Aesthetic beauty was blooming at New Designers Part 1, the first chapter of an exhibition that shows work from over 3000 UK graduate designers over two weeks. Part 1 showcased textiles, fashion, contemporary applied arts (including ceramics and glass), jewellery and metalwork.
Fauna and particularly flora (Laura Holmes pictured left) provided a deep well of inspiration for many of this year’s graduates, with bold, outsized, colourful prints of flowers greeting you as soon as you walked. Flashes of tropical colour from Sophie Painter, Loughborough University, who garnered a “John Lewis Loves” label sat alongside, the ethereal, wintry prints from Robyn Dark. Amy Malcolmson, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, also won a “John Lewis Loves” label for her clean, crisp spring and autumn floral series. Her hand-painted wallpaper samples echo the fresh, vibrant, if whimsical florals of Dame Elizabeth Blackadder.
Layering images to depth and structure to floral was a popular technique. Ellie-rose McFall‘s handprinted textiles, which overlay wildflowers on cracked surfaces, are inspired by the Garden Bridge, planned for London in 2016. Sophie Tattersall, De Montford University, Leicester, uses layered photographs to create delicate floral patterns. Sophie Thompson, Nottingham Trent University, builds up layers of detail taking inspiration from nature, enhancing hand drawn imagery with digital techniques. I was drawn to “In the Undergrowth”, with a mix of birds, bugs and silhouettes. Charlotte Raven‘s wallpaper (pictured right) is a like of snapshot of a summer garden in bloom. Malin-Charlotte Ødemark work draws on landscapes creating a subtle, earthy palette that worked to great effect as upholstery on Ercol’s classic sofa.
Natural beauty went more than skin deep for Emily Buchanan, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design. Her work, Living+Dying displays the wonderful array of colours accessible from nature using traditional craft methods. Red cabbage, red onion, eucalyptus, and other plants dyes, two mordants, time and a couple of serendipitous accidents were used to dye peace silk a rich spectrum of soothing tones. Peace silk allows the silkworm to emerge from their cocoons. The silk is degummed and spun like other fibre, instead of being reeled. Conventional silk is made by boiling the intact cocoons, which kills the silk worms. Emily is a passionate advocate of the joys, and beauty, of natural dyes. She continues to run workshops with schools and interested groups. There were a couple of interested parties at the show.
From the natural, to the utterly fabricated, Laura Holmes makes fantastical floral displays from recycled plastics. Laura works with milk bottles, coke bottles, offcuts of acetates, sequin film and all manner of plastics. They are cut, painted and flocked inspired by colours from the aquarium. The result is almost fantastical.
Karoline Healy‘s Domestic Mining is also an ethos that makes good use of the things that we find in our homes. Karoline was first inspired by reading0 Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough and Michael Braungart. A visit to India and encounters with street vendors and road-side workshops prompted Karoline to design a kiosk. The kiosk is constructed from household objects, an old shredder, file, bicycle chain. Discarded plastic bottles are shredded, moulded, marked with the appropriate recycle sign and then a watch assembled from the flat pack kit. No glues, nails, paints, or varnishes are used, so the watch can be readily repaired or recycled.
Sophie Rosak’s table lamp with a shade of naturally-tanned leather, and copper, is simply constructed and so easily dissembled at its end of life. Its industrial style is softened by the warm tones of the leather and copper. A simple aesthetic defines Rebecca Price’s work. Scouted by the Design Council’s ‘One to Watch’, her food storage jars (pictured left) are covetable for any contemporary kitchen. The lid of each vessel is also a portion measure. What is more the vessels nestle snuggly together saving precious space on your worktop.
More covetable vessels were on display as part of One Year On, which showcases the work of 50 emerging designers in their first year of business. I was delighted to catch up with Isatu Hyde, who I met at New Designers 2013. After a stint with Kilner to develop her foraging project, Isatu is now an apprentice with Marches Pottery in Ludlow. Isatu has worked with terracotta for the first time to throw distinctive coffee drippers, carafes, cups, and milk jugs, as well as continuing to develop her own distinct style. I fell in love with these bowls, inspired by those used by Medieval monks.
Next door was Sofie Boons, the Alchemical Jeweller, a graduate of the RCA, 2013. Available as a recipe book and kit, with an elegant silver pin, I was lucky enough to experience Sofie’s solid perfume. Grapefruit zest, TicTacs, mint, cardamon, coconut and salt were put in small pouch and pinned as a brooch to my chest. My daughters thought it smelt good enough to eat. I was reminded of Lauren Davies Alchemists Design Table, encouraging a transparency and honesty about what we put on our skin.
The show was a feast for the senses. Appreciation of the environment was visually evident, but scrabble around in the undergrowth and the homage rarely has the opportunity to go deeper. There was a desire to design textiles and surfaces that take their appreciation of the natural world to a more tangible level, constrained by cost, college facilities, and a sense that demand is limited. As the exhibition for emerging design it would be great to see more innovative and sustainable textiles on show as they begin to be adopted more widely, especially by contract clients.
New Designers Part 2 will be at the Business Design Centre in Islington from 2nd until 5th July.
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, they 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!
I 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. To 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.
I 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.
Craftsmanship 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.
I 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!
Studio 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. 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
The buzz at the entrance to the Design Factory was palpable for the opening of Clerkenwell Design Week 2014. By lunchtime the queue to get in was snaking up the street, and with good reason, as there are some exciting stories to tell.
I raced upstairs to see the first pieces from a new collaboration between Sebastian Cox and Benchmark Furniture. The Chestnut and Ash range, made from coppiced chestnut and well-managed ash, includes the SHAKE and LATH series. The SHAKE cabinet (pictured left, w80 d41 h180) and SHAKE sideboard (w150 d45 h80) are made from a solid dovetailed ash carcass with doors made from cleft chestnut shakes, hence the name. Cleaving is the controlled splitting of wood along its grain to create a unique, textured detail that speaks honestly of the materials crafted with such skill.
The LATH chair revisits the traditional ladder-back chair. With laths split from freshly coppiced chestnut and a frame made from ash cut with a CNC router, it is epitomises this new, true collaboration. The chair (w42 d50 h98) is available with a seat in either veg-tan leather, or natural Danish cord (both are pictured with the SHAKE sideboard).
Sean Sutcliffe, MD and co-founder of Benchmark, came across Sebastian’s work when he was judging the Wood Awards 2011 (Sebastian won the Outstanding Design category). Sustainability and craftsmanship have been integral Benchmark Furniture since it launched in 1983, and in 2007, Benchmark won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the Sustainable Development category, the first furniture maker to win this award. It is the perfect springboard for Sebastian’s designs.
Whittling away the hours, and sharing some greenwood working gems alongside a splendid Benchmark table was Barn the Spoon (here he is on the right whittling with Sebastian). Barn started woodworking when he was 12, and has not stopped since. He has a shop at 260 Hackney Rd, runs courses and the annual Spoonfest (tickets for 2o14 are already sold out). Working with all manner of wood from London, sycamore, cherry, beech, birch and spalted alder (which has a lovely speckled look), Barn fashions that most essential, and treasured of kitchen implements with great eye for the grain.
It was impossible not to enjoy the arrestingly colourful outdoor furniture from Jennifer Newman. The M-Bamboo Table and M-Bench were voted “Top Product” when first exhibited at last year’s Clerkenwell Design Week. This year, they were back in exuberant fashion made from a base of aluminium (88% recycled and recyclable) with a durable powder-coating finish available in any RAL colour. As with the M-Bamboo, the top of the prototype table pictured is made of bamboo, which grows to maturity within 5 years, with light bamboo for inside, and dark bamboo for outside.
There is other colourful, functional outdoor furniture on the market, but look closely and the joy is in the detail of the Jennifer Newman pieces. The crisp, clean lines as the aluminium folds around the seat of the A-Frame Bench are precise. It takes skill to wrap like that, just ask my husband at Christmas!! The planter on castors would be the perfect home for any citrus or similarly fair-weather plants as they can be rolled into warmer locations when the British weather dictates.
Around the corner, I lingered at the DISCIPLINE stand admiring their concise 2014 collection and manifesto that promises, “Natural materials, sustainability, durability, beauty and simplicity.” DISCIPLINE works with 16 international designers to create function objects for everyday enjoyment from bamboo, cork, glass, leather, metal, stone, textile and wood. I particularly liked the Drifted chair with its cork seat, but it was too early in the day to justify a sit-down! The Drifted series, designed by Lars Beller Fjetland also includes stools, is available in a combination of natural, red and black painted base with dark or light cork seats, priced from £170 for a stool.
Elsewhere, there are further contemporary reinterpretations of traditional chair-making techniques. In particular, leaving the end grain of the legs exposed is used to great effect with the Holton series at James UK (pictured on the left in walnut) and the Occasional Peg table (440mx520mm) from Barnby and Day (pictured here on the right). I was also partial to the brass detailing on Another Country’s Bar Stool One. The various foot rest options are apparently well-suited client of all statures and standings, and the back support steadies those late at the bar!
There is plenty for the bijoux urban home, such as this clever and versatile folding Proppy chair from Devon-based Tandem Studio. The chair can be used inside or out and is surprisingly comfortable with an adjustable back rest. When not in use it can hang from a wall bracket, awaiting the next guest, or freeing your floor space for other things! Available in solid oak or beech and finished in Osmo oil from £225!
For those inspired by RHS Chelsea Flower Show but without an inch of outdoor space, the boskke Sky Planter provides a bit of green indoors. Hanging from the ceiling the Sky Planter uses a terracotta disc to feed water gradually to the roots. Made of ceramic or 100% pre-consumer recycled plastic the planters could keep fresh kitchen herbs very much to hand.
Today, Thursday 22nd May, is the last day of Clerkenwell Design Week so get there while you can, or you’ll have to wait until next year!
Photo credit: boskke; the rest my own!
Time for another design pilgrimage to the ExCel centre for the May Design Series 2014, featuring 400 suppliers of kitchens, bathrooms, lighting, furniture, decor and an edited selection of products from four key European shows (Maison et Objet, Paris; IMM Cologne; Light & Build, Frankfurt and i Saloni, Milan), as well as New Design Britain.
I was delighted to see Tom Raffield Design. It was an a-ha moment for me as a few years ago I bought some pendant lights for our house (the Helix and the Hive I now know). They are often complimented, but I could not remember where I sourced them from. Suddenly they are everywhere, in the Green Room at Salone del Mobile, at Chelsea Flower Show as part of the Artisan Retreats (alongside another favourite, Eleanor Lakelin) and here at May Design Series.
Tom Raffield designs and handcrafts steam-bent furniture and lighting. Steam-bending wood is a traditional woodworking technique, that is low energy and adhesive-free. Tom developed his own technique to create the complex, fluid shapes characteristic of his work. All the wood is from sustainably managed sources and typically unseasoned, green or air-dried timber, and any wastage used for the composting toilet! The wood is finished in lemon oil, beeswax or a water-based varnish. Not only is the production process ecologically sound, the products are built to last, and so beautiful you will cherish them for a long time. I loved the coat loop (pictured in the background), literally Shaker with a twist, and the occasional table with its sinuous, curved detail, a new product launching at May Design Series.
While waiting for the 11.15am Conversation Series discussion on the circular economy (more of that later), I was drawn to Smart Environment zone. MYX is a material cultivated over 3-4 weeks using oyster mushrooms grown on a hemp and linen fibre mat. The fibres are byproducts of clothing and rope manufacturing. The fibres are woven with mushroom spores, and as the mycelium (vegetative part of the fungus) grows the textile-like material gains strength and flexibility from chitin, the polymer in mushroom cell walls. The material can be shaped, in this case as a lampshade (pictured right) then dried leaving a lightweight material that is organic and compostable. And you can harvest oyster mushrooms in the meantime, so MYX is an end-waste product, that products a delicious food product in its growing cycle. What a deliciously sustainable example of the circular economy!
Next door, Nobelwood is a smart alternative to tropical hardwood. Fast-growing pine (FSC certified) is fully impregnated with water soluble biopolymers made from bagasse from sugar-cane. After drying, the wood has the colour of natural teak and weathers (if un-treated) to a silvery grey colour when used as exterior cladding. I hope to see a garden furniture set on the market soon!
In the New Design Britain corner, I couldn’t walk past Cristiana Ionescu’s family of felt bears without a smile. What a delightful accessory for a toddler’s room. Helen Dugdale‘s colourful Paper-Knotwood caught my eye. Helen wanted to create a sustainable, recyclable material from coloured paper. Each piece is unique with the possibility of bespoke colour patterns and combinations. The material can be cut, sanded, and machined to reveal its layers as a grain, or used as a veneer. A candy bright or subtle stripe for any interior surface.
From the hard to the soft, comfort of 100% pure wool felt from Hollandfelt. There was a rich array of vibrant colours urging me to stroke them. Hollandfelt is one of the few felt producers using 100% pure wool from Australian and South American sheep whose fleeces have softer fibres than those closer to home. The Merino wool is washed in hot water with natural soap rubbing the fibres together to create wool felt. Felt is renewable and recyclable. Hollandfelt contains some recycled material from previous customers re-dyed to a darker colour. The carpet felt, twice felted for durability, is naturally flame and dirt retardant, as well as having good insulating and acoustic properties. Woolfelts are suitable for fashion, furnishing, architectural interiors and craft applications. All the products have reached the Öko-Tex 100 standard whose test criteria exceed existing legislation, for example limiting formaldehyde use and banning allergenic dyes, and why wouldn’t you err on the side of caution when choosing materials that you live with?
There were definite moments when I would have been grateful for a seat in the Corqui, made of natural, renewable and sensual cork from Corque Design and designed by Pedro Silva Dias (600x50x690mm). My potential choice of seating was not limited though as Out of the Dark provided eight chairs for a Silent Auction (pictured below) to raise both awareness and funds for their social enterprise that trains young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to recycle, restore and repaint furniture. More of their wares were on display in the DX section of the show. I have just got wind of an exciting collaboration between Out of the Dark and one of my favourite makers, Sebastian Cox, so watch this space for more news!
In the meantime, news from Clerkenwell Design Week will follow, along with tales of the discussion on the circular economy hosted by Stephen Gee, Director of Resource, with Sophie Thomas, Co-Director of Design, RSA, Mark Shayler, Managing Director of Ticketyboo, and James Bell, Environmental Consultant at FIRA.
Photocredits: Jonas Edvard (MYX); Helen Dugdale
Are you sitting comfortably? Or may be you are on the hunt for a new three-legged seating friend? Here is my pick of five of the best stools! In celebration of the Galvin Brothers recent opening of their bricks and mortar store in Beverley, Yorkshire (11 Flemingate, HU17 0NP), my first pick is their signature stool, the English Pippy Oak Milk stool (£170). Pippy Oak, or Cat’s Paw Oak, is so named because of its characteristic pips or knots. The open, light nature of English woodlands, hedgerows and parks encourages ‘epicormic growth’, the shoots or buds, on tree trunks and at their base. These tumour-like growths penetrate deep into the tree’s heart wood. The grain moves around the knots to create beautiful patterns, revealed as ‘cat’s paws’ on the board The stool is handmade, with peg-and-wedge leg joints. Its clean, modern form is given distinct character by the unique pattern of the Pippy Oak. A rustic gent with potential as a stool, side or occasional bedside table. The stools are finished in Danish oil and the dimensions are 300 x 460 x 300mm.
The second stool makes good use of the things that are found as by-products, or off cuts of industrial production processes. The top of Tom Dixon‘s Offcut Stool is made from the waney edge, edge that follows the natural curve of the tree (as in waning moon). This irregular edge is often discarded, hence the name ‘Offcut’ stool. Made of solid oak and finished with a natural soaped finish, the stool comes flat-packed (with efficiencies of packaging and distribution) and is easily assembled using wooden pegs rather than screws or glue. Simple and honest. Available from Tom Dixon or Heal’s from £140.
The third entry, Pippa Murray’s Just Wood stool also makes use of the neglected, in this case our unmanaged British woodlands. The legs of the stool are greenwood shavings that have been moulded using a process developed by Pippa as part of her final year research project studying Design Products at the Royal College of Art. Greenwood shavings are a by-product of coppicing hardwood trees, a traditional form of woodland management. The moulded material is strong, polymer free and bio degradable.
Dipped vintage lab stools from Ines Cole (£125, H 61 x W 34 x D 38 cm) have been taken back to their natural wood and then given a dip dye makeover sealed with a matt finish. A simple piece of upcycling that conjures up nostalgic images of my old school science lab, and perfect for the industrial vintage look. If you fancy a more colourful alternative, you can find similar stools at reclamation yards or antiques fairs and try a DIY dip.
If not DIY, then what about grow your own? Typically there is 50-80% wastage in normal process of transforming raw timber to finished products. The Well Proven stool by Marjan van Aubel and James Shaw makes use of shavings, sawdust and chippings. When combined the mixture of bio-resin and waste shavings create a chemical reaction that expands into a foamed structure five times its original volume. The porridge like mixture can be coloured with dyes and moulded. It hardens to form a strong, lightweight material, reinforced by the fibres in the hardwood shavings. The ‘porridge’ is spread over the underside of a chair and shaped by hand around the contrastingly elegant turned legs of American ash. The fore-runner of the stool, the Well-Proven Chair was nominated for the Design of the Year 2013 Award an developed with the support of the American Hardwood Export Council. The stools were on display as part of Heal’s Modern Craft Market in February 2014.
Image credits: Galvin Bros, Ines Cole, James Shaw, Pippa Murray Design, Tom Dixon Studio,
‘The Rights of Nature and the Nature of Value’ was the last SustainRCA event of the season. The speakers, chaired by Paul De Zylva from Friends of the Earth, framed a vital debate exploring the complexities of how and why we value and protect the natural environment. The IPCC has just published its latest report, “Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability”, asserting that “Increasing magnitudes of warming increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive, and irreversible impacts”. Climate change, in conjunction with changing habitats, over-exploitation, pollution and invasive species mean that a significant proportion of land and freshwater species “faces increased extinction risk under projected climate change during and beyond the 21st century.” As for our marine species, climate change and loss of biodiversity will “challenge the sustained provision of fisheries productivity and other ecosystem services” As the warnings become ever more stark, the debate becomes even more critical.
Pippa Murray, designer and maker, was the first of four speakers at the SustainRCA event. Pippa presented ‘Just Wood’ her final year project for her MA Design Products at the RCA. For nine months Pippa was based in a 45 acre Cumbrian woodland, consisting mainly of British hardwoods, as an apprentice at Danny Frost Timber. Pippa developed an adhesive free method for moulding greenwood shavings in an affordable batch process. The greenwood shavings are a by-product of pruning the hardwood trees. Pruning, or coppicing, is a traditional form of woodland management. In contrast to mono crop woods that are clear-felled in twenty year cycles, hardwood trees play many different roles in their lifetime. Writing about Britain’s ancient woodlands recently in the Financial Times, Matthew Wilson, managing director of Clifton Nurseries, noted that a single mature oak can host up to 25,000 individual animals. Pippa hopes her process offers the potential to make good use of the 649,000 hectares of unmanaged woodland in England today. While pruning and reshaping the trees, Pippa was mindful that the impact of her actions will be revealed in 100 or 200 years time. On a greater scale, Pippa’s reflections remind us that our interactions with nature have repercussions far beyond our own lifetime. In closing, Pippa asked, “What is our generation leaving for the future?”
Hopefully not the sound of the chainsaw that filled the theatre as Andrew Simms (author, nef Fellow, Global Witness) played a short cartoon highlighting financial ties between Arnold Schwarzenegger, former governor and climate champion, and tropical forestry companies, a number of whom were implicated in illegal logging. It is a lighthearted look at a serious issue, not Schwarznegger’s reputation, but the impact of industrial logging, and the role of investment vehicles as intermediaries. There has been much written about valuing nature’s resources and services, but this presents a paradox, Andrew reminds. While something is invisible to the system unless it has a price, if you do price it, then it becomes vulnerable to the vagaries of short-term markets. Nature becomes commoditized and its value reduced to its monetary price. Yet, Andrew went on, orthodox pricing models fail as you can not put a price on civilisation. What price for that last barrel of oil? If monetary values are reductive, even to a Western model, then what alternatives are available for decision-making?
TJ Demos, UCL, while calling for full natural capital accounting as a means to end unsustainable resource exploitation, swiftly challenged us to look at the politics of ecology. TJ presented works from a number of artists exploring the growing conflicts around ecology and climate change. Red Ant Dream, directed by Sanjay Kak, and The Sovereign Forest, by Amar Kanwar, look at the impact of mining on the landscape and communities of Odisha (formerly Orissa), India. Here the artists are protagonists and inquisitors challenging our socio-economic and political culture and its concept of value.
nef first published the Happy Planet Index in 2006. The HPI measures which countries offer long, happy, sustainable lives for their people. Small and island states perform best (the UK is ranked 41 out of 151 states). While economic growth and development is often viewed in a vacuum, devoid of social, cultural, ecological or spiritual values, for many communities nature is central to their heritage. Earth Law recognises that the Earth is the source of laws which govern life, something that many indigenous peoples and local communities have been practicing for centuries. Earth law, earth jurisprudence, or wild law recognises the rights of nature , its right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles. In 2008, Ecuador became the first country to adopt Rights of Nature in its constitution. This changes nature from an asset (that you can put a price on and offset) to an entity than can assume agency in a legal situation.
Recognising the rights of nature changes our understanding of nature and the purpose of law and governance, from property-owner to trustee. In this context, it is much harder to put a price on significant harm, as the final speaker, Polly Higgins, environmental lawyer and author of Eradicating Ecocide, argued so eloquently. As Polly noted, we do not ask what price to put on child abuse, domestic violence or theft. They are simply crimes. Ecocide is, “the extensive damage to, destruction of or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been or will be severely diminished.” It is not a radical, dark green manifesto, it was included in the UN’s draft Code of Crimes Against the Peace and Security of Mankind and examined for 11 years as the fifth Crime Against Peace in the Rome Statute before being mysteriously shelved at the last minute in 1996. Wish20 – Eradicating Ecocide is the global citizens campaign to create a global duty of care and end Ecocide by 2020.
A more holistic approach towards nature, environmental ethics and governance, is one of stewardship, where nature is not an asset to own, where the value of something is greater and more complex than its present monetary price tag. In the context of SustainRCA, artists, designers and makers have a powerful role to play in envisioning a better world, challenging the status quo, and mediating a more sustainable social, cultural, environmental and economic compact. Andrew ended with John Ruskin’s quote, “There is no wealth but life”, I shall add, Ai Weiwei, “Your own acts tell the world who you are and what kind of society you think it should be.”
Image credit: Eradicating Ecocide, Pippa Murray, SustainRCA
Catch 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.
The 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.
Other 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!
Seeing 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.
Fairtrade Fortnight has just ended, but it case you didn’t notice it was about bananas, chocolate and hot drinks. As the Fairtrade Foundation explains “Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world.” The Fairtrade standards, set by Fairtrade International, have minimum social, economic and environmental requirements that producers have to meet, as well as demonstrate developments in farmers organisations and workers’ conditions.
Typically under a fair trade scheme, farmers receive a fixed price for their crop that reflects the sustainable cost of production, plus a premium that their community can invest in education, healthcare, or other ways to improve yields or processing facilities. A fair price is not just a few more pence in pay, but promotes capacity building that creates other opportunities for a community to develop.
Certification schemes are not without their critics, both conceptually, and in terms of their implementation. However, too often, free global trade has been a race to the lowest cost option. In Europe, we operate within regulatory and policy frameworks that protect workers and the environment. Other geographies lack those safety nets. A fair trade alternative offers customers some assurance that goods have been produced in sustainable conditions. That is a long introduction to why Carefully Curated not only supports Fairtrade with a capital ‘F’, but looks for products that are transparent about where, how and by whom their products are made. Mindful of the fact that the price I pay for a product should reflect the true cost of the labour, materials, energy and natural services involved in its manufacture. As Fairtrade Fortnight ends, I thought I would highlight a few fairly traded favourites.
Cotton is a commodity that is has a reasonably well-established organic and fair-trade infrastructure, boosted by the Better Cotton Initiative that was launched in 2005. Organic and fair-trade cotton bed linen is available from John Lewis and other retailers, but for a more colourful use of fair-trade cotton, inspired by the recent sunshine, I picked these all-weather hammocks from Handmade Hammocks made of fair-trade cotton and FSC wooden rods. How I long for a summer evening lounge in one of these double all-weather hammock is priced from £69.99.
I love the colours of these hand-woven linen baskets from Donna Wilson in collaboration with SCP and People of the Sun, a non-profit social enterprise based in Malawi. Using their traditional knowledge, and working with natural materials such dried palm, local artisans in Malawi create bespoke products by hand. People of the Sun connects these artisans with business training, designers and a wider marketplace to build more sustainable businesses that create economic, social and cultural value in Malawi by boosting incomes and preserving traditional skills. Prices start at £27.50 for a place mat, to £150 for the Peaks Linen basket and are available in SCP stores.
Travelling further east, the women of Basha, a social enterprise in Dhaka, Bangladesh make beautiful kantha bedspreads (pictured at the top of the page). In Bengali basha means ‘house’ and asha means ‘hope’, the house of hope enterprise supports victims of domestic violence and sex-traffiking with training and counselling as they rebuild their lives. Once the women are ready, the enterprise provides opportunities for work with educational, health and childcare support. The bedspreads are hand-stitched from vintage saris, embroidered with the maker’s name for £165 are available from the Decorator’s Notebook.
Rattan has made a real comeback, and Emily Readett-Bayley’s natural rattan baskets provide the perfect fireside accessory or toy basket. The baskets are sourced directly from seven village communities who live within a 200.000 hectare rainforest concession in Katingan, Borneo. Rattan’s natural strength has been used for generations to make baskets that are durable even in a tropical climate. As part of a sustainable forest management, the raw rattan is woven by villagers in workshops offering an alternative income to illegal logging, poaching endangered species such as Bornean orangutans, gibbons, clouded leopards and proboscis monkeys or clearing forest for palm oil cultivation. The baskets are available individually or as a set, with prices starting at £25 for the small basket, 38cm x35cm.
For an every day dollop of fair trade, what about this elegant monochrome placemat and coaster set from Shake the Dust (priced at £40)? The set of four placemats and four matching coasters has been handmade from a sustainably-harvested mountain grass, Lutindzi, which is indigenous to the Swazi mountain, and coloured with GOTS-certified dyes (GOTS is the Global Organic Textile Standard which requires a minimum of 70% organic fibres). Gone Rural, the producer, works with 750 artisanal weavers in Swaziland. The weavers are self-employed and receive around half the wholesale price of the goods they make. Profits are invested in health, education, water and sanitation projects. The Artisanal Board provides women with a key role in the defining the future of Gone Rural. It is a venture that provides a sustainable income, preserves traditional crafts and is building skills for the future, and the products are beautiful to boot.
So next time you are browsing the aisles or scrolling through the drop down menu, take a moment to enquire where the object of your desire had a suitably responsible journey to your shopping basket. Retailers and manufacturers should have no reason to be bashful about where their goods come from.
Photocredit: Decorator’s Notebook, Handmade Hammocks, Posh Graffitti, SCP, Shake the Dust
I think I have met the ultimate materials girl. Annabelle Filer, architect, journalist and founder of the SCIN Gallery (pronounced skin) is passionate about materials. While working as an architect Annabelle developed a fascination, even addiction, for materials, their properties and practical applications. While she continues regular contributions to FX Design magazine (and formerly Grand Designs Magazine), four years ago SCIN was launched to show and share this passion and encyclopaedic knowledge of materials.
SCIN source and advise on finishes for every surface inside or outside buildings of every scale. Working with materials experts sourcing from around the world, SCIN’s sphere of knowledge reaches to the limits of current research, and if SCIN can’t find what their clients are looking for they can work with them to develop it. SCIN is committed to introducing more materials with ‘green’ credentials, and “fundamentally believe that environmental or sustainable design heralds a new era in architecture and design”. So after whetting my appetite at the Surface Design Show, I headed to the SCIN Gallery to learn more.
The ground floor is dedicated to new material design. First to catch my eye were some bowls (pictured right) made out of ‘decafé’ a material created by Raúl Laurí from used coffee grounds. Alongside was Coleoptera, a bioplastic made from dead beetles, developed by Aagje Hoekstra. The shells of the beetles, a by-product of the animal food industry, contain chitin. After cellulose, chitin is the most common polymer on earth and, with a little chemistry, is transformed into chitosan which bonds better and is already being made into jewellery. From insect to marine life and exotic leathers made from salmon, perch, wolffish and cod fish skins by Icelandic tannery, Atlantic Leather. Other exhibits included Denimite, a cotton fibre bio-composite made from recycled denim suitable for countertops and architectural applications and Soilid (pictured left). Made from a mixture of soil, fungi and other natural materials left overnight at room temperature to “rise”, the mixture can then be poured into a mould and baked becoming strong enough sand, saw or drill.
The first floor showcases architectural materials, such as Polluted Pattern (pictured right). A concrete surface printed with a photo-catalytic white i.active cement based on TX Active nanotechnology that self-cleans and breaks down air-pollutants. Over time, the printed sections stay pristine, while pollutants discolour the unprotected areas revealing the printed lace-like pattern, a metaphor for pollution wrapping our cities. The material would be suitable for urban surfaces, pavements, facades.
The installation ‘The Forest Commissioned’ displayed some leading wood products including Accoya, a high-performance wood created from softwood using a proprietary non-toxic acetylation process that gives it the dimensional strength and durability make its suitable for windows, cladding and other architectural uses. Showered with eco-labels including FSC, PEFC, and Cradle to Cradle™ to name but three, Accoya is made from renewable sources, fully-recyclable, and looks good to boot. It is distributed in the UK by Lathams. UPM Grada is a new thermoform able wood made from FSC or PEFC rotary cut birch veneers and non-formaldehyde adhesive.
Interiors products occupy the second floor. Marbelous Wood (pictured at the top of the page) and Green Hides (pictured right) were just two of the exhibits currently on display. Marbelous Wood, from the Danish Snedker Studio, uses an old marbling technique to create an organic and colourful play on the natural grain of the wood. A decorative reinterpretation of a flooring choice favoured by many. Green Hides‘ Ecolife Italian leathers are processed with chrome-free, natural vegetable tanning and solvent-free finishing methods to meet stringent technical specifications that mean they are suitable for home and contract clients.
If the temporary installations are not inspiration enough, the basement is home to a permanent materials library. The SCIN library is a colourful and tactile treasure trove with thousands of samples catalogued by material and property in bright orange boxes. Solid wool and paper stone I have seen before, but insulation made from seaweed was a surprise. NeptuTherm (pictured left) is an insulation material made from neptune grass seaweed that has become matted together into balls in shallow water. Often considered a waste product, in fact, without chemical treatment this material is naturally flame retardant, mould resistant and helps regulate humidity without degrading its thermal insulation capacity. Seaweeds’ wonderful properties extend far beyond sushi and face creams!
And finally a product that is simply joyful, if not immediately robust enough for a home with two small children, but if I could, I would find a place for some decorative Organoids panels (pictured right). Natural fibres (in this case rose petals and rose buds) are ground up and mixed with a natural binder, then covered with a vacuum film, compressed and hardened to make a biocomposite that is 100% biodegradable. The decorative panels are a sensual experience, the aroma of the rose buds, texture of the panel and visible rosebuds a reminder of the natural materials. The process is entirely free of biocides, plasticisers and solvents and powered with 100% green electricity.
So whether wrestling with the refurbishment of a Victorian terrace house or in search of a supernatural material to make a car fit for James Bond, the library is a rich repository of innovative, practical and green materials. Architects, designers and consumers are all welcome to have a rummage, by appointment. You too could get addicted!
Picture credits: Raúl Laurí