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

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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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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26 Original Fakes for Melbourne Design Week

This exhibition text was originally written by Penny Craswell for 26 Original Fakes, an exhibition curated by Dale Hardiman and Tom Skeehan of Friends & Associates as part of Melbourne Design Week.

26 Original Fakes, Melbourne Design Week

Fake furniture takes the original design and perverts it. The image in the magazine might look the same, but the object is fundamentally different – not just in quality, longevity, function and aesthetics, but also in its very essence. What makes the original authentic is stripped away and all you are left with is an empty simulation. Read more

Object stories: Etched memories by Penelope Forlano

By Penny Craswell

The work of Perth-based designer Penelope Forlano explores memories, heirlooms and intergenerational meaning. En_Case (Engraved Casegoods) is a modular furniture piece with a series of patterns laser engraved to form texture on timber. These patterns act as visual snippets of memory; new combinations can be selected from a wide range of patterns to create a personal, customised version.

Hong Kong pattern by Penelope Forlano engraved on timber. Read more on The Design Writer blog
Hong Kong pattern by Penelope Forlano engraved on timber. Image: supplied

For this particular piece, Forlano conducted an interview with a family about their personal and ancestral past, going back as many generations as they knew about. Recurring or overlapping themes and stories, including significant places and experiences, were then translated into patterns. Read more

Melbourne house, with cloister

By Penny Craswell

While the word “cloister” evokes images of monks roaming crumbling monasteries, in fact the term merely refers to a covered walkway, usually with garden connections. Melbourne-based practice MRTN Architects has used the architectural device in a new alteration of a Victorian-era single-fronted terrace house in Carlton.

Carlton Cloister House by MRTN Architects. Photo:
Connecting old and new at Carlton Cloister House by MRTN Architects. Photo: Shannon McGrath

The addition to the house is placed at the back of the site, with the cloister connecting the two buildings. This layout has a number of benefits, offering an internal link between the two buildings while retaining valuable garden space. By orienting the cloister at the south of the site, the property also gains access to northern sunlight. Read more

Winners: Royal Doulton UNSW Art and Design Award

By Penny Craswell

I was delighted to be asked to judge the Royal Doulton UNSW Art and Design Award last month, in which students re-imagined Royal Doulton’s future in a collection of homeware and interior objects. The work was fantastically varied, with some students focusing on ceramics, some on metal, graphic design, textiles and other specialisations. The collections were inspired by the geometry found in nature, with prototypes supported by designs for retail display and point of sale, product packaging and Royal Doulton brand identity collateral. Each student also made a video about their entry, and there were some really creative responses – we almost wished we could give awards just for the videos.

Ripples by Joseph Turin, winner of the Royal Doulton UNSW Art and Design Award 2016. Image: supplied
Ripples by Joseph Turrin, winner of the Royal Doulton UNSW Art and Design Award 2016. Image: supplied
The winner was Ripples by Joseph Turrin, a series of ceramic pieces with patterns from nature created by painting, then sponging off the clay around it. The other three finalists were Phase by Annie Kuang, a teapot and cup set with a simple and clever geometry based on the atoms in a H2O molecule, Vessels for Change by Tulla Carson, a set of vases that featured markings based on the points of a map of Sydney, and River by Sherli Liu, a tea set with shapes reminiscent of architecture set on a timber board with moving elements inspired by the motion of water in a river. Read more

Notes from a design writer in residence

By Penny Craswell

An opportunity to work three days a week from the Australian Design Centre as a writer in residence has given me insight into the organisation’s role in Sydney’s craft and design community, and made me think in new ways about my own role in this community.

Australian Design Centre office, designed by Those Architects
Australian Design Centre office, designed by Those Architects

The Australian Design Centre has been around for decades, first called Craft NSW then Object, before being rebranded last year as part of a move to new premises in William Street. Primarily known for exhibiting a range of work by Australian designers and craft practitioners across a range of themes, some of which go on to tour around Australia, the ADC also holds regular talks and other events, sells work by local makers in their shop, produces educational resources and has a vital role connecting the design community and advocating for design. Read more

Top 10: Ethical design gift guide

By Penny Craswell

Design isn’t just about aesthetics, and to prove it, this ethical gift guide lists a few of the many designers and brands now donating to charity or committed to ethical practices. So, read on, this is your chance to give back this holiday season – not just to families and friends, but also to those in need.

The Pretty Fly pin by Annie Hamilton. Photo: supplied

1. Increasingly, community-minded makers and sellers are donating a portion of their profits to charities. Sydney-based multi-disciplinary designer Annie Hamilton donates 10% of sales from her pins and art prints to the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre to help support and empower people seeking asylum in Australia. With a focus on insects and patterns inspired by plants, including the Pretty Fly enamel pin set consisting of venus fly trap and matching fly, Hamilton’s work also includes clothing and scarves, made locally and ethically in Sydney by a small team of makers in Redfern. Read more

Review: Out of Hand exhibition

By Penny Craswell

‘Out of Hand’ is a new exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum that explores how digital technology is enabling new materials, processes and objects. It features more than 60 works by architects, designers, fashion designers and artists from around the world, with many focusing on new uses for cutting-edge digital design, scanning and printing technologies.

Exhibition design by LAVA. Photo: Peter Bennetts
‘Who This Am’ by Kijin Park (left). Exhibition design by LAVA. Photo: Peter Bennetts

One of the most impressive aspects of ‘Out of Hand’ is the exhibition design by LAVA. The architecture studio won a competition to design the space, which consists of a series of curving pure white forms in vertical bands that flow through the space, creating walls, plinths and sculptural forms.  Read more