We protect what we love – exhibition opening

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The exhibition, “We protect what we love”, opens tonight at the Tabernacle, 35 Powis Square, W11 2AY  in West London.  The artist and campaigner Celia Gregory will present her latest body of work.  The exhibition includes mosaics, a selection of photography and video art from the Marine Foundation,  ‘Living sculptures in the sea’ and a series of light box installations,  artworks and artefacts made from natural items collected from beaches around the world.

Celia is an accomplished mosaic artist and sculptor, who founded the Marine Foundation not long after seeing, and feeling, the effects of dynamite fishing while diving in Bali.  Combining her artistic and creative talents with a powerful conservation message, and collaborating with a team of marine experts, is the Marine Foundation.

Supported by the Roddick Foundation, the Marine Foundation uses art as a catalyst for marine conservation, sustainable resource management and social change.  Working with their clients, the Marine Foundation combines art, marine management and artificial reef science to create underwater art installations that support and regenerate their surrounding marine ecosystem.

Celia’s work is inspired by nature, and inspires in the viewer a connection with nature.  Two of her works from last year’s exhibition are pictured below.  The exhibition is only until Saturday 5th October.

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And to echo my last entry with this, I offer a Maori Meditation, called ‘Finding God’ from Celia’s on the Marine Foundation website:

Sermons say read the bible To know god

Kneel and pray To know god

Obey the commandments To know god

But yesterday I saw a butterfly

Land on a withered leaf Just before sunset

And at that moment

I knew god…


Gems from Jared Diamond

9780141024486Jared Diamond, polymath, Professor of Geography, ornithologist, author of books about human societies, and director of World Wildlife Fund and Conservation International was ‘In Conversation’ last night at the School of Life to discuss his most recent book, “The World Until Yesterday”.  The premise of the book is simple, for most of human history, we have lived in traditional societies without metal tool, writing, central government or modern medicine, until yesterday in evolutionary terms.  In light of the recent Western economic, technological and political predominance, Diamond asks whether we have lessons we can learn from traditional societies.

Diamond cautions against romanticizing the past, and obviously we are better off having tamed infectious diseases, reduced infant mortality and many environmental risks, and no longer perceiving every stranger as a threat.  However, Diamond asks whether reflecting on traditional societies may give us renewed appreciation for some of the advantages of our own society.  In summary, Diamond distills the lessons into a mix of individual and societal decisions: healthy lifestyle habits of exercise, eating slowly and sociably and selecting healthy foods without salt and sugar; multilingual children that are free to explore; caring for and including the elderly; and realistically reassessing our attitude to danger.  Statistics show that cars, alcohol and slipping in the shower are the modern mortal hazards.  This sounds prescriptive, but in conversation, Diamond was not judgemental, rather he reminds us that traditional societies show there are alternative ways for human beings to order themselves in social, ecological and spiritual spaces.  As we are compelled to readdress the way we engage with one another and our wider environment, Diamond reminds us that inspiration springs from diversity, and the simple pleasures.

When questioned about sustainable economy, Diamond remarked that individuals need to feel the environmental consequences of their excesses.  Referring to his earlier book, Collapse, Diamond noted that in those societies that have collapsed, the leaders were insulated from the impact of their actions until it was too late to remedy them.  Diamond was more sanguine on our ability to learn (noting obesity), perhaps telling in the week the IPCC reported global warming is “unequivocal”, that scientists are 95% certain that humans are the “dominant cause”, and Thomas Stocker, IPCC co-chair cautions climate change “threatens our planet, our only home”.


On a smaller, lighter note, these words of caution remind me of the foreword to a childhood nature book, I have.  “In these days of quick and easy transport the countryside is no longer the sanctuary it was for nature, and unless we are careful, those who come after us may justly accuse us of betraying the trust we hold for them.  Such a book as this…..is one of the best safeguards that can be provided, since it leaves no grounds for a plea of ignorance”.  

And by way of butterflies, if you are looking for ways to restore their sanctuary, garden columnist Robin Lane Fox reveals his strategy to attract more butterflies to his garden, “For the love of painted ladies”  in the weekend, Financial Times.  Some of the top plants he notes are: purple heliotrope; scabious; buddleias; late-flowering ivy; old Lady’s smock; pale-coloured sedums and clivorum.

Tent London & Super Brands highlights


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Design Junction


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


100% percent design – a few highlights

Songbird-banner100% percent design could have been 100% overload, but I was on a super-market sweep of design shows on Friday, so extremely focused on designers, makers and products that fit the carefully curated bill of form, function and friendly to the environment.

A quick sweep down the ‘Emerging Brands’ alley revealed a few eye-catching stalls.  First, some delightful lamps made from laser-cut birch ply by Drws Y Coed on Anglesey.  Next were clean, contemporary printed fabrics, wallpapers and lampshades from Lorna Syson (pictured above).   Lorna’s collection of interiors accessories use sustainable materials such as wool, nettle and organic cotton.


Desinature‘s collection of lamps and nest boxes reflects a love of the natural world, and desire to inspire people to connect with it.  We loved the honey comb lampshades made of felt and dyed with environmentally friendly inks, and the new Lily lampshade made of FSC-certified paper.  Their products are all made in the UK, and come delivered in a neat, folder that slips through the letterbox.

Once out in the fray, we were also drawn to St Judes’s artist-designed wallpapers and fabrics.  Their fresh, subtle designs are printed in small runs in Norfolk.  The Glade pendant lamp from James Smith Designs in willow and steel cast a wonderful dapple light.


Watching Ben Creed, craftsman and designer at deVOL kitchens  at work in the flash factory behind the deVOL stand, it was fascinating to see all the tools and sawdust surround the spindles and seat in progress.  An opportunity to pause and reflect on the skill involved in working with wood.

A quick pitstop at David Colwell’s stand to admire the O range.  The chair, made of steam bent ash and recycled copper tubular rivets, is extremely comfortable.  Using the latest in saw technology, David has developed a method to eliminate two thirds of the timber processing and virtually all of the need for dust extraction from the construction of the chair.

With a last gasp before I headed over to see ao textiles, I took in the Corkigami chair from Carlos Ortega.  The seat is made of cork and water-based PVA glue, and the whole chair can be easily assembled and dissembled.  Around the tree has made another innovative use of cork, as an upholstery material on its chairs.  There was more cork on display at Design Junction……

Winners of the SustainRCA Awards announced

mauricio_affonso_1 Quicksand

Last night at the Royal College of Art, the winners of the SustainRCA Awards were announced.

Winner of the moving mind category – Minho Kwon for the The Neo Tower of Babel

Winner Solutions for Society category – Shruti Grover for Gu Bank an offgrid sanitation and incentivisation solution for male migrants in India’s growing urban slum settlements.  80% of Indian cities do not possess even a partial sewage network, and 60% of the population practice open defecation, thats 662 million people

Winner of Inspired Products category – Chris Natt for Blastproof, a collection of simple tools for manual clearance of land mines.

Winner of Visionary Processes category – Mauricio Alfonso for Luffa Lab, another beautiful and sustainable material from the sea.  Products included an acoustic tile.


The indigo colour is obtained by reusing wastewater from the denim-dyeing industry.  The highly absorbent fibres of the luffa can be used to soak up these harmful dyes that would otherwise be discharged.  Definitely form and function, lets hope these tiles are soon available for home or office interiors.

The event was buzzing, literally as we were fuelled by delicious eats from ento, canapés made from edible insects, even my vegetarian companion declared them delicious.  Why insects?  They are more space and energy efficient than traditional livestock, high in protein and nutrients like omega-3 while low in fat and cholesterol.  Yum!

Make It Better


Make It Better: designing products that don’t cost the Earth took place at the V&A earlier this week with contributions from Sophie Thomas, co-director of design at the RSA,Julian Kirby, Friends of the Earth UK, and Ugo Vallauri from the Restart Project.

Sophie Thomas kicked off with some eye-watering statistics for the amount of waste created in current manufacturing and consumption pattens.  “Currently for every tonne of household rubbish, a further 5 tonnes of materials were used in the manufacture of that product”, and 90% of all products are waste within 6 months of purchase, and as much as 80% of products are discarded after a single use.  Just hold that thought for a moment.

So the Great Recovery is about doing, and designing things better to recapture the materials, and their value in the process.  Currently, only a fifth of the resource flows in the UK are fed back into the economic cycle, the rest is waste, and waste is a design flaw.  The Design Council estimates that 80% of environmental costs are pre-determined during the product conception and design stage.   The Great Recovery Report, argues end of life needs to be in the design brief, to design for longevity, design for service, design for re-use in manufacturing and design for material recovery.  Recycling is a low value option of last resort, when there are other more valuable circles in the system.
For business, the incentive is to mitigate the supply risk of volatile resource costs due to increasing scarcity.  Many of the electronic goods we depend on, smartphones, tablets and personal computers, require elements that are increasingly scarce, and we are just not recovering them.  There are 40 elements in your mobile phone, and current best practice can recycle 15 of them.  Julian Kirby gave an eloquent illustration of the real costs of resource extraction (mining), and Friends of the Earths, Make it Better campaign.  As the pressure on resources is increasing so other costs, environmental damage, and social issues, such as land grab, are also flaring up.
All of the speakers addressed not only rapid product obsolescence, but psychological obsolescence, that is the desire for the newest, latest gadget or product release.  Many products are tossed aside far before they ultimately fail in the rush to upgrade.  With the thought that the greenest phone is probably the one you have in your hand, check out the Restart Project, which runs free community events, Restart Parties, where volunteers experienced with electronics help others learn to repair and perform maintenance to their broken or slow devices.
The next Restart Party @ Heath Street Baptist Church (Hampstead)September 26, 2013 at 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm84 Heath Street, Hampstead, London NW3 1DN, and there will be another event at  @ Centre for Alternative Tech, WalesSeptember 28, 2013.

What a corking idea


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

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

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

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


If it’s broke, fix it and win £5million


The Technology Strategy Board has just announced a competition to “invest up to £5m in collaborative research and development that aims to preserve the value of products and/or materials at end-of-life and keeps them in productive use for longer” with business.  The competition aims to stimulate innovation and progress towards a circular economy.

The TSB  is seeking proposals that make supply chains more circular, that is to reduce the environmental impact of material life-cycles and dependence on materials with a supply risk.  TSB expects applicants to cut general waste stream losses in half, or more.  Speaking yesterday at the LDF session entitled, Make It Better: designing products that don’t cost the Earth, Sophie Thomas of the RSA, noted, “currently for every tonne of household rubbish, a further 5 tonnes of materials were used in the manufacture of that product”.  Waste is a design flaw.   To this end, the TSB is offering two days free access to Design Mentors for applicants prior to submitting an initial expression of interest.

The opportunity in a circular economy is to use materials many times, and to retain the quality and economic value of those materials at a high level.  The prize for business is to reduce their supply risk as the prices of increasingly scarce materials, become increasingly volatile, and cost reduction.  A report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation together with McKinsey & Company setting out the economic case, estimated benefit to be over USD $680bn a year at EU level for the medium complex goods sector alone

Full details of the competition are available online at the Technology Strategy Board website.

Get your thinking caps on!

Materials Moulded by the Environment

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).