Discover craft at Heals

heals1It’s time to discover new craft at Heal’s Modern Craft Market, running in their London Tottenham Court Road store until Sunday.  With expert demonstrations and hands-on workshops of contemporary craft as well as the chance to pick up a unique design, it is a real opportunity to invest in  some of the most innovative craft makers of the moment, from as little as £9 for a limited edition pencil sharpener from Will Smith.

IMG_2695Heal’s has a long history of nurturing designers from its beginnings as bed-makers in 1810, to Ambrose Heal’s instrumental role in the Arts and Crafts movement supplying sound, well-designed furniture at reasonable prices, and more recently the Heal’s Discovers Design Competition.  Today the Modern Craft Market, in association with the Crafts Council and Contemporary Applied Arts brings work from a carefully edited selection of artisans using traditional and contemporary techniques, skill, innovative materials and often a wry sense of humour.

jleeChief among the pieces that caught my eye were Jungin Lee’s candlestick holders made from salt.  In a range of colours from spring green to candy pink are a passing joy that can be savoured in the moment, as with any celebration, and then dissolved after use.  Jungin Lee is part of the the WORKS collective, a group of Royal College of Art alumni formed in 2012.

prin2Fellow WORKS design talent Ariane Prin‘s pencils are made from the wood dust, graphite, clay and flour recovered from the floor and canteen of the RCA and compressed into pencils. The pencils are labelled “From Here for Here” as they are waste from various areas of the RCA recycled in a local pencil factory to supply drawing tools to students. The project, shortlisted for the RCA’s Sustain Award, connects making, materials, and product with their place, and environmental principles.  The picture shows the tool, surrounded by pencils arranged in a dial.

stoolAnother wonderful reincarnation courtesy of  WORKS designers are the Well Proven Stools,  from Marjan van Aubel and James Shaw.  Mindful that processing wood products normally incurs 50% to 80% timber wastage Aubel and Shaw looked for ways to recapture the value in that waste.  Mixing a bio-resin with waste shavings caused a chemical reaction resulting in the distinctive foaming wood, a lightweight material reinforced by the fibres in the hardwood shavings.  Aubel and Shaw mixed the porridge-like material with coloured dyes and found it could be easily moulded.  The resulting Well Proven chair was nominated for the Designs of the Year 2013 by the Design Museum.  The stools currently for sale in Heal’s are the next iteration of the Well Proven Chair.  Pairing the foaming wood with  elegant turned American Ash legs creates a partnership of two contrasting forms.  The stools are  available in a variety of heights and colours.

The stools from Ellen Thomas were another pretty place to perch, with their on-trend teal feet and decorative inlay.  Prices start at £220 for a small stool.  Nick Fraser’s witty take on candlestick holders made from brass fittings and pipework are useful objects with industrial form, fitting for more than bachelor pads.  There were also gorgeous woven accessories from Beatrice Larkin and Eleanor Pritchard and equally tactile, though not as cuddly, boiled leather moulded to make lampshades from Hoare and Brady.nest

Everybody needs a home, and for £20 many of us could joyfully accommodate a Bird House from Smith Matthias to provide a home for small British birds such as the tit family and tree sparrow.  The flat packed nesting box is designed to fit in an envelope through a letter box and for easy self-assembly.  The Bird Houses are available in a palette of colours that are kind on the eye.

Go discover, there are many delightful objects with their own story to tell!

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Papier-mâché prototype 1

pm1

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.

Making it the good life

Inspired by my recent furniture painting course, I went in search of other courses to restore, recycle, renovate, reuse, and found The Goodlife Centre in south London, near Waterloo station.

The Goodlife Centre offers practical workshops in DIY, decorating, woodwork, furniture restoration, upholstery and traditional handcrafts. The courses vary from evening workshops, day or weekend intensives or longer, such as the popular 4 week Basic DIY course. Prices start at £60 for a 2.5 hour workshop. You could even host a private party!

So if you fancy getting your hands dirty learning a new skill, someone is about to set up home and create a personal touch on budget then check out their upcoming courses. I am spoilt for choice!

A West Country willow washing basket

Willow basket

After the latest plastic washing basket buckled and broke under the strain of our family’s washing load, the search for a sturdier, and more sustainable replacement began.

Willow is a fast-growing, renewable crop and the willow beds or ‘withies’ are homes for many species of bird, wildlife and wildflowers.  Willow is part of the social and environmental heritage of Somerset where willow has been cultivated for centuries, and the Somerset Levels are one of the most important wetland habitats in the UK.

Baskets are hand woven using traditional craftsmenship, with no nails, glues or dyes to produce baskets, furniture, garden items and high quality artists’ charcoal.

We ordered a traditional wet washing basket from English Willow Baskets who have been producing willow in Somerset since 1819.

Perhaps the new Royal baby will be sleeping in a bespoke West Country willow crib!