, by Marion Ferrec* and Kate Wakely* (MA Service Design), is a transparency tool to facilitate more mindful consumption (pictured right).  In a market-based economy, shopping choices matter, and with Disclosed, customers can align purchases with their values, whether environmental or health.  The invisible hand of market economics allocates resources efficiently, but only with perfect information.  With imperfect information, customers send retailers unintended signals.  Disclosed starts to bridge the information gap with a little nudge to change to behaviour.

Information Experience Design, a new programme (as are Interior Design and Service Design), is about transforming information into experiences, making the intangible, tangible through cross-disciplinary collaborations. In a world increasingly driven by data with virtual connections mediated via digital platforms, the exhibits delight and draw you into an engagement deeper, more complex and more intuitive than most info graphics.

ShenaiChange Ringing,* a collaboration between artist Peter Shenai and composer Laurence Osborn, tells a sonic story of climate change during the 20th century.  Six bronze bells have been cast in forms derived from graphic statistical representations of summer temperatures at 17 year intervals over the last 102 years. Arranged, and struck in order, the bells voice an inharmonic spectra, a deviation from natural balance. On 28th June a 25 minute composition commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra will premiere at LSO St Luke’s, Old St, London. Affective media that hopes to ring some changes!

photo 3-2Health, wellbeing and responses to social challenges feature prominently at Show RCA 2014.  Magda Rok’s*, We Grow, is a community gardens network and social enterprise with GPs as advocates.  The project wants to further demonstrate the strong links between health, environment and social well-being.  Lais de Almeida’s* The Ladder is a time-bank service that matches local community needs with people’s skills, talents and aspirations, providing a valuable opportunity for those who are struggling to find meaningful work with a fair income.  The social enterprise could build social capital in communities, as well as confidence in individuals.  Alexandra Theunissen’s DYSsonance helps dyslexic people understand, read, play and compose music.  Colours represent the notes and cubes (crotchet), which is either divided or multiplied, represent the rhythm.  The result is visually stunning (pictured right).

No graduate show would be complete without gadgets, gizmos and new materials.  Peter Spence’s* ION (Imagination in Motion) is a magic box to spark creativity and invention in children.  It is a cube with an intelligent motor unit with modular attachments and adaptable fixtures. The ION can communicate wirelessly with smart devices that can act as a control interface.  Add wheels and a board and you could make yourself a remote control go-kart!

aycaUmbrellas are an essential bit of kit long due a design overhaul.  Ayca Dundar’s* drOp umbrella (pictured left), made of only 5 parts is repairable, recyclable and colourful, could make those mangled polyester carcasses left in city bins a thing of the past.  Ashley De Garmo’s* Mag-cooker uses magnets to create induction heat for a portable, self-contained cooker using renewable energy.

Sol Lee’s* Smart Festivals intelligent platform to rent camping equipment will not be there for this year’s Glastonbury, but I hope for next.  A three day festival creates around 130 tonnes of waste, with tents, mats and sleeping bags accounting for around a third of this is.  Sol’s project aims to enhances the festival-goers service, reduce the organisers clean up and divert a lot of waste from landfill.  Mireia Gordi Vila (Fragile) and Yu Chang Chou (RePack) designed reusable packaging to tackle material waste.

fuglerJess Fugler*’s leather tattooed with water-based inks applies s an ancient technique to stunning effect.  Hana Mitsui *(New Value of the Waste) and Neha Lad* (Beauty in the Discarded) have both transformed ‘waste’ into luxurious new materials.

FMPPtCeU_FO-k57Ilj0E4GS_OHxMEyG_LU6XMr-CJSgOne I want to try at home is Chuhan Liang’s Rice Water Project.  For hundreds of years the milky liquid left after washing rice has been used as a natural detergent.  Brilliant!  And my souvenir, a piece of Alicja Patanowska’s Plantation, a joyful combination of porcelain, discarded pub glass and a plant.

rieppelAnd just for sheer joy, Kate Varner Rieppel’Third Space beautiful tiles are made of silver plated copper etching and vitreous enamel.  The colours and forms are directly inspired by natural landscapes in Britain.

The SustainRCA finalists have just been announced, and Carefully Curated highlights are to follow.

Show RCA 2014 runs simultaneously across the Battersea and Kensington campuses until 29th June, and is open 12-8pm daily.

It is also the first anniversary of Carefully Curated!

Related links:

We’re losing faith in global change as local causes boom | Lucy Seigle http://gu.com/p/3q55q/tw

Chelsea Flower Show: why gardening is good for the body and mind – FT.com http://on.ft.com/1qK28eY

Christmas fairs, craft collectives, open studios….seasonal shopping galore!


This weekend seasonal shopping events are popping up all over the capitals and beyond.  Here are just a few of those on offer.  So maps, diaries and pens to the ready to curate your own excursion.

Starting in the east, it is open studios at the Chocolate Factory in Hackney on Saturday 30th and Sunday 1st December.  You can meet the artists, talk about their work and buy direct from each of the 27 studios with fine art, design, illustration and ceramics.  Close by there is also the Dalston Christmas Market on Sunday 1st December.

Made in Clerkenwell, kicks off this evening, Thursday 28th November (5-8pm), with an open studios in conjunction with Goldsmiths’ Centre featuring 150 designers and makers across 3 venues in Clerkenwell selling fashion, jewellery, accessories, ceramics, printmaking, illustration and interior products.  This little polar scene is a card by Decarbonice, purchasing the card will offset a week’s work of Christmas carbon, and that must be a heavy load with festive lights, paper, and travel.  MIC is open over the weekend, for actual times check the website.  Tickets are £3, and free for under 16s.

From east London, we head to central London, and the Cockpit Arts Open studios in Holborn (the Deptford open studios is 6-8th December).   Tickets are £5 for entry all weekend, and under 15s go free.  We all enjoyed the summer Cockpit Arts, with my daughter enjoying the show and tell element as well as the delicious food from the Hand Made Food cafe.  This weekend highlights will include a kids competition to create a woolly jumper for Baatholomew the sheep with Mary Kilvert and the Head Buyer of Paul Smith is sharing her top picks from the Cockpit collection.  You could even try your hand at weaving with Bonnie Kirkwood who will be giving a demonstration on her hand loom.

A little bit north in Queens Park, it is the Homeworks Christmas Bazaar coral wallight in coral red smallon Sunday 1st December from 10am-2pm in the Salusbury Road Rooms.  Homeworks was set up by a group of like-minded women who work from home, and like to make and buy things that are made with care.  A couple of the highlights are this coral light from Charlotte Peake, colourful felt accessories from Isolyn, and Lou Rota‘s beautiful flora and fauna designs on vintage china.

Further west to the Chelsea Old Town Hall where the third Selvedge Winter Fair is taking  place on the 29th and 30th of November.   As the name would suggest Selvedge’ speciality is all things textiles.  There will be over 100 stands of antique textiles, talented designer makers and vintage haberdashery.  Tickets are £5 or £7.50 for both days.

A little bit south it is the Boutique Christmas Market in Kew Gardens.  Organised in conjunction with We Make London, Kew Gardens is opening up after hours with an illuminated trail and the opportunity to buy distinctive ceramics, textiles, prints, fine art, home wares, jewellery, kids toys, needlework and accessories.

Westward ho to the Bath Christmas Markets which run from Thursday 28th November to Sunday 15th December.  The streets  and square between the Roman Baths and Bath Abbey are colonised by over 150 wooden chalets selling unusual and handmade gifts and decorations.

On the east side of the River Severn the Made in Bristol Christmas Gift Fair is taking place this Saturday 30th November with handmade jewellery, original illustrations, interior products in ceramic, glass, paper, metal, wood and textiles, as well as clothing from established and emerging designers and makers from the region.

A leap across the River Severn to the Cardiff Arts Collective Christmas fair taking place this Saturday 30th November with over 30 designers and makers from South Wales selling jewellery, textiles, decorations and cards.  Among my top picks would be the lighting ByKirsty and textiles and fantastic geometric prints on cushions, textiles and wallpaper by Sian Elin.

And I am sure there are many more in a town near you.  If there are, please and them to the comments!!


Handmade in Britain – this weekend



After Made London last weekend, the Christmas shopping season is well underway, so rather than leave it to a blind panic at the last minute, or  the almost overwhelming task of navigating online offers, try a slow, steady, even enjoyable browse of some of this season’s autumn fairs.  If you are in, or around, London, ‘Handmade in Britain‘, is being held this weekend (8-10th November) at the  Chelsea Old Town Hall.  The contemporary craft and design fair is the seventh annual showcase of around 90 designers and makers showcasing their wares in the run up to Christmas for some original, and creative gifts.  If last years event is anything to go by jewellery, textiles and ceramics will all be well represented.  I shall be looking out for the driftwood sculptures from Mike Lythgoe.

This year, for the first time, the show includes a ‘New Graduate’ showcase, I wonder if any of the designers and makers I saw early in the summer will be exhibiting.