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/

Advertisements

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

Last Chance to see Useful + Beautiful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Carry-A-Bag home from Pick Me Up

IMG_3329If you are short of inspiration this bank holiday weekend, you will find a wonderful tonic at Pick Me Up, the UK’s contemporary graphic arts festival that runs until 5th May at Somerset House.  Pick Me Up is a fun and informal festival.  After the more sedate gallery on the ground floor, the mezzanine is bursting with colourful, eclectic and quirky studios.

The daily events are hosted with such enthusiasm that even the most timid of amateurs can dive in.  When I visited Handsome Frank artist Sarah Maycock was leading an interactive day of blind drawing.  Large cardboard boxes were arranged around a central table of still life objects.  Budding artists sat with their drawing hand inside a box and drew what they saw.  The results were surprisingly good.  A great exercise in recalibrating the relationship between hand and eye, and releasing inhibition, that I will be replicating at home.  

Herbarium 1600I attended with intent, and made a beeline for the collaboration between Carry-a-Bag and Heal’s hosted by Outline Artists.    Outline Artists, Hvass & Hannibal designed Herbarium (pictured left), one of ten new fabrics from Heal’s as their first textile collection since the 1970s.  The colourful designs include work from emerging as well as established designers, such as Zandra Rhodes.

There was a hive of activity in the event space with a steady hum from two sewing machines.  After adding my name to the list, I was handed a bag liner to personalise, if I wished, with a range of stamps.  “Act upon your dreams” were my bon mots to accompany my choice of Heals’s 1810 Killary fabric in Cloud study.  Ever the dreamer on a bright, sunny day!  Once I had prepared my liner the bag was swiftly pinned, sewn and ironed by the experts while I browsed the rest of the show.

IMG_3340Sally Walton (pictured on the right) started Carry-a-Bag, making bags from a mixture of vintage fabrics and organic cotton, in 2005.  Her previous collaborations include Liberty’s and Aveda.  I treasure a floral make-up bag (pictured right) that was originally filled with Aveda travel products. IMG_3346 By their very nature the bags are all limited editions as they are made of vintage fabrics.  The bags are available online, priced at £25 for a tote.  Your bag is perfectly personal to you, and what a better way to get yourself prepared to say no to a plastic bag when you go to the supermarket.

In 2012, supermarkets in the UK gave out over 8 billion single-use carrier bags, that’s over 120 bags per person and about 60,000 tonnes of waste (source DEFRA)-quite some footprint!  Plastic bags are a very visual blot on the landscape as litter and also harm wildlife.  Many single use carrier bags are made of oil-based plastic (a non-renewable resource) and 86% of them end up in landfill where they can take up to 500-1000 years to decompose, if they ever do break down.  IMG_3331Other options are available to us.  I often wonder if people had to ask for a bag, rather than being offered one, would they use fewer?  As a step towards changing incentives the UK Government is introducing a 5p charge on all single-use plastic carrier bags in England in October 2015, four years after Wales introduced a 5p charge in 2011 (Northern Ireland did so in 2013, and Scotland is introducing a charge this year).  As the experience in Wales shows, people can change their behaviour.  There was a 76% drop in the distribution of single-use bags in the year after the charge was introduced.   A Carry-A-Bag makes even everyday errands that bit more beautiful.  And all those vintage florals are bang on trend this summer!

IMG_3344Back at Pick Me Up, you can pick up affordable works from the most innovative graphic art collectives, galleries and organisations of the moment.  It was a good job that I had my new tote to hand to take home my haul! 

 

 

Discover craft at Heals

heals1It’s time to discover new craft at Heal’s Modern Craft Market, running in their London Tottenham Court Road store until Sunday.  With expert demonstrations and hands-on workshops of contemporary craft as well as the chance to pick up a unique design, it is a real opportunity to invest in  some of the most innovative craft makers of the moment, from as little as £9 for a limited edition pencil sharpener from Will Smith.

IMG_2695Heal’s has a long history of nurturing designers from its beginnings as bed-makers in 1810, to Ambrose Heal’s instrumental role in the Arts and Crafts movement supplying sound, well-designed furniture at reasonable prices, and more recently the Heal’s Discovers Design Competition.  Today the Modern Craft Market, in association with the Crafts Council and Contemporary Applied Arts brings work from a carefully edited selection of artisans using traditional and contemporary techniques, skill, innovative materials and often a wry sense of humour.

jleeChief among the pieces that caught my eye were Jungin Lee’s candlestick holders made from salt.  In a range of colours from spring green to candy pink are a passing joy that can be savoured in the moment, as with any celebration, and then dissolved after use.  Jungin Lee is part of the the WORKS collective, a group of Royal College of Art alumni formed in 2012.

prin2Fellow WORKS design talent Ariane Prin‘s pencils are made from the wood dust, graphite, clay and flour recovered from the floor and canteen of the RCA and compressed into pencils. The pencils are labelled “From Here for Here” as they are waste from various areas of the RCA recycled in a local pencil factory to supply drawing tools to students. The project, shortlisted for the RCA’s Sustain Award, connects making, materials, and product with their place, and environmental principles.  The picture shows the tool, surrounded by pencils arranged in a dial.

stoolAnother wonderful reincarnation courtesy of  WORKS designers are the Well Proven Stools,  from Marjan van Aubel and James Shaw.  Mindful that processing wood products normally incurs 50% to 80% timber wastage Aubel and Shaw looked for ways to recapture the value in that waste.  Mixing a bio-resin with waste shavings caused a chemical reaction resulting in the distinctive foaming wood, a lightweight material reinforced by the fibres in the hardwood shavings.  Aubel and Shaw mixed the porridge-like material with coloured dyes and found it could be easily moulded.  The resulting Well Proven chair was nominated for the Designs of the Year 2013 by the Design Museum.  The stools currently for sale in Heal’s are the next iteration of the Well Proven Chair.  Pairing the foaming wood with  elegant turned American Ash legs creates a partnership of two contrasting forms.  The stools are  available in a variety of heights and colours.

The stools from Ellen Thomas were another pretty place to perch, with their on-trend teal feet and decorative inlay.  Prices start at £220 for a small stool.  Nick Fraser’s witty take on candlestick holders made from brass fittings and pipework are useful objects with industrial form, fitting for more than bachelor pads.  There were also gorgeous woven accessories from Beatrice Larkin and Eleanor Pritchard and equally tactile, though not as cuddly, boiled leather moulded to make lampshades from Hoare and Brady.nest

Everybody needs a home, and for £20 many of us could joyfully accommodate a Bird House from Smith Matthias to provide a home for small British birds such as the tit family and tree sparrow.  The flat packed nesting box is designed to fit in an envelope through a letter box and for easy self-assembly.  The Bird Houses are available in a palette of colours that are kind on the eye.

Go discover, there are many delightful objects with their own story to tell!

What a hottie!

Seven_Gauge_Studio_2013_Product_on_White-140_large

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.

Hotties-210x210

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).

3863_3

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.

Pop-tastic for Christmas

Lauras-Loom-scarves-Blues-150x150 Creative Clerkenwell is open for four more days featuring a selection of jewellery, ceramics and home wares.  It will be a beeline to Laura’s Loom to check out the throws made of 100% British wool, (I have an eye on the Howgill Scarves woven from  Bluefaced Leicester wool, £42, pictured), followed by a pitstop at Waffle Design to hear more about their work with natural fabrics and artisanal production.

SCT_318dJust opened at 118 Shoreditch High Street is a pop-up shop for Restoration Station, a social enterprise that restores vintage and designer furniture for resale.   Some of the team working on Restoration Station have trained with the New Hanbury Project (NHP), a skills training centre for people recovering from addiction.

lucentiaSitting alongside the seasonal ice-rink at Somerset House is the Christmas arcade with the Handmade in Britain Christmas pop-up with work from over 65 designers and makers.  I love the cushions from Lorna Syson, Noa Design rainbow necklace, and Lucentia‘s subtle, translucent place mats and coasters made from recycled plastics and textiles.

If you enjoyed Design Junction in September, you’ll be delighted to hear about their Christmas pop-up that is taking place at 53 Monmouth St, Seven Dials, in collaboration with Clippings.com.

Across the river on the south bank at Gabriel’s Wharf is the Shake the Dust pop-up, selling a bright selection of home wares, kitchen accessories, jewellery and prints that are all collaborations between emerging UK designers and ethical producers in developing countries.

Also on the hit list is a trip to see Lozi Designs pop-up in Alfred Place, WC1E 7EB showcasing their new collection of clean, contemporary furniture made from steam bent birch plywood, organic glue and milk-based paint.  I am looking forward to seeing the bedside table, and kitchen furniture.

Further afield, in Bristol, the Christmas Design Temporium is taking place at the Architecture Centre in Bristol showing a design led and architectural inspired collection of jewellery, textiles, prints and artworks.

More news from Restoration Station and Lozi Designs to follow.

5 of the best Christmas stockings

FELT-STOCKING

The Christmas tree is up, and the decorations are down from the loft.  If your stocking is looking a little moth-eaten, here is a small selection of replacements: five of the best stockings.

1. For an injection of colour, try the felt stocking made by Sew Heart Felt for Toast at £39.  The stocking is hand made by communities of women in the Kathmandu valley, Nepal, from organic Tibetan lambswool felt and finished with a multi-coloured hand-embroidered stars.  All the pigments to product the felt are environmentally friendly.  And you could kit out the family in felt slippers to complete the ensemble, which character would you chose from badger or bee, wise owl or fiendish fox?  Another felt stocking, also made in Nepal, by the Women Entrepreneurs Association of Nepal is available from Shared Earth (£6.49) in ice blue or hot pink.

Tori-Murphy-Chevy_Stocking_-_Pearl_Linen_-_Portrait_grande

2. Chevrons are all the rage, so if you or yours have been seduced by geometry, try this 100% Merino Lambswool stocking from Tori Murphy that is woven in Lancashire with a woollen cuff knitted in Yorkshire.  If you are more celestial than chevron, a similar stocking is available in a monochrome star pattern.

jaul_red_01_web_1024x10243. For a Scandinavian look,  you might be tempted by the Jaul stocking (£38) from  Anna Söderström, made of 100% British lambswool and handcrafted in London.
preview_recycled-ricebag-christmas-stocking4. A stocking made from recycled rice bags by a Fairtrade project in Cambodia (£7.50) available from Recycle Recycle.

5.  Make your own.  If your quick, there still might be space to join Emily Gibbs’ Make a Christmas stocking workshop on Monday 9th December.  Or Purlbee provides instructions to make a ‘super easy snowflake stocking’ (their words not mine!!).  Or, of course, you could always tie a huge bow of ribbon around an actual wellington boot!

P.S. To avoid any moths nibbling holes in the toes of your stockings for next year, try sandalwood or cedar balls.  Apparently Giles Deacon, the fashion designer and a keen insect collector, uses conkers as a natural deterrent.  Their brown skins contain a compound called triterpenoid saponin that wards off the pests.  Colibri make natural anti-moth sachets filled with sandalwood and essential oils packed in cotton paper that last up to six months , and available from John Lewis.

What’s on this weekend

79%2F700%2FChristmas+decs+on+stairs+mod_thumb_460x0Victorian, Georgian, Jacobean, Tudor or present day, there are National Trust events around the country exploring Christmas through the ages. There is still time to learn how to make a wreath from locally foraged materials and foliage.  Or you could make hand sewn felt tree decorations, hunt for baubles or enjoy costumed interpreters telling stories.  All safe in the knowledge mince pies, mulled wine and Santa’s Grotto are never far away.  And probably a Christmas market too!

If your stamina for the festive season is flagging, how about trying something different this weekend.  What about a bracing nature walk to clear the head?  Or learning a countryside skill such as hedge-laying?

These are just a selection of the wide variety of events that are taking place at National Trust properties around the country in the run up to the holiday season.  A comprehensive list of events is searchable by geography on the National Trust website.

 

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

Image

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!!