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

Five designer-maker stories from Simple Shape

By Penny Craswell

A wide-ranging discussion with Helen Osgerby, design lover and the brains behind online store Simple Shape, takes in the changing precinct of Deptford in London, serendipitous encounters with like-minded individuals, the role of narrative and storytelling in design, and the (almost literally) polar-opposite weather: balaclava-cold in London, oven-hot in Sydney.

Our rapport is instant, despite the distance, perhaps thanks to Osgerby’s approach to design, which is very much focused on storytelling. “When something has a story attached it, it has a resonance,” explains Osgerby. “That was one of the things that was important in thinking about the business. It’s about quality too – feeling a glass jug is handblown for example, it’s very skilled and unique and incredible.”

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The pastel ceramics collection by Elliott Ceramics, Simple Shape. Photo: supplied.

The pastel collection by Elliot Ceramics, Simple Shape. Photo: supplied.
The pastel collection by Elliot Ceramics, Simple Shape. Photo: supplied.
I first heard about Simple Shape from Helen’s husband Jay Osgerby, half of London design studio Barber Osgerby, so it’s no surprise to learn that Helen is fully immersed in the design community, with plenty of knowledge and contacts (she tells me a story about working with “jelly architects” Bompas and Parr for an event where they decided it would be great fun to explode some jelly). 
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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

The design writer’s postcard from Adelaide

By Penny Craswell

Great design and architecture are in abundance in Adelaide which I dicovered during a recent visit. The city is completely new to me – I knew the Jam Factory’s reputation for good design and that some fantastic architecture firms – Woods Bagot, Hassell and Woodhead (now GHD Woodhead) – had begun there, but I was otherwise unsure what to expect. The trip came about when, having commissioned me to write an essay for the catalogue of the Jam Factory’s Glass: Art Design Architecture exhibition, Director Brian Parkes invited me to the opening.

Glass artist Tom Moore's work at Jam Factory Glass exhibition. Photography: Penny Craswell.
Glass artist Tom Moore’s work at Jam Factory Glass exhibition. Photography: Penny Craswell.



The exhibition, the catalogue and the opening did not disappoint. With studios offering an associate program in ceramics, glass, metal and furniture, and some great exhibitions, as well as a retail shop selling design objects, the Jam Factory is an important organisation for design both in Adelaide and nationally. In addition, Brian – an old friend from his Sydney days – has added his love of design, as well as extensive contacts in the field (recent appointments include Jon Goulder and Daniel Emma) and great curatorial skills to the mix. Read more