New Craftsmen celebrating the art of swilling

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While working in Manchester, Lorna Singleton  yearned to return home to South Cumbria to do something practical, creative and to spend more time outdoors. WWoof-ing’ confirmed her desire to reconnect with the landscape of her childhood.  ‘WWOOF’ stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, and while on the farm, Lorna was introduced to greenwood crafts.  Today she is one of only a handful of remaining swillers in the country.

Lorna began an apprenticeship with the Bill Hogarth (MBE) Memorial Apprenticeship Trust for three years of intensive tuition in coppicing and greenwood crafts.  Bill Hogarth started working with wood in mid-1940s, aged 14, dressing and tying hazel for ships fenders.  As traditional markets for coppiced hazel dried up, Hogarth was the last coppice merchant in the Lake District by the 1980s.  He dedicated himself to sharing his skills, stories and knowledge of woodland management.  In 2000, a trust was set up to continue sharing knowledge of traditional coppice woodland management.

Coppicing, a traditional form of woodland management, is the practice of cutting young tree stems close to ground level.  New shoots emerge, and, after a few years the coppiced tree, or stool, is ready to be harvested, and the cycle begins again.  Opening the canopy and increasing light to the woodland floor allows plants to thrive, and as sections of woodland, or coups, are coppiced in rotation the practice creates a variety of habitats.

Lorna’s passion for weaving oak swills, traditional baskets unique to the Lakeland grew.  Willow, a more familiar basket material does not thrive in the bracing climate and rugged terrain of Cumbria, so the population had to work with the materials they had to hand, oak.  The oak is hand-coppiced when it is about twenty-five years, much later than other woods are coppiced, but early in the life of oak.

ls_4Lorna cleaves, or splits, the green wood, along its grain into strips.  The strips, or spells, are boiled overnight and soaked in water until they becomes supple (see right).  Splitting the wood along its grain, keepls_5s the fibres together retaining the strength of the tree.  Pieces of hazel are steamed over the boiling oak, and bent into the frame of the basket. Once softened, the cleft wood is riven into even thinner strips, around 2-3mm, before it is hand-woven into baskets. A single swill basket takes about a day to weave.  The strong, hard-wearing swill baskets were often used to collect potatoes and other crops, but their uses are not limited to the garden, making fine washing baskets, storage for root vegetables and carrots in a larder, logs, newspapers, or toys.
Through working with the coppiced wood, Lorna has become intimately familiar the material’s properties and limitations.  She describes how, in time, the craft becomes a familiar, almost meditative, ritual, with the tools feeling an extension of the hand, and the craftsman’s body moving unconsciously to make and mold the material.2014-09-17 17.41.02
I caught up with Lorna during the London Design Festival where she was maker-in-residence at the New Craftsmen gallery, surrounded by new pieces from a collaboration with Sebastian Cox.  The two met at a National Coppicing Federation workshop.  Sebastian’s experience of re-interpreting traditional crafts and products, and with a contemporary twist provided invaluable insights for Lorna as she grows her retail offering.  In turn, Lorna introduced Sebastian to the practice of swilling, and a collaboration was born.
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The resulting ‘Swill’ ceiling lights, made of oak swill skilfully woven into cylinders cast a cross-hatch light when illuminated.  The lights can be clustered into groups of three, five or seven, priced from £195 for the trio (9cm (w) x 9cm (d) x 12cm (h)).
The ‘Swill’ bench and stools pair silver grey swilled oak spells with a glue-less ash frame on fine, tapered legs for an elegant, strong seat.  The bench, £595, and the stool, £355 are both available from the New Craftsmen (pictured above in situ).  The seat of each bench or stool has a unique pattern reflecting the texture, colour and width of the individual spells.
swill-shelves-sebastian-cox-the-new-craftsmen-003-418x646The ‘Swill Hanging Shelves’ also combine ash and oak swill in a harmonious pair  (priced from £75 for a small shelf, 10cm (w) x 30cm (d) x 2cm (h)).  Lengths of swill are spilt, wrapped through an ash shelf and pinned with copper rivets. The shelves are exceptionally lightweight and strong and can be hung in tessellation or alone.  The shelves do equire a slight DIY intervention, as you have to soak the swill coil in water for 15 minutes, then hang the shelf on the rail with some books to weigh it down, to ensure the swill dries straight.  What better introduction to this timeless craft.
Image credits: New Craftsmen Gallery where not my own.

 

 

Tent London 2014 favourites

logoA pitstop at Nude Espresso on Hanbury Street set me buzzing for my favourite London Design Festival destination, Tent London.  The more established SuperBrands and international zones on the ground floor soon merge into the fresh, fun and less formal stands typically from younger or emerging designers.hyde  My first rendez vous was not with an exhibitor, but with potter and designer Isatu Hyde. I bought some of her medium-sized stoneware bowls, inspired by those from a monastery in Harrogate, at the New Designers show earlier in the year.  The bowls are in demand, so much so that Isatu asked to borrow mine for Design-Nation Presents at the Southbank Centre Terrace Shop.  Tickets are still available for the Meet the Maker evening on Tuesday 7th October, but you can see the work on show until 31st October. Unburdened, I was free to roam.  The understated elegance of Mater immediately caught my eye.  Founded in 2006, Mater (Latin for mother) is a high-end Danish furniture and lighting brand with a philosophy based on design, craftsmanship and ethicsTD1.  Contemporary design is combined with support for local craftsmen, their traditions and careful material selection.  A member of the UN Global Compact, and supporter of local sustainable business projects, Mater strive to minimize negative impacts, creating durable and desirable products that they home their customers will cherish. Pictured are the Luiz pendant lamp, made from natural FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) cork, suspended above the Bowl Table.  The table top is made mango wood, felled once the tree has reached the end of its productive life, and another planted.  The top is hand-turned on a lathe by craftsmen from the Kharadi community.  The top is finished with a lead-free, water-based polyurethane lacquer.  The hollow steel legs can be removed for more efficient packing and transport.  Mater products are stocked by Skandium in the UK. td3Exploring the story of the object, Second Sitters upholstery installation workshop was a chance to appreciate the skills, techniques and materials of upholstery up close, and hands-on as you could delve into boxes of horsehair, hessian and more.  Furniture Magpies revive furniture in a different way.td2  Literally deconstructing unloved pieces and reconfiguring them to more contemporary tastes while retaining their character and story.  The coffee table made of cross-sections of banister spindles was particularly striking. Upstairs were two of my favourite makers, both launching new collections. Galvin Brothers were presenting their new Cross Lap collection.  A clean and contemporary collection of tables, benches, consoles and stools in native steamed beech and American black walnut, and finished in water-based lacquers.tl5  Described as “modern rustic”, and in colours close to Carefully Curated’s own palette, how could I not be a fan?  Here is Matthew Galvin, just completing a piece to camera for Casafina’s round up of Tent London, which also features, Sebastian Cox. London Design Festival was a busy week for Sebastian Cox with the Wish List (and workshop) at the V&A, scorching and swilling pieces for the New Craftsmen, on Radio 4 with Sir Terence Conran, and the nominations for the Wood Awards, and Elle Decoration’s Best British Sustainable Designtl6 In the midst of this exciting flurry, Cox’s stand had an air of calm, matching the quiet serenity of the newly launched Underwood Collection, all made from hand-coppiced Kentish hazel and well-managed British ash.  The collection is called ‘Underwood’ as the pieces use coppiced hazel ‘in the round’, that is usually considered waste. In the foreground are pictured the ‘Hewn’ tea table (£195), bench (£300), and trestle (£170 each).  The Mop stick ladder (£210), shelves (£790) and Peg hooks (£55) are in the background.  A true celebration of British hardwoods. tl8Nearby, Daniel Heath launched his Art Deco collection.  The geometric motifs are etched onto reclaimed Welsh roof slates transforming the discarded into decorative interior surface materials.  The geometric shapes of Tracey Tubb’s wallpapers are inspired by origami.  Each sheet is hand-folded from a single roll of paper.  Tracey assures me the paper does not attract dust. The pattern’s on Seascape CuriositiesSealace wallpaper are by their nature more fluid.  Handtl9-drawn illustrations inspired by our beautiful underwater landscapes.  Using FSC approved and 100% recycled papers, Sara cuts intricate floating marine forms by hand creating three-dimensional wallpapers.  The works drew particular attention from Chinese, Japanese and Korean visitors, whose cultures have established traditions of paper-art forms. tl10Paper pulp from old newspapers is the fodder for Crea-Re’s ‘Copermicus’ lighting collection.  100% recycled, the paper mulch is mixed with ochre, or left grey, shaped, and left to dry.  The irregular, cracked shape with small holes or craters, means when the “Luna” light is turned on, the light creates a unique, mottled shadow. tl15While I missed the visual impact of the Material Council’s display of material cubes from 2013, this year, ‘Nooks, Niches and Cranniesʼ, featured Trash Glass from Diana Simpson, the first in a series of products developed using reclaimed waste as raw ingredients. tl12With my Welsh connections, I was delighted to catch up with Blodwen‘s founder Denise Lewis.  All Blodwen’s new blankets are woven at a 180 year old mill in the Teifi Valley, west Wales, not far from the National Woollen Museum.  The Heritage Blanket Collection (£345 each), inspired by a weaver’s pattern book datitl14ng from the 1700’s, are woven on the original 1930’s Dobcross looms.  The striking patterns caught the eye of recent fashion graduate, Sarah Hellen.  Inspired by the traditional skills of Welsh artisans, Hellen used some of Blodwen’s Heritage geometric ‘Hiraeth’ pattern for her menswear collection.  From baskets to traditional Welsh clogs, Blodwen is committed to the preserving and reviving the rural crafts and skills of Wales. A last word on some accessories.  The beautiful A-Z of edible flowers, A Matter of Taste, from Charlotte Day, which pique interest in some overlooked varieties and remind us of nature’s beauty tl16and bounty. I shall have to invest in one of Mary Goodman‘s Seating Spheres, a large wool covered exercise ball, described as a “sculptural addition to contemporary interiors” for use as a footrest, or seat.  I have used an exercise ball as my office chair for years.  The subtle instability stops any slump at the computer, and rolling around helps keep the blood flowing.  All the yarns are ethically sourced, with hard-wearing British wools such as Herdwick, Swalewick, Jacob and Axminster rug wool used for the spheres.  Mary Goodman will be showing her work as part of Campaign for Wool Interiors Collection at Southwark Cathedral, 5th -12th October. London Design Festival ended on a high note at Tent London!

Related link:

https://carefullycurated.co.uk/2013/08/20/welsh-blankets/

The Wish List

wishlistThere was no better way to kick off my London Design Festival 2014 than The Wish List” at the Victoria and Albert Museum.  With a mentoring relationship at its heart, the project began with a conversation between Benchmark, Terence Conran and the American Hardwood Export Council.  They conceived of ten leading designers commissioning the object that they had always wanted but never found or had time to design themselves. The ten commissioners chose, or were matched with, up-and-coming designers, for whom it was the commission of a lifetime!

Each of the young designers was given a box of American hardwoods, and the design process unfolded, culminating in an intense, “Making Week”, or first furniture festival, at Benchmark working with master craftsmen skilled in traditional techniques, as well as the latest technologies.  Benchmark has embraced sustainability from its outset in 1984, after Sean Sutcliffe, co-founder with Terence Conran, was influenced by Jonathon Porritt. The commitment to sustainability, craftsmanship and expertise in timber (though they also have a specialist metal workshop and an upholstery studio), made Benchmark an ideal partner for AHEC in The Wish List. AHEC were keen not only to showcase the range and properties of American hardwood, but also share the AHEC’s work on life-cycle assessment (LCA) with the designers.

Wood has many environmental virtues: it is organic, renewable, versatile, and a carbon sink.  The area covered by American hardwood forests is equivalent to UK, France & Spain combined, and the AHEC estimate that the carbon footprint of all ten projects is less than one return flight to New York.  Wood is also probably the material that man has been working with for longer than any other.  Wood is sensual and tactile, overtime it responds our touch, changing patina, becoming smooth, or chipped, with each knock or indent becoming part of the story of the object.

RTEmagicC_Sebastian_Cox_2883_txdam9114_dfa4c8.jpgThe young designers made careful choice of their material.  Sebastian Cox asked David Venables of AHEC which were the least popular in the UK and deliberately chose to work with them, seizing the opportunity to elevate their status. Cox, who usually works with greenwood, relished the opportunity to experiment with red oak and cherrywood.  Initially Conran had wanted a rail and curtain to screen his desk, in response Sebastian suggested a curved, woven screen. The kiln-dried oak was too inflexible to weave, so Cox made use of swilling, a technique he recently learnt with Lorna Singleton to soften the timber so it was malleable enough to weave.  Swilling, or soaking, the timber in the stream at Barton Court, Terence and Vicki Conran’s 18th-century country home, connected the piece to the landscape of its future home.

wishlist2Known for his innovative use of wood, Alex de Rijke, Dean of the School of Architecture, RCA, and a founding Director of the architectural practice dRMM, pioneered the use of hardwood for cross-wishlist3laminated timber (CLT) for the Endless Stair he designed at last year’s London Design Festival, so it is unsurprising that he and Barnby & Day chose to use CLT made of American tulipwood.  But this fast-growing timber, that is is often overlooked, overpainted and “chopped through to get to the good stuff” is here given the Midas touch.  Nathalie de Leval’s shed for Paul Smith was made of thermally modified ash (pictured right, and below with Terence Conran, Paul Smith and Nathalie de Level).  Thermally modified timber (TMT) is heat-treated for three or four days in an inert atmosphere (no oxygen).  The process irreversibly changes the chemical and physical properties of the wood so that does not need additional treatment as it is more resistant to rot, fungi and moisture.

RTEmagicC_Wish_List_Hadid_Ves-el_Petr_Krejci_Photography_33_txdam9267_071dd1.jpgThe Wish List fused the craft of design and the craft of making.  A conversation with some of the designers, commissioners, and Sean Sutcliffe, chaired by Edwin Heathcote, explored the relationship between the two.  Heathcote recounted a recent visit to a design school without workshops.  Today industrial design is often separated from making with products moving from design to rapid prototyping and then manufacture overseas.  Sean Sutcliffe offered a definition of craft from Richard Sennett, author of The Craftsmenas when “the point of focus becomes the limit of the tool”.

The Ves-sel that Gareth Neal made for Zaha Hadid is a perfect example of engaging traditional process and digital manufacture.  Neal said he “provocated Sean to use the CNC router”, and Benchmark had to upgrade wishlist4its software accordingly.  Neal had been invited to Hadid’s company offices and use their modelling software to create the vessel’s design that captures the fluidity of Hadid’s designs, and functions as a water carafe.  One of the vessel’s was left unpainted, after consultation with Hadid, to reveal the natural colour.  The vessel is extruded along one axis, with a slit at the end creating what Neal describes as a ‘cathedral-like space’. If not monumental in scale, it is in complexity.  Sutcliffe described the object as an outstanding piece of craftsmanship, “the most remarkable thing we have ever made”.

Continuous involvement in the process, and evolvement of skill underpins the best craftsmanship, and several commissioners warn of the limitation of digital tools.  As Amanda Levete noted the link between intellect and hand becomes more remote with technology, an element of control is relinquished.  Something may seem perfectly resolved, but not be conceptually perfect, but without space for adjustment.  With rapid prototyping a hundred options can be quickly, and extravagantly, produced, but does this ease compensate for a lack of rigour at the design stage?  Making great objects is often an iterative process in response to the material.  For Alex de Rijke one of the constraints of digital technology is that computers do not have the same dialogue with materials or scale.  Alison Brooks, too, describes how computer design can quickly take a designer into complexity that they have to navigate out of, often through physical experimentation.

RTEmagicC_Win_Assakul_2755_txdam9130_dfa4c8.jpgThe “Making Week” brought many of these tensions to the fore.  With no experience of physical making, Win Assakul was persuaded to pick up hand tools to craft the 3m long serving dish he designed for Amanda Levete.  Hand-making is part of the story of the object, requiring considered, elegant solutions to the complex shape and presentation of the dish.

RTEmagicC_Banaby_and_Day_2425_txdam9093_dfa4c8.jpgThe “Table-Turned” Barnby & Day designed for Alex de Rijke presented the challenge of scale.  Weighing 170kg, and with a diameter of 2m, the table is quiet possibly one of the largest objects to be turned on a lathe.  Benchmark brought in specialist turner Mike Bradley to turn the table in 3 sections, with the largest section turning at 62mph on the outer edge.

wishlist6Even skilled craftsman, Sebastian Cox was presented with new challenges.  The Conran commission, “Getting Aware from it All” was, Cox said, “the most intricate and challenging thing that I had ever made, but how often will I get the chance to design for someone who is so important in the industry?”  If the screens were 1mm out at the joint, they would be 5mm our where they met. The rolling tambour is made from solid strips of wood, rather than cloth-backed and there is a secret drawer.  The compliment was repaid by Conran, “I have been making furniture for 60 years but I am still learning from Sebastian”.

RTEmagicC_Wish_List_Pawson_Room_Petr_Krejci_Photography_12_txdam9295_12e383.jpgNot all the project were conceived as one-offs. Felix de Pass’  “A Stool for the Kitchen” designed with Alison Brooks could in future grace our homes.  The series of architectural elements, “Room”, designed by Atelier Areti with John Pawson could indeed make the everyday more beautiful.  Simple, elegant forms finished with an incredible attention to detail.  For example, the grain on the dimmer knob of the light switch is aligned with that of the base plate when it is switched off.

wishlist7Wish list is about design, and beautiful materials. For the commissioners it was an unusual role reversal, a process Amanda Levete found moving as though handing the baton on to the next generation of inspiring designers.  It is also about the intensity of making, the joy of sharing collaboratively, and the richer learning that results: that was perhaps the real alchemy of the Wish List.  Sean Sutcliffe certainly hopes that seed has been sown.

The AHEC Wish List page has a playlist of short films of each of the pieces, but the installation is definitely worth a visit to the V&A!

Image credits: AHEC, or my own.

Related links:

https://carefullycurated.co.uk/2014/09/14/looking-ahead-to-london-design-festival/

Come & watch Lorna Singleton demonstrating swill basketry this Wednesday

Looking ahead to London Design Festival

logo Not that you can have failed to notice, but the London Design Festival started today, an event that promises to “celebrate and promote London as the design capital of the world.”  We can be certain it won’t disappoint, though perhaps less confident of seeing all there is to offer.

I will be making a beeline for the Victoria and Albert Museum to see The Wish List.  Sir Terence Conran, Benchmark, the London Design Festival and the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) paired ten emerging talents with ten design legends to design and make something that they have always wanted, but never been able to find.  The superlative bespoke commission, or ultra-mentoring scheme, however you choose to describe it, the results promise to be wonderful.

hadid-nealMy particular picks will be Sebastian Cox’s workspace for Terence Conran  and Gareth Neal’s carafe for Zaha Hadid. 

Also at the V&A is a demonstration of the circular economy in action as Ella Doran, Galapagos Designs, and the RSA’s Great Recovery Project deconstruct and refurbish several upholstered chairs in the V&A Design Studio.  The circular economy is a different approach to design, manufacture and material recovery that avoids losing valuable materials to landfill.  It might whet newlogoyour appetite to visit the Great Recovery’s new home, the Fab Lab London, which opens its doors on Friday 19th September.  There will be a Restart party to tend to broken electronics, ‘Fixperts’ and tear-down & design-up workshops happening all day to prompt visitors to think about products in a more circular way.

features_ecodb_materiallandscapeOpening on Wednesday 17th (and running to the 20th September at Earls Court) is 100% Design, the biggest of the contemporary design shows.  This is its twentieth year so there will be a rare vintage mix of design talent as well as five zones of British and international design products on show. I will be making a bee-line for the Eco, Design & Build hub, designed and curated by Thomas Matthews in partnership with SCIN Gallery. The Materials Landscape promises to take visitors to exciting new territory.  The Makers Carousel by Mette has caught my eye, with the Maker Library Network running a workshop making useful objects out of waste products on the 17th, including how to make bricks from business cards.  By the end of LDF we will probably all have collected enough raw material to join in!

jn1Elsewhere at 100% Design, I will be checking out Jennifer Newman Studio‘s M-Bamboo Table ; Lozi for his distinctive geometric furniture; Lucy Turner for her modern marquetry on upcycled mid-century furniture;  Pinch for the gorgeous, graceful pieces that I have been coveting for sometime; and the Wood Awards to see Namon Gaston‘s Fosse Desk and Sebastian Cox’s Ten Species Tall Boy.  The session entitled “The Big Question: What impact will synthetic biology have on design?” on Saturday 20th at 1pm featuring Daan Roosegarde, who has designed glow-in the dark trees using bio-luminscent qualities of jellyfish to replace street lamps, and Rachel Armstrong who designs buildings that repair themselves, sounds like an invitation to wonderland.

hgf02-8tct_IsixKfgucsy4VO7YNsksQ5fI_rcU7Jg0After a full day planned at 100%design, the evening of the 17th September is the SustainRCA Show preview and Awards.  With 36 finalists working with the value of waste, the plight of bees, great gadgets and smarter systems (the smart shopping app, Disclosed, is pictured left), the judges have a tough call.  Perhaps Mohammed J Ali’s A New Enlightenment which imagines a sharing economy around renewable energy, shared goods, services and information will triumph?  Ali used an independent Scotland as a case study, so by the end of this week it may no longer be an imagined scenario.

product_541062b2967991410359986145940Heading east is designjunction, taking place at the Old Sorting Office, New Oxford St. London from the 18th to the 21st of September.  I’ll be dropping in to see Made in Ratio’s updated Supernova table, with a new 100% recycled aluminium finish; marvelling at master craftsmen from Waterford Crystal and Bert & May at the Flash Factories; admiring ercol‘s and Anglepoise timeless classics given a bespoke overhaul as the part of the ‘A Child’s Dream’ silent auction (Tom Dixon’s design is pictured right); checking out Anthony Dickens light for new brand Made in the ForgeHend Krichen, cherchbi, Kristjana Williams, Africa Calling and Tom Raffield.  If it didn’t clash with the climate march, I would be back to hear Kathy Shenoy, Shake the Dust, and Heath Nash, South African designer and British Council ‘Maker Librarian’ discussing the rise in interest in regional artisans, craft and design work from around the world on Sunday 21st at 1.30pm.

sc1Further east still to Tent London at the Old Truman Brewery (18th-21st September) to catch up with (in no particular order) Daniel Heath glorious decorative finishes; Galvin Brothers new Cross Lap collection; Seascape Curiousities one year after launch; Sebastian Cox (Shake Cabinet, pictured left), as I can not attend an event where he is exhibiting without coveting his products; Seven Gauge Studios new woven cotton collection; and Tracey Tubb‘s geometric, 3-dimensional, folded wallpapers.

Around the fringe, The Big Small Show, at the Hoxton Basement Gallery (15th – 19th September) promises to be a thought-provoking with a group of recent graduates from the Royal College of Art’s Design Products course engage with contemporary contradictions of global versus local, craft versus mass-manufacture and more.

Bq_-6yMCQAALj3fAnother recent RCA graduate, Diana Simpson, is now designer in residence at 19 Greek Street, an innovative interior design studio, gallery,and materials library.  Simpson’s Glass Lab turns discards glass bottles into hand-crafted architectural materials, not least of which is the bar top at London’s newest private members club, Library (pictured right).

If you missed seeing Tom Raffield at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, he will be creating a woodland workshop at at Adventures in Furniture, Islington as part of the new Islington Design District.  Elsewhere, there is the debut of the Queens Park Design District, where I hope to sneak a peak at Christoph Behling’s woven wood.

revised_tracey_neuls_dps_1Oh, and there is also home, (co-located with Top Drawer) at Olympia from 14th-16th September for all manner of design-led homewares and interior accessories brands.  It will be a whistle-stop tour at best for me with so much to pack into one week.  And then it will be Decorex!

I”ll certainly be taking advantage of the West London Design District Visa promotion to invest in a pair of Tracey Neuls‘ shoes to ease my cycling around the city!

 

Image credits:  Benchmark; designjunction/Teddy’s Wish; Diana Simpson; SustainRCA; Thomas Matthews; Tracey Neuls

Related links:

http://video.ft.com/3775193342001/London-Design-Festival-Made-in-Britain/Editors-Choice

https://carefullycurated.co.uk/2014/04/10/what-a-lot-of-bottle-a-conversation-glass-lab/

https://carefullycurated.co.uk/2014/06/25/show-rca-ringing-the-changes/

 

Design Factory @ Clerkenwell Design Week

sc1The buzz at the entrance to the Design Factory was palpable for the opening of Clerkenwell Design Week 2014.   By lunchtime the queue to get in was snaking up the street, and with good reason, as there are some exciting stories to tell.

I raced upstairs to see the first pieces from a new collaboration between Sebastian Cox and Benchmark Furniture.  The Chestnut and Ash range, made from coppiced chestnut and well-managed ash, includes the SHAKE and LATH series.  The SHAKE cabinet (pictured left, w80 d41 h180) and SHAKE sideboard (w150 d45 h80) are made from a solid dovetailed ash carcass with doors made from cleft chestnut shakes, hence the name.  Cleaving is the controlled splitting of wood along its grain to create a unique, textured detail that speaks honestly of the materials crafted with such skill.  

sc2The LATH chair revisits the traditional ladder-back chair.  With laths split from freshly coppiced chestnut and a frame made from ash cut with a CNC router, it is epitomises this new, true collaboration.  The chair (w42 d50 h98) is available with a seat in either veg-tan leather, or natural Danish cord (both are pictured with the SHAKE sideboard).

Sean Sutcliffe, MD and co-founder of Benchmark, came across Sebastian’s work when he was judging the Wood Awards 2011 (Sebastian won the Outstanding Design category).  Sustainability and craftsmanship have been integral Benchmark Furniture   since it launched in 1983, and in 2007, Benchmark won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the Sustainable Development category, the first furniture maker to win this award.  It is the perfect springboard for Sebastian’s designs.  

sc3sc4Whittling away the hours, and sharing some greenwood working gems alongside a splendid Benchmark table was Barn the Spoon (here he is on the right whittling with Sebastian).  Barn started woodworking when he was 12, and has not stopped since.  He has a shop at 260 Hackney Rd, runs courses and the annual Spoonfest (tickets for 2o14 are already sold out).  Working with all manner of wood from London, sycamore, cherry, beech, birch and spalted alder (which has a lovely speckled look), Barn fashions that most essential, and treasured of kitchen implements with great eye for the grain.

It was impossible not to enjoy the arrestingly colourful outdoor furniture from Jennifer Newman.  The M-Bamboo Table and M-Bench were voted “Top Product” when first exhibited at last year’s Clerkenwell Design Week.  This year, they were back in exuberant fashion made from a base of aluminium (88% recycled and recyclable) with a durable powder-coating finish available in any RAL colour. As with the M-Bamboo, the top of the prototype table pictured is made of bamboo, which grows to maturity within 5 years, with light bamboo for inside, and dark bamboo for outside.  

jn1There is other colourful, functional outdoor furniture on the market, but look closely and the joy is in the detail of the Jennifer Newman pieces.  The crisp, clean lines as the aluminium folds around the seat of the A-Frame Bench are precise.  It takes skill to wrap like that, just ask my husband at Christmas!!  The planter on castors would be the perfect home for any citrus or similarly fair-weather plants as they can be rolled into warmer locations when the British weather dictates.

disciAround the corner, I lingered at the DISCIPLINE stand admiring their concise 2014 collection and manifesto that promises, “Natural materials, sustainability, durability, beauty and simplicity.”  DISCIPLINE works with 16 international designers to create function objects for everyday enjoyment from bamboo, cork, glass, leather, metal, stone, textile and wood.  I particularly liked the Drifted chair with its cork seat, but it was too early in the day to justify a sit-down!  The Drifted series, designed by Lars Beller Fjetland also includes stools, is available in a combination of natural, red and black painted base with dark or light cork seats, priced from £170 for a stool.

bd jaElsewhere, there are further contemporary reinterpretations of traditional chair-making techniques.  In particular, leaving the end grain of the legs exposed is used to great effect with the Holton series at James UK (pictured on the left in walnut) and the Occasional Peg table (440mx520mm) from  Barnby and Day (pictured here on the right).  I was also partial to the brass detailing on Another Country’s Bar Stool One.  The various foot rest options are apparently well-suited client of all statures and standings, and the back support steadies those late at the bar!

IMG_3452 IMG_3453There is plenty for the bijoux urban home, such as this clever and versatile folding Proppy chair from Devon-based Tandem Studio.  The chair can be used inside or out and is surprisingly comfortable with an adjustable back rest.  When not in use it can hang from a wall bracket, awaiting the next guest, or freeing your floor space for other things!  Available in solid oak or beech and finished in Osmo oil from £225!

phpThumb_generated_thumbnailjpgFor those inspired by RHS Chelsea Flower Show but without an inch of outdoor space, the boskke Sky Planter provides a bit of green indoors. Hanging from the ceiling the Sky Planter uses a terracotta disc to feed water gradually to the roots.  Made of ceramic or 100% pre-consumer recycled plastic the planters could keep fresh kitchen herbs very much to hand.

Today, Thursday 22nd May, is the last day of Clerkenwell Design Week so get there while you can, or you’ll have to wait until next year!

Photo credit: boskke; the rest my own!

 

 

Sebastian Cox Pop-up @ Heals

sc1Catch him while you can.  Tomorrow, Sunday 23rd, is the last day of Sebastian Cox’s Woodland Workshop pop-up in Heal’s Tottenham Court Road store.  Sebastian is an award-winning designer and maker, with a strong ethos of sustainability.  As you might remember from earlier posts, he is famed for his work with coppiced hazel, an ancient method of woodland management.

For the last couple of weekend’s Sebastian and his team (today, George) have been very much front of house for Heal’s ‘Made for you‘ series, hand crafting drawers in the store window.

IMG_3054The stack of drawers are for their latest Heal’s piece, a five drawer ‘Tall-boy’ in celebration of British grown hardwoods.  Each drawer is individually crafted using one of ten timbers, showing their distinctive grain, and colour, to subtle and stunning effect.  The timbers have all been sustainably sourced.  In fact, they can even tell you when the wood was milled and grown.  The Tall-boy pictured right is in oak, walnut, sycamore, London plane, and elm.  We were particularly struck by the flecking and wavy grain of the elm.  The undulating grain is what gives elm its characteristic strength.

IMG_3057Other timbers available are ash, brown oak, chestnut, hazel and birch.  The ‘brown oak’ is not a different species, but oak that has been infected with fungus, leaving it a rich tea colour.  The choice of timber and tonal scale is yours.  If you are undecided, you could order a pair and then mix and match the drawers to your heart’s content.  The Tall-boy retails at Heal’s for around £2,000, depending on your choice of timber.  Remember a thing of beauty is a joy forever!

IMG_3058Seeing Sebastian and George deftly making use of the range of hand tools was fascinating, for us, and our young daughters.  They were enchanted by this real-life Mister Maker, and thoroughly charmed when Sebastian used his hand plane to give them a couple of shavings that spiralled in their palms.  They watched, coyly, as George meticulously prepared a dovetail joint.  It was a moment for us all to appreciate the skill of hand crafting furniture, to connect the elegant piece with its humble beginnings and reflect on the beauty of Britain’s natural resources.

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.

Tent London & Super Brands highlights

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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!