More Carefully Curated @Clerkenwell Design Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Related post: Design Factory @Clerkenewell Design Week

 

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What a lot of bottle, a conversation @ Glass Lab

glDiana Simpson is in residence at 19 Greek Street, a multi-space gallery in London’s Soho dedicated to sustainability and experimentation in design.  Diana’s Glass Lab, turning ‘waste’ glass into tiles and surface materials, is the very embodiment of that ethos.  As a designer, Diana, is interested in the often overlooked value of waste as a resource, and its potential as a catalyst for localised systems of processing and transforming waste.

Waste Lab was a design response to the Mayor’s Business Waste Strategy as part of Diana’s MA Design Products at the RCA.  The report noted that only 52% of waste from the commercial and industrial sectors in London is reused, recycled or composted.  Glass Lab, the first Waste Lab initiative, provides an alternative waste disposal for small businesses.  Local waste, local collection, and local processing for local use.  To this end, Diana has collected glass bottles from within a one mile radius of the gallery and Soho offers a rich supply!

gl2Revealing the hidden treasure glass waste is less alchemy and more elbow grease.  The glass is sorted into different colours, blue, browns, clear, and shades of green to provide Diana with a richer colour palette.  The bottles are then steamed to clean and de-label them, before Diana gets to work with a hammer on the hard floor of the loft space at 19 Greek Street.  After breaking the glass into chunks, these are then ground into smaller granules in a pestle and mortar.

gl4The fragments are sieved through a variety of household appliances, into different grades offering different finishes.  The granules and fragments are mixed with a bio-resin, Super Sap, combining different colours and textures to create varied surface finishes.  Bigger pieces offer more transparency, and the sandy granules a more abrasive finish on the tiles.. Super Sap replaces petroleum-based with renewable materials from waste streams of other industrial processes, such as wood pulp and bio-fuels production. Super Sap uses less power and water in its manufacture and produces less harmful by-products than conventional epoxy resins.  Diana knows that using a bio-resin may limit the potential to recycle the tiles at the end of their life.  She opted for a binder to keep the process accessible to a local infrastructure, and conventional glass recycling is very energy intensive, as the glass has to be heated to around 1500 degrees celsius.

P1160849P1160866The mixture of bio-resin and glass is poured into a hexagonal mould to a depth of 10mm, before the tray is left to set at room temperature.

As well as tiles, Diana also produces hexagonal lights for use outdoors (pictured below) and is working on a number of bespoke pieces for commercial projects, including a bar counter top for a new private members club, The Library, and for bathrooms in a boutique hotel.  Glass Lab is making the transition from a conceptual design intervention in a gallery to commercial applications as a surface material.  Light bollard_1The project has attracted a lot of attention as part of the Sustain RCA Show and Awards 2013, and more recently at resource, as part of the SustainRCA exhibit showcasing their Awards and consultancy work for clients demonstrating the circular economy. Let’s hope the interest turns into tangible efforts to replicate Glass Lab in other locations, with other materials and communities.  For the moment in Soho at least there are designers, a rich supply of and healthy demand for glass products!

imageDiana hopes to apply the Waste Lab concept to other materials, recognising that waste has different identities, and poses different challenges, in different geographies.  She is already working with Sudha Kheterpal, an internationally renowned percussionist, to take musical instruments that produce clean energy when played into areas with little or no electricity.  Playing the shaker (pictured right) will generate enough electricity to power an LED light or charge up a mobile phone, vital for people living in remote villages.  A prototype shaker, ‘SPARK’, has just been tested in Kenya, and a Kickstarter campaign follows later this spring.  Keep your eyes peeled for more news about ShakeYourPower.

In the meantime,I only hope that the imminent arrival of a glass crusher brings the price point for the tiles below £200 per sq metre, as I would leap at the chance for a set of Glass Lab tiles for my bathroom.

Photocredits: Diana Simpson, my own.

 

 

 

Chop on a new block

HAMPSONWOODS_HOMEPAGE_1I have been chopping an awful lot of root vegetables making seasonal warming winter soups and stews.  I recall Dieter Rams’ ten principles that include  ‘good design is aesthetic’ as I look for a board with form and function.  A beautiful object that we use every day can bring with it a daily dose of joy and elevate a small task from the mundane.  As such I have had a roving eye out for chopping boards.

I love the simplicity, and idiosyncrasy of the boards from Hampson Woods (pictured left).  Made from London Plane, and sourced directly from the arborists that have cleared once mighty trees from the city whose name they bear.  Every board is unique, hand carved from rough cut pieces in sympathy with the form of the wood.  Finished with olive oil, the resulting boards have a delicate beauty, perfect food platters for home, cafes, delis or restaurants.  The boards with a handle are priced from £35, there are also geometric boards (245 x 140 x 17mm) priced from £25.

SrO3BnANuIuShBAhRfqASJ-qA-MIf Hampson Woods make best use of materials on our doorsteps, Haidee Drew‘s ‘Handled’ Chopping Boards are made of bamboo sustainably manufactured far further afield.  The shape of the handles are inspired by traditional silverware from the Victoria and Albert Museum providing a decorative edge to a utilitarian product.  Bamboo is a fast-growing (some species grow up to 1m a day) and can be cultivated without pesticides, it is also extremely strong, so offers great durability as a chopping board.  The boards retail from £40 for a board 170mm x 335mm x 20mm.

6-leeborthwick-grain-and-haH1_thumb Sustainably sourced ash and beech are the canvas for Lee Borthwick‘s Grain and Hairy series of boards.  Lee strives to reveal the beauty of natural materials.  Each board has been scorched using a technique called pyrography to highlight its unique grain.  The boards are then oiled and ready for use as food platters, or simply as objects to provoke contemplation.   Prices start from £35 for a 5inch (12.7cm) board.    

EL-0613-10_thumbFor the minted version, I return to savour the work of Eleanor Lakelin, characterised by sculptural vessels and forms in wood from British trees that have been felled in the UK.  Eleanor uses traditional woodturning and carving techniques with great empathy for the natural form of the wood.  Sandblast, bleach or fire are then used to further tease out the grain creating fossil-like forms before finishing with natural oils.  The same techniques are used to make solid wood food boards either in olive ash or sycamore.  The olive ash has a deep chestnut colour with a beautiful grain. The boards (diameter 300mm or 400mm x height 50mm) are turned, lightly sandblasted and scorched around the rim before being oiled to bring out the grain.  In contrast, the sycamore boards are a light, creamy colour.  Also turned on the lathe, the sycamore boards have a distinctive hand carved rim with a dimpled effect.  Each piece has its own story, priced at £260, for 40 x 300 x 300 mms.

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Posh Salvage offer a range of chopping boards made from reclaimed teak.  Prices start at £35 for the rectangular board pictured, 37 cm x 18cm, 3cm thick.  Teak has long been used for general construction and boat building in Java, Indonesia because of its strength and durability.  Now new infrastructure built from concrete and steel is replacing the old plantation grown teak.  Long planks are salvaged to make furniture with off cuts and smaller pieces suitable for chopping boards.   Some of the pieces have some even have hand carved graffiti, if not the Posh Salvage range includes boards decorated with wholesome reminders that you are what you eat.

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By way of complete contrast, TopGourmet, supplier to the catering industry, produces very understated, functional chopping boards made of Richlite.  Richlite is a paper-based fibre composite made from FSC-certified and post-consumer waste paper content.  The boards are dishwasher safe and heat resistant to 180c and priced from £14.50 for a 150mmx200mm board.

It seems inevitable that most of the boards are made of wood.  Wood has wonderful aesthetic, tactile and renewable qualities, and with a little care it is extremely durable.  I was expecting a few surprises in terms of alternative materials, but may be they are yet to come.

Picture credits: Lee Borthwick, Haidee Drew, Eleanor Lakelin, Hampson Woods, Posh Salvage, Top Gourmet

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!

Aga-nomics

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My Mum has cooked on AGAs for over thirty years, and as with many AGA owners she would struggle to imagine life without one.  The AGA heats the kitchen, boils the kettle, makes the toast, cooks the food, and air dries mountains of washing.  I thawed myself out before tea (supper) on many a cold winter’s day as a child.  As an adult, I have secretly longed for an AGA for many years, but dismissed them as uneconomical, and unsuitable for urban living.

AGA is the slow-cooker of stereotypes twinned in many peoples’ minds with country kitchens, but cast your preconceptions aside and meet the AGA Total Control.  I received a hearty introduction last week courtesy of Rosie at the AGA at Divertimenti Marylebone showroom.  It was a good job we were hungry as Rosie and Giovanna demonstrated that the AGA is capable of every culinary technique, just as its designer Gustaf Dalen intended.

Dalen, a Swedish industrialist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics, wanted to spare his wife the domestic drudgery of inefficient and expensive stoves.  He set out to develop a cooker that was easy to use, consistent, and efficient.  He achieved it, and 90 years on the AGA is still made in the same way.  First cast in iron at a foundry in Coalbrookdale, Shropshire, birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, the AGA then has several coats of vitreous enamel applied over three days.  This protective enamel coat ensures AGA stands the test of time.  Yes, the AGA is undoubtably an investment equivalent to a small, secondhand car, but longevity is just one of the compensations.  Voted in a BBC survey as one of the top three design icons of the 20th century, the AGA is timeless.  My Mum’s AGA has been going for over 30 years!  If and when it does reach the end of this life, it is almost completely recyclable.  AGA’s have always been made from 70% recycled materials such as guttering, gear boxes, door fittings or drain covers.

We were treated to a roast, toast, tray bake, quiche and much more.  The food was delicious and the AGA Total Control was straightforward to use.  The AGA rule of thumb is to use the ovens for anything that takes more than 8-10 minutes on the hot plate.  Root vegetables can be brought up to the boil on the hot plate, then put in the simmering oven until you are ready to eat.  Cooked in this way they can retain up to 20% more of their mineral and vitamin content, and ease the pressure of getting everything ready at the same time.

The huge ovens can fit a 13kg bird (a pretty sizeable Christmas turkey) or a stack of pans, 2X 2. The flavours don’t mix, and as cast-iron retains, and radiates heat well you can grill on the top shelf, bake in the middle and fry on the floor of the roasting oven at the same time as demonstrated by Rosie.  The radiant heat helps food to keep its moisture, texture and flavour and keeps the oven at an even temperature.

We all know that the trade-offs of fossil fuels are fracking complicated (pun absolutely intended) with high social and environmental costs of extraction, and a classic AGA does glug the oil.   AGA has models compatible with natural gas and electricity, you could even use it with micro-generated electricity.  We would be running our AGA off a renewable electricity tariff, but by way of indication the estimated weekly energy consumption for the AGA Total Control 3-oven is 35kWh a week for a cooker that is normally off and only switched on to cook, that is £4.03 a week (based on a third party estimate for a busy family using combined ovens and hot plate for 12 hours a week, AGAnomics publication, Sept 2013).  However, the choice of fuel, AGA model and usage profile will influence the running costs considerably.  For example, a 3-oven AGA running on oil will consume roughly 40 litres of oil a week, around £24 per week (see AGAnomics).  Of course, a classic oil or gas AGA that is on all the time, will take the place and energy costs of other appliances such as a kettle or toaster and radiates 1.5kWh into a room, the equivalent of a medium sized radiator, so in many AGA kitchens radiators are not needed. Even the AGA Total Control will continue to radiate heat into the room as it cools down.

For those of us that are out of the house for long periods during the day the AGA Dual Control and AGA Total Control provide the flexibility to have the AGA on and working for you when you need it, and off or ‘slumber’ when you don’t.  The 3-oven AGA Total Control has a roasting oven at 220c, baking oven at 180c and simmering oven at 120c.  The whole cooker takes an hour to get up to temperature from cold, but individual components take a lot less, especially if from the ‘slumber’ setting, for example the boiling plate takes 11 minutes from cold.  You can programme the Total Control to come on and off twice a day, morning and evening, just as you do the boiler.

It might take me a while to save up, but the AGA Total Control would be an investment I am prepared to make.

At Liberty to salvage hunt for inspiration

dp2I am on the look out for some inspiration for a kitchen overhaul in a Victorian terrace in Northwest London.  I want to honour the building’s past, while reflecting the present way we live, and our character.  Last week, I was way out west in North Wales.   Having spent the morning admiring the Champion trees (those trees that are exceptional examples of their species) and snow drops at Bodnant Gardens, we made a beeline for Drew Pritchard’s Architectural Antiques.

Drew, well-known as the present of Quest TV’s Salvage Hunters, deals in garden, architectural and decorative antiques and lighting from his HQ just south of Llandudno in North Wales.  The warehouse, come restoration workshop, come showroom is clad in reclaimed boards, the perfect backdrop to the eclectic mix of finds.  The magical Art Nouveau mantelpiece I had been coveting over Christmas had sold, but  I swiftly fell for the huge drapers counter, pictured above, made from mahogany with pine drawers and shelves. The draper’s measure is still embedded in the countertop.  The perfect centrepiece for my new kitchen, if only it were not 3 metres wide!

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At the door, we are politely reminded antiques are green.  Buying antiques is much more than simply recycling.  Buying a piece of furniture with history, and character is continuing a story, and adding your own twist.  The materials and craftsmanship in many pieces of vintage and antique furniture are now in scarce supply.  The pieces have been made to last, and the wear and tear they have acquired on the way are testament to their function and often enhance their form.

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To my great delight, Drew Pritchard has just taken over the East gallery on the fourth floor of Liberty’s.  The gallery has a number of windowed alcoves that lend themselves as room sets.

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There is an Orkney chair calling you to rest a moment and take in the selection of for sale from the sublime set of Aesthetic Carved Oak Doors to the almost comic stone corgi.  I urge you to sneak a peek if you are in the West End. You never know what you might find.

Home/Craft London/ Top Drawer – the cc edit

woodcutIt felt like a sprint finish to get round the cavernous halls of Earls Court on the final day of the trinity that was Home, Craft London and Top Drawer 2014, but I was well rewarded for my efforts.  It was a chance to get a sneak preview of new product launches, learn more of the story behind the label, or simply a face to a name.  Here are the cc edited highlights.

On the threshold of home was Plumen, sculptural lighting that is also energy efficient.  After the look-at-me exuberance of the original Plumen 001, the new kid, Plumen 002, is a simpler, more subtle design.  With luminosity equivalent to a 30W incandescent bulb and colour warmer than the  Plumen 001, the overall lighting effect is softer, but still architectural.  The compact fluorescent bulb has a lifetime of 8000 hours, or 8 years of normal usage and is recyclable.  It is not yet dimmable, but they are working on it!

mG7ClaqvSPiOnMWcvkLdWPAJust across the way was one of my current everyday joys, the Black +Blum Eau Good water bottle complete with charcoal filter.  Then, I made a bee-line for Stuart Gardiner to admire the fun and informative prints on oven mitts, tea towels and aprons.  Stylish aide-memoires to seasonal foods to hand in the kitchen when you need them!

BOJJE - WILD FLOWER SET CUTOUTOther kitchen accessories that caught my eye were the ‘wildflower’ range of utensils fashioned from beech and stainless steel (pictured left).  They are simply beautiful to look at and to hold.  Bojje are based in Suffolk with a passion for the materials they use, particularly wood.  Combining traditional woodworking , woodland crafts and modern technologies the products have a graceful, simplicity and sensuality.

27033759_57400Hop and Peck’s set of platter boards (pictured right) are handmade from sustainable solid oak and finished in Danish oil, from £35.

I had a brief pause to admire Haidee Drew’s bamboo chopping boards. More tableware in bamboo fibre was available from Ekobo who were showing their range of traditional handmade bamboo and laquerware and also Biobu, a range colourful enough for all the family to enjoy eating from.  I love the cool simplicity of the FAT Ceramics designed by Piet Hein Eek for Fair Trade Original.   The contemporary twist provided by Piet Hein Eek’s designs still allow the traditional craftsmanship of the producers in Thailand and Vietnam to shine through.

brushes

The handiwork of veteran crafts makers from Handmade-Japan was on show at Craft London.  I have been on the hunt for a good broom (and a mop) so loved the colourful ‘Nanbu Hoki’, traditional, handmade brooms and brushes made from all natural fibres.

rugNatural fibres such as pure new wool, jute and fair trade, organic cotton are the basis of Waffle Design‘s distinctive textured cushions and throws.  New designs for 2014 also included products made from upcycled aran carpet yarn.  The yarn was rescued from an old carpet factory in Yorkshire, and hand dyed in small batches in East London.  Tweedmill had a whole (makeshift) cabinet of colourful recycled wool and fleece throws on show, pictured left.  They also produce recycled picnic rugs, draft excluders, bags, cushions and even a garden kneeler.

smileAnd on to the bigger ticket items.  Fun furniture with clean lines and contemporary shapes from Lozi Designs.    The smile shelves were generating a lot of interest, and good humour (pictured right).  Close by, Wayfarer Furniture offered another response to eco-urban living with two new collections on show, the Prima and Tempo.  The first, Prima, uses wood, the second, Tempo uses lower grade, but also low carbon materials of fibre and corrugated board, both are a discursive response to ethical living in an urban environment.

acAnother Country‘s approach to sustainability is to make furniture that has timeless appeal crafted using traditional and modern techniques from responsibly sourcing materials.  Good design has physical and emotional longevity, and every piece from Another Country has a simple elegance you can enjoy for a long time.  The new Series 3, made from oiled beech and inspired by Edwardian industrial furniture, would work, literally and metaphorically, well at home or in the office.  The new Soft Series of blankets and cushions made from 100% hand-dyed wool with UK weavers Gainsborough Silk Weaving Company in three graphic designs is a simply covetable collection.

Finally, the beautiful laser cut silhouettes of trees by Clare Cutts, pictured at the top of the page, are an elegant and evocative way to bring the outside in to any space.  The designs are based on photographs of trees taken by Clare. Originally, Clare created the woodcuts to emboss tree prints on paper, but realised the woodcut are things of beauty in their own right.

corkAnd last, but not least, as I prepared for my cycle home, I was wishing for a pair of cork bicycle grips designed by Green and Blue and handmade in Portugal.  Cork is durable, anti-bacterial and offers cushioning, the perfect material for bike grips.  Cork is a naturally renewable, and these grips are hand made from Portuguese cork harvested in managed forests. They have beautiful form, and function.

Happy New Year from Stuart Gardiner

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To get us all a buzzing, Stuart Gardiner Designs are offering a 25% discount code on their entire range of joyful, informative, and absorbent products, for the whole of January.  There are tea towels, aprons, mugs and mitts to choose from.

This bee friendly tea towel is my favourite after a recent trip to the National Beekeeping Centre in Wales where my daughter picked up the poster version.   The tea towel is a collaboration with Friends of the Earth (a 75p donation is made to FOE for each tea towel sold)  to encourage bees and other pollinators into your garden.  The tea towel’s  jaunty illustration of plants particularly favoured by bees is a 6 colour print on organic unbleached cotton. The tea towel is made & printed in the UK, and priced £10.  The Happy New Year Y’all! discount code is: ‘Dry January’!

As for bees, they pollinate 75% of our main food crops worldwide.  In the UK, apples, plums, pears, cherries, raspberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, red currants, gooseberries and strawberries all depend on insects for pollinations, and so do some vegetables, such as broad bean, runner bean and the pumpkin family.  It is estimated that the value of insect-pollinated fruits and vegetables is more than £200million a year in the UK alone.  And, there is the immeasurable value of wildflowers and ornamental garden plants reliant on insect pollination that brighten up our gardens, hedgerows, parks and woodlands.  However in the past 50 years many British insects such as common butterflies, moths, hoverflies and bees have been in decline.

In the UK, bees have lost 97% of their grassland habitat in the last 60 years and wildflower meadows. There is plenty you can do to help in your garden, window box or roof terrace this spring.  Friends of the Earth have a Bee Saver Kit complete with a pack of wildflower seeds, bee ID, garden planner and bee guide.

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust has a BeeKind Tool to score how bee friendly the plants in your garden.  By adding your garden’s score to the Beekind map, the BBCT is beginning to build up a picture of bee friendly habitats across the country.   There are also top tips for identifying bees, fact sheets about suitable wildflower seeds for different soil types and suggestions on how to make a bumblebee nest from an up-turned flower pot, piece of tubing and a piece of tile or slate.

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The Royal Horticultural Society provides lists of both garden plants and wildflower plants that attract pollinators and tips on how to support bees in your garden.  Closer to home, your local garden centre will have plants labelled as “Perfect for pollinators” and packs of wildflower seeds. Naturally the British Beekeepers Association is a hive (pun absolutely intended) of information on bees, keeping them, or adopting a beehive.  For kids, there are some fun products available, from seed bombs, to BeeMat, a biodegradable mat filled with wildflower seeds that controls weeds.

There will be more blogs about green gardening as spring approaches.

Clean lines and living at Lozi Designs

lozi1 From the old, to the new at Lozi Designs at their pop-up, 31-32 Alfred Place, WC1E,  just behind the furniture hub that is Tottenham Court Road.  If you are planning a trip to Habitat, Heals or new kid on the block, West Elm, in the coming weeks then spare a few minutes to pop round the corner and pop in to Lozi Designs’ pop up.  On show is their new range of furniture, handcrafted using traditional woodworking techniques and modern technology.

The furniture is made from sustainable materials such as birch plywood, organic glue and milk-based paints.  The pieces are created by bending and shaping the wood into organic and geometric shapes, reducing the need for joints in furniture with clean, contemporary lines.

lozi2I am a particular fan of the bedside table (pictured above, £360) with its offset drawers. The large table (150x200cm, £850) and bench (£340), both pictured right, are a great combination for kitchen, office or study, and mini versions are also available for kids.  The child in all of us will be charmed by the swing (£100), and smiley shelves (from £100) that bring a little joy to storage.

cinemaJust behind the Lozi Design’s pop-up is the current HQ of ADA Projects, a collaboration of artists, designers and architects who share their skills and knowledge through lectures, courses, public events and film screenings.  Enthusiasm and industry were hand in hand, a workshop to one side, and the pop-up cinema to the other.

Wonderbag

 

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Christmas came early in our house with some relatives going away, and we were given a Wonderbag.  I have long cherished my Mum’s slow-cooked food on her Aga and here is a much smaller, much cheaper way to achieve the same process!  Heat-retention cooking is not a new idea, it is an age-old technique, in a hay box, or a hole in the ground.  Wonderbag just makes it easy to do in your kitchen!

The Wonderbag is a “a non-electric, heat-retention cooker that allows food that has been brought to a boil, to continue cooking after it has been removed from the fuel source.”  It is effectively a super thick sleeping bag (filled with recycled foam or  polystyrene granules) for your pan.  Once you have given the pot a kick start with a conventional cooker, you can pop the pot in the bag and it keeps cooking without burning any more fuel, wherever you are, indoors, outdoors, or in the bush.

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We had a go the next day, the Sunday roast of lamb shoulder became a pot roast.  I cooked it on the hob to brown the meat and then simmer it in a small amount of stock until the pot and meat were both hot.  The pot nestled into the Wonderbag, I tucked on the lid, and out we went for the morning, without any worry of pots boiling over or untended ovens.  The meat was delicious, so tender from the slow-cooking.  The bag also doubled as a popular toy……

The bag comes with a recipe book, and the variety of recipes online is fantastic with lots of nutritious and economical suggestions.  Moroccan vegetable soup will be the next recipe on my list, though the rest of the household has its eyes on sticky syrup pudding.

It is cost-saving and time-saving in my kitchen, but the ambition of Wonderbag’s founder Sarah Collins is much greater.  After years working in social development, and a spell of cold dinners caused by power cuts  drove her to experiment with cushions, Sarah conceived the Wonderbag.  For families in developing countries cooking on  kerosene, paraffin or wood, the stoves and fires don’t just cause smoky homes, they   are expensive, time-consuming and dangerous.  The positive impact of Wonderbag is compelling, clear and far-reaching.  Less deforestation and more time for family and other work are just the immediate and most obvious benefits.   For every Wonderbag sold in the UK or US, a Wonderbag is placed in a family in Africa.  To date 600,000 are in South Africa, each one cutting the average family’s fuel usage by around 30%.

What a wonderful recipe!  Last date for Christmas delivery is to order by midday on 18th December and the Wonderbag starts at £30.  The perfect gift for the difficult to buy for.