London Design Review
:: making designers :: Making Designers at the SCIN Gallery was one of the highlights of Clerkenwell Design Week. As Benjamin Franklin said, and as the curators quoted, “Well made is better than well said.” So what better way to demonstrate the importance of making in secondary education than to show the school projects of Britain’s top designers alongside a piece of their contemporary work. It made the point more powerfully than any amount of words could have done. Curated by MARK and presented in conjunction with onoffice and Clerkenwell Design Week, the work on show included a model boat (below) by Oliver Marlow, co-founder of Tilt Studio, a plywood coat hook by Jay Osgerby, made using the same material and technique that he eventually used to design the Loop Table with Edward Barber, Ab Rogers’ ceramic living room, David Irwin’s balloon-powered car and a wonderful marquetry box by Gala Wright who has now created designs for MARK. A well considered and thought provoking exhibition.
:: may madness ::
London seems to have gone design mad this month, and it’s not even officially design week (that’s in September). First, there was Pulse at Earl’s Court, a design-led gift show, featuring Launchpad, an area dedicated to new designers. Then the first edition of a new design show; the May Design Series, hit Excel to much fanfare with four sections; DX, KBB, The Arc Show and Interiors London. And finally, Clerkenwell Design Week, which just gets bigger and better every year. My Clerkenwell Design Week started with a tour of some of the street installations - they are always a highlight and really add to the spontaneous ‘festival’ experience of the show. The Mirare Maze Folly (above) provided a fabulous ice-cream
colour palette to start the show - sadly the weather didn’t quite deliver ice cream temperatures! A short walk away was the first of four installations by Architecture for Humanity, a volunteer non-profit organization which promotes architecture and design as solutions to global social and humanitarian crises. Each ‘hut’ had a different theme reflecting the the work of the charity: The Green Hut was clad with and surrounded by edible plants (below right), the Water Hut included a cloud of pipes and a rotating water tank, the Textile Hut was an exploration of soft materials and the Remakery Hut was made using found objects from the Brixton Remakery centre. Other installations included the Tetra Shed by We Productise and 2(Hundred) is Company by Assemble (below left).
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:: launchpad top picks ::
I had my work cut out as official blogger of Pulse 2013 and judge of the Best New Launchpad Exhibitor award - there was so much great work! But the yellows and greys from Seven Gauge Studio immediately caught my eye.
Abigail*Ryan launched a new collection at Pulse. Their work is hand illustrated by Abigail before Ryan creates the pattern repeats and they work together to select colours. I loved the turquoise and blue colourway (bottom). I love Caslon&Co’s work, created using antique wooden printing blocks called ‘ornaments’ and ‘fleurons’ historically used in book and poster production. Andy Rouse’s geeky collection inspired his entire textile design business.
I also loved Hole in my Pocket’s range of products inspired by this motley crew! It was nice to see a fresh take on the seaside theme the stationery, cards and aprons designed by Allistair Burt were coastal without being corny.
I met Steph and Ellie aka Home Slice through the Southbank Centre’s mentoring project, Boost, so I was delighted to see them with a new range at Pulse. Their work is inspired by quintessentially English and often overlooked signage.
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May 2013 Another familiar face was Jessica Hogarth, winner of the confessions of a design geek Bursary, who’s gone from strength to strength since winning a stand at Home. I loved the grey wallpaper she had tucked away behind her cushions.
Emily Bucknell’s complex textile designs are all intricately hand screenprinted. I loved the grownup, understated aesthetic - and Emily’s enthusiasm at being at “her first proper trade show,” despite surviving on very little sleep! Kangan Arora says her work came about because she was homesick and missed the vibrant colours of India when she was studying at Central Saint Martin’s in London. It’s certainly got me daydreaming about a trip to India! (See p4-5)
When Holly Francesca asked me to describe what I liked about her maps (top) - the word ‘fresh’ popped into my head. I love the combination of something quite masculine and geeky with the bright, refreshing colour palette.
But when the time came to choose a winner, it was Joanna Corney’s architectually inspired surface design that won my heart. It’s full of her hometown of Brighton, graphic and yet somehow delicate, and definitely delightlyfully geeky.
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interview :: kangan arora
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What’s the most important thing to know about you? India inspires me endlessly. I like visuals more than words; colour, print and pattern... and a bit more colour for good measure! Where do your ideas comes from? The crazy chaotic life and street culture in India - from graphics on auto rickshaws and highway trucks, Bollywood poster prints, holy cows, a carnival of kites, to the ever curious characters in government offices, local markets, bazaars and tea stalls. There’s an inadvertent beauty and playfulness to be found everywhere you look in India and an attitude to design (if you can call it so) that’s ever evolving. I simply want to transpose these qualities to products that add some verve and vitality to people’s homes and lives - we’re becoming surrounded by ever so chic and tasteful shades of downpipe-grey at home, in restaurants, in shops... An eye-popping injection of colour helps to raise a smile! Why is it important to you to support makers in India? It is hugely important to me to support makers in India because they are part of my story.
Traditional production techniques are in danger of dying out because digital prints and cheap machine embroideries are rapidly taking over - skills passed down through families for centuries can be lost in a few generations if they aren’t protected and nurtured. We need a revival; for young designers who are sensitive to these crafts and skills to place them in a contemporary context and seize the initiative. How do you get from an initial idea to the final product? I start by taking hundreds and hundreds of photos of things that inspire me - walls, signs, objects; then abstracting forms and motifs from one, colour from another... A lot of the designing actually happens on the go in the studio: when I have put two or three patterns that I’m happy with on silkscreen, I just have a play around to see how they work together and in which colour combinations - this experimentation is really the fun part of the whole process, like unwrapping presents and never knowing what you might receive next! Once I’m happy with a final print, the making happens on our dinner table at home with a background score of old 60s Bollywood music and masala chai on tap! In terms of the final product, I am more or less a cushion lady at the moment, but we’re looking to make bags, bedding and tableware in the near future, so watch this space!
Describe a really good day and a really bad day in the life of Kangan Arora. On a good day the sun is shining, a riot of colour is coming together perfectly in the print room, endless cups of tea and creative company keep me going and I can take a leisurely bus journey back home (on the top deck!). On a bad day I mess up a complex four colour print when I’m three quarters of the way there, a big pot of printing ink explodes in my bag, Photoshop crashes at the crucial moment, I run out of chocolate and I have to get the Northern line home! What are you most proud of ? Being invited to showcase my work alongside designers I admire like Manish Arora and Pero at the ‘New India Designscape’ exhibition at the Triennale Design Museum in Milan last year. What advice would you give to an aspiring designer? Tell ‘your’ story instead of following trends. It will always be more interesting. And get loads of work experience with a number of companies - you’ll learn something new every time. What’s your favourite colour?! I should say pink because it’s the navy blue of India, but I do love a zingy mustardy yellow!
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:: cdw2013 in photos of numbers ::
Design Exquis was based on ‘exquisite corpse’ (cadavre exquis) the collective method of creation developed by the Surrealists, similar to the game ‘consequences’. Hosted in the Museum of the Order of St John, a stethescope was used as the starting point. Plant & Moss created the first object, Breathe, a beautiful light (below) that produces a repetitive glowing and dimming light inspired by lungs, and “making the audible visible”. Taking Breathe as his inspiration, Dominic Wilcox challenged the
idea of putting light bulbs in ceiling light fittings and instead hung a radio from the centre of the room, creating Sound Bulbs. Starting with the handle of Wilcox’s radio, Georg Oehler created Nagoire Light; a hinged oak box which opened to reveal a soft light diffused by feathers. Matthew Plummer-Fernandez uploaded an image of Nagoire Light to Google Image Search and selected one of the results. He used a computer algorithm to turn that into a design, and 3D printing to turn that into an object; Venus of Google.
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:: may design series :: A newcomer to London’s design scene this year is the May Design Series at Excel 19 - 21 May. It was much smaller than expected, but I did uncover a couple of absolute gems. Nobody & Co’s Bibliochaise was resplendent in gold. I spotted deadgood’s Wire Table Lamp and Invisible City’s Incunabular side table, and found some great work on The Cass stand - especially the upholstered Robin Day polyprop chairs by Jude Dennis, technician at The Cass and co-curator of Second Sitters. (Also see p10 - 11.) Craft Central had three rooms open as part of Clerkenwell Design Week. Solo Kojima’s Cloud Leopard was a miracle in paper-cutting - a lifesize leopard cut from a single piece of paper and representing months of work, was suspended from the ceiling.
:: craft central ::
Another room exhibited a selection of tableware including Design K’s Table for One, “an exploration of handles on bowls” by Jo Davies, and beautifully understated “natural and rustic” ceramics by Owen Wall. But my favoruite piece was right in the entranceway - Lotte Cole’s knife block (right), handmade in Sweden and inspired by the farm and forestry set up by her Great Great Grandfather that her father manages today.
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#CDW2013 in tweets I asked twitter what the best thing about Clerkenwell Design Week was... @ateliertally Hearing Marialaura Irvine speaking about her late husband James Irvine. A once in a lifetime event! @sunnyholt Loved indiosyncratic exhibitors at House of Detention though pretty cold for them and us! @carolinekamp: Indie retailers Farmiloe 1st floor, Tetrasheds, rad venues eg House of Detention & Farmiloe @SSAWhometrends: A festival by foot. Great design and atmosphere. @talkswithdesign Well for us it was the brilliant atmosphere @vitrauk for @talkswithdesign. A fantastic evening :) @creative_boom The House of Detention, discovering emerging talent & Johnson Tiles with their screen printing workshops @Hidden_Art @dare_studio Loved his stand - all #rijksmuseum and #rembrant inspired as in Milan @capitoltiles Meeting so many inspiring like-minded design addicts in the worldâ€™s most prolific design hub; beautiful London
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interview :: out of the dark
The exhbitors at May Design Series I was most keen to meet were Jay and Jade Blades, founders of Out of the Dark, a charitable social enterprise that “recycles, restores and revamps salvaged furniture as a means to train, educate and employ young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.” I spoke to the enterprising couple to find out more... What’s the most important thing to know about you? We’re trying to keep British crafts alive by getting the older generation to hand down their skills to a younger generation.
How did the idea come about? We have been running a youth organisation for 13 years. We wanted to give young people a sense of work ethic and new skills, and wanted to create something financially self sustainable. We were inspired by Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Restaurant, so looked at our own skills and passions. I used to work for an interior designer and studied textile design. Jay used to work in the building industry and his dad is a carpenter. We both love antique and retro design. And we are based in High Wycombe, which has a history steeped in furniture. So the idea of teaching young people to restore furniture seemed like it was meant to be!
What was the most challenging part about getting it off the ground? The worry that it would not work, but a lot of good things happened and we received a lot of local support early on. What’s your favourite part of your job? Jade: I love getting involved in the creative ideas and bringing different people together to achieve something amazing, both as a product and socially. Jay: I love taking young people on a journey of self discovery through design - each piece we finish is testament to what a previously disregarded young person can achieve with the right support.
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May 2013 What is it about furniture restoration that works so well? The young people we work with are living in a throwaway society where they get everything instantly. Restoring furniture teaches them that you have to put effort in to get results, and that when you do, you will feel proud. Traditional craft techniques take time, but they don’t take as long as GCSEs, so in a relatively short space of time young people see that they have turned something that was rubbish into something beautiful. How does this sort of work help build confidence? Young people learn skills in craft and business and most importantly they learn that work can be enjoyable and make you want to strive for a better life. The interaction they have with customers, craftspeople and our leaders make them feel happy to be doing something positive as opposed to taking part in activities that are detrimental to themselves and their community.
Tell me about someone you’ve worked with who’s really got a lot out of working with you? We work with a 14 year old girl, who two years ago was not doing well at school, hanging out with the wrong crowd, and getting involved in things that were very harmful to her development. Since then she has learnt to see life in a different way and start to understand that she needs to approach things differently. Now, she is doing so well at school that they are sending her as a representative to Italy and she is getting on well with her family. Tell me about a really good day and a really bad day in the life of Out of the Dark. A good day is when we are all working together in the workshop, taking a break to have lunch together as a ‘family’, discussing what is going on in each other’s lives, and then perhaps one of our teachers pops in, like our 92 year old chair caning teacher. A challenging day is when issues
from the street are brought into the workshop - no matter how hard you try to refocus the young people, they are distracted. So we stop and spend time sorting out how they are feeling and how they are going to deal with what they are facing. What advice would you give to someone wanting to set up a similar enterprise? You need to find a product or service that you can genuinely sell, as this really gets young people interested, and then make sure you have the right leaders involved. Why should somebody buy one of your products? You will get a unique piece of furniture, craft or art, and directly help a generation who have lost hope and will cause mayhem to society if they don’t get some support. What are you most proud of ? That we had the courage to start this up, and that we are still going strong, involving so many different people in the community.
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:: farmiloe building top picks ::
The hub of Clerkenwell Design Week is the Farmiloe Building; a Victorian former glassworks, once home to George Farmiloe & Sons, with a full height central atrium, and a courtyard perfect for a Canteen pop-up.
Grey with pops of colour was definitely a key trend at CDW this year - I particularly liked the Norton armchair in grey with coral pink piping by James. In his words: “We’re rocking coral pink this summer.” You are indeed James! Bethan Gray’s brogue tables have been a huge success in the original white, and in the green she developed for the Maggie’s Joy of Living project. She has now launched them in a ‘macaroon’ range of colours and I love them!
With a stand right next to the entrance, Devon design-duo Young & Norgate had me at hello! Made from black walnut and formica, their Animate bedside tables integrate the drawer mechanics into the visual design beautifully.
More gorgeous grey and, in this case, green came from &Then Design, who had a huge stand full of new products. I really like the midcentury-inspired wooden framed sofas that seem to be en vougue at the moment.
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Jennifer Newman is a fascinating lady to talk to and especially so when she’s got a range of prototypes in testing. The M-Bamboo table below is ready to rock and in these fabulous colours, it’s doing just that!
Another example came from Another Country - the contrast between the mismatched scatter cushion style seating and the more stuctured frame really appealled to me, as did the Scandinavean colour palette. Monotype were in residence with a range of products designed to showcase their library of typefaces and type designing services. For a type geek like me, the products could be a business in themselves. Gill Sans tea-towel anyone?! I love Dare Studios and I loved this new yellow light, looking particularly fetching against the industrial backdrop of the Farmiloe’s Shed. It has a little bit of personality to it, as Angelpoise have taught us the best lights do.
Finally, the window installation is always a highlight of the Farmiloe. This year it’s an IN-EI collaboration from Artemide and Issey Miyake; lighting made from recycled PET bottles. (Photo by Daniel Nelson ateliertally.com)
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:: design for good ::
I chaired a panel event at Clerkenwell Design Week entitled “design for good.” The reason I am so passionate about design, and the reason I write a blog, is that I believe design has an incredible power to make people’s lives better, whether that is something as simple as coat hangers that don’t get tangled up, or something as profound as Maggie’s, a charity that uses design and architecture to help people with cancer not to “lose the joy of living in the fear of dying” as founder Maggie Keswick Jencks put it. I was interested to put together a panel of design practioners coming at ethical design from different perspectives, either through doing good with their products or with the way they are made. First, we heard from Pi Global, the
agency behind the design of the Cola Life project, which uses the Coca Cola distribution network to get rehydration sachets and zinc to children with diarrohea in developing nations. The project won the Design Museum’s Designs of the Year ‘Best Product’. Chris Griffin explained that although the project was subsidised, the fact that each member of the supply chain made some profit was crucial in creating a “pull” effect to ensure distribution. Keith and Mark aka Mini Moderns told us about their recycled paint, made by remixing waste paint otherwise destined for landfill or incinerators. Their products are all made “in the UK by nice people” - something they have always believed in; firstly because it makes their jobs more enjoyable and
secondly, because it means they can ensure everybody within their supply chain is being paid fairly and working in safe conditions. Chloe Meineck, currently one of the Designers in Residence at the Design Museum, told us about her Music Memory Box for people with dementia. Each box holds items of particular significance to its owner, which play associated music when placed in the middle to help reinforce memories. She made the first box for her own grandmother and has just completed a residency at Falmouth University extending the idea to boxes for care homes where each resident has their own object. She said that most of her work to date has been funded through grants and she’s now looking to commercialise the project with the
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aim that families of people with dementia might buy the boxes. Kathy Shenoy spent two and half years living in Swaziland in Southern Africa working with an organisation called Gone Rural to bring design expertise to local craftswomen. This experience, together with her knowldge of the struggle creative graduates in the UK have in finding work, led her to found Shake the Dust in November 2012. She connects makers in the developing world with both designers and markets in the UK. Finally, Jade from Out of the Dark shared her story about teaching young people to make furniture, giving them new skills and confidence, while keeping British furniture making practices alive. Questions from the floor included how scalable the projects were. Chris Griffin explained that Pi Global had intentionally not protected the intellectual property, so Cola Life could be copied. The question of profit also came up. Kathy Shenoy explained that profit was a very important part of her business model and that helping both designers and makers to grow their businesses was part of what sheâ€™s trying to achieve. Made in Britain versus supporting developing nations was discussed with different panel members having very different approaches. Kathy Shenoy and Keith and Mark from Mini Moderns each explained that their decisions were about their own stories and very politely agreed that there was room for both in the market!
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:: house of detention top picks ::
really unusual 3D wall decorations (left). Naturally, the grey one was my favourite, but I loved the bold design. Sampling’s somehow sheep-like stools (bottom) just tickle me and I can’t help but love them. And finally, the trend
I think the House of Detention was my favourite venue at this year’s Clerkenwell Design Week - a subterranean Victorian prison made a dramatic, if somewhat cold and dark, backdrop for a crop of new designers. them so faithfully, including the measuring device down the side, which gives them a scientific feel. Katy Goutefangea’s graphic textile and paper designs (left) really appealled to me too. Camilla Webb Carter was showing some My favourite products, possibly of the whole show, were Donna Bates’ Parlour Lights (top), cast from the original moulds used to make milk collecting recepticles in the dairy farm where she grew up. I love the fact she’s reproduced
for concrete in furniture and accessories continues with this rather dramatic slab atop bright yellow legs by Foreign Bear Studios being one of two examples of concrete’s use in furniture in the House of Detention alone.
Published on May 29, 2013
A review of all things design in London in May 2013, including Pulse and Launchpad, The May Design Series and Clerkenwell Design Week.