Home/Craft London/ Top Drawer – the cc edit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a hottie!

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The cold winter nights are still with us and one way to warm up is with a hot water bottle.  Who wouldn’t love a cuddle with one of these?

The warm tones of the Seed hot water bottle from Seven Gauge Studio (pictured left) alone will spark an inner glow.  Each cover is knitted on a hand-powered machine from top quality lambswool, then individually washed and slightly felted for a softer cuddle.  They are priced at £45, including the bottle, and made to order in England.

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The hottie covers from Laura’s Loom (pictured right) are made from Bluefaced Leicester wool that is sourced from the Yorkshire Dales.  The lovely colours of these Howgill fabrics deliberately evoke the colours and textures of Britain’s northern landscapes.  All Laura’s Loom products are designed, sourced and made in the UK, proudly celebrating Britain’s woollen heritage.  The hotties are available in the three colours shown, priced £24, and fit a standard 2l bottle (not included).

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An upcycled alternative, is the selection of hot water bottle covers made from vintage Welsh blankets that have been damaged beyond repair available from Jane Beck.  The blanket remnants are salvaged to make limited numbers of mini and full size hot water bottle covers.  Prices from £19.99 for a mini hottie, with bottle included.

hottiebottie400px_250pxx370_99241f4dd82b68b3c9669f6c284a545bFor a homemade option, the Hottie Bottie hot water bottle cover felt making kit from Gilliangladrag includes the wool tops, ready cut plastic template and full step-by-step feltmaking instructions written by Gillian Harris, author of “Complete Feltmaking” and “Carnival of Felting”.  A basic felt making kit (bamboo mat and net) is also required.  I am quite tempted to sign up for a Learn to Felt course, £65 for the day at the Fluff-a-torium in Dorking.

cherrystonebagThe cherry stone bag from Momosan is an original, and understated alternative to  conventional hot water bottles.  The 100% African cotton bags are filled with cherry stones that are a by-product of jam and kirsch making.  Apparently, Swiss distillery workers traditionally heated bags of the stones on warm stoves to sooth bumps and aching muscles.  If you don’t have a stove to hand, you and I  can heat the cherry stone pillows in the microwave to soothe muscular tension or warm feet in bed.  The bag can also be chilled for use as a cold compress on sprains or headaches.  The bags are available in 9 different patterns and cost £22.

Nights need no longer be chilly!

All pictures are from the suppliers websites.

Preloved at Restoration Station

RS1After a pit-stop at ‘Paper & Cup‘,  a coffee and secondhand book shop with a bright, fresh vibe that is a social enterprise from the New Hanbury Project, I headed to Restoration Station’s new shop at 118 Shoreditch High Street.  As the name suggests,this latest venture from the NHP restores vintage and designer furniture.

The furniture is carefully selected from pieces that have been donated, cleaned, thoroughly prepared and then hand finished.  A process that often requires a lot of elbow grease.  The chair being worked on in the picture was made of four different woods, oak, beech, pine and ash.  It was being meticulously hand sanded before being oiled, waxed and polished to reveal the different wood grains, all under the watchful eye of Bernard, a furniture specialist and volunteer at the NHP.

The small team have trained in furniture restoration at the NHP, a Drop-in, Rehab and Training Centre run by the the Spitalfields Crypt Trust to support local people recovering from addiction and homelessness.  Furniture restoration and carpentry are two of 20 different subjects taught at the NHP.  These skills are bolstered by specialist knowledge in design history, and finishing techniques from local craftspeople that volunteer, such as Bernard looking dapper in an Ally Capellino overall (her shop is around the corner).

restored-furniture-Restoration-Station2There are a few pieces available to buy, and they also work on bespoke pieces, such as making a cafe counter.  There was a real pride and purpose in the work, so if you have a piece that could do with a ‘make-over’ the Restoration Station would be delighted to help, and add another layer to the story.

 

Design your own Christmas

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The East London Design Show opens tomorrow, Thursday 5th December at the Old Truman Brewery and runs until Sunday 8th December.  There will be 38 brand new designers of product, interiors and jewellery showing their wares alongside some more established independent designers and makers.

As well as the show and tell, there are a whole series of  ‘Design your own Christmas’ workshops and demonstrations taking place over the four days.  You can even try your hand at a bit of upcycling with (Re)Design, the social enterprise on a mission to promote sustainable design.

Other exhibitors I shall be checking out include Mind the Cork, who as the name suggests make things for the table out of cork; Galapagos who refresh mid-century vintage chairs with some wholly contemporary prints, such as this 1960’s German Marchena armchair that has been reupholstered in Parris and Wakefield’s new Zig Zig fabric; handwoven storage from cuvcuv; and handwoven textiles from Lawsonia to name a few.

 

Bedside beauties

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It was a frosty morning to be outside finishing the latest piece for my interiors project, but the deadline is looming.  There was nothing for it but a large cup of tea, flapjack and a lot of elbow grease (as my grandfather would have said) to finish the waxing and varnishing.  And tah dah, here they are.

I picked up this pair of Uniflex 1960s or 70s bedside tables, along with a similar dressing table at Sunbury Antiques market a few weeks ago.  The bedside tables had been given a heavy coat of dark varnish at some point.  I sanded them down to reveal the chevron veneer.  A light coat of Ronseal quick dry matt varnish, which is low V.O.C. (volatile organic compound) brought out the wood grain beautifully.  I sanded around the top of the bedside table to reveal the layers of plywood, as I like the detail and the honesty of showing the plywood.

The tables were still a dark colour, so I painted the sides with Annie Sloan’s chalk paint in Paris Grey to soften them.  Once dry, I waxed the sides with Annie Sloan clear soft wax.  Finally, I covered the top of the tables in some off-cuts of a linen fabric from Christopher Farr, that was made in England.  The fabric, called Carnival, has a vibrant, bold green and blue print. I used a natural latex universal adhesive from Auro to stick the fabric down before giving it a couple of coats of varnish once dry.  The bedside tables are no longer pure mid-century modern, but with a gentle refresh will sit well in a contemporary bedroom.  If you D.I.Y., you can have just the colour or fabric you want.  And be bold, all of the changes I made be undone, and it’s fun to experiment.

Oh and the Guardian article below has an easy step by step.  Or look out for local furniture restoration and painting classes, with a quick web search.  In London, try the Goodlife Centre (S), Phoenix on Golborne (W), or get a bit of help from Revived London (SE).

5 of the best table lamps

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

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

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

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

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

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

Digging the decoupage

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Part of the haul from the Sunbury Antiques Fair was a mid-century nest of tables that had seen better days. With a tighten of the screws, wash and wipe it was ready for a refresh.  The set are destined for a newly refurbished flat that could do with an injection of colour.  As the tables are quite small, you can be bold without overpowering a room.  The tables were given a light sand, and then painted in Annie Sloan chalk paint.  The chalk paint leaves a subtle, matt finish once dry.

Then it was time to embark on my first decoupage project.  I had some Liberty print fabrics, and chose to use the Angelica Garla A (£22 per m) as although floral it has strong colours such as navy, olive, mustard yellow, and turquoise.  First of all, I applied the adhesive to the smooth, clean surface.  You could use any universal adhesive, I was using Auro‘s universal adhesive which is made of natural latex.  I diluted the adhesive slightly for easy application.  I applied the fabric being careful to smooth out any wrinkles, trimmed around the edges and left the adhesive to dry.

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Once dry, I used a matt varnish also from Auro to apply two coats and seal the fabric.  I used Annie Sloan’s soft clear wax to finish the painted surfaces, and voila!

The smallest table has been claimed by my daughter as her new bedside table. The whole process was fun, and a straightforward way to revive and personalise the nest of tables.

For a simple DIY guide to decoupage check out Channel 4’s web page.

 

Papier-mâché prototype 1

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Paper mache or papier-mâchéis a real rainy day, get your hands dirty activity, and an extremely satisfying recycle of the weekend papers.  This bowl was my first attempt following a set of instructions I found on the web.  After tearing the paper into even strips, I mix up the adhesive in a large bowl.  The adhesive I used was 1 part flour to 1 part water and it was quite gloopy (not a technical term!), so I will try a different mix next time.  I greased the bowl I was using as a mould with some sunflower oil so the paper mache was less likely to stick to the bowl.  Then dip a strip in to the adhesive mix (flour and water), as you take it out gently run it between your thumb and forefinger to remove any excess before laying it over the mould.  Work your way around the mould, alternating vertical and horizontal layers.  This prototype used three or four layers, and took a couple of days to completely dry out, before it was ready for painting.  It needs a few more layers to be more rigid, but you live and learn!  Watch this space for the next one.

Xylo Furniture with a story

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Check out the new website for Xylo Furniture which has just launched telling its story and showing its wares.  Xylo is a social enterprise, created by the Wlliam Wilberforce Trust, that sources pre-loved furniture that was created by master craftsmen and gives each piece a new lease of life.

The William Wilberforce Trust Employability, Enterprise and Re-Use programme is part of the national Furniture Re-Use Network, and the London Re-Use Network.  LRN and FRN will collect all sorts of things from your home and sell them on at a fair price.

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And it really works, each year the sector diverts 110,000 tonnes of furniture from landfill, re-uses 2.7 million items of furniture and electricals, and saves those on low incomes millions on essential goods, as those benefits are often entitled to a further discount.

For the Xylo trainee, facing significant barriers to employment, the 16 week Employability Programme, provides workplace experience, training and mentoring.  The Xylo trainees gain valuable skills and fuse their story into that of the restored Xylo piece.

Xylo pieces combine age-old craftsmanship with modern, hand-painted finishes. Items of furniture are selected because they have been made to a standard that is now rare; they have been built to last.  This eclectic set of six dining chairs (£400) spanning the 19th and 20th centuries are tied together in cobalt blue coat with the feet left bare to show their provenance.  Not only are they colourful pieces of upcycling, but the very essence of sustainability, with physical and emotional durability as they have been treasured for generations, and can be for many more!

Photo credits: Xylo Furniture

Knitting and Stitching Show

7819610_assocImage_3This weekend it is the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace in London, 10th -13th October.  If you need a little inspiration to make, do and mend, explore a new hobby, or advance an old one there is plenty on offer.  There are exhibits from some of the leading names in textiles, as well as taster workshops for the amateur and plenty of supplies available for to get you going.

Carefully curated would be heading for the Upcycling Academy,  headed by Barley Massey of Fabrications. and joined by TRAID, War on Want and Craftivist Collective.  There will be all manner of creative avenues for old cast-offs from rosette making to knitting with waste fabric, plus lots of customisation and ideas!

A hearty appetiser before Wool Week starts on Monday.