Object stories: Beraking table by Jack Flanagan

By Penny Craswell

This unusual design replaces traditional table legs with three large balls that allow the table to roll across the floor. Perth furniture designer Jack Flanagan was inspired by ball bearings, and in particular by the spherical stones that make up the gravel roads in Western Australia and create a slippery surface for rally car drivers.

Beraking table by Jack Flanagan. Photo: Toby Peet. Image: The Design Writer
Beraking table by Jack Flanagan. Photo: Toby Peet

“[These stones are] completely unique to the south west of Western Australia,” Flanagan explains. “I was interested in the way in which, when driven on, it becomes very slippery due to the spherical stones rolling over the hard compact base. I became well experienced with this sensation in my past as a rally driver.” Read more

The history of violet: Artificial Regality by Naama Agassi

By Penny Craswell

The history of the colour purple has led to its high value prior to synthetic production, meaning it has had long associations with royalty, the church and power. This is the subject of designer Naama Agassi’s latest colour research, called Artificial Regality.

Imperial Purple by Naama Agassi. Photo: Talia Rosin

According to Agassi: “In the past, the purple was a coveted colour used to denote wealth and power. This is because until it became artificially manufactured, its production was a lengthy and laborious task. It took as many as 250,000 snails to yield just one ounce of usable dye. As always in design, supply and demand generate desire and prestige. Read more

January reading list: Design and architecture

By Penny Craswell

January is an excellent time of year to catch up on reading, including those design and architecture books you accumulated during the year but didn’t have time to read, or those you were given for Christmas. Here’s my list.

My January reading list, 2018, Penny Craswell, The Design Writer
My January reading list, 2018

Hello World by Alice Rawsthorn (2013)

At 288 pages, this is a book that can be read straight through like a novel, or dipped into as you like. With chapters like “What is design?” and “Why design is not – and should never be confused with – art”, the book addresses the basics of design in a style that is both straightforward and instantly engaging, but Rawsthorn’s examples are its true strength. Her journalism background means she draws from every element of life, describing, for example, how the pirate flag was an example of early communication design (page 29-30). Thought-provoking reading. Also don’t forget, her new book Design as an Attitude is out this year. Read more

Object stories: Botanical planter screen by Helen Kontouris

By Penny Craswell

It seems that us city-dwellers have gone crazy for all things green over the last couple of years, and Melbourne designer Helen Kontouris has responded with an inspired take on the screen that also acts as a planter, creating curtains of vertical greenery that will suit the smallest interior space or balcony.

Wattle, Acacia and Banksia Botanical planter screens by Helen Kontouris for LEN Furniture. Image: supplied

Designed for LEN Furniture, the  Botanical Planter Screen is self-watering and suits climbing plants, with only one plant per screen required for the full effect – you can even plant climbing vegetables like tomatoes, passionfruit or snow peas.  Read more

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