Top 10: Ethical gift guide

By The Good Outfit

This year’s Ethical gift guide, which once again highlights the work of designers whose work is sustainable, socially inclusive, charitable or otherwise ethical, has been put together with the help of Nicky Lobo and Jess Noble from The Good Outfit, an ethical fashion news source “without all the beige”. Thank you Nicky and Jess for this stellar list of items, all of which are available now to help you make your Christmas shopping an all-good affair.

Mithila bag. Image: Ashira and Kin


1. If your present wrapping usually makes people cry on Christmas Day, Ashira and Kin has a solution that will put you in a new light. This brand-new Sydney-based collective aims to ‘explore diversity; educate and empower makers and consumers; and encourage intercultural exchange’ by bringing products from artisans, makers and designers across Nepal and The Philippines to Australia. These LOK-TA reusable gift bags and wine bags are crafted in ethically grown and sourced handmade LOK-TA paper made from the local Nepalese Daphne plant. Adding panache to the paper, original artworks preserve and celebrate painting traditions that have been passed down through generations of women in the Mithila regions. Read more

Review: Alleyway bar, Sydney

By Penny Craswell

Alleyway is a new micro whiskey bar tucked in a laneway behind 200 George Street in the centre of Sydney. Interior designers Angela Biddle and Shehani Kumarasinghege from Scott Carver had to make use of every millimetre in a tiny space with a width of only three metres.

Alleyway, with bottle shelving made of apple crates, interiors by Scott Carver. Photo: Luc Remond

Everywhere you look in this little spot, there is an interesting detail or pattern. Recycled Tea Grey timber was used for the bar front, contrasted with Bronze Verdigris metal finish for the bar serving ledge – this will patina with time. Read more

Review: Life Force installation by Lie Fhung

By Penny Craswell

Indonesian-born, Hong Kong-based artist Lie Fhung has created an installation work called Life Force II that was recently shown as part of her solo exhibition “Life Force” at the dia.lo.gue artspace in Jakarta.

Lie Fhung, Life Force II 2017, Photo: Sefval Mogalana

The installation features Fhung’s signature materials – clay and metal – consisting of a series of hanging elements in porcelain, glass and copper wire, dramatically lit against the matte black and dark timber-floored exhibition space. Each of the porcelain pieces is fragile, made with super thin clay. Lit as they are, some encased within glass bell jars, these objects acquire a certain precious quality, like little birds with broken wings.  Read more

Thinking about making, Sydney Craft Week

By Penny Craswell

Some of you may know that since April I have been working at the Australian Design Centre. As part of this position, one of my major projects has been to work with the team on a new festival, Sydney Craft Week, which runs until 15 October (there’s still time to check out events over the next three days – see the program).

Woodblock textiles printed in India, Galeecha Cultural Textiles exhibition at UNSW Art & Design, curated by Liz Williamson. Image: courtesy UNSW Art & Design

While exploring how things are made has long been part of my thinking on this blog and in my other writings, it is only now, thanks to Sydney Craft Week, that I have rediscovered my own love of making. When I was a teenager I painted, made candles, dabbled in making mosaics and more. Now I’ve taken up drawing, painting, pottery and knitting and am keen to explore other crafts (all at an amateur level of course). Read more

Object stories: Pacific chair by Barber Osgerby

By Penny Craswell

Last night, the new Pacific task chair by Vitra was launched by Unifor/Vitra at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. The guest of honour was Edward Barber, one half of British design duo Barber Osgerby, who spoke at length about recent projects.

Pacific Chair by Barber Osgerby for Vitra. Image: Vitra

I caught up with Edward after the talk for a quick chat and to find out what makes the Pacific chair special. First of all, it’s important to understand that the challenge of designing a new task chair is immense. This incredibly competitive market is dominated by a few key companies – for whatever reason, interior designers seem to settle on a few key chairs that they specify over and over again for workplace projects large and small. Read more

Studio addition, with minimalist design

By Penny Craswell

Sometimes creating something that looks really simple is the most difficult to achieve. Adam Kane Architects has created two new buildings for an existing home in regional Victoria that are characterised by extreme precision and adherence to a minimal aesthetic.

Blackwood Studio exterior by Adam Kane Architects. Photo: Adam Kane

The position of the new garage and studio creates a sense of arrival for visitors, while maintaining a line of sight between the dwelling’s entry and the street. The buildings’ positioning deflects the wind and directs views towards the surrounding gardens, while bringing light into the space – essential in a studio used for painting. Read more

The Red Room by Hiromi Tango at Sydney Contemporary

By Penny Craswell

Multi-media artist Hiromi Tango invited reflection on our emotional responses to the colour red in a striking installation for kids (and adults) at Sydney Contemporary recently. Called The Red Room, the work lived up to its name, built as a small room filled with red, within the large expanse of the art fair at Carriageworks in Sydney.

Hiromi Tango in The Red Room at Sydney Contemporary. Image courtesy Hiromi Tango

As well as featuring red walls, the space was filled with red objects made by Hiromi and her team, as well as by visitors to the space who were provided with red materials, paper and crocheted flowers to add to the artwork. Larger items in the space included red light sculptures that illuminated the surrounds and a red hanging chair, encouraging you to climb over and into the installation itself and rest for a moment. Read more

Object Stories: Toku furniture by Gavin Harris

By Penny Craswell

The production and sale of Australian design by Australian furniture retailers continues its magnificent rise with the release of several new ranges this year, including Toku, a furniture collection designed by Sydney-based Gavin Harris for Schiavello.

Toku designed by Gavin Harris for Schiavello. Image: Schiavello

The range is low-lying, available in a range of materials, most prominently a blonde or coloured timber and upholstery including some soft secondary colours, marking the move away from the bold primaries that used to dominate the workplace – almost playground-like in their bold colours and shapes as if we were not adults after all. Read more

Two white houses, with identical plans

By Penny Craswell

Two identical white rectangular houses placed at ninety degrees to each other in Melbourne’s East Malvern present an intelligent and cost-effective approach to residential design by Justin Mallia Architecture.

Oak Grove House. Photo: Shannon McGrath

Both buildings at Oak Grove feature the same folded front facade, derived from the site’s angular orientation to north, resulting in a geometry that breaks up what could have been a blocky appearance from the street, while enabling cross ventilation, north orientation and connection to outside. Read more

Review: Under the Sea by Tracey Deep

By Penny Craswell

The gently swaying forms of undersea plant life can contain fascinating folds, crinkles and patterns. Tracey Deep is an artist who sees the beauty in ocean plants, even after they have been washed up on a deserted beach. By making sculptures from these forgotten remnants, she introduces us to a world where even the most stinky seaweed can become a thing of beauty.

Sea Urchin, Tracey Deep, burnt willow. Photo: Nicholas Watts

Sydney artist Tracey Deep’s work was recently shown at Saint Cloche gallery in Sydney. In the exhibition text, Dr Prue Gibson draws parallels with the Cabinets of Curiosity or Wunderkammers of the 17th and 18th Century, calling Deep’s work: “her own cabinet of curious natural specimens”. Read more