SCIN deep

marbleI 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. solidOther 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.

ppThe 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.

fcThe 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.

ghInteriors 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.

neptIf 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!

organoidAnd 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

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…

 

Decorex highlights

PETDecorex International was the long tail of my London Design excursions.  A design show that is definitely established, decidedly high-end, and distinctly for the trade, I was curious to see what it offered for carefully curated.  The ‘feature’ entrance, designed by Kit Kemp, was worthy of the superlatives.  ‘Beautiful’, ‘stunning’ and ‘luxurious’ can be overworked in the Decorex environment, but they are were fitting adjectives for the the display inspired by the Silk Route.  I loved the hanging pendants from PET Lamp.  The clue is in the name, as the lamps are made from recycled plastic bottles and woven using traditional artisanal techniques in Colombia.

Once into the fray,  I was spoilt for choice. I went to admire the new designs on the stand of Fine Cell Work, the social enterprise that trains prisoners in paid, skilled, creative needlework to foster hope, discipline and self esteem, where a needlepoint demonstration was underway.   Another organisation with a strong ethical purpose is GoodWeave who are working to end child labour in the carpet industry and boost educational opportunities for children in weaving communities in India, Nepal and Afghanistan.  Their website has a directory to find rugs ethically produced by GoodWeave approved producers.

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Then onto textile companies, and the riot of colour of at Timorous Beasties (seen here on their Omni Splatt cushion, £144), was in glorious contrast to the cool, clean botanical prints at Ivo Prints.  Ivo Prints have been producing textiles and wall coverings under license to The Royal Botanic Gardens Kew at their small factory in west London since early 2011.

FABRICSThe Kew Collection also includes  home accesories, cushions, bags and other gifts and a share of proceeds supports Kew’s conservation work .  The collection is closely connected to its subject matter, with evidence of the seeds in the weaving as a reminder of the natural and plant based origins of the cloth.  Only water-based, non toxic pigment colours are used to print the collection.

Water-based paints and pigments feature highly at Little Greene.  Little Greene Dyeworks started in 1773 making dye solutions to the cotton trade.  Today, all their products are still manufactured in the UK, with a determination to produce high-quality paints and papers that are environmentally-friendly.  They use only natural, organic and safe-synthetic pigments.   Oil-base paints use vegetable oils, making them child-friendly.  And a contribution for every paint and wallpaper sale goes to English Heritage, with whom they have collaborated to develop a range of authentic historical paint colours.  I particularly liked their sculpture, pictured below, which reminds me of the children’s song, “we’ve got the whole world in our hands”.

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Elsewhere, I was drawn to the tactile display of woollen fabrics on the Moon stand.  Established in 1837 in Leeds, Abraham Moon & Sons Ltd, remains the only vertical mill left in Britain.  From fleeces to final dispatch, they control the entire manufacturing process with dyeing, blending, carding, spinning, weaving and finishing processes all taking place on one site.  Their Natural Wool collection makes extensive use of un-dyed wools.  As well as furnishing fabrics, Moon also produces throws and fashion accessories including cushions, baby blankets and scarves under their Bronte by Moon label.   N.B. Abraham Moon fabrics are used to upholster the Moonshine footstool from Galvin Brothers – see my Tent London post.  Gorgeous!

Other highlights were the reclaimed antique tiles from Bert and May.  Bert and May are also able to make reproductions of any tile in their antique collection or your own design or specification to complete a project.  Their new showroom is opening next month.   Finally, and relax, in the folding rocking chair made from sustainable steam-bent beech by Wawa.  It folds to 15cm wide, and weighs only 5kg.  Perfect for confined spaces!!

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