May Design Series – cc edited highlights

tr1Time 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.

myx-hanging-lamp-growing-180dpiWhile 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!

wall2bearIn 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.  

feltFrom 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?

corkThere 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!

ootdIn 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

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.

brushes

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.

East London Design Show – the CC edit

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

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

clock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then we were off!

 

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.

 

Reveal-ed cork iPhone case

Izu-Printed-Cork-iPhone-5-Case-228x228After my previous phone failed, I was bemused to find that 5 years old is vintage in Apple speak (technology years seem to be like dog years), and it was time for a new iPhone.  This was not without some angst my part, as I recently learned that only 15 of the 40 chemical elements in a smartphone are recoverable through the current best recycling process!  I needed to find a cover to protect my iPhone5s investment from everyday bumps and knocks.

In the market for phone covers it is hard to get away from plastic.  The leather covers are too bulky,  the fabric ones too flimsy, so Goldilocks’ choice was a cork cover from Reveal.  The backing of the case is  100% natural, sustainable and renewable  cork that is decorated with a Japanese wood block print.  I confess that I was surprised that the whole case was not cork.  The rubber casing around the edges is a non-toxic material plastic (ABS), but cases that are made entirely from wood are not stable and changes in humidity or temperature can cause the wood to break.  Reveal are working with a R&D material expert to replicate the performance of the ABS using a polymer blend of natural ingredients and hope to launch a product early next year, so what this space!

As well as cork, Reveal make products from bamboo, linen, jute, recycled zips and recycled fabrics, using post-consumer plastic bottles to make recycled microsuede for a range of vegan handbags.  Oh, and for every product sold, Reveal plant a tree via their partnership with American Forests.  A breath of fresh air in more than one sense.

Photo credit: Reveal

What a corking idea

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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.