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

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

Five designs from Milan (from afar)

By Penny Craswell

This year I’m reporting on the fair from home in Sydney, but thanks to email and social media (hello Instagram), there is plenty filtering through already from the world’s largest furniture design event, the Milan Furniture Fair. Here’s five designs that have instantly caught my attention, from designers near and afar, even before the fair begins.

1. Ross Gardam’s Polar Desk Lamp

Since launching his studio in Melbourne in 2007, Ross Gardam has launched several furniture and lighting pieces and his Polar desk lamp is being shown at Ventura Lambrate in Milan this year. These photos by Haydn Cattach show a variety of colours and backdrops – it will be interesting to see how these translate to different environments.

Polar desk lamp by Ross Gardam. Photo: Haydn Cattach
Polar desk lamp by Ross Gardam. Photo: Haydn Cattach

Read more

Object stories: Carafe Table by Charles Wilson

By Penny Craswell

The Carafe table has a visual and structural complexity to it that is characteristic of the work of Charles Wilson, a Sydney-based designer who worked in close collaboration with Herman Miller over a period of years to complete the project.

Living Edge_Carafe table designed by Charles Wilson for Herman Miller_009-5
Carafe table with drawer designed by Charles Wilson for Herman Miller


The underside features a series of compartments in moulded plywood including open shelves as well as a closed, sliding drawer that opens both ways, sloping inwards to create a geometry that is tucked in under the tabletop. The leg structure spans to the corners of the table, supporting the shelves but visually forming a third layer underneath that is drawn together at the centre in a distinctive T cross-section which Wilson says references industrial structures. Read more

Object stories: Softly sofa by Nick Rennie

By Penny Craswell

Melbourne designer Nick Rennie was recently in Paris where French design brand Ligne Roset launched his latest design at Maison & Objet – the Softly sofa. For Nick, the sofa is really about comfort, creating a compact shape with high cushions that provide effective support while being extremely comfortable.

Softly sofa by Melbourne designer Nick Rennie for Ligne Roset. Photo: supplied
Softly sofa by Melbourne designer Nick Rennie for Ligne Roset. Photo: supplied

“The idea came from placing a number of cushions together vertically to form the sides and the back of the sofa,” says Rennie. “It has quite a high seat level as well, so its super easy to get up from. And the higher back and sides also have a little flex to them and yet retain their stiffness, which allows great support.” Because of its compact size, the sofa is much more flexible than many other options. Read more

Interview with Rolf Hay at HAY Sydney store

By Penny Craswell

Rolf Hay visited Australia at the end of January to open the new HAY Sydney store with retail partner Cult. Here is my interview with Rolf Hay on communicating design, the pros and cons of storytelling and what sets Danish design apart.

Penny Craswell: I’m interested in your approach to communicating design, because I’m writing my Masters in Design on design narratives at the moment.

Rolf Hay: To be honest we have always tried to be quite straightforward with communication. I’ve always had problems in wrapping products into stories. Storytelling is interesting if it’s relevant, the question is what is the important information. It’s different when it comes to communication of the brand and the values of the brand. But for products, we try to do as little as possible.

Reception with marble counter, HAY Sydney store
Reception with marble counter, HAY Sydney store

PC: I’m interested in which stories are told about products – and I have been quite critical of the celebrity designer angle.

RH: I totally agree. I think in the fashion industry and the furniture and design industry, a lot of people perhaps feel a little bit insecure in the fancy salons. The design industry has a reputation for being arrogant and hard to get. This has to do with an overload of information and stories behind how fantastic the company is, and how amazing the products are. For us, it’s important when we meet our clients that we meet them with an open and honest attitude. And of course it has been very important that we meet the client with a lot of knowledge about the product – about materials, about production, about environmental issues. For the client it’s less important if the designer had an idea to do this chair when he was at the beach or on the toilet. Read more

Review: Scented Intoxication exhibition by Lyn and Tony

By Penny Craswell

Lyn Balzer and Tony Perkins are a Sydney-based photography and designer/maker duo with an international sensibility, whose works are nevertheless deeply rooted in Australia. Their new exhibition at Sydney’s Australian Design Centre, called Scented Intoxication, features works made from a range of materials in two simple colours: black and white. But it is scent that is the most extraordinary feature of this exhibition.

Gallery view, Scented Intoxication. Photo: Australian Design Centre
Gallery view, Scented Intoxication. Photo: Supplied by Australian Design Centre

When you enter the exhibition space, it hits you right away, a beautiful, heady perfume that is not sweet or perfume-like in the traditional sense, but is reminiscent of burnt wood or native Australian vegetation or both. Lyn and Tony worked with French-born Australian-based Elise Pioch Balzac of Maison Balzac to create two scents for two scented candles: L’Obscurite (darkness) is a black candle with a scent inspired by one of Lyn and Tony’s photographs of a sea cave in Kiama NSW. Elise interpreted the image in a scent inspired by volcanic rocks using tree resin, birch tar and red cedar. The other scent is L’Etrangete (strangeness), a white candle with a scent inspired by another photograph by Lyn and Tony, this time of a waterfall in a lush rainforest. Elise interpreted this image of sunlight in greenery as a scent with lemon myrtle, native ginger and hemp. Read more

Five of the best design installations at London Design Festival

By Penny Craswell

As a fan of multi-disciplinary design as well as experimental projects, I was pleased to see so many design installations at this year’s London Design Festival. I have already covered three of the best installations in this blog: Heartbeat, an installation of 100,000 white balloons by French photographer Charles Pétillon, and two Faye Toogood installations (The Cloakroom and The Drawing Room) incorporating fashion, curatorship, making and sculpture. Here are five more and why they are interesting.

1) Curiosity Cloud by Viennese studio Mischer’Traxler at the V&A Museum

Curiosity Cloud by Mischler Traxler. Photo: Penny Craswell
Curiosity Cloud by Mischler Traxler. Photo: Penny Craswell
Curiosity Cloud by Mischler Traxler. Photo: PC
Curiosity Cloud by Mischler Traxler. Photo: PC

You enter an ornate room of the V&A filled with 264 suspended blown-glass bulbs hanging from the ceiling. In each bulb, a small insect hand-made out of transparent foil flutters against the side of the glass when it senses your movement. Katharina Mischer (1982) and Thomas Traxler (1981) met while studying at the Design Academy Eindhoven and started their practice in Vienna in 2009. Curiosity Cloud is part of their ongoing collaboration with champagne brand Perrier-Jouët exploring “small discoveries.” Read more

Review: Faye Toogood installations at London Design Festival

By Penny Craswell

The London Design Festival is a museum-focused design event, rather than a commercial fair, and this is evident in the number of installations, talks and object exhibitions included. Two of the most amazing installations this year were by London-based designer Faye Toogood: The Cloakroom at the V&A Museum and The Drawing Room at Somerset House.

Coats are made of Kvadrat fabric at The Cloakroom by Faye Toogood. Photo: supplied
Coats are made of Kvadrat fabric at The Cloakroom by Faye Toogood. Photo: supplied
I first met Faye when she visited Sydney for The Blocks, a multi-sensory installation she created for Penfolds Wine at Sydney’s Walsh Bay in 2012 (read my article here). At The Blocks, Faye reinterpreted five flavours of wine grapes using the sommelier’s notes, working with sculptors, perfumiers and artists to create the installation inspired by the description of the scent. This is typical of her approach, which is not only focused on making objects, but also includes a conceptual and curatorial element. Read more