Sebastian Cox Pop-up @ Heals

sc1Catch him while you can.  Tomorrow, Sunday 23rd, is the last day of Sebastian Cox’s Woodland Workshop pop-up in Heal’s Tottenham Court Road store.  Sebastian is an award-winning designer and maker, with a strong ethos of sustainability.  As you might remember from earlier posts, he is famed for his work with coppiced hazel, an ancient method of woodland management.

For the last couple of weekend’s Sebastian and his team (today, George) have been very much front of house for Heal’s ‘Made for you‘ series, hand crafting drawers in the store window.

IMG_3054The stack of drawers are for their latest Heal’s piece, a five drawer ‘Tall-boy’ in celebration of British grown hardwoods.  Each drawer is individually crafted using one of ten timbers, showing their distinctive grain, and colour, to subtle and stunning effect.  The timbers have all been sustainably sourced.  In fact, they can even tell you when the wood was milled and grown.  The Tall-boy pictured right is in oak, walnut, sycamore, London plane, and elm.  We were particularly struck by the flecking and wavy grain of the elm.  The undulating grain is what gives elm its characteristic strength.

IMG_3057Other timbers available are ash, brown oak, chestnut, hazel and birch.  The ‘brown oak’ is not a different species, but oak that has been infected with fungus, leaving it a rich tea colour.  The choice of timber and tonal scale is yours.  If you are undecided, you could order a pair and then mix and match the drawers to your heart’s content.  The Tall-boy retails at Heal’s for around £2,000, depending on your choice of timber.  Remember a thing of beauty is a joy forever!

IMG_3058Seeing Sebastian and George deftly making use of the range of hand tools was fascinating, for us, and our young daughters.  They were enchanted by this real-life Mister Maker, and thoroughly charmed when Sebastian used his hand plane to give them a couple of shavings that spiralled in their palms.  They watched, coyly, as George meticulously prepared a dovetail joint.  It was a moment for us all to appreciate the skill of hand crafting furniture, to connect the elegant piece with its humble beginnings and reflect on the beauty of Britain’s natural resources.

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.

A breath of fresh air in the garden

perhIf you have been looking for an excuse to get out into the garden, there is no more gentle reminder of the seasonal fruits of your labours in the allotment than the delightful ‘Perpetual Harvest’, a set of 12 prints illustrated by Claudia Pearson (£14.99).

Each individual print, one for each month of the year, has a list of what to plant and what to harvest that month with fresh, colourful illustrations of the produce.

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Even December tempts the taste buds with a note to harvest kale, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, carrots and beets. There is a reminder to plant cabbage, broccoli, bare-root apple, peach and walnut trees.  The prints would look fantastic framed and hung together across a kitchen wall.

There are more comprehensive reminders, but few as attractive!  Quickcrop, for example, has an online growing calendar with sowing, planting and harvesting information as well as plant guides.  They specialise in providing ready to grow planters, particularly for the urban gardener.  Their plug plants have been organically grown, with out the use of peat.  A low maintenance gift to get the patio garden going.

As well as an encyclopedic  gardening calendar the Royal Horticultural Society’s website also has guides on how to attract more wildlife to your garden, establishing a wildflower garden and which plants attract pollinators.

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Bold and Noble fuse pattern and nature to create clean, contemporary prints.  Pictured is ‘Bee Kind’, which is  a hand-pulled screen print of bee-friendly plants on recycled off-white card.  The print is 50cm x 70cm (so fits ‘off the peg’ frames), and £43.  15% of retail profits from  ‘Bee Kind’ will go to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, and if you order before 31st December you’ll get a free A4 special edition Christmas print.

For something more tactile, and textile, Stuart Gardiner Designs produces a range of seasonal calendars on tea towels, aprons and mugs, as well as screen prints. There are guides to fish, fruit and vegetables, and besgr_smalle-ing friendly.  There are also even more inspiring guides to plan your foraging for fungi, nuts, herbs and other edibles, and notes on which wild and garden flowers for creating a seasonal bouquet.  If it all seems a bit like a Gantt chart,  rest assured such useful information is rarely so beautifully presented.  Tea towels are £10 each. What perfectly practical stocking fillers!

East London Design Show – the CC edit

935606_748233341857996_477679725_nIt was a trip for all the family to the East London Design Show.  The website said, “Bring the kids” so we did, and they were catered for making hats, colouring and perusing the stands.  Their edit might have been different to mine.

Like a magpie draw to the bright and brilliant, I honed in on the Galapagos stand.  I have admired their uber-luxurious take on up-cycling before at Tent London, and there were plenty more mid-century chairs reupholstered in colourful, contemporary prints  to covet  at the ELDS this weekend.  The founder of Galapagos, Lucy Mortimer, is on a mission to provide “high design products without the environmental impact”, and to make buying vintage furniture as accessible as buying new. The chairs are so beautifully reupholstered they look like new too.  I love the latest collaboration with Parris Wakefield (thats the chevron print on the chair to the left).

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Re-purpose is at the heart of [re]design, a social enterprise that promotes ‘Good and Gorgeous design that is friendly to both people and planet’.  Here is a picture of clocks made from playing cards, a neat re-use of that deck of cards that is missing a few.  For the instructions on how to make the clock, and other things such as a pallanter (that is a planter made from a pallet, get it?), or a bath mat from a wetsuit, have a peak in [re]craft, a book full of everyday designs to make at home, from waste.   For more seasonal inspiration, try “Why don’t you…[re]design Christmas?”  I can’t help having a flashback to 1980s kids TV programming….

480774_10150923607836059_462348813_nMore making good use of the things that we find, was on display with Eco-pouffe, a social enterprise.  The pouffe is handmade in Shoreditch from recycled car tyres, bicycle inner tubes and legs turned from recycled timber.  The stool is traditionally upholstered using cotton felt (a by-product from mattress-making) and covered in fabric from Holdsworth, suppliers to the Tube, or a fabric of your choice.  It is certainly built to last.

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From London to Laos and the beautiful, subtle textiles of Passa Paa.  Founder Heather Smith, a graduate of Chelsea Design School, combines traditional handcrafting techniques with innovative materials to create textiles that are firmly rooted in the patterns and symbols of traditional textiles in Laos, but re-interpreted for today.

The Hmong people of Laos have long used hemp for clothing and household items.   Pass Paa hand screen print the hemp with indigo and black environmentally-friendly dyes to make these stunning cushions, some of which are finished with applique work.

58_8b3b438d-645c-4ae7-b0b8-83edf31f535c_largeAlso from the east, and drawing on traditional skills are the place mats, storage boxes and picture frames from cuvcuv. The debut collection, ‘Wild One’ is  made from mendong, a rapidly renewable (growing!) aquatic grass grown in North West Java, Indonesia.  cuvcuv founder, Ruth, has been working with a small family business to develop this, first range for four years.  As a former buyer for Fortnum and Mason, Ruth knows a thing or two about quality, artisanal skills and provenance, and her new venture, cuvcuv is full of them.

Around the corner was another new (ad)venture in renewable materials, Mind the Cork.  I only had chance for a fly-by chat with Jenny Santo as the kids were hungry by this point.  Suffice to say, Alice (aged 3) loved the place mats, or more specifically the holes that had been punched through the cork to create a floral design. I love cork, its look, feel and material qualities.

I was all touchy, feely with the gorgeous jumpers at  Monkstone Knitwear.  The wool for Monkstone knitwear comes from the Monkstone flock at Trevayne Farm, a mix of Black Welsh Mountains and Dorsets.  After the sheep are shorn, the fleeces are washed, and spun into yarn for hand or machine knitting. You can buy the yarn (£5 per 50g of undyed, naturally colour wool) or a delightful chunky jumper that is ready to wear.

Other stands we flew by wishing we could linger longer were HAM to admire the playful, minimalist prints of a pig, horse and rabbit on 100% British homewards; and Group Design to talk about their bamboo shelves.

And then we were off!

 

Be a wild thing

m-5242c3332abbaLast night I went to a screening of Project Wild Thing, a film to prod, prompt and inspire us all to get more kids playing freely outside and reconnecting with the natural world around them.  As someone who used to be Wilde by name, and often in the wild by nature, I was taken aback to reflect how little time I, and so my children, now spend in nature.

The film looked at the pressures that have lured children to swop wild time for screen time,marketing, the increasing health and safety culture of fear, and literally shrinking amounts of green space, particularly in urban environments.  David Bond, the film’s director, and self-appointed marketing director for nature, asks some big thinkers does it matter?  A UNICEF study from 2007 placed the UK at the bottom of the child well-being league table among developed countries.  More recent research by Ipsos MORI for UNICEF UK has shown that children in the UK feel trapped in a “materialistic culture”.  The children in survey reported that things important to their well-being were time and good relationships with family and friends, and a range of activities, particularly outside of the home.  The RSPB published a report last month, Connecting with Nature, that found only 21% of children are said to have achieved a level of connection to nature that is ‘realistic and achievable’ for all children.  So what can you do?

Watch the film, or at least the trailer, and ask yourself, “How is my relationship with nature?”.  You too might be prompted to join the Wild Network, the network of charities and organisations that are working to tackle some of the issues raised in the film.  You might be curious enough to take the RSPB’s Connection Measure to see how connected you are to nature.

If like me, you realise you have been neglecting the call of the wild, download the Wild Time app.  Depending on how long you have, 10 minutes to half a day, the app will give you and, or your kids, some pointers on what you can do in your window outdoors.  For a longer list, check out the National Trust’s outdoor explorer programme, “50 things to do before you are 11 and 3/4”.

Give nature a new home for Christmas with a insect habitat, nest box or tree.  Check out your local garden centre, or look at the online shops of the RSPB, or Woodland Trust for some ready made homes, or advice on how you can make your garden more inviting.

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Climb a tree with Monkey Do or Go-Ape

Or as it is National Tree Week, (23rd November-1st December), to mark the start of the winter tree planting season, have a look at the Woodland Trust’s Nature Detectives site for a tree activity pack, including a brilliant tree identification set and conkers advice!

 

Handmade in Britain – the CC edit

ELakelinI first lingered to admire the beautiful wooden vessels created by Eleanor Lakelin from British wood.  Eleanor studied cabinet-making, after a career in teaching, and was the first woman to win the annual Austin’s Prize for Craftsmanship in Wood in 1998.  More recently, Eleanor has focused on turning wood on a lathe to carve decorative pieces and functional objects such as bowls and food boards.

Eleanor’s vessels are sensory pieces that you need to see, feel and smell in order to fully digest their beauty.  The wood is from trees that have fallen or had to be felled, and each different species of tree has distinct characteristics and qualities as a wood.   There are ethereal sculptural forms created from the wood of a 300 year old horse chestnut that was turned, carved, sandblasted and bleached.  Sycamore lends a warm, golden hue to bowls carved with dimples that look almost aquatic.  Bowls made from olive ash have a tonal colour as the wood closer to the centre of the trunk is darker.  Each piece tells the story of its origin, and Eleanor’s sympathetic interventions using only the lathe, sanding, bleaching and scorching.

After training as a painter at The Royal College of Art, London in the early 1960s, Rachel Scott began spinning and weaving in 1976.  Initially a practical response to pressing need for some carpet, Rachel found great satisfaction in this new  medium for her artistic expression.  Her first loom was made from some boards salvaged from a skip, and her brother made her spinning wheel.

RScottRachel undertakes every aspect of product.   The fleeces come from friends who live on the Berkshire Downs and different breeds of British sheep. Rachel cards and combs the fibres before hand-spinning them into wool.  The wool remains undyed and tapestry woven on an upright wooden frame loom.  The rugs are bold, geometric designs in the subtle colours of the natural wool from different breeds. Black Welsh (black with rusty tips), Devon Longwools (cream), Manx Logthans (soft, pale brown), Shetlands (fine,brown, grey,black), Hebrideans (soft,black) and Herdwicks (pale and dark grey).  The rugs are approximately 150 x 75 cm.  They can standalone, or be sewn together to make bigger rugs, or stair carpets.  I love the contrast of the muted shades with the strong patterns.  And, of course, the wool is natural, renewable, hard-wearing, breathable, warm in winter and cool in summer!

I had a short pitstop at Offkut, to admire the sculptural lighting and furniture made from reclaimed industrial salvage.  They had lent a stool to a weary neighbouring exhibitor and she vouched for its comfort.  Their furniture is certainly built to last.  Then a mini-domestic emergency had me pedalling home, pulled away from admiring the marine and floral designs of Justine Munson‘s porcelain.

Rachel’s rugs will next be available at Pullens Yards Winter Open Studios, 6th-8th December.

Eleanor’s work will be available at the Cockpit Arts Open Studios, 29th Nov- 1st Dec.

 

Early birds at the Sunbury Antiques Fair

 

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They say the early birds catches the best worm, and there was a flock of them at Sunbury Antiques Market when it opened at 6.30am this morning.  The antiques market takes place at Kempton Park twice a month, on the first and third Tuesdays of the month.   With free parking, and free admission, if you can brave an early start, you have your pick of over 700 stalls (350 indoor and 350 outdoor) selling a wide range of antiques including furniture, gold and silverware, jewellery, ceramics, vintage fashion, garden pieces, paintings, books and much more.  Later in the day there is plenty for the casual browser, but at dawn there was purpose in the air.  As well as trade dealers, we also sawprints general collectors, prop buyers, interior designers.  Our task for the day was to find some furniture to kit out carefully curated’s first project.  We struck a bit too early on a folding table, but made up for it with a hard bargain on a couple of bedside tables and matching dresser.  My favourite find of the morning was some botanical prints, a last flash of summer, before autumn arrives.

 

 

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!

 

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.

 

Materials Moulded by the Environment

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Materials Moulded by the Environment, a talk by the architect of the new Viewpoint learning facility for Camley Street Natural Park drew quite a crowd at the V&A yesterday. Viewpoint is a small man-made islet on Regent’s Canal forming part of a natural habitat in the heart of King’s Cross, a borderline between the built and unbuilt. The islet is a retreat and viewing platform that was commissioned for the London Wildlife Trust. The architects, AOR, are emerging young designers from Finland and they intended the design and materials of Viewpoint to be rooted to its location, exploring the relationship between man-made and natural. AOR were joined in the discussion by Helena Sandman, another architect whose focus and inspiration for design is drawn from the local context. Her practice’s work for NGO projects in a number of developing countries is also firmly rooted in the materials and traditional building techniques of the local environment. This recognition and response to the climatic, social and cultural context gives the buildings a physical and emotional durability. The design is drawn from its context, rather than alien “air-conditioned, glass boxes” (sic).