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

The NYC graphic design geek tour

Guest contributor Jane Connory presents a guide to seeing the work of some of America’s graphic design rock stars in the wild, written while she completed the Summer Intensive in Design Criticism at the School of Visual Arts.

The SVA is where Debbie Millman records her Deign Matters podcast. Photo: Jane Connory
The SVA is where Debbie Millman records her Design Matters podcast. Photo: Jane Connory

Manhattan is known for its towering, architectural skyline and this tour begins right in the middle of it, in the magnificent neo-gothic lobby of the Woolworth Building. If you make an appointment, you can take a lift up to the 17th floor to visit an Aladdin’s cave of graphic design treasures in the AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) archives. Filled to the brim with graphic design gems, this treasure trove holds original print runs of every AIGA medalist’s work including breakthrough digital designs by April Greiman. Read more

Women in Design at Design Tasmania

By Penny Craswell

This is the third year of Women in Design, a conference with an all-female line-up of speakers held in Launceston by Design Tasmania. Attending for the first time this year, my expectations were high – those I’d spoken to who attended previous years had given glowing reports. And I was not disappointed – this conference is inspirational and empowering in a profound way. This year’s theme – design for social engagement – may have added to the overall sense that this group of women are not only inspirational, but also highly authentic, hard-working and intelligent. Each shared her research, design practice, business or personal experience with a level of truth and dedication to the subject that was outstanding.

Women in Design was held in Launceston. Photo: Bruce Moyle, Joffre Street Productions

The whole event began with a beautiful welcome to country by Tasmanian Aboriginal Elder Aunty Patsy Cameron who led a smoking ceremony – the coals from the fire warmed the cold Tasmanian air and sent up clouds of smoke from the burnt eucalyptus leaves. Cameron then prepared a bowl of ochre, painting a moon and two stars on the hand of each woman present, while the men were asked to dip their thumb in the ochre. After moving back inside and a presentation on local produce from Kim Seagram from Fermentasmania and Harvest Market Tastings, a panel discussion was led by Karina Clark, CEO of Design Tasmania and mastermind of this year’s Women in Design event. Clark interviewed two of the makers who worked with Kirsha Kaechele on the Pro Paradox exhibition currently on show in Design Tasmania’s gallery. Sabrina Evans (Sabia) discussed her textile and fashion work including the kimonos she made for the project, while Nana Bayer shared the story of her ceramics, including a series with shapes inspired by the vulva. Kirsha Kaechele, artist and art curator, wife of David Walsh of MONA fame and larger-than-life personality around Tassie, was on hand to describe how the pieces fit into the puzzle – a performative feast-as-installation that evolved from her fertility-themed wedding feast. Read more

Textile Fashion Style File: The Milan Report 2017

From hand-made to mass production, textiles have the power to tell stories and increasingly furniture designers are finding opportunities to cross over into the fashion world. Penny Craswell explores new concepts and material qualities in textiles and fashion at Milan this year.

Shield by Wiki Somers for Kinnasand.
Shield by Weiki Somers for Kinnasand

In the flagship showroom of Swedish textile company Kinnasand at Corso Monforte, a series of kite-like shields fly overhead, an installation created by Studio Weiki Somers from Rotterdam. The installation is the material manifestation of a new research initiative called Kinnasand LAB in which design director Isa Glink collaborates with external designers to interpret existing textiles and innovate new products for the brand. The resulting product – Shield – consists of semi-transparent layers of embroidered fabric with wooden panels, like large ice-cream sticks, that can bring rigidity and weight to the fabric or be removed to increase flexibility and transparency. For Weiki Somers the experience of working with Kinnasand made her reflect on the qualities of textiles: “The qualities of a material can strengthen the connection between a person and an object. Especially textiles can stimulate our senses and more than other materials they can evoke memories and emotions, and make you feel at home,” she says. Read more

Highlights from Milan Design Week 2017

By Penny Craswell

This year, for me, Milan Design Week is all about The Milan Report 2017, a self-publishing venture that I’m launching along with the excellent Giovanna Dunmall (London design expert and writer) and Marcus Piper (multi-talented graphic designer, designer, typographer and writer).

We’re currently putting together a range of design week Q&As, themed features, diaries, picks, contributions from experts, as well as original photography, graphic design and typography – to see for yourself, pre-order here.

And, while I dedicate my time to that, check out a few highlights in picture form as follows – all photos taken by me.

A string quintet plays in the garden of Casa degli Atellani, where Da Vinci lived while painting the last supper – really! – thanks to AirBNB.

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Review: Design Museum, London

By Penny Craswell

The Design Museum London has moved into new premises on High Street Kensington, a 1960s building that has been rebuilt around its original parabolic roof with new interiors by master of minimalism John Pawson.

London Design Museum with interiors by John Pawson. Image: supplied


Set on the edge of Harold Park in the up-market neighbourhood of Kensington, the building was only made possible thanks to a new block of luxury flats built next door with architecture by OMA that includes the Design Museum shop on its ground floor level. Read more

Highlights from Melbourne Design Week

By Penny Craswell

This year’s Melbourne Design Week centred on the topic “design values”, covering furniture, objects, installations, publishing and architecture. Apart from the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), the other key venue for exhibitions and events was Watchmakers, a temporary exhibition space in Collingwood donated by the owner of Piccolina Gelateria, who will be building their kitchen and gelateria in the space following the event. Folk Architects was responsible for its transformation, stripping back the space to its original patina and applying subtle use of mirrored Laminex to provide an ideal site for the experimental exhibitions within. Here are some of the highlights of this year’s event.

1. 26 Original Fakes

This exhibition at the Watchmakers venue by young designer/curators Dale Hardiman and Tom Skeehan of Friends & Associates challenged 26 designers to modify a fake Jasper Morrison Hal chair as a statement on Australia’s replica industry. The resulting show explored a huge range of issues, from authenticity, to ethics, to material concerns, with a dose of humour thrown in. I was very pleased to write the accompanying exhibition text myself – see my separate post. More on 26 Original Fakes.

Tom Skeehan (left) and Dale Hardiman (right), curators of 26 Original Fakes at Watchmakers, part of Melbourne Design Week. Image: supplied
Exhibition view of 26 Original Fakes. Photo: Wayne Taylor


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