Tent London & Super Brands highlights

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In the Scale of Carbon sat at the centre of the Super Brands event during the London Design Festival.  The exhibition, by the Materials Council, represented the volume of various architectural materials that can be produced for one tonne of carbon dioxide emissions.  Each of the materials was physically represented in a cube form and, the larger the cube the greater the quantity of that material that could be produced for the same volume of CO2 emissions, or ’embodied carbon’.  A literal measure of sustainability.  Carbon isn’t the only measure, but it is an important one.  The average new UK home releases around 50 tonnes of CO2 embodied carbon in its construction, that is enough carbon to drive around the earth 11 times!

Next door, Interface, a leading commercial carpet tile manufacturer, showcased its Net Effect products.  Net-Works is a partnership programme between Interface and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Aquafil to tackle the problem of discarded fishing nets.  Net Works takes discarded fishing nets from remote fishing communities and recycles them into carpet tiles, the Net Effect products.  The programme aims to collect 200kg of nets from each village every month.  The result, beautiful carpet tiles that capture the colour and texture of the ocean.

There was plenty more biophilic design on display:  Hand drawn wallpapers inspired by rural Shropshire from Katherine Morris at Earth Inke.  The teasels in cream tea were developed using natural clays from Shropshire; Abigail Edwards had sky, seascapes and owls adorning her wallpapers printed with hand mixed non-toxic water based ink; and the english countryside are the chocolate creative’s inspiration for theirnew English Romantic Collection of cushions.

gyo_eg_product_thumbnailBold & Noble‘s collection of wallpapers and screen prints cherish a connection with nature with depictions of trees or birds around Britain, a ‘Grow your Own’ calendar or reminder to Bee Kind referencing bee-friendly plants (£43, 50x70cm).

I loved Daniel Heath‘s antique wall mirrors, and reclaimed Welsh slate tiles engraved with an Espalier (fruit trees growing horizontally) design complete with jays perching between gnarled apple branches ripe with fruit.

Recycling and upcycling was in evidence at Furniture Magpies, GalapagosSukie’s recycled papers and cards, and the vibrant textiles of Parris Wakefield on furniture from Out of the Dark, a charitable social enterprise that recycles, restores and revamps salvaged furniture.  Chunky knits were used  to great effect as upholstery by Rose Sharp Jones and Melanie Porter.

Design and craftsmanship were plentiful at the Galvin Brothers, nominees for Best British Designer at the Elle Decoration British Design Awards, 2013. Their Moonshine footstool was a hit.  All of Sebastian Cox‘s work is made frothumb.phpm British hardwoods from well managed forests.  The ‘Rod’ desk lamp is made from  compressed hazel fibres for the shade and steam bent hazel for the rob.  It has an LED bulb, and R.R.P. is £175.  The hazel is hand coppiced in Kent.  I also liked the Suent, lightweight chair with its woven seat.

Finally,  Studio180° launched their eco modular sofa and horsehair mattress.  The sofa is made of the highest quality natural materials with out glue or steel coils, and the “Cradle-To-Cradle” circular economy model is at the heart of the design.  All the materials used, except zips, are either biodegradable or recyclable and free from toxic flame retardants and harmful chemicals.  The chaise-longue element is provided by a full mattress made of horsetail hair.  Horsehair, with its natural springiness, has been used in bedding for centuries, and is still used by premium brands such as Vi-Spring.   I could have lingered for a long time on the Sen sofa, but duty called!

 

Design Junction

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After pedalling furiously across London from 100% design, it was a relief to have a rest in the beautiful handcrafted Scapa rocking chair from Pengelly Design.  The chair, designed by Simon Pengelly, combines a contemporary wooden frame with a traditional technique of weaving oat straw into chair backs. Pengelly Design are collaborating with Jackie, pictured adding the finishing touches to a chair, and Marlene Miller of Scapa Crafts in the Orkney Isles to produce the chair in oak, ash or painted frames.

Rested, I took in the rest of the show that was filling with after work crowds.  First stop, Melin Tregwynt where their new colour ways, Knot Garden Indigo and Knot Garden Bluestone were on display, as well as a new range of bags made by Brady of Birmingham in the Melin Tregwynt fabrics.

Upstairs, I found a contrasting selection of woollens woven in Wales from Eleanor Pritchard.easterly1  Eleanor Pritchard’s aesthetic is influenced by English mid-century design, characterised by bold geometric and graphic reversible patterns, fused with traditional British textile crafts.  Designed in London, fabrics are woven in 100% pure new wool at a small traditional mill in South West Wales.

Luxurious woollen drapes, offset by shimmering wallpapers caught my eye at Rapture & Wright.  Their distinctive, contemporary graphic fabrics and wallpapers are handprinted in their Gloucestershire studio.  And then it was on to investigate the commotion at the recraft station.  [re]design were launching their new Make-It-Yourself book which contains step-by-step instructions for more than twenty designs made from domestic rubbish.

In contrast to many products we consume, the hand-crafted accessories for the home made by Turner and Harper are built to last.  They make simple things for everyday living with care and quality.

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My last stop of the day, was Granorte‘s fantastic selection of cork pendant lamps, stools, bowls and even bird boxes made from waste cork from wine stopper producers.  The cork wall panels created a geometric sculpture on the wall cast striking shadows, as well as providing acoustic and thermal insulation.  The stacking stool was comfortable, and as with all the products, they have a striking simplicity.

Cork has featured heavily in my LDF experience,  and I wondered whether it would feature on my final trip to Tent London.

 

ao textiles’ natural alchemy

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The ao textiles workshop at the V&A last Friday was a homegrown affair with Penny Walsh hand-dying fabrics in dyes made from plants, including woad, marigold, and indigo, as well as other natural dyestuffs.  The development of hand-dying stalled with the advent of man-made dyes around 1860, but knowledge of plant sciences is now much more advanced.  Penny’s methods are drawn from historic recipes as well as advice from chemists to adapt these recipes for contemporary requirements.   Research into plant dyes worldwide and the use of low impact mordants and assistants has enabled Penny to create a vibrant array of colours.

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The sources of these colours are renewable and bio-degradeable, but they are also stable.  Penny reminded us of the rich colours in the Tudor tapestries hanging in the galleries that have held their colour for centuries.

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Once dyed the fabrics are then worked into highly decorative pieces embroidered by Karen Spurgin or more elaborate dying techniques, such as marbling, by Emma d’Arcey.

Emma gave a demonstration of the traditional marbling technique.  First paint is spotted on the surface of the water and seaweed (carrageen) solution. Then it is feathered using a very fine brush pulling stripes vertically, then horizontally.

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Finally a custom-made comb is pulled through to complete the pattern before the fabric is laid on top to be printed.  Once printed it is rinsed and left to dry.  As well as abstract patterns, Emma’s work includes incredibly intricate, almost photographic floral and mineral motifs.

ao textiles have collaborated with Gainsborough Silk Weavers to create luxurious jacquard fabrics for couture and high-end interiors, combining sustainability and traditional artisanal skills.  For example, ‘Mineral’ uses a recycled warp from Gainsborough’s yarn from past productions combined with a naturally dyed weft.  All ao’s naturally dyed yarn uses unbleached silk or cotton.

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A highlight of the workshop was Julia Lohmann popping down from the Department of Seaweed to experiment with dying and marbling the kelp seaweed.  We await the results with interest.

 

What a corking idea

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The Progressive Extension of the Field of Individual Development and Experience installation at the Victoria and Albert Museum is a collaboration between FAT architecture and Amorim, the world’s largest producer of cork.  A walkway up in the Medieval galleries has been covered in a series of tiles in a geometric trompe l’oeil pattern inspired by the cellular structure of the cork.

Sean Griffiths, an architect and director of FAT, stressed that cork “really is a 21st century material which is highly sustainable. Using cork has allowed us to work in a very different way, starting with the material as generator of the concept. Cork has a very natural appearance which is supported by an intricate geometric structure and the main idea of the design is to capture the relationship between these aspects of the material. The design also makes use of the strong visual acoustic and tactile qualities of the material.”

I had been striding down the marble floor of the gallery with the clip of my heel ringing out, and then when I stepped on to the installation the cork softened my stride and absorbed all the sound.  I wanted to reach down and stroke the smooth surface.

As well as the tactile properties of cork it is also a great thermal insulator, do not absorb dust and are resistant to bacteria and fungi, so an environmentally-friendly flooring for kitchens and bathrooms.  Cork floor options are more varied than you might remember from the 70s and 80s!  Watch this space for more.

 

London Design Festival…on your marks, get set..

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The London Design Festival starts in 3 days, so time to pop out your calendar, consult the online events’ planner, download the map and plan your assault.  There will be product launches, demonstrations and pop-up shops galore.

Some top of my list are: The Designers / Makers pop-up shop at 135 Colombia Road with 40 designers submitting their responses to Flora + Fauna; the exhibition at Coexistence, 288 Upper Street in Islington, exploring Roger Batemen, of Sheffield Hallam University‘s work with flax and plant-based polymers; the launch of the Bloomsbury shop from Thornback & Peel selling mid-century furniture upholstered with their hand-printed fabrics; The Scarcity Project; The SustainRCA Show & Awards 2013 and a whole host of events at the V&A!

Ardingly Antiques Fair Approaches

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This restored chandelier is made from original vintage drops that have been reworked to create a beautiful, unique light that is a real centrepiece in our living room.  The mix of different warm tones are picked up by other decorative elements in the room.  We bought the fully, refurbished chandelier at Ardingly Antiques & Collectors Fair, the largest fair in the south of England, which is held twice a month.  If you fancy a rummage for vintage treasures, the next fair is next week, Tuesday 3rd and Wednesday 4th September, 2013.  For more information, future dates and list of other similar fairs visit the IACF (International Antiques and Collectors Fairs) website.

Similar vintage chandeliers are available to buy, or even splash out and commission your own from The Vintage Chandelier Company.

More woollen blankets woven in Wales

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Prompted by a comment on an earlier post, I thought I would share a couple of shots of some woollen products from Melin Tregwynt, a third-generation family mill business in West Wales.  Melin Tregwynt is reviving and reinterpreting authentic Welsh tradition with modern and innovative design.  The double-cloth structure produces practical and hard-wearing bedcovers, as well as the bold reversible patterns that work so well with contemporary interiors.  The product range has been expanded to include accessories and upholstery products.  The blankets retail from around £140, and cushions from around £40, including the pad.  A wide range of colours is available, from these muted neutral tones, to ember, a mix of hot pinks, browns and oranges.  You can purchase directly from Melin Tregwynt by phone or email, or from stockists including John Lewis. 

Kate Greenaway tiles from Retrouvius

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I have been waiting for a bit of inspiration for the kitchen in our Victorian terrace house, and a quick scan of the new stock at Retrouvius, a reclamation and design warehouse in North-west London, provided it.  They had a complete set of the four seasons, designed by Kate Greenaway in 1881.  Although in reasonable condition, summer has been cracked and repaired, so my eyes will be peeled for a replacement.  However, I love the blue surround and sepia tones of the seasonal figures, a reminder of the ever-changing natural cycle.