Tent London 2014 favourites

logoA pitstop at Nude Espresso on Hanbury Street set me buzzing for my favourite London Design Festival destination, Tent London.  The more established SuperBrands and international zones on the ground floor soon merge into the fresh, fun and less formal stands typically from younger or emerging designers.hyde  My first rendez vous was not with an exhibitor, but with potter and designer Isatu Hyde. I bought some of her medium-sized stoneware bowls, inspired by those from a monastery in Harrogate, at the New Designers show earlier in the year.  The bowls are in demand, so much so that Isatu asked to borrow mine for Design-Nation Presents at the Southbank Centre Terrace Shop.  Tickets are still available for the Meet the Maker evening on Tuesday 7th October, but you can see the work on show until 31st October. Unburdened, I was free to roam.  The understated elegance of Mater immediately caught my eye.  Founded in 2006, Mater (Latin for mother) is a high-end Danish furniture and lighting brand with a philosophy based on design, craftsmanship and ethicsTD1.  Contemporary design is combined with support for local craftsmen, their traditions and careful material selection.  A member of the UN Global Compact, and supporter of local sustainable business projects, Mater strive to minimize negative impacts, creating durable and desirable products that they home their customers will cherish. Pictured are the Luiz pendant lamp, made from natural FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) cork, suspended above the Bowl Table.  The table top is made mango wood, felled once the tree has reached the end of its productive life, and another planted.  The top is hand-turned on a lathe by craftsmen from the Kharadi community.  The top is finished with a lead-free, water-based polyurethane lacquer.  The hollow steel legs can be removed for more efficient packing and transport.  Mater products are stocked by Skandium in the UK. td3Exploring the story of the object, Second Sitters upholstery installation workshop was a chance to appreciate the skills, techniques and materials of upholstery up close, and hands-on as you could delve into boxes of horsehair, hessian and more.  Furniture Magpies revive furniture in a different way.td2  Literally deconstructing unloved pieces and reconfiguring them to more contemporary tastes while retaining their character and story.  The coffee table made of cross-sections of banister spindles was particularly striking. Upstairs were two of my favourite makers, both launching new collections. Galvin Brothers were presenting their new Cross Lap collection.  A clean and contemporary collection of tables, benches, consoles and stools in native steamed beech and American black walnut, and finished in water-based lacquers.tl5  Described as “modern rustic”, and in colours close to Carefully Curated’s own palette, how could I not be a fan?  Here is Matthew Galvin, just completing a piece to camera for Casafina’s round up of Tent London, which also features, Sebastian Cox. London Design Festival was a busy week for Sebastian Cox with the Wish List (and workshop) at the V&A, scorching and swilling pieces for the New Craftsmen, on Radio 4 with Sir Terence Conran, and the nominations for the Wood Awards, and Elle Decoration’s Best British Sustainable Designtl6 In the midst of this exciting flurry, Cox’s stand had an air of calm, matching the quiet serenity of the newly launched Underwood Collection, all made from hand-coppiced Kentish hazel and well-managed British ash.  The collection is called ‘Underwood’ as the pieces use coppiced hazel ‘in the round’, that is usually considered waste. In the foreground are pictured the ‘Hewn’ tea table (£195), bench (£300), and trestle (£170 each).  The Mop stick ladder (£210), shelves (£790) and Peg hooks (£55) are in the background.  A true celebration of British hardwoods. tl8Nearby, Daniel Heath launched his Art Deco collection.  The geometric motifs are etched onto reclaimed Welsh roof slates transforming the discarded into decorative interior surface materials.  The geometric shapes of Tracey Tubb’s wallpapers are inspired by origami.  Each sheet is hand-folded from a single roll of paper.  Tracey assures me the paper does not attract dust. The pattern’s on Seascape CuriositiesSealace wallpaper are by their nature more fluid.  Handtl9-drawn illustrations inspired by our beautiful underwater landscapes.  Using FSC approved and 100% recycled papers, Sara cuts intricate floating marine forms by hand creating three-dimensional wallpapers.  The works drew particular attention from Chinese, Japanese and Korean visitors, whose cultures have established traditions of paper-art forms. tl10Paper pulp from old newspapers is the fodder for Crea-Re’s ‘Copermicus’ lighting collection.  100% recycled, the paper mulch is mixed with ochre, or left grey, shaped, and left to dry.  The irregular, cracked shape with small holes or craters, means when the “Luna” light is turned on, the light creates a unique, mottled shadow. tl15While I missed the visual impact of the Material Council’s display of material cubes from 2013, this year, ‘Nooks, Niches and Cranniesʼ, featured Trash Glass from Diana Simpson, the first in a series of products developed using reclaimed waste as raw ingredients. tl12With my Welsh connections, I was delighted to catch up with Blodwen‘s founder Denise Lewis.  All Blodwen’s new blankets are woven at a 180 year old mill in the Teifi Valley, west Wales, not far from the National Woollen Museum.  The Heritage Blanket Collection (£345 each), inspired by a weaver’s pattern book datitl14ng from the 1700’s, are woven on the original 1930’s Dobcross looms.  The striking patterns caught the eye of recent fashion graduate, Sarah Hellen.  Inspired by the traditional skills of Welsh artisans, Hellen used some of Blodwen’s Heritage geometric ‘Hiraeth’ pattern for her menswear collection.  From baskets to traditional Welsh clogs, Blodwen is committed to the preserving and reviving the rural crafts and skills of Wales. A last word on some accessories.  The beautiful A-Z of edible flowers, A Matter of Taste, from Charlotte Day, which pique interest in some overlooked varieties and remind us of nature’s beauty tl16and bounty. I shall have to invest in one of Mary Goodman‘s Seating Spheres, a large wool covered exercise ball, described as a “sculptural addition to contemporary interiors” for use as a footrest, or seat.  I have used an exercise ball as my office chair for years.  The subtle instability stops any slump at the computer, and rolling around helps keep the blood flowing.  All the yarns are ethically sourced, with hard-wearing British wools such as Herdwick, Swalewick, Jacob and Axminster rug wool used for the spheres.  Mary Goodman will be showing her work as part of Campaign for Wool Interiors Collection at Southwark Cathedral, 5th -12th October. London Design Festival ended on a high note at Tent London!

Related link:

https://carefullycurated.co.uk/2013/08/20/welsh-blankets/

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Flash factories @designjunction

dj1I popped into 19 Greek Street where Diana Simpson was preparing for a process run through of GlassLab.  ‘Waste’ glass is in plentiful supply in the midst of Soho, and the recent introduction of a mechanical crusher enabled Diana to provide bar tops, tiles and other interiors products for the Library, a new private members, on time.  dj2I had a peak of GlassLab’s new rectangular floor tiles (which were also on show at Tent London, as part of the Material Council’s ‘Nooks, Niches and Crannies’ materials trail), and then it was on to designjunction at the Old Sorting Office.

Like a magpie, I was drawn to the sparkling brilliance of the Waterford Crystal Flash Factory.  Waterford is an iconic brand, so it was humbling to watch Master Cutter, Tony Grant, at the wheel, with a backdrop of glittering chandeliers and vases.  Tony began as an apprentice at Waterford more than forty years ago, and it is that depth of knowledge that lies at the heart of Waterford’s heritage.  dj3A moment in the shoes, or seat, of a master, provides a great appreciation of their skill, and I leapt at the invitation of a seat at the wheel.  The steady, subtle hand, precise eye and great knowledge of the material, are things the new generation of apprentices at Waterford will surely master, though I will not be one of them!

dj11Bringing a contemporary design twist to traditional craft skills emerged as a theme of this year’s designjunction.  Each of Pia Wustenberg’s Transformed Stacking Vessels celebrates craftsmanship and materials.  Each of the Vessels is unique as each of the three pieces is handmade: hand-turned wood; hand-blown glass and hand-thrown ceramics.  Each piece reflects the character of its maker, and adds a layer to the story.

dj8London-based designer, Hend Krichen, draws on her Tunisian roots to create elegant homewares that fuse artisanal skills and craftsmanship with a pared back aesthetic.   I was drawn to the warm terracotta and copper tones, and so it seems is the buyer for Paul Smith as products will be appearing in their stores soon.  Working with an ethical network of manufacturers, Krichen hopes to develop their understanding of the export market.  This rejuvenation and re-orientation of traditional craft skills, can play a vital role in securing a community’s heritage, and enhancing their livelihoods.

This model of reciprocal exchange, that is evident in the British Council’s Maker Library (seen at 100%design), underpins another of their initiatives, the Common Thread.  London-based designer Sabrina Kraus Lopez spent a month in the Atlas mountains of Morocco working with six Amazigh artisans to create a limited edition series of bespoke hand-woven rugs.  The Amazigh are traditionally a semi-nomadic people, with men tending livestock while women harvest wool, cotton and plants to dye the fibres that are then woven into kilims, or rugs.  The designs, based on the Amazigh’s traditional weaving techniques, are available via the Anou, an online platform and community of over 400 Moroccan artisans working to revive their community.  The platform enables artisans to sell their work directly to customers all around the world.

dj6Revitalising traditional industries including carpet weaving, cashmere production, and other artisan products to secure sustainable livelihoods is central to AfghanMade’s mission.  In collaboration with Wallpaper* and a number of prominent European and American carpet companies, AfghanMade exhibited a portfolio of contemporary rug designs in a huge space on the top floor of designjunction.  I was drawn to the deep turquoise pools of Michael Young’s design for Christopher Farr, Organic Fractals, made in wool and silk with hand-spun yarn and natural dyes.  One of the AfghanMade team is a leading authority on natural dyes, and the opportunity to work with him was a catalyst for Christopher Farr’s involvement in the project.  ‘Duck-head’ green is one of the hardest colours to achieve naturally, and as Michael Young’s design evolved the choice of colour was inevitable.  The rich teal colour is achieve first with a yellow dye from daisies, and then a natural indigo. The rug is 2.3m in diameter (though available to order in smaller sizes), around £6,750 and now on my wish list!

Stimulating cross-cultural collaborations between UK designers and African artisanal makers are also central to Africa Calling. dj5 The outsize, monochrome vases made from up-cycled textile ‘waste’ using traditional weaving techniques.  These vases, and other more colourful products with a similar provenance are available from Shake the Dust.

1411419976136Craftsmanship and provenance define the subtle, hand screen-printed linen fabrics and interiors products at Thorody.  The fabrics are hand screen-printed in London using water-based pigments (which exceed British Standard upholstery specifications for abrasion and pigment fastness for domestic use).   The natural linen is woven in Lancashire, or sourced from Belgium where it can be traced back to seed, and where the flax is sourced within 20 miles of the mill.  It is soft, but strong, two adjectives that also describe the abstract designs that Thorody characterise as “rustic modernism”.  They are considered, and timeless.

dj10Flax, and flaxseed or linseed oil is the key ingredient in linoleum, a material ByAlex chose to upholster the seat of their Neighbourhood chair.  Conceived as a contemporary dining chair to celebrate John Lewis 150th anniversary, the studio set themselves the challenge of making the chair from renewable materials.  Bamboo, which is ready for harvesting after only six years of growth, is used for the main body of the chair with moulded Plywood for the seat.

dj9After seeing her Wish List commission for Norman Foster, Tulipifera Sharpeners, and then Folded Chair, shortlisted piece for the Wood Awards at 100%design, it was pleasure to complete a hat trick and meet Norie Matsumoto.  Here she is pictured beside the Folded Chair, originally designed for “Out of the Woods” in 2012.  Matsumoto redesigned the chair using special hinges, and a smaller version that can hang on the wall.  The elegant and deceptively simple cylinder hooks, Deco (pictured in the background) are turned from solid wood.  Matsumoto chose to use solid wood to give the objects a strong presence that could be decorative as well as functional.

dj7As Matsumoto’s designs salute the strength of solid wood, Tom Raffield’s designs using steam-bent wood showcase other virtues of flexibility, crafting sensual forms through innovative use of steam-bending techniques.  His lamps cast delicate shadows in warm light.

dj4Finally, I was captivated by the evocative installation (curated by Anthony Dickens) of ercol and Anglepoise’s timeless classics given a bespoke overhaul as the part of the ‘A Child’s Dream’ silent auction.  A moment to pause and reflect on what dreams are made of for the young, and slightly older!  Some of the collaborations at designjunction have the power to be transformational.

Image credits:  Thorody

Related links:

https://carefullycurated.co.uk/2014/09/25/100%DEsign-for-a-day/

5 of the best pendant lamps

tr-212butterflyoak1200247x247Pendant lights, hanging from the ceiling, can literally raise our gaze from the mundane to the magnificent.  Whether striking a considered statement in your entrance hall or providing essential task lighting in your kitchen, pendant lamps can have both form and function.  Here are five of the best pendant lamps that have caught Carefully Curated’s eye.

Choosing things that will be loved, cherished and enjoyed for many years is a great, and sustainable, rule of thumb.  A recent article in the Financial Times Weekend notes that after years of cheap furniture, British consumers are increasingly keen to buy handcrafted products that can become collectables. Quality craftsmanship is at the heart of Tom Raffield’s design practice.  Based in Cornwall, Tom Raffield is influenced by the natural beauty that surrounds him. It inspires a sense of adventure.  Through experimenting with traditional techniques of steam-bending, Raffield eventually developed a new method that enabled him to create the complex, sensuous 3D forms he desired.  Steam-bending is a low energy method of manufacturing, with little wastage and without the use of toxic or harmful chemicals.  Unseasoned, green or air dried timber is sourced from sustainably-managed woodlands that are local to the workshop, where possible.  Earlier this year, Raffield’s work was part of the Green Room, a space dedicated to eco-sustainable UK design at EDIT by design junction at Salone Internazionale del Mobile to showcase British creativity and design under the slogan, Green is GREAT.  Tom-Raffield-Bloom-pendant-WALNUT-bottom-Plumen-bulbThe Butterfly Pendant (pictured above) is inspired by the movement of butterflies in full flight.  Handmade from sustainably sourced oak and finished with an eco-friendly, non-toxic, water-based varnish, the small pendant is 42cm high with a diameter of 52cm.   The light takes a 25 watt energy saving bulb, though the award-winning Plumen low energy light bulb is recommended for a distinctive twist (pictured right).  The light is priced £325 (there is currently a summer sale with 20% off).  You can see Tom Raffield’s work next month at Decorex International   as he  has been commissioned to make a special set of furniture pieces for the VIP Lounge.

dpritchard1From future collectables, to current vintage finds.  A recent visit to Drew Pritchard’s warehouse in north Wales revealed a treasure trove of lights.  There were elegant opaline pendants with pressed brass fittings; a staggering pair of cast bronze and cast iron gate pier lanterns 138cm tall; Art Deco alabaster plaffonier ceiling lights; feminine fluted holophane lights; and utilitarian factory lights.  From £99 to £7,500 (for the pair of bronze gate lanterns) there were fittings for nearly all occasions.  6945I was taken with these industrial pendant lights (H: 26 cm W: 21 cm D: 21 cm, priced £195 each) from Poland made of prismatic glass in the 1960s. The polished galleries add a sophisticated finish.

For a contemporary take on the industrial look, Offkut, an independent design company based in London, makes 4412practical, durable, that are, they hope, affordable.  As the name would suggest many of their pieces are made from up-cycled industrial wood.  The knots, grains and splits in the reclaimed wood means each furniture piece is unique.  Their pendant lamps are a series of hanging steel cages.  The Corset (priced £235) is like a generous hoop skirt that tapers to a waist as narrow as those sought by nineteenth century belles.  The aesthetic is definitely industrial, but softened by the delicate, carbon filament bulbs which are handmade in Switzerland.  The larger globe bulbs will burn for around 5000 hours.

EGG_OF_COLUMBUS_SELETTI_MG_0783The Egg of Columbus lighting collection designed by Valentina Carretta is inspired by the waves and pleats of vintage lamps.  Using compressed cardboard from recycled egg cartons, Carretta created three eye-catching designs for pendant lamps. The raw, rough packaging material takes on a clean, yet decorative aesthetic.  The pendants are available from the Conran Shop for a very economical £25 each (diameter of piece shown is 22.5cm).

Heath Nashlight-8-e1407173457405‘s pendant lamps made from recycled plastic have an altogether different look.  Nash pioneered the use of plastic post-consumer waste as a raw material in South Africa, working with a small team of craftspeople to create high-end decorative installations and lamps.  The first piece of work Nash made from ‘waste’ materials was a leaf ball,  colourful flower balls and drum lights followed.  The award-winning designer will be exhibiting an installation at Africa Calling, a show case of the best of contemporary African design that launches next month as part of the Africa Utopia festival (12th-14th Sept) at the Southbank Centre, and then to designjunction for London Design Festival (18th-21st Sept). Nash will also be running workshops at Africa Calling, and be a guest panelist in our Africa Calling debate session at Design Junction.  I can’t wait to see the work in progress!

Related links:

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/b9e6e47e-1d8a-11e4-b927-00144feabdc0.html#slide0

Image credits: Africa Calling; Valentina Carretta; OffKut; Plumen; Drew Pritchard; Tom Raffield Design

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.

 

 

 

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.

In the bleak mid-winter, Illuminate

ruthin

People have celebrated festivals for thousands of years in the bleak mid-winter.  The festivals, usually involving fires and feasting, around the mid Winter Solstice have many names, Yule, Christmas or Saturnalia (the Roman festival around the middle of December).   Lights are central to all of these festivals.  As we decorate our homes with lights, the Illuminate exhibition at the Ruthin Craft Centre lights up with a selection of lighting from young designers.

scAmong the highlights for me were the Rod Standard lamp (pictured right) from Sebastian Cox.  The stem is a steam-bent  hazel rod, and the shade is made from fine hazel shavings.  The hazel is grown locally to Sebastian and he harvests it every winter.  Coppicing is a way of cutting and  managing trees, creating a diverse woodland, and a sustainable source of timber.  The desk lamp’s shade is made from compressed hazel fibres, and casts a warm glow.

hw

Drws y Coed means Door to the Woods and the row of lights (left) are laser-cut with intricate patterns to create effect of dappled light in the woods.  The lights are made of local Welsh timber and plywood. The designer, Hannah Wardle, grew up in the Clwyd Valley, an area with much woodland, and her experience informs the materials and light effects of her products. Other influences stem from an interest in Japanese architectural ideas and the formal experience of an MSc in Light and Lighting at Bartlett, UCL, and 6 years working as an architectural lighting designer.

Claire Norcross, former head of lighting at Habitat, also takes her inspiration from the natural world, often super scaling a microscopic detail from the natural world to create a surface or structure.  I also appreciated the subtle engineering evident in the Lock Lamp, a collaboration between Colin Chetwood and Nick Grant.  The ‘lock’ stands for the mechanism that positions the light, whether extended, raised or rotated, without the use of springs, counter-weights or screw clamps.  A neat, elegant solution that is simply functional.

For Louise Tucker it is understanding her materials and the intervention of the hand that is central to the design process.

lt

Louise has chosen Pren, the Welsh word for wood as the name for her collection of light sculptures.  Each light is a developed by making a series of intricate small-scale models of the three dimensional structures and refining the models until satisfied the structure of the weave echoes the organic curves of the sculpture.  Hand-making is the alchemy that turns the natural materials into these sophisticated forms showing the subtle beauty of the materials to their best advantage.

Illuminate runs until 4th February 2014, and entrance is free.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

5 of the best table lamps

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The clocks have gone back, and as the nights draw in, Diwali, the festival of lights, this week celebrates the victory of good over evil, light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance. And it has been Bonfire Night too.  So it seems fitting to shine a light on five of the best table lamps.

1. The Rod table lamp by Sebastian Cox has a shade made of compressed hazel fibres, and the stem is a steam bent hazel rod (H 5 4x W 12 x D 20 cm).  The coppiced hazel is grown locally and harvested in the winter as part of a sustainable woodland management programme.  Hazel is light, strong, with a fine grain and fast-growing.  The lamp is an honest, elegant piece that brings a bit of native British woodland inside. The lamp costs £175 including an LED bulb.

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2. The Flos Kelvin mini task lamp, designed by Antonio Citterio, is widely available from retailers including John Lewis for £175.   In sleek contrast to the Rod lamp, but with eco-credentials nonetheless as it is  made of recycled aluminium.  The arm and head are adjustable for focused light from the 30 LED lights which contain a chemically-etched diffuser to soften the light.  The lamp’s dimensions are H30 x W12 x D12cm.

diy-table-053.  After natural, renewable and recyclable materials, I have end of life in mind when including the DIY Table Lamp designed by Rona Meyuchas  K from Kukka.  This is a traditional lamp, with a twist.  It could be used at home or the office, or where ever you choose.  It is made of 6 screws, 7 pieces of beech wood, lamp holder and cable. The wood is unfinished, so you could paint, lacquer or sand it to suit your style or leave it natural.  If you want to short-cut that detail you can order it in a range of 7 colours.  The dimensions are 53 x 43 x 10cm, and the lamp costs £115.  The lamp is supplied with a 40w reflector bulb, an LED alternative would use around 85% less energy and last 20 times longer, or an energy-saving halogen bulb, which would be around a 30% saving on a standard 40w bulb.

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4. Drws y Coed, means to door to the woods in Welsh, and the dappled lighting of their table lamp creates a sense of connection with woodland.  The products are made from birch plywood and local Welsh timber. Digital technologies, such as laser cutting enable a micro manufacturing in North Wales close to sources of timber, and inspiration. The Merddyn Gwyn Lamp (pictured) is based on a beaker from Merddyn Gwyn Bronze Age archeological site in Anglesey. The dimensions are H38 x W12 x D12 cm and costs £90.  In a waste not, want not vein, the pieces of ply laser cut out of the top of the lamps are repurposed as coasters!

5.  D.I.Y. Either refresh an existing lamp, revive an ebay purchase, or start from scratch.  A wine bottle is a popular choice for a lamp base, or a vintage find.  You can buy table lamp kits online, and follow instructions online from Wikihow, or find a local course.  In London, the Goodlife Centre runs How to make a lamp evening courses. Be sure to read and heed all warnings and follow the directions with the lamp kit.  For simple instructions on how to make a lampshade visit the Channel 4 website, or find a local course and get some tips from an expert.  Lolly & Boo run lampshade courses in a couple of locations in the south, and Rustiques run workshops with Annie Sloan paints and fabrics in Aberdeenshire.  Have a peek at Folly & Glee for a range of DIY lamp making accessories and inspiration.

Five of the best winter warmers for Wool Week

Here are five of the best DSC8077winter warmers for Wool Week.

1. A bang on trend chevron throw from Tori Murphy (£250).  The throw is 100% Merino lambswool woven in Lancashire, washed in the Yorkshire Dales and made in Nottingham. The throw is deliciously soft, with a reversible design and hand finished with a traditional blanket stitch.

2. An organic duvet from Devon Duvets.  A duvet made from platinum grade British Wool that has not been bleached or chemically treated and 100% cotton and is handcrafted in Devon (from £130).   The untreated wool fibres work help to repel and wick away moisture encouraging evaporation, leaving an environment that is not moist enough for dust mites or bacteria to easily survive.  Regular airing helps the wool fibres maintain their capabilities.  You could even add a folding pillow, whose smart design enables you to air the pillow.

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3. A blanket from Welsh mill Melin Tregwynt, in the heart of Pembrokeshire and owned by the same family since 1912, the products fuse traditional Welsh designs with innovative colour.  For a more midcentury zing of colour look at Seven Gauges studio , whose lambswool products are designed and machine knitted in England.

4. A hot water bottle.  Handmade in Lampeter from sections of vintage Welsh blankets that have otherwise been damaged.  They are available in standard size (£30), and mini hand warmer size. (£19.99). from Jane Beck Welsh Blankets.  As the name would suggest the company has a wide range of Welsh blankets new and vintage, as well as other woollen accessories.

5. A desinature-shop-honey-green-450x352felt lampshade made of 100% wool felt dyed with environmentally friendly inks from Desinature (£28).

And if you fancy having a go, the Handweavers Studio runs an extensive workshop programme and regular weaving classes.

 

Decorex highlights

PETDecorex 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.

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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.

FABRICSThe 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”.

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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!!

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