Memphis: Avant-garde and the celebrity designer

By Penny Craswell

The news that David Bowie was a big collector of Memphis (over 100 items will go on auction at Sotheby’s in London on 11 November) makes sense – both were on the cutting edge of style in the 1980s and there is a little something of Ziggy Stardust in many of the designs.

Metropole clock, Memphis, designed by George J. Sowden, 1982
Metropole clock, Memphis, designed by George J. Sowden, 1982

Reflecting on Memphis, the Milan-based collective led by Ettore Sottsass that launched onto the international design stage in 1981, it is interesting to note its place in design history.  Read more

Review: Little Creatures Hong Kong

By Penny Craswell

Little Creatures is the latest Hong Kong restaurant by Charlie & Rose, a Hong Kong-based creative studio led by Australian designer Ben McCarthy. The venue is the first Little Creatures outside of Australia and is situated in Kennedy Town, where the cuisines range from seafood to Italian, to Mexican-Japanese fusion, all situated within a stone’s throw of Hong Kong Harbour.

Front facade of Little Creatures Hong Kong by Charlie & Rose. More on The Design Writer blog
Front facade of Little Creatures Hong Kong by Charlie & Rose. Image: supplied

 

Previously a warehouse space, the restaurant interior retains some of the original’s industrial grunge, overlaid with blonde timber joinery, bespoke furniture and some big, decorative red pipes that run through the space. Part of the brief was to create facilities for an on-site brewery and the gleaming metal brewing equipment takes pride of place behind the bar. Read more

Small concrete in Hong Kong

By Penny Craswell

Two recent graduates of architecture from Hong Kong University have created All Goods of Concrete, a new range of products exploring the use of concrete in small-scale objects and accessories. Yip Yi Kwan Jennifer and Lee Ka Anthony first started to experiment with concrete when building architectural models at university.

“Concrete appeared to be a dirty and difficult material to handle at the time,” says Jennifer. “Only when we started using it to make study models did we appreciate its simple and pretty texture.”

Mahjong in concrete, by Small Goods of Concrete. Photo: supplied, The Design Writer blog
Mahjong in concrete, by Small Goods of Concrete. Photo: supplied

 

In February 2016, the pair decided to extend their university experimentation with concrete, inspired by architects such as Tadao Ando who use it at a larger scale, pushing the boundaries of the material into industrial design and home decoration.

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Top 5: Conceptual rugs

By Penny Craswell

Rugs don’t have to make a big statement to be beautiful – many of the best rugs are designed to be subtle, with one concept differentiating it from the crowd. These five new rug ranges are made from a range of materials and with a variety of design ideas, all of which are successful in their originality and soft concept.

1. Armadillo&Co is an Australian company, founded by Jodie Fried and Sally Pottharst, producing hand-made, fair trade and sustainable rugs. As well as benefiting from the long tradition that their weavers in India, Nepal and Pakistan bring to these hand-knotted rugs, Armadillo&Co is also committed to social responsibility, supporting their weavers’ communities through building schools and other social programs. More on Armadillo&Co

Heirloom Collection, Persian Knot Rug, Babylon in Sterling Bronze by Armadillo Co. The Design Writer blog.
Heirloom Collection, Persian Knot Rug, Babylon in Sterling Bronze by Armadillo&Co. Image: supplied
Latitude collection, Berber Knot rug, Savannah in Chalk by Armadillo & Co. The Design Writer blog.
Latitude collection, Berber Knot Rug, Savannah in Chalk by Armadillo&Co. Image: supplied


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Iittala relaunches in Australia

By Penny Craswell

The popularity of Finnish design brand Iittala in Australia might not have come as a surprise to International Brand Manager of Iittala Siru Nori during her recent trip to Australia to rerelease the brand. But the ubiquity of Iittala glassware – in particular classic designs such as the Ultima Thule from the 1960s – and the number of collectors that the brand has here might have been less expected.

Iittala X Issey Miyake. Image: supplied
Iittala X Issey Miyake. Image: supplied

Perhaps the enduring power of Iittala is due to its timelessness – many of these collectibles look just as good now as they did when they were first released. The Alvar Aalto Vase is a perfect example of this, retaining its relevance thanks to its sculptural, architectural form without dipping in and out of fashion as so many other pieces do. Originally designed in 1936, this vase is mouth blown in Iittala’s Finnish factory where it takes seven people to make one vase. Read more

Design and Indigenous Australia: Lucy Simpson and Nicole Monks

By Penny Craswell

As a source of inspiration for designers and architects, Australian Indigenous culture should not be underestimated. At a recent talk on shield carving by Andrew Snelgar and Simon Penrose at the Art Gallery of NSW, I saw first hand the beauty of traditional shields, tools and weapons made by hand. I also learnt about practices such as the harvesting of timber from trees – up to two thirds of a tree can be removed without killing it.

 

Dhina digital print scarf. Image: courtesy © Lucy Simpson
Dhina digital print scarf designed by Lucy Simpson. Image: courtesy © Lucy Simpson

Two contemporary Indigenous designers drawing on Indigenous Australian traditions in their practices are Lucy Simpson, a textile and graphic designer who sells scarves, textiles, jewellery and objects under the name Gaawaa Miyay, and Nicole Monks, a designer working across art, interiors, fashion, set and surface design (Lucy and Nicole are both participants in the Arts NSW 2016 Indigenous Design Mentorship scheme facilitated by the Australian Design Centre). Read more

Object stories: Sprint chair by Sean Dix

By Penny Craswell

The Sprint chair by Hong Kong-based US designer Sean Dix is a lightweight, stackable chair and stool with a simple profile that belies its complexity. Originally developed specifically for the Bar Veloce, an Italian bar in Beijing, the series was named after the Vespa “Sprint Veloce” which is an Italian design classic.

Sprint chair by Sean Dix for Zenith. Image: supplied
Sprint chair is a stacking chair by Sean Dix for Zenith. Image: supplied


The origins of Sprint as a bespoke design for an interior are characteristic of many of Dix’s industrial design projects since he also runs his own interior design practice and often will design products for an interior that subsequently have a life of their own. For Dix and his team, the opportunity to feed industrial and interior design projects off each other brings many advantages, both creatively and for the business. Read more

Review: Connecting creators at Factory Design District

By Penny Craswell

It was bad luck that the worst storm to hit Sydney in decades happened to coincide with the most exciting new design event to make its debut in the city this year. Factory Design District is the brainchild of Kobe Johns who brought her previous experience on DesignEX and London Design Festival to the event, which ran over three days as part of Vivid Ideas.

Johns now runs joinery workshop JP Finsbury with her partner (in work and in life) Adam Price and envisaged Factory Design District as a way for manufacturers and makers to connect with the design industry and the design-loving public.

Factory Design District, held in Sydney in June 2016. Photo: Fiona Susanto
Factory Design District, held in Sydney in June 2016. Photo: Fiona Susanto

The mission of the event, which included stands by some 30 exhibitors, was to start a dialogue between those people who work in timber, metal, fabric etc. and those who are curious about the process of making, or who may want bespoke or off-the-shelf Australian-made and designed goods. Read more

Design for good: Wildlife conservation with Egg Picnic

By Penny Craswell

Egg Picnic is a Sydney-based design duo devoted to wildlife conservation. A mutual love of both design and the natural world was the starting point of the partnership which began when Chilean graphic designer and illustrator Camila De Gregorio met Australian industrial designer Christopher Macaluso in Milan in 2009. They found inspiration in each other’s work, collaborating across 2D and 3D to create illustrations, characters, prints, objects and art toys – at first in Milan, then in Santiago.

Galah by Egg Picnic. Image: supplied


Now based in Sydney, the pair sell illustrations, art toys and objects depicting birds and wild animals, using simple lines and shapes to create characters that tread a fine line between art, design and cartoon, but also exude a serene stateliness that is utterly contemporary. Prints of individual species include the Hooded Plover, Australian Magpie, Galah and Spotted Eagle Ray (to name just a few), while larger prints such as Marsupials of Australia or Birds of Australia feature a line up of creatures. All prints are signed and include information about the species with the purchase. Read more

Object stories: Hoshi lounge by Tom Skeehan

By Penny Craswell

The new Hoshi range, including lounge, armchair and bench, is the latest work by emerging Canberra-based designer Tom Skeehan, working with furniture supplier Stylecraft. Loosely translating as “star” in Japanese, Hoshi is inspired by the designer’s travels in Japan: “I have personally experienced their deep attraction to materials and process, combined with a rich understanding of how an object is made and the purpose / life cycle of the work.”

Hoshi lounge designed by Tom Skeehan for Stylecraft. Image: supplied
Hoshi lounge designed by Tom Skeehan for Stylecraft. Image: supplied

“Aesthetically, I admire the restraint and often minimal approach to many aspects of Japanese culture,  placing a strong emphasis on the overall process and individual daily ritual,” he adds. Read more