Earlier this month, I met with Francesca Baur, founder of Fable & Base, to hear more about the story that sits behind Fable & Base, a new studio producing carefully sourced, hand-printed, stunning textiles. I was won over by Francesca’s pitch at a recent RSA Engage event, where Fellows of the Royal Society of Arts have a chance to pitch their ideas and offer the chance to get involved. A sort of gentle Dragon’s Den, though just as nerve-wracking on the podium. While trooping round various design events during London Design Festival, I was often drawn to fresh, botanical prints, either a contemporary twist on florals or channelling a cool, contemporay Scandi look. However, ask about the materials and inks and often the link with the environment is swiftly severed. Fable & Base has its firmly roots in the Kent countryside, where Francesca is based.
Campaign 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:
Roger 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.
The 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.
For 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.
Bailey 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. Kit 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 linen. 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 of 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.
With 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.
I 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. I 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. A 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!
Bringing 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.
London-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.
Revitalising 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. 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.
Craftsmanship 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.
Flax, 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.
After 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.
As 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.
Finally, 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
My visit to 100%design was worth the trip even before I stepped inside. On the forecourt of Earls Court, Heath Nash was installed at the pop-up Maker Library with some shoes made from cardboard. Nash has a long history of working with waste materials, and pioneered the use of plastic post-consumer waste as a raw material in South Africa. Nash worked with a small team of craftspeople to create high-end decorative installations and lamps. His signature flower balls were part of an installation at Africa Calling, a show case of the best of contemporary African design, at designjunction.
The shoes were the result of a design mash-up with acclaimed shoes designer, Marloes ten Bhömer. As with many designers, Nash has frequently used cardboard to build models and prototypes, as it is after all in plentiful supply as a ‘waste’ material, but using cardboard for a finished material was a new experience. Nash was adapting the shoe design as a slip-on or a closed shoe with a strap at the small workstation in front of the Maker Library Network Caravan.
After closing his studio at the end of 2012 to focus on design and creative process that he loves, Nash was invited to join the British Council’s Maker Library Network. The virtual network builds connections between designers and makers in the UK and South Africa. Each ML comprises a library, a make space and a gallery. The libraries share the same core texts, and the make spaces the same tools. The make spaces are deliberately small and mobile so they can pop-up unobtrusively in South African townships. Nash describes an informal work station that invites interaction with the host community and works with the materials found there. MLN promotes collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and has the ambition to expand to a world-world network.
Once inside, I made a bee-line for Thomas Matthews’ Materials Landscape, curated by SCIN Gallery and constructed by the Goldfinger Factory, the West London up-cycling and learning hub. As well as hosting a fascinating programme of talks, headed by Sophie Thomas, founder of Thomas Matthews and the Great Recovery, the hub was a great opportunity to handle some exciting, and surprising, new materials. As a snapshot of what SCIN Gallery has to offer the materials included StoneCycling, tiles and bricks made from demolition waste; Solidwool, a material made from wool and a resin with 30% bio-based renewable content; Eric Klarenbeek’s samples of 3D-printed living mycelium (fungi) mixed with local raw materials creating a structural, stable and renewable material once dried (pictured left); Marlene Huissoud’s materials made from insects; and Clayworks natural clay plasters which help regulate humidity in buildings, and have lower embodied CO2 than many other interior finishes.
I made a short stop at Jennifer Newman Studios to admire the M-table and M-bench made of a 100% recycled aluminium frame, available in any RAL colour, and thermally-modified tulipwood top. The same timber, also supplied by Morgan Timber, was used for Paul Smith’s Shed, designed by Nathalie de Level as part of the Wish List project.
It was also a chance to catch up with Rob Barnby of Barnby & Day, reflect on their Wish List experience, and admire their Occasional Peg tables now available in a wider range of timber choices which can be mixed or matched to your taste.
Further evidence of great craftsmanship and the beauty of wood was on show at the end of the pavilion with an exhibition of pieces short-listed for this years Wood Awards. The breadth of work shortlisted for the Wood Awards illustrates the versatility of this sensual, beautiful and natural material, whether for architectural, interiors or furniture products. The exhibits included a Sebastian Cox spot of the day, one of the pair of his Ten Species Tall Boy. Sebastian Cox, known for championing under-utilised British hardwoods, chose to show off how diverse, beautiful and useful they are with a pair of five-drawer tall-boys. With frames made from coppiced hazel, the drawers are made from ten other British hardwoods: Oak, Ash, Elm, Chestnut, London Plane, Sycamore, Cherry, Walnut, Brown Oak and Beech. Earlier this year, Sebastian and his colleagues were to be seen crafting the drawers in the windows of Heal’s on Tottenham Court Road. The ten identical drawers allow you to see, and experience the different timbers.
I caught a glimpse of Lozi Designs‘s clean, contemporary geometric pieces of furniture in Emerging Brands alley; graypants outsize pendant lamps handmade from repurposed cardboard; and Anne Kyyrö Quinn’s fantastic geometric acoustic wall panels made from wool felt. But then it was time for the mad dash across town to the SustainRCA Show & Awards.
Image credits: Barnby & Day.
In the midst of exhibitors proudly displaying their new wares at May Design Series, Stephen Gee, Director of Resource hosted a discussion on the circular economy with Sophie Thomas, Co-Director of Design, RSA, Mark Shayler, Managing Director of Ticketyboo, and James Bell, Environmental Consultant at FIRA.
Our industrial economy can be described as a series of massive conveyor belts (“Remaking the industrial economy“, McKinsey Quarterly, Feb 2014), sucking in raw materials and resources at one end, channelling them through manufacturing and production processes, often located in different geographies, pushing products into retail networks, where they are consumed, then discarded and replaced with surprising rapidity. 90% of all products are waste within 6 months of purchase.
Resources are increasingly limited, and ever more in demand, so their prices are rising, and volatile. As well as increasing costs of supply, demands for resources are growing with three billion more middle-class consumers forecast by 2030 (from a presentation by Dr Markus Zils, CEO Returnity Partners). The linear, one-way production model is under increasing under strain.
A circular economy aims to recover and restore products and materials, eradicating waste. This is not simply recycling, when large amounts of embedded energy and value are lost, or efficient manufacturing processes, but systemic redesign to create a continuous flow of products and components.
“The circular economy is a generic term for an economy that is regenerative by design. Materials flows are of two types, biological materials, designed to reenter the biosphere, and technical materials, designed to circulate with minimal loss of quality, in turn entraining the shift towards an economy ultimately powered by renewable energy.” The Ellen McArthur Foundation
The system diagram (pictured above, from the Ellen McArthur Foundation) illustrates the necessarily distinct paths of biological and technical components or nutrients. Biological nutrients can easily return to the biosphere without depositing synthetic materials or toxins. Technical nutrients can continuously circulate in closed loop industrial cycles. We have some way to go. At the moment, in the fast-moving consumer goods industry roughly 80% of the $3.2 trillion worth of materials used each year is not recovered.
To illustrate what that means, the toothbrush, that humble, innocuous aid to our daily routine uses 1.5 kg of material in its manufacture (see the slide from Sophie’s presentation, left). We replace our toothbrush every few months, so that is 6kg per person, per annum, just on toothbrushes. Sophie Thomas, designer, co-founder of the Great Recovery, is on a mission to create more circular systems through good product design. “Waste really is a design flaw” (Kate Krebbs, ANRC), quotes Sophie, and a Design Council report notes that about 80% of environmental costs are pre-determined during the product conception an design stage.
The Great Recovery project has sketched out four design models for a circular economy, represented by the multicoloured loops at the top of the page. The inner loop is ‘design for longevity’. Designing products that can be repaired or upgraded., Products that are well made and reliable so users have a strong emotional attachment, like your favourite pair of jeans. If they are Nudie Jeans then you can get them repaired for free at Nudie Jeans Stores, or they can send you a repair kit free of charge. If beyond the point of repair, then Nudie reuse them (and gives you 20% off a new pair), or recycle them.
The second (orange) loop is ‘design for leasing or service’. Companies are constantly trying to deepen their relationship with us, urging us to register accounts, and sign up for newsletters. They might even speak of compelling customer service, but often still conceived as a linear consumption pattern. But it is services, rather than the products themselves that we use, so voice calls, videos, hot water, and clean clothes rather than phones, tablets, boilers, and washing machines. A service-based model changes the relationship. The manufacturer owns the products, and materials (increasingly valuable assets), so keeping the value in the system. Think Zip Car or Google’s vision for its driverless car, Leasing products could allow for higher design specification.
The third (yellow) loop is ‘design for re-use in manufacture’ where products are returned to the manufacturer for upgrade or new components. These products are designed for disassembly via a reverse supply chain. Two recent winners of the Furniture Makers’ Sustainability Award have taken responsibility for their products’ end of life to the heart of their businesses. Senator International (2013 winners) and Orangebox (2012 winners, Aden chair pictured left), both suppliers to commercial clients, have their own dedicated recycling plants, and both target zero landfill. Sometimes simple things, such as marking parts with a material identifier, means they can be recycled properly, other interventions require a more thorough design appraisal. Good design means less material, more durable products, and less manufacturing time, easier to dissemble, repair and update. What if legislation required producers to have responsibility for the end of life of their products? When they don’t it is a cost to us all, directly, and indirectly to deal with the waste.
The outer (green) loop is fast-flowing products, such as packaging, that can be reprocessed (recycled) into new materials. Designing with this in mind increases the value and ease of material recovery by reducing contamination. For example a spray dispensing bottle made sole out of one type of plastic is easier to recycle than a bottle with multiple types of plastic and metal components. Trying to recycle my child’s broken umbrella illustrates the challenge of mixed materials!
Improvements in technology and efficiency are central to more sustainable lifestyles, but there are other parts of the puzzle. Mark Shayler challenges us think about our relationship with consumption. Currently, around 80% of products are discarded after a single-use. ‘Disposable’ products are a myth. As Michael Braungart and William McDonough, authors of “Cradle to Cradle: Re-Making the Way we Make Things, note the “away” in throw away does not really exist. What is more, in spite of the fact that, we consume twice as much as we did in 1974, but we are not as happy.
Shayler describes a transition from unconscious consumption to conscious consumption to conscious unconsumption, urging us to “buy right, buy once”. For a revealing illustration of consumption in contemporary society visit the Victoria & Albert Museum to see the Prix Pictet, the global award in photography and sustainability. I was captivated by Hong Hao’s My Things (pictured left), the result of daily scanning his consumed objects.
There is much to be said for moderation in all things. This chimes with the first design model of longevity, through physical and emotional longevity, and the second loop of re-envisioned service-based business models. There is value in the customer relationship. What is more there are opportunities for companies to be champions through editing customer choice (removing unsustainable products), influencing customer choice through marketing messaging that reiterates a brand’s value, and production innovation. Average, or ‘a bit less bad’ is not really an aspirational brand value.
And now I’m off to try and to upgrade and repair my laptop!
Image credit: Google, Hong Hao, Nudie Jeans, Orangebox
Driverless cars: In the self-driving seat from The Economist
Time for another design pilgrimage to the ExCel centre for the May Design Series 2014, featuring 400 suppliers of kitchens, bathrooms, lighting, furniture, decor and an edited selection of products from four key European shows (Maison et Objet, Paris; IMM Cologne; Light & Build, Frankfurt and i Saloni, Milan), as well as New Design Britain.
I was delighted to see Tom Raffield Design. It was an a-ha moment for me as a few years ago I bought some pendant lights for our house (the Helix and the Hive I now know). They are often complimented, but I could not remember where I sourced them from. Suddenly they are everywhere, in the Green Room at Salone del Mobile, at Chelsea Flower Show as part of the Artisan Retreats (alongside another favourite, Eleanor Lakelin) and here at May Design Series.
Tom Raffield designs and handcrafts steam-bent furniture and lighting. Steam-bending wood is a traditional woodworking technique, that is low energy and adhesive-free. Tom developed his own technique to create the complex, fluid shapes characteristic of his work. All the wood is from sustainably managed sources and typically unseasoned, green or air-dried timber, and any wastage used for the composting toilet! The wood is finished in lemon oil, beeswax or a water-based varnish. Not only is the production process ecologically sound, the products are built to last, and so beautiful you will cherish them for a long time. I loved the coat loop (pictured in the background), literally Shaker with a twist, and the occasional table with its sinuous, curved detail, a new product launching at May Design Series.
While waiting for the 11.15am Conversation Series discussion on the circular economy (more of that later), I was drawn to Smart Environment zone. MYX is a material cultivated over 3-4 weeks using oyster mushrooms grown on a hemp and linen fibre mat. The fibres are byproducts of clothing and rope manufacturing. The fibres are woven with mushroom spores, and as the mycelium (vegetative part of the fungus) grows the textile-like material gains strength and flexibility from chitin, the polymer in mushroom cell walls. The material can be shaped, in this case as a lampshade (pictured right) then dried leaving a lightweight material that is organic and compostable. And you can harvest oyster mushrooms in the meantime, so MYX is an end-waste product, that products a delicious food product in its growing cycle. What a deliciously sustainable example of the circular economy!
Next door, Nobelwood is a smart alternative to tropical hardwood. Fast-growing pine (FSC certified) is fully impregnated with water soluble biopolymers made from bagasse from sugar-cane. After drying, the wood has the colour of natural teak and weathers (if un-treated) to a silvery grey colour when used as exterior cladding. I hope to see a garden furniture set on the market soon!
In the New Design Britain corner, I couldn’t walk past Cristiana Ionescu’s family of felt bears without a smile. What a delightful accessory for a toddler’s room. Helen Dugdale‘s colourful Paper-Knotwood caught my eye. Helen wanted to create a sustainable, recyclable material from coloured paper. Each piece is unique with the possibility of bespoke colour patterns and combinations. The material can be cut, sanded, and machined to reveal its layers as a grain, or used as a veneer. A candy bright or subtle stripe for any interior surface.
From the hard to the soft, comfort of 100% pure wool felt from Hollandfelt. There was a rich array of vibrant colours urging me to stroke them. Hollandfelt is one of the few felt producers using 100% pure wool from Australian and South American sheep whose fleeces have softer fibres than those closer to home. The Merino wool is washed in hot water with natural soap rubbing the fibres together to create wool felt. Felt is renewable and recyclable. Hollandfelt contains some recycled material from previous customers re-dyed to a darker colour. The carpet felt, twice felted for durability, is naturally flame and dirt retardant, as well as having good insulating and acoustic properties. Woolfelts are suitable for fashion, furnishing, architectural interiors and craft applications. All the products have reached the Öko-Tex 100 standard whose test criteria exceed existing legislation, for example limiting formaldehyde use and banning allergenic dyes, and why wouldn’t you err on the side of caution when choosing materials that you live with?
There were definite moments when I would have been grateful for a seat in the Corqui, made of natural, renewable and sensual cork from Corque Design and designed by Pedro Silva Dias (600x50x690mm). My potential choice of seating was not limited though as Out of the Dark provided eight chairs for a Silent Auction (pictured below) to raise both awareness and funds for their social enterprise that trains young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to recycle, restore and repaint furniture. More of their wares were on display in the DX section of the show. I have just got wind of an exciting collaboration between Out of the Dark and one of my favourite makers, Sebastian Cox, so watch this space for more news!
In the meantime, news from Clerkenwell Design Week will follow, along with tales of the discussion on the circular economy hosted by Stephen Gee, Director of Resource, with Sophie Thomas, Co-Director of Design, RSA, Mark Shayler, Managing Director of Ticketyboo, and James Bell, Environmental Consultant at FIRA.
Photocredits: Jonas Edvard (MYX); Helen Dugdale
Following 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.
Susan 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.
Picture credits: The artists courtesy of TAG Fine Arts
I think I have met the ultimate materials girl. Annabelle Filer, architect, journalist and founder of the SCIN Gallery (pronounced skin) is passionate about materials. While working as an architect Annabelle developed a fascination, even addiction, for materials, their properties and practical applications. While she continues regular contributions to FX Design magazine (and formerly Grand Designs Magazine), four years ago SCIN was launched to show and share this passion and encyclopaedic knowledge of materials.
SCIN source and advise on finishes for every surface inside or outside buildings of every scale. Working with materials experts sourcing from around the world, SCIN’s sphere of knowledge reaches to the limits of current research, and if SCIN can’t find what their clients are looking for they can work with them to develop it. SCIN is committed to introducing more materials with ‘green’ credentials, and “fundamentally believe that environmental or sustainable design heralds a new era in architecture and design”. So after whetting my appetite at the Surface Design Show, I headed to the SCIN Gallery to learn more.
The ground floor is dedicated to new material design. First to catch my eye were some bowls (pictured right) made out of ‘decafé’ a material created by Raúl Laurí from used coffee grounds. Alongside was Coleoptera, a bioplastic made from dead beetles, developed by Aagje Hoekstra. The shells of the beetles, a by-product of the animal food industry, contain chitin. After cellulose, chitin is the most common polymer on earth and, with a little chemistry, is transformed into chitosan which bonds better and is already being made into jewellery. From insect to marine life and exotic leathers made from salmon, perch, wolffish and cod fish skins by Icelandic tannery, Atlantic Leather. Other exhibits included Denimite, a cotton fibre bio-composite made from recycled denim suitable for countertops and architectural applications and Soilid (pictured left). Made from a mixture of soil, fungi and other natural materials left overnight at room temperature to “rise”, the mixture can then be poured into a mould and baked becoming strong enough sand, saw or drill.
The first floor showcases architectural materials, such as Polluted Pattern (pictured right). A concrete surface printed with a photo-catalytic white i.active cement based on TX Active nanotechnology that self-cleans and breaks down air-pollutants. Over time, the printed sections stay pristine, while pollutants discolour the unprotected areas revealing the printed lace-like pattern, a metaphor for pollution wrapping our cities. The material would be suitable for urban surfaces, pavements, facades.
The installation ‘The Forest Commissioned’ displayed some leading wood products including Accoya, a high-performance wood created from softwood using a proprietary non-toxic acetylation process that gives it the dimensional strength and durability make its suitable for windows, cladding and other architectural uses. Showered with eco-labels including FSC, PEFC, and Cradle to Cradle™ to name but three, Accoya is made from renewable sources, fully-recyclable, and looks good to boot. It is distributed in the UK by Lathams. UPM Grada is a new thermoform able wood made from FSC or PEFC rotary cut birch veneers and non-formaldehyde adhesive.
Interiors products occupy the second floor. Marbelous Wood (pictured at the top of the page) and Green Hides (pictured right) were just two of the exhibits currently on display. Marbelous Wood, from the Danish Snedker Studio, uses an old marbling technique to create an organic and colourful play on the natural grain of the wood. A decorative reinterpretation of a flooring choice favoured by many. Green Hides‘ Ecolife Italian leathers are processed with chrome-free, natural vegetable tanning and solvent-free finishing methods to meet stringent technical specifications that mean they are suitable for home and contract clients.
If the temporary installations are not inspiration enough, the basement is home to a permanent materials library. The SCIN library is a colourful and tactile treasure trove with thousands of samples catalogued by material and property in bright orange boxes. Solid wool and paper stone I have seen before, but insulation made from seaweed was a surprise. NeptuTherm (pictured left) is an insulation material made from neptune grass seaweed that has become matted together into balls in shallow water. Often considered a waste product, in fact, without chemical treatment this material is naturally flame retardant, mould resistant and helps regulate humidity without degrading its thermal insulation capacity. Seaweeds’ wonderful properties extend far beyond sushi and face creams!
And finally a product that is simply joyful, if not immediately robust enough for a home with two small children, but if I could, I would find a place for some decorative Organoids panels (pictured right). Natural fibres (in this case rose petals and rose buds) are ground up and mixed with a natural binder, then covered with a vacuum film, compressed and hardened to make a biocomposite that is 100% biodegradable. The decorative panels are a sensual experience, the aroma of the rose buds, texture of the panel and visible rosebuds a reminder of the natural materials. The process is entirely free of biocides, plasticisers and solvents and powered with 100% green electricity.
So whether wrestling with the refurbishment of a Victorian terrace house or in search of a supernatural material to make a car fit for James Bond, the library is a rich repository of innovative, practical and green materials. Architects, designers and consumers are all welcome to have a rummage, by appointment. You too could get addicted!
Picture credits: Raúl Laurí
The exhibition, “We protect what we love”, opens tonight at the Tabernacle, 35 Powis Square, W11 2AY in West London. The artist and campaigner Celia Gregory will present her latest body of work. The exhibition includes mosaics, a selection of photography and video art from the Marine Foundation, ‘Living sculptures in the sea’ and a series of light box installations, artworks and artefacts made from natural items collected from beaches around the world.
Celia is an accomplished mosaic artist and sculptor, who founded the Marine Foundation not long after seeing, and feeling, the effects of dynamite fishing while diving in Bali. Combining her artistic and creative talents with a powerful conservation message, and collaborating with a team of marine experts, is the Marine Foundation.
Supported by the Roddick Foundation, the Marine Foundation uses art as a catalyst for marine conservation, sustainable resource management and social change. Working with their clients, the Marine Foundation combines art, marine management and artificial reef science to create underwater art installations that support and regenerate their surrounding marine ecosystem.
Celia’s work is inspired by nature, and inspires in the viewer a connection with nature. Two of her works from last year’s exhibition are pictured below. The exhibition is only until Saturday 5th October.
And to echo my last entry with this, I offer a Maori Meditation, called ‘Finding God’ from Celia’s on the Marine Foundation website:
Sermons say read the bible To know god
Kneel and pray To know god
Obey the commandments To know god
But yesterday I saw a butterfly
Land on a withered leaf Just before sunset
And at that moment
I knew god…
Decorex International was the long tail of my London Design excursions. A design show that is definitely established, decidedly high-end, and distinctly for the trade, I was curious to see what it offered for carefully curated. The ‘feature’ entrance, designed by Kit Kemp, was worthy of the superlatives. ‘Beautiful’, ‘stunning’ and ‘luxurious’ can be overworked in the Decorex environment, but they are were fitting adjectives for the the display inspired by the Silk Route. I loved the hanging pendants from PET Lamp. The clue is in the name, as the lamps are made from recycled plastic bottles and woven using traditional artisanal techniques in Colombia.
Once into the fray, I was spoilt for choice. I went to admire the new designs on the stand of Fine Cell Work, the social enterprise that trains prisoners in paid, skilled, creative needlework to foster hope, discipline and self esteem, where a needlepoint demonstration was underway. Another organisation with a strong ethical purpose is GoodWeave who are working to end child labour in the carpet industry and boost educational opportunities for children in weaving communities in India, Nepal and Afghanistan. Their website has a directory to find rugs ethically produced by GoodWeave approved producers.
Then onto textile companies, and the riot of colour of at Timorous Beasties (seen here on their Omni Splatt cushion, £144), was in glorious contrast to the cool, clean botanical prints at Ivo Prints. Ivo Prints have been producing textiles and wall coverings under license to The Royal Botanic Gardens Kew at their small factory in west London since early 2011.
The Kew Collection also includes home accesories, cushions, bags and other gifts and a share of proceeds supports Kew’s conservation work . The collection is closely connected to its subject matter, with evidence of the seeds in the weaving as a reminder of the natural and plant based origins of the cloth. Only water-based, non toxic pigment colours are used to print the collection.
Water-based paints and pigments feature highly at Little Greene. Little Greene Dyeworks started in 1773 making dye solutions to the cotton trade. Today, all their products are still manufactured in the UK, with a determination to produce high-quality paints and papers that are environmentally-friendly. They use only natural, organic and safe-synthetic pigments. Oil-base paints use vegetable oils, making them child-friendly. And a contribution for every paint and wallpaper sale goes to English Heritage, with whom they have collaborated to develop a range of authentic historical paint colours. I particularly liked their sculpture, pictured below, which reminds me of the children’s song, “we’ve got the whole world in our hands”.
Elsewhere, I was drawn to the tactile display of woollen fabrics on the Moon stand. Established in 1837 in Leeds, Abraham Moon & Sons Ltd, remains the only vertical mill left in Britain. From fleeces to final dispatch, they control the entire manufacturing process with dyeing, blending, carding, spinning, weaving and finishing processes all taking place on one site. Their Natural Wool collection makes extensive use of un-dyed wools. As well as furnishing fabrics, Moon also produces throws and fashion accessories including cushions, baby blankets and scarves under their Bronte by Moon label. N.B. Abraham Moon fabrics are used to upholster the Moonshine footstool from Galvin Brothers – see my Tent London post. Gorgeous!
Other highlights were the reclaimed antique tiles from Bert and May. Bert and May are also able to make reproductions of any tile in their antique collection or your own design or specification to complete a project. Their new showroom is opening next month. Finally, and relax, in the folding rocking chair made from sustainable steam-bent beech by Wawa. It folds to 15cm wide, and weighs only 5kg. Perfect for confined spaces!!
- A E L D E R – British Made, Uncompromised Design – #BlogtourLDN (design-magnifique.com)