Top 10: Ethical design gift guide

By Penny Craswell

Design isn’t just about aesthetics, and to prove it, this ethical gift guide lists a few of the many designers and brands now donating to charity or committed to ethical practices. So, read on, this is your chance to give back this holiday season – not just to families and friends, but also to those in need.

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The Pretty Fly pin by Annie Hamilton. Photo: supplied


1. Increasingly, community-minded makers and sellers are donating a portion of their profits to charities. Sydney-based multi-disciplinary designer Annie Hamilton donates 10% of sales from her pins and art prints to the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre to help support and empower people seeking asylum in Australia. With a focus on insects and patterns inspired by plants, including the Pretty Fly enamel pin set consisting of venus fly trap and matching fly, Hamilton’s work also includes clothing and scarves, made locally and ethically in Sydney by a small team of makers in Redfern. Read more

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

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

Studio profile: Industrial designer Andrew Simpson of Vert

By Penny Craswell

Visiting his studio in Sydney, Andrew Simpson’s approach to design is instantly made clear. His studio and design house, called Vert, is packed full of prototypes, design objects and machines. As well as being a place where the design team gets on with their computer-based design work, the space is full of objects at every stage of making.

The VM Case being hand finished by Andrew Simpson of Vert. Photo: supplied
The VM Case being hand finished by Andrew Simpson of Vert. Photo: supplied

This is emblematic of Andrew’s approach to design. He wants to know how things are made, and to improve on that process himself by making something new, by “experimenting at the process edge of making” as he phrases it. Read more

Object stories: Macadamia wood design by Quench

By Penny Craswell

Quench is a group of Queensland-based designers who have been coming together each year for five years to exhibit their work both in Australia and overseas. In 2015, for the first time, the designers of Quench decided to take a more unified approach, deciding on one material – macadamia wood – and one theme – objects relating to food. The result is a series of objects that are handcrafted and beautiful, creating a truly Australian collection that tells a story. The name of the exhibition, which was shown at Tokyo Designers Week in 2015, is “Table Stories”.

Dr Crunch by Marc Harrison for Table Stories. Image: Supplied
Dr Crunch by Marc Harrison for Table Stories. Image: Supplied

For Table Stories, each designer has created a different story to tell. Marc Harrison, known for his Husque tablewares made of processed macadamia shell, has designed a macadamia nut cracker called Dr Crunch. Alexander Lotersztain, an Argentinian-born multi-disciplinary designer working under his brand Derlot, handcrafted Sclpt, a series of four spoons; Jason Bird, who sells furniture and objects under his brand Luxxbox, designed three objects called Vessel; Surya Graf, whose work spans architecture and industrial design, created Hex, a mortal and pestle grinder for fresh spices; and David Shaw, who designs furniture and is founder / director of the Street and Garden Furniture Co, created Prop, a sculptural object for holding hot food as well as a tea candle. Read more

Video: Christmas with One Two Tree

This is such a nice design story. Lucy and Ant McNamara were looking for a sustainable, Australian option for a Christmas tree when they decided to just go ahead and make their own. It was such a success that they created One Two Tree – trees that are not only beautiful, but also eco-friendly and long lasting, making them an excellent alternative to other Christmas tree options. Please enjoy their story in the video below.

One Two Tree with spots
One Two Tree with spots
One Two Tree comes in two sizes: 85cm tall and 150cm tall
One Two Tree comes in two sizes: 85cm tall and 150cm tall
Ant and Lucy McNamara of One Two Tree
Ant and Lucy McNamara of One Two Tree