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

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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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

Marlu (kangaroo) furniture by Nicole Monks

By Penny Craswell

Marlu (kangaroo) is a new range of furniture by Indigenous Australian designer Nicole Monks that draws on her rich cultural heritage in a highly crafted, bespoke series of design furniture pieces that are profoundly Australian. (See my previous article on Lucy Simpson and Nicole Monks)

Nyinajimanha (sitting together) stool and table with kangaroo skin by Nicole Monks. Photo: Boaz Nothman
Nyinajimanha (sitting together) stool and table with kangaroo skin by Nicole Monks. Photo: Boaz Nothman

Launched at the Australian Design Centre in Sydney last week, the range features three seating elements: ‘wabarn-wabarn’ (bounce) inspired by the movement of a kangaroo, ‘walarnu’ (boomerang) inspired by the shape of the boomerang used to hunt the kangaroo and ‘nyinajimanha’ (Sitting Together) inspired by the gathering around a table or camp fire to eat kangaroo tail stew. Read more

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

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

Milan 2016: Ex.t thinks beyond the bathroom

By Penny Craswell

Based in Florence, Italy, ex.t has always pushed boundaries when it comes to bathroom design, striving for simplicity and elegance while thinking outside the basics of bath, basin and bowl. This year, they launched two new ranges, in both cases commissioning a non-bathroom designer to create something different to go alongside their bathroom products.

Plateau and Raso designed by Sebastian Herkner for ex.t. Image: supplied
Plateau and Raso designed by Sebastian Herkner for ex.t. Image: supplied

In the case of the new Plataeu and Raso collection, German furniture designer Sebastian Herkner was approached to design a range that includes mirrors and pendant lights in addition to washbasin, console and bathtub. An architectural language is created through the use of a shelf that sits just behind and below the rim of the basin, console and bath, creating a functional space to rest bathroom items, while also adding the illusion of a shadow or extra dimension. The mirror features the same shadow, an extension to the oval shape by way of a transparent frame on one side only. Meanwhile, the Raso lighting pendants in pink, grey, white and transparent glass offer a complementary design object that softens the bathroom interior. Read more