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). 
Read more

Object stories: Illusory ceramics by Jin Eui Kim

By Penny Craswell

South Korean-born, Cardiff-based ceramicist Jin Eui Kim has created a series of ceramics using a layering technique that results in patterns with an optical illusion effect. I discovered his work at the Contemporary Ceramics Centre in London and was immediately impressed by the precision of the pieces, and balance of form and patternation.

OPject Instability no.9, D: 30.8 cm × H: 6.7 cm, 2015, Jin Eui Kim
OPject Instability no.9, D: 30.8 cm × H: 6.7 cm, 2015, Jin Eui Kim

Jin throws the pots on the wheel and then applies paint in 18 tonal bands from black through to grey and white to create a distinct stripe that deceives the eye, playing with concave and convex shapes. The occasional red or pink band serves as a highlight, while the finish is matte rather than gloss, providing a muted effect that is subtle and beautiful. 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

Irish Design at Tent London

By Penny Craswell

At Tent London during the London Design Festival, I was impressed to see the high quality of Irish design at a government-funded exhibition organised by the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland. Called ‘Ó’, meaning ‘from’ in Gaelic, the exhibition’s focus was on design informed by decades-old craft techniques, remote locations and local materials. And they didn’t just show the finished works, but also presented live demonstrations of the crafts practitioners at work.

Atlantic Herringbone Throw by Foxford Woollen Mills, Fox & Rabbit and Bellevue Folly puzzle by Saturday Workshop, Multi purpose oak board by Tony Farrell. Photo: supplied
Atlantic Herringbone Throw by Foxford Woollen Mills, Fox & Rabbit and Bellevue Folly puzzle by Saturday Workshop, Multi purpose oak board by Tony Farrell. Photo: supplied

I saw ceramicist Adam Frew throw a beautiful bowl on the wheel and everyone around was mesmerised – with very few watching through their phones (rare in this day and age!). He prefers to work by throwing pots, using white porcelain, because it allows him to be fast and spontaneous in his making: “It is important to maintain a flow in the production while constantly developing the work. It is an on-going journey with every new piece inspired by the previous form,” says Adam (ref: Give Irish Craft). Read more

Review: Charles Pétillon and 100,000 white balloons

By Penny Craswell

One of the most spectacular sights I saw at the 2015 London Design Festival was Heartbeat, an installation of 100,000 white balloons at Covent Garden. Arguably not a work of design at all, but an art installation (and instant tourist attraction!), the work is simple, bold and works wonderfully well. I had seen photographs of the work before I went, but in person, the work is even better, extending beyond the eye can see (over 50 metres) and rippling with the wind, reminding the viewer that this is a cluster of balloons and not a solid sculpture.

The installation is installed at the 19th Century building in Covent Garden. Photo: Penny Craswell
The installation is installed at the 19th Century building in Covent Garden. Photo: Penny Craswell

The work is part of a series of photographs by French photographer Charles Pétillon who calls his series Invasions. In each scene, the white balloon is used, transforming a simple, childlike object into a an amorphous shape that changes our perception of the scene. In each photograph, the white balloons can be imagined as a white cloud, or a growth, depending on your perception, hence “invading” the scene. Read more

Video: Alphabeta by Luca Nichetto at London Design Festival

Alphabeta is a new lamp designed by Italian Luca Nichetto for Hem, a brand that only launched last September 2014 at the London Design Festival. Hem’s first UK retail store opens this Saturday 19 September as part of this year’s festival, and an installation celebrating Alphabeta will come to life from 21 September at Somerset House.

More about Hem

Try the Alphabeta online configurator

London Design Festival guest post by twitter

Today, our first guest post comes in the form of some choice updates by excellent London-based design writer (and friend) Giovanna Dunmall who has agreed to let me blog her twitter feed during the London Design Festival.

Design writer Giovanna Dunmall at the Ace Hotel with Martino Gamper doughnuts as part of the London Design Festival
Design writer Giovanna Dunmall at the Ace Hotel with Martino Gamper doughnuts as part of the London Design Festival

Many of the posts are familiar names to us, including designers Omer Arbel, Philippe Starck and Barber Osgerby, brands like Wrong for Hay and venues like the Ace Hotel and V&A Museum.

Check out Giovanna’s web page here or follow her @JournoGiovanna. Read more

Design writings: Pop-ups and London collective Assemble

“It wasn’t the Summer of Love, nor yet the Winter of Discontent, but it is possible for impatient trend historians to look back to 2010 and discern the Autumn of Pop-Ups. For then it was that underemployed young architects and architectural students, finding sites left momentarily vacant by a lull in south-east England’s property orgy, used their energy, initiative and willingness to work hard for no more reward than personal satisfaction, to create short-lived projects of wit and charm.”

In a new article for the Guardian, architecture critic Rowan Moore begins by commenting on the “autumn of pop-ups” in London, 2010, congratulating the experimental spirit of the originals and lamenting the commercialisation of the typology in recent years. (Pop-ups have also been in vogue in Australia, becoming more and more corporate and further from their makeshift roots – probably the beginning of the end was when Myer announced their pop-up).

Moore names the best pop-up, a cinema called Cineroleum in an old petrol station by a group later calling themselves Assemble. He then talks about how their work has continued in the same experimental vein.

“Assemble neither gave up nor sold out, but now are applying what is actually good about pop-ups to projects of wider significance.”

Their work includes an adventure playground, a social workplace called Yardhouse and a temporary music practice space for Cafe Oto, all projects that push boundaries and have community at their heart.

Read the article here.

London’s Chiltern Firehouse restaurant and hotel

Chiltern Firehouse exterior
Chiltern Firehouse exterior

There is a wonderful profile of Andre Balazs in the latest issue of Porter magazine (Summer 2014), in which he discusses his latest hotspot in London, the Chiltern Firehouse.

A dynamic man who surrounds himself with celebrities (including a string of high profile girlfriends such as Uma Thurman and Pippa Middleton), the Firehouse restaurant is an extension of this magnetic personality – a Google search for Chiltern Firehouse turns ups Orlando Bloom, Kiefer Sutherland and Heidi Klum. It makes sense that Andy Warhol was a close friend.

Balazs takes a personal approach to every hotel and restaurant in his stable and comments in the article that he has slept in every room of the Firehouse: “I need to know what every room feels like.”

The restaurant interiors by French designers Studio KO make the most of the existing architecture of the building, a former firestation in red brick built in 1889. A large kitchen is completely open, while the dining room is in white, with grand white columns, high banquettes separating diners in booths and cane chairs providing a relaxed feel. There are a few great pics of the interiors at The Telegraph.