Festival of Natural Fibres & Saori weaving at Craft Central

craft central  craft central

 

Even though I live in London, I don’t often venture away from my neighbourhood or the centre, and I had no idea where the Isle of Dogs is until I looked it up on google. I have not been to the Craft Central‘s new venue since they moved across town more than two years ago. Their new space is a Grade II listed Victorian (1860) forge with many historic features located Isle of Dogs not far from Canary Wharf. The spacious industrial building was converted by Emrys Architects to provide artist studios and exhibition hall for crafts people and other creative professionals.

I missed the Festival of Natural fibre in Sept, but I attended part 2 of the festival in November. Organised by Khadi London, Freeweaver SAORI Studio, ONE and Craft Central, the festival aimed to showcase the best ethical and sustainable products, and discussed current trends and challenges in the revolution in the global textiles industry. Personally, I I believe that when the public learn more about the environmental damage caused by fast fashion, many are likely to change their shopping habits (though it takes times), and this festival highlights the beauty and sustainability of textiles and fashion made from natural fibres.

 

craft central  craft central

craft central  craft central

 

There were textiles workshops throughout the day, but unfortunately they were all fully booked when I tried to book. It shows the popularity of these craft workshops nowadays!

 

craft central  craft central

craft central

craft central

craft central

 

There was a demonstration of Indian Charkha wheel spinning, a craft that is often associated with Mahatma Gandhi and regarded as the symbol of the Provisional Government of Free India. The handwoven cloth spun by the wheel is called Khadi, which is usually made of cotton or other natural fiber cloth originating from India and Bangladesh. Also, the yarn used is dyed naturally, so it is much more sustainable than synthetic dyes.

 

craft central  craft central

house of tamarind  house of tamarind

Bottom: House of tamarind

 

At the event, there were some items that are woven with natural fibres in the Japanese Saori weaving style, which I found quite fascinating. Established by Misao Jo (1913-2018) at the age of 57, Saori is free style hand weaving with no rules or restrictions. There is a sense of freedom and liberation, and it enables the weaver to express his/her creativity through the weaving.

Although I couldn’t sign up for the workshop on the day of the festival, I did sign up for a workshop with textiles artist Erna Janine from Freeweaver Saori studio a few weeks after the event ended. Erna helped us to set up the loom and asked us to pick from a wide range of coloured threads from her studio.

 

freeweaver saori  freeweaver saori

freeweaver saori

 

For next few hours, we were just weaving away and being as creative as possible. Since there were no rules, I decided to go a bit ‘wild’ and make a more 3-D piece with the wool I found. I absolutely loved the experience, and I wished that the workshop was longer. I used to think that weaving is a boring and repetitive task, but this workshop completely changed my mind, and I am hoping to learn more about this craft in the future.

 

craft central

freeweaver saori

freeweaver saori  freeweaver saori

 

The splendid Dale Chihuly exhibition at Kew Gardens

sapphire star dale Chilhuly

Sapphire Star, 2010

 

I am not sure why it took me so long to visit the ‘Chihuly – Reflections on nature‘ exhibition at Kew Gardens, but I finally managed to catch it a few days before it ended. It was not the best day to visit Kew, but the autumn foliage made up for the grey and drizzly weather.

I was glad that I made it because I thought it was was the best U.K. exhibition I saw this year. American artist Dale Chihuly‘s stunning nature-inspired glass sculptures did not look out of place at Kew, in fact, they undoubtedly enhanced the gardens in many ways.

 

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Chihuly at Kew

 

With a map in hand, I wandered around the gardens in search for his 32 sculptures installed at 12 different locations. Aside from the Rotunda Chandelier at the V & A entrance, I don’t recall seeing a lot of Dale Chilhuly‘s works in the U.K., so this exhibition was a fascinating opportunity to see an artist who has spent the last 50 years perfecting and experimenting on a skill/craft/art that he loves. Even on a grey day, Chihuly‘s glass sculptures still looked magnificent, and it was hard not to be gobsmacked by the intricate craftsmanship and dazzling colours.

 

Temperate House Persian

Temperate House Persian  Temperate House Persian

Chihuly at Kew

Chihuly at Kew  Chihuly at Kew

Fiori Verdi

Chihuly at Kew

 

Besides the outdoor sculptures, the indoor ones looked marvelous too. The Temperate House Persians – a new artwork specially designed to be suspended inside the world’s largest and newly restored Victorian glasshouse could be admired from below and above. Meanwhile, some of his other works inside the glasshouse appeared to be camouflage e.g. ‘Fiori Verdi’ among the exotic plants, which was quite a pleasant surprise for the visitors.

 

‘Summer Sun’, 2010

Opal and Amber Towers, 2018

Lime Crystal Tower, 2006

 Scarlette and Yellow icicle tower

Top: ‘Summer Sun’, 2010; 2nd row: ‘Opal and Amber Towers’, 2018; 3rd row: ‘Lime Crystal Tower’, 2006; bottom row: Scarlette and Yellow icicle tower, 2013

 

One of the most conspicuous outdoor sculptures at the exhibition was ‘Summer Sun’, a bold piece consisted of 1,483 separate elements. Yet the most complex one is ‘Scarlette and Yellow icicle tower’, which has 1,882 separate elements.

Out of all the installations at the gardens, my personal favourites were the ‘Niijima Floats’ and ‘Ethereal White Persian Pond’ inside the Waterlily House. Named after a volcanic island in Tokyo Bay, the ‘Niijima Floats’ installation at the Japanese rock garden was made up of brightly coloured glass spheres in various sizes, some of which weigh up to 60 pounds (27 kg). A series introduced by Chihuly in 1991, the colourful spheres looked unexpectantly harmonious with its surroundings; I especially liked the Chinese pagoda backdrop. I felt a sense of tranquility and balance looking at this installation, and it was unfathomable by intellect – you could only feel it, which probably made it more powerful.

 

'Niijima Floats' (1992 - 2008)

'Niijima Floats' (1992 - 2008)

'Niijima Floats' (1992 - 2008)

‘Niijima Floats’, 2019

 

‘Ethereal white persian pond’ inside the Waterlily house was another breathtaking installation. As soon as I entered the glasshouse, my eyes were captivated by the extraordinary white and translucent striped glass flowers supported and rimmed with steel standing on the surface of the pond. Again, I felt that the glass flowers belonged there, in the pond with the water lilies and lotus leaves. The reflection of the glass sculptures on the water created a dreamlike/surreal effect, which made me believe that these flowers are part of nature and that there is no difference between the sculptures and nature.

Chihuly has said that he wants his work “to appear like it came from nature, so that if someone found it on a beach or in the forest, they might think it belonged there.” And I believe that he has certainly achieved this.

 

'Ethereal white persian pond', 2018

'Ethereal white persian pond', 2018

'Ethereal white persian pond', 2018

‘Ethereal white persian pond’, 2018

 

The last location I visited was the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art, where visitors could see his sketches, drawings, smaller glass sculptures and a film detailing Chihuly’s creative process. It was interesting to see many artisans working alongside with Chihuly in the production process, hence the collaborative efforts are essential for his final pieces.

 

Chihuly at Kew

Chihuly at Kew  Chihuly at Kew

Chihuly at Kew

Chihuly at Kew

Chihuly at Kew

 

Although I have visited Kew Gardens almost annually (usually with a friend who lives locally) for the last few years, I have never been able to cover the entire area. There is always something new to discover here, and on this visit, I spent almost an hour inside the Princess of Wales Conservatory examing the carnivorous plants in a maze-like glasshouse.

 

kew gardens  kew gardens

KEW

kew plants  kew plants

kew

kew gardens

 

Although Kew is popular with visitors all year round, I personally love coming here in autumn. I enjoy hearing the rustling sounds of autumn leaves being blown in the wind, and the crunching sounds produced when my shoes made contact with the leaves. Perhaps it is due to global warming, but I feel that autumns here have become shorter, and if this is the case, then we need to cherish this season before it vanishes altogether – which will be almost unthinkable but not impossible. Watching the autumn leaves fall onto the ground is a reminder of our fleeting lives, although it comes with a sense of melancholy, there is also much beauty in it. I think nature is our best teacher, and maybe this is the reason why I will always want to return to Kew in autumn.

 

Chihuly at Kew

autumn foliage Kew  autumn foliage Kew

autumn foliage Kew

autumn foliage Kew

autumn foliage Kew  FOLIAGE KEW

FOLIAGE KEW

autunn foliage

 

 

London Design Fair & Shoreditch Design Triangle

 Please Be Seated Paul Cocksedge

 

Please Be Seated is a large-scale installation designed by Paul Cocksedge, and it is made from more than 1,000 scaffolding planks. Cocksedge collaborated with Essex-based high-end interiors company White & White to re-imagine and re-use the building wood. The curvy seating encouraged passerby to sit and relax with their books or lap tops, which subsequently turned the square into an interactive and social space.

 

 Please Be Seated Paul Cocksedge

 Please Be Seated Paul Cocksedge

 

At the annual London Design Fair in the Old Truman Brewery, the main focus was on craftsmanship and sustainability (a big trend at the festival this year).

 

london deisgn fair 19

london deisgn fair 19

london deisgn fair 19

london deisgn fair 19

 

One of the surprises was to see United Arab Emirates showing for the first time at the fair. Curated by the Irthi Contemporary Arts Council and the NAMA Woman Advancement Establishment, the pavilion featured 12 works made by UAE women using a range of traditional crafting techniques and local resources. Designed to reflect the nature and landscape of the UAE, elements such as wood and camel leather are featured in the works.

 

london deisgn fair 19

london deisgn fair 19

london deisgn fair 19

Contemporary craft work by UAE women curated by Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council

 

This year’s Material of the Year was all about biomaterials – another hot topic in the design world today. Developed from the by-products of the agricultural industries, biomaterials are innovative materials that are created mostly from food and industrial waste. One of the most intriguing materials is Totomoxtle, a new veneer material made with husks of heirloom Mexican corn designed by Mexican designer Fernando Laposse. Meanwhile, Italian design firm High Society has created plant-based lighting from the post-industrial waste including hemp, tobacco and residue leftover from wine production.

 

Fernando Laposse's Totomoxtle

london deisgn fair 19  Palmleather Studio Tjeerd Veenhoven

Top: Fernando Laposse’s Totomoxtle; bottom left: High Society’s Highlight; Bottom right: Studio Tjeerd Veenhoven‘s leather-like material and products made from palm leaves.

 

london deisgn fair 19

london deisgn fair 19

london deisgn fair 19

london deisgn fair 19  london deisgn fair 19

london deisgn fair 19

london deisgn fair 19

london deisgn fair 19

london deisgn fair 19

london deisgn fair 19

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london deisgn fair 19

london deisgn fair 19

 

 

In the nearby Shoreditch, I stumbled upon a pop-up shop showcasing a new brand that also uses industrial non hazardous waste as the main elements of design. Cancelled plans is created by Indian designer Mallika Reddy, who has been collecting rejected materials from local factories and combined them with conventional materials to create a range of fashion accessories. The range will be available for purchase on the website at the end of the year.

 

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Cancelled plans’ pop up shop

 

 

 

 

 

London design festival: Kings Cross design district

coaldropsyard

coaldropsyard  coaldropsyard

Coal Drops Yard

 

This year, the ever-changing Kings Cross was chosen as the design district for the first time at the London design festival. Aside from the annual design trade show, DesignJunction, there were many exhibitions and activities taking place during the festival.

I received a trade preview invitation to visit Designjunction, so I set off earlier to see what was happening in the area. The initial installations I encountered were two giant wooden sculptures that resembled robots. Designed by Steuart Padwick, the “Talk to me” installations were designed to ‘converse’ with passerby, as part of Designjunction in support of the charity Time to Change to encourage Londoners to talk about mental health.

 

img_1841-min  img_1842-min

‘Talk to me’ installations

 

img_1844-min  img_1845-min

Camille Walala’s installations

 

Probably the most ‘bizarre’ installation at the design festival was “Disco Carbonara”, by London-based Italian furniture designer Martino Gamper. Inpspired by the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and a Potemkin village, the designer used film sets and scaffolding to create a temporary structure. There was disco music playing inside and a bouncer standing outside stamping visitor’s hands, yet there was nothing inside… it was just a façade.

The fake disco structure was made from a patchwork of cladding created from waste offcuts from an Italian company called Alpi. The conceptual installation aimed to make visitors think about urban design, and the sustainability of temporary structures created for short-term events like the London design festival.

 

Disco Carbonara by Martino Gamper

Disco Carbonara by Martino Gamper

 

Tottex and Kiosk N1C 

Textile waste banner installations by Tottex and Kiosk N1C

 

img_1906

img_1905  img_1907

STORE Store making meringue

 

Granby Workshop launched a new range of ceramic tableware made from 100% waste materials. The range has grown out of extensive research by the Liverpool-based ceramics studio gathering, testing and analysing materials from a wide range of post-consumer and industrial waste streams including glass, metal and ceramic recycling, steel production, quarry spoils and water filtration. Collectively, these sources generate hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste per year which otherwise goes to landfill. The range is now available for purchase on Kickstarter.

 

Granby Workshop

Granby Workshop  Granby Workshop

Granby Workshop

Granby Workshop

 

tom dixon  tom dixon

tom dixon  tom dixon

TouchySmellyFeelyTastyNoisy at Tom Dixon

 

PRINT - Bill Amberg Studio

PRINT - Bill Amberg Studio

PRINT - Bill Amberg Studio

PRINT - Bill Amberg

PRINT – Bill Amberg Studio‘s new ccollection of digitally-printed leather hides are made with collaborators including Marcel Wanders, Calico Wallpaper, Solange Azagury-Partridge, Lisa Miller, Alexandra Champalimaud and artist Matthew Day Jackson.

 

Out of all the exhibits and events that I saw on the day, ‘Designing in the turbulent times‘ initiated by Maison/0 – the sustainable innovation programme created at Central Saint Martins in partnership with the luxury group LVMH – was by far the most interesting and thought-provoking. The exhibition showcased graduate projects from Central Saint Martins offering compelling propositions for more sustainable and equitable futures. “How can we break away from our current systems and adapt a more sustainable way of living?” is the question that we should all be thinking about, and here, these young designers are trying to address this issue in their work.

 

designing in turbulent times

designing in turbulent times  designing in turbulent times

designing in turbulent times

Maria Cuji

Bottom: Maria Cuji’s worked with artisans from Ecuador tp produce woven textile made from factory offcuts and leftover yarn.

 

'Weighting feathers' by Jing Jiang

'Weighting feathers' by Jing Jiang

‘Weighting feathers’ by Jing Jiang uses waste feathers from the farming industry to create a jewellery design range

 

Olivia Page

Olivia Page

Olivia Pages exploration on bio-waste materials and has created a “Recipe Book of North Portugal, Abundant Biological Wastes for Construction Materials”

 

designing in turbulent timesi  designing in turbulent times

designing in turbulent times

Grayshan Audren‘s ‘Seamless: Woven workwear for the automated future’ addresses the waste issue in the fashion industry; Top right: ‘Wool: Re Crafted’ by Nathalie Spencer is a vegan alternative to wool by utilising the discarded waste leaves of pineapples from markets and juice bars around London and processing the fibres into a wearable material. 

 

Tansy Hamley  Tansy Hamley

Tansy Hamley

Tansy Hamley

Tansy Hamley  Tansy Hamley

Tansy Hamley

Tansy Hamley’s ‘An Indian traffic jam” display of blockprinted and indigo-dyed textiles at Central St Martins reminded me of my textiles trip in Indian earlier in the year.

 

designjunction: The Greenhouse by LSA & Friends

designjunction: The Greenhouse by LSA & Friends

designjunction: The Greenhouse by LSA & Friends

designjunction: The Greenhouse showcased LSA’s new CANOPY collection, a partnership with the Eden Project alongside a range of products and concepts from brands such as Vitra, String Furniture, Artcoustic, with plants decorated by The Botanical Boys.

 

The organiser of designjunction changed this year, and the locations of the show were scattered around different parts of Kings Cross. I skipped the Canopy pop-up shops because there were too many activities happening at once! At the main Cubitt House Pavilion, there were less emerging designers and fewer exhibitors than before, which was quite disappointing. I visited my friends from Di Classe, had some drinks and decided to call it a night.

 

diclasse  di classe

img_1931

isokon  isokon

Designjunction at Cubitt House Pavilion

 

The last stop of the night was Designjunction’s Rado Star Prize in the King’s Cross Light Tunnel where they showcased design pieces by the next generation of young British designers. The theme, ‘Re:Imagine’, explored different ways design can improve life: by evolving existing product forms through materials, function, technology, end-use or even, re-use. Surprisingly, this section of the show was more interesting than the main pavilion, so I believe the organiser need to make some changes to improve the show next year.

 

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img_1947

img_1951

Top: Judges’ winner 2019 – Huw Evans’s Concertina collection

 

London design festival & Kengo Kuma at the V & A museum

bamboo ring

 

Over the past few years, I have been quite disappointed with design industry’s ‘slow response’ in tackling the sustainability issues, and felt the same way when I visited trade shows and exhibitions at the London design festival. Finally, things have changed this year. Sustainability and handmade crafts became the main focus of this year’s festival, and it was conspicuous at the V & A museum, the official hub of the festival.

At the entrance of the festival, visitors had to walk under a massive cube suspended from the ceiling. The ‘Sea Things’ installation, created by Sam Jacob studio, addressed the ocean plastic waste issue that we face today. An animated motion graphic created by Rory Cahill was projected within the cube, which showed the growing numbers of plastic waste alongside with sea creatures. It reflected an infinity that seemec both as wide as the ocean and as large as the challenges we face.

 

sea things sam jacob

sea things sam jacob

Sea things by Sam Jacob studio

 

At the John Madejski Garden, Japanese architect Kengo Kuma worked with Ejiri Structural Engineers and the Kengo Kuma Laboratory at The University of Tokyo, to create a nest or cocoon by weaving rings of bamboo and carbon fibre together. The 2m-diameter ring was made from strips of the bamboo Phyllostachys edulis, and was combined with carbon fibre to achieve a certain rigidity while maintaining the unique material properties and beauty of bamboo. The installation was intended to be a catalyst for weaving people and place together.

 

bamboo ring kengo kuma

bamboo ring kengo kuma

bamboo ring kengo kuma

Bamboo ring by Kengo Kuma

 

At the Global Design Forum, Kengo Kuma was invited to give a talk on material explorations. Kengo, who recently designed the £80m V&A Dundee, his first building in the UK, as well as the New National Stadium for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, revealed that nature has always been his main source of inspiration. Located on the edge of the River Tay, the V&A Dundee was inspired by the eastern cliff edges of Scotland, and it is partly built on the water to emphasis the connection with nature.

It was interesting to hear him talk about his past projects and the materials he used for them. The world will certainly be focusing on him next year when the Tokyo 2020 Olympics opens. After so much controversy over his timber stadium, I wonder if it will prove the critics wrong.

 

kengo kuma

kengo kuma

kengo kuma

Kengo Kuma at the Global Design forum

 

Non-Pavilion by Studio MICAT, There Project and Proud Studio

Non-Pavilion by Studio MICAT, There Project and Proud Studio. The Non-Pavilion is a digital pavilion and it used AR technology to invite visitors to engage with the idea of ‘less’ as enrichment rather than loss.

 

robin hood gardens

robin hood gardens

The demolition of Robin Hood Gardens –the Brutalist housing estate in Poplar, East London, completed in 1972 by British architects Alison and Peter Smithson– was recorded by London-based Korean artist Do Ho Suh in 2017. His panoramic film used time-lapse photography, drone footage, 3D-scanning and photogrammetry to create a fascinating visual journey.

 

sacred geometry

sacred geometry

Rony Plesl’s unique glass installation draws inspiration from fire and wood – key components of glass making – and from the idea of Sacred Geometry, a universal language organising all visible and invisible reality according to basic geometrical principles. 

 

affinity in autonomy  affinity in autonomy

Supported by Sony Design, Affinity in Autonomy is an A.I. installation featuring a pendulus moving in random directions inside a round cage. However, human presence would be detected and the pendulus would respond to visitors’ physical movements outside of the cage.

 

One of my favourite exhibits at the V & A was the Black Masking Culture inside the Tapestries Gallery – the huge Mardi Gras Indian suits are composed of intricately hand-sewn beadwork created by New Orleans artist, Demond Melancon. The beaded suits illustrate actual and imagined events of the indigenous people in America and enslaved Africans, with imagery rich with symbolism and meaning. The suits blended surprisingly well with the tapastries in the background despite being made centuries apart.

 

black masking in culture

black masking in culture

black masking in culture

black masking in culture  black masking in culture

Black Masking Culture

 

blanc de chine

blanc de chine  blanc de chine

blanc de chine

blanc de chine  blanc de chine

blanc de chine

blanc de chine

Blanc de Chine, a Continuous Conversation (ongoing until 2020) showcases historic pieces from the V&A’s Asian and European ceramics collections, as well as a selection of new works by contemporary makers including: Babs Haenen, Lucille Lewin, Liang Wanying, Jeffry Mitchell, Su Xianzhong, and Peter Ting. Retelling the story of porcelain-making in Dehua, the display builds a bridge between the past and the current, tradition and innovation, and breaking the boundary of Chinese and non-Chinese ceramic practices.

 

sea things sam jacob

sea things sam jacob

sea things sam jacob  sea things sam jacob

Sea things by Sam Jacob studio showcased eight historic water vessels remade in new sustainable materials such as recycled plastic, sea shells and bioresin etc.

 

repair-making

repair-making

Repair-Making and the Museum – V & A resident maker Bridget Harvey examined repaired and broken objects in the collections, and conservation practices.

 

bamboo futures

bamboo futures

Bamboo Futures – Bali-based designer Elora Hardy and her team at IBUKU construct sustainable bamboo buildings across the world, with every IBUKU building being devised using a bamboo model. This installation of miniature buildings demonstrates how IBUKU’s model-making is both integral to their creative process and an invaluable tool throughout construction.

 

Leaders of London’s cultural institutions were invited to collaborate with some of the world’s most prolific designers to create a ‘Legacy’ piece of design – an object of personal or professional relevance to them. The 10 pieces were beautifully crafted in American red oak, a sustainable hardwood species that grows abundantly in American forests, and were fabricated at Benchmark Furniture in Berkshire.

 

KWAME KWEI-ARMAH OBE Artistic Director, Young Vic, with TOMOKO AZUMI  legacy v & A

legacy v & A

legacy v & A  legacy v & A

legacy v & A

Top left: Kwame Kwei-Arwah, Artistic Director of Young Vic, with Tomoko Azumi; Top right: Hans Ulrich-Obrist, Artistic Director of Serpentine Galleries, with Studiomama; 2nd row: Sir Ian Blatchford, Director and Chief Executive of Science Museum Group, with Marlene Huissoud; 3rd row: Dr Maria Balshaw CBE, Director of Tate, with Max Lamb; Last row: Alex Beard, Chief Executive of Royal Opera House, with Terence Woodgate

 

MR LEMAN TEXTILES

MR LEMAN TEXTILES

MR LEMAN TEXTILES

MR LEMAN TEXTILES

The Ingenious Mr Leman: Designing Spitalfields Silks (on display until October) showcases James Leman’s silk textiles from the early 18th century. 

staging places

staging places

staging places

Staging Places: UK Design for Performance (ongoing until 2020)

 

COLLECTIVE DESIGN SCHOOL

COLLECTIVE DESIGN SCHOOL

COLLECTIVE DESIGN SCHOOL

COLLECTIVE DESIGN SCHOOL

Pioneered by the V&A Research Institute (VARI) and Design Thinker in Residence, Ella Britton, this experimental school inside the V&A will collectively create a design curriculum for the 21st century. The School is about exploring what a design education could be. And who it should be for. 

 

“An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik” exhibition at the Wallace Collection

An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection

An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection  An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection

 

One might expect museums like V & A or the Design Museum to dedicate an exhibition on the world’s most famous shoe designer, Manolo Blahnik. Yet the “An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnikexhibition opened at The Wallace Collection, a smaller and less well-known museum converted from an opulent 18th century former townhouse of the Seymour family, Marquesses of Hertford behind the busy Oxford Street. This pairing, turns out to be perfect. Co-curated by Wallace Collection’s Director Dr Xavier Bray and Manolo Blahnik himself, 160 of his designs are displayed across 10 rooms alongside the masterpieces at the museum, and they look very at home here.

 

An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection  An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection

An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection

An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection  An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection

 

The exhibition brought back memories for me – it reminded me of my first visit to Blahnik‘s small London boutique off Kings Road when I was still a student. This was in the early 90s, before he became the superstar shoe designer (thanks to the TV show ‘Sex and the City’). Back then, Blahnik was already famous within the fashion industry, and popular among socialites and Royalty like Princess Diana, but it was not yet a household name. My cousin and her friend were studying architecture at the AA, and they were big fans of Blahnik‘s designs, notably his high heels. I went to the boutique with them and watched them try on boots and pumps that were 3 or more inches high for over an hour (we were the only people there). I was a bit of a Tomboy then, and I fathomed why anyone would want to torture themselves by wearing these high heels.

Eventually, my cousin did return to buy a pair of high heeled boots after long ‘consideration’, but she worn them once and then complained that they were too high and she struggled to walk in them! It was then I realised that people are possessed by beauty, so much so that practicality can be thrown out of the window sometimes. Beauty is power.

 

An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection  An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection

 

Wandering around the museum, it was apparent that many of Blahnik‘s designs were inspired by art. His shoes interweave art, design and craftsmanship, hence they do not look out of place among the 18th century paintings and furniture.

Overall, I think the interactive display works well at this exhibition. Though sometimes I found it hard to focus due to the glittery decor esp. in the Rococo style rooms, I did get used to it after some time. In my opinion, the display inside the Budoir Cabinet is one of the most harmonious one.

 

An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection  An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection

An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection  An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection

 

Although I am still not a fan of high heels, I do appreciate its beauty and underlying power. After spending many years dancing Argentine tango whilst wearing dance shoes with heels that are more than 7.5 cm high, I learned to endure the pain for the sake of beauty, posture, and an air of confidence that is seemingly linked to the heels. My foot pain has stoped me from danicng now, but I would not forget how the heels made me feel on the dance floor.

 

An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection  An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection

An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection  An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection

 

Manolo Blahnik is not only a master craftsman and designer, he also understands women’s desires. Blahnik’s shoes are not designed for practicality (you can choose to wear Crocs instead), rather they embody beauty, seduction, power, desires and fantasies. Hence, even though mass-produced trainers/sneakers continue to dominate the footwear industry, Manolo Blahnik‘s delicate and feminine designs will always endure and remain the objects of desire in many women’s hearts.

 

The art of paper: folding, pleating and manipulation

paper art

 

Unlike children today, when I think of my childhood, paper played a crucial role in my early days. Aside from drawing on paper, I collected paper bookmarks, writing paper, and stickers; I dressed up paper dolls with my classmates after school; I did origami and paper cutouts; I learned calligraphy and practised on translucent paper; I made birthday cards for my parents… It would be fair to say that paper dominated my childhood.

But like most people these day, I am spending more time in front of the computer, and I sorely miss the days of touching and playing with paper. It is not easy to find a course that focuses on paper art (and I don’t mean origami or pop up books), yet I came across a Paper art course at the The Camden college and I quickly signed up for it. I loved it.

 

paper art  paper art

paper art

paper art

paper art

paper art

 

Years ago, I bought paper artist Peter Jackson‘s book ‘Folding techniques for designers’, and I have tried (and failed) to create some paper structures from the book. I have also applied some of the techniques onto textiles with some interesting results. Hence it was encouraging to know that our tutor/designer/artist Thomas Prendeville also used this book as a reference for the class.

 

paper art  textiles art

Manipulating textiles using folded paper moulds is fun too

 

One of the most basic techniques is learning to score, which means creating a crease in the paper so that it can be folded easily. Thomas suggested using a ‘dead’ pen and a metal ruler to score lines on the paper. Another important point to remember is the rule of mountain (high) and valley (low), which applies to everything we fold. Folding straight lines are not difficult, but patience is required if you are folding larger pieces. And it becomes more challenging when you fold curves, so the weight of the paper has to be considered.

 

paper art  paper art

paper art

paper art

paper art

paper art

paper art

 

Paper folding feels like meditation to me. It is a meditative practice and you cannot rush it. Yet when you see the results, you would appreciate all the time and effort that has been put into it. Also, the possibilities are endless, and you can certainly apply the skills onto other materials like textiles and metal.

Architects like Thomas Heatherwick often applies paper folding techniques in his architectural work, e.g. the vents for a substation cooling system at Paternoster Square in London (2009) was derived from a piece of A4 paper. And for decades, Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake has applied the pleating techniques in his collections. He invented the ‘garment pleating technique’ back in the 80s and launched the Pleats Please collection in 1994, which is consisted of light, stretchable and wrinkle-proof garments for all shapes and sizes. In recent years, Miyake and his Reality Lab. team also launched IN-EI, an innovative lighting line produced by Italian lighting company Artemide.

 

paper art

paper art

paper art

paper art

paper art  paper art

paper art

paper art

paper art  paper art

 

It always amaze me to see a flat piece of paper being transformed into a sculptural piece. I also love the shadow and light created by the ‘mountains and valleys’, which look beautiful when being photographed up close.

 

paper art

paper art

paper art

paper art

 

After scoring and folding for a few hours a week (plus homework time), we all improved and became quicker by the end of the course. Meanwhile, Thomas was keen to get us to make larger duplicates so that we could create hanging sculptures by connecting mutiple pieces together. Before I knew it, my place was filled with paper sculptures!

I thoroughly enjoyed the course and would love to carry on folding or apply the techniques elsewhere. Now all I need is paper, time, and a large studio.

Watch this space.

 

paper art

paper art

paper art

paper art  paper art

 

Other interesting paper artists:

Richard Sweeney – an English paper artist who creates large sculptural paper installations. He has also published books on the subject.

Fung + Bedford studio – I became acquainted with Angela Fung at a Christmas design fair. Angela is a paper artist and jewellery designer who makes origami-inspired jewellery and large scale architectural paper sculptures for many U.K. art institutions.

Foldability – a London based design studio run by Kyla McCallum, a set designer and paper artist who has been working with origami for over 10 years. She also sells paper art and lighting on her website.

Aditi Anuj – a textile designer from Mumbai not only produces large-scale paper sculptural installations, but she also conducts workshop and collaborates with other artists.

 

 

LCW 19: Creative Inspiration Walk – Text in the City

black friar pub

 

How many of us pay attention to the text and typography around us in the city? When we are rushing around the city, we tend to miss what is right under our noses. During the London Craft week, I joined the “Creative Inspiration Walk: Text in the City” organised by The Goldsmiths’ Centre and City of London. The two-hour walk explored the city’s lettering heritage and craftsmanship focusing on engraving and carving of text.

Our meeting point was Blackfriars station, and right opposite the station is the Grade II listed Art Nouveau The Black Friar pub built in 1875, and remodelled in about 1905 by the architect Herbert Fuller-Clark. Much of the internal decoration was done by the sculptors Frederick T. Callcott and Henry Poole. I have always been fascinated by the facade of this pub, especially by the mosiac y the mosaic type and wonderful metal signage outside. Although this stop was not part of the walk, I thought it is apt to include it here.

 

The Blackfriar pub

The Blackfriar pub

The Blackfriar pub

The Blackfriar pub

The Black Friar Pub

 

The first stop of the walk was located in the new concourse of the station. Fifty four stones from the original Victorian station, each engraved with destinations served by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway (LCDR), have been preserved and relocated. The stones list destinations as diverse as Bickley, Marseille, Gravesend and Venice, as the LCDR advertised Blackfriars’ links to towns and cities of the south east, and the business capitals of Europe via cross-channel steamers. These blocks were removed from top to bottom, one-by-one, by chiselling the mortar joints between each stone. The lightest stone weighs 54 kg and the heaviest stone about 120 kg. The lettering on the sandstone was gilded with 24 carat gold leaf before it was rebuilt in the new location.

 

The 54 inscribed stones inside Blackfriars stationThe 54 inscribed stones inside Blackfriars station

The 54 inscribed stones inside Blackfriars station

 

From one of the station’s platform exits, we were led to a rather grey and gloomy concrete square outside of the brutalist British Telecom owned office building called the Baynard House. Surprisingly, in the middle of the empty square stands The Seven Ages of Man, a 22-foot cast aluminium sculpture by British typeface designer, stone letter carver and sculptor, Richard Kindersley. The sculpture was commissioned by Post Office Telecommunications and unveiled in April 1980.

Inspired by William Shakespeare‘s pastoral comedy As You Like It, in which a monologue is spoken in Act II Scene VII Line 139. The speech compares the world to a stage and life to a play and catalogues the seven stages of a man’s life, sometimes referred to as the seven ages of man.

The high column features seven sculpted heads, stacked in totem pole fashion, on top of each other. The youngest is at the bottoms and it gets older as you progress up the column; on the pedestal, Shakespeare’s verses are inscribed around it.

This is a fantastic piece of sculpture, but its odd and hidden location is unlikely to draw passerby’s attention (unless they look up from the street level). It is certainly a hidden gem in the City of London.

 

The Seven Ages of ManThe Seven Ages of Man

The Seven Ages of ManThe Seven Ages of Man

The Seven Ages of Man

 

We then walked towards the river bank, and under the Millennium bridge stands The Millennium Measure designed by British sundial maker, hand-engraver & sculptor, Joanna Migdal in 2002. The Millennium Measure measures is the gift of the court & livery of the Worshipful Company of Scientific Instrument Makers to the City of London in commemoration of the millennium. It comprises a 3 sided, 2 metre (2M = 2000MM) rule depicting two thousand years of history of the City, the Church and the craft of scientific instrument making. The initials ‘MM’ stand for ‘Millennium Measure’, ‘millimetre’ and ‘two thousand’ in Roman numerals.

 

london river

sundials

Millennium Measure Millennium Measure

Millennium Measure Millennium Measure

Millennium Measure

The Millennium Measure

 

Although I have walked past St Paul’s Cathedral many times before, I have never paid much attention to the public art outside of it. To my surprise, on the pavement at the western end of the churchyard is a floor-plan of the pre-Fire Cathedral with an outline of the present one superimposed on it. Designed by Richard Kindersley (see above), the 7m long installation is made of various Purbeck marbles and Welsh Slate. The outlines were created through the use of waterjet technology, which enabled the stone to be inset in a manner which would either be impossible or prohibitively expensive if done by hand. The inscription around the border was hand carved into the stone, noting the Great fire of London in 1666 that destroyed much of the medieval City of London.

On the other side of the Cathdral at the west end of the Festival Gardens, there is a bust of the English Poet and Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, John Donne by the sculptor Nigel Boonham. Underneath the bust feature lettering by one of UK’s foremost letter carvers, Andrew Whittle.

 

st paul's cathedral

Richard Kindersleyst Pauls cathedral Richard Kindersley andrew whittle

andrew whittle

st paul's cathedral  st paul's cathedral

 

On the northside of the Cathedral, there is another installation by Richard Kindersley called People of London. It is a memorial to the people of London who died in the blitz 1939 — 1945. Carved from a three ton block of Irish limestone, the memorial has large carved letters and gilded around the edge reading: “REMEMBER BEFORE GOD THE PEOPLE OF LONDON 1939 — 1945”. On top is a spiral inscription written by Sir Edward Marsh and used by Churchill as a front piece to his history ‘The Second World War’.

 

People of London

People of London

People of London memorial 

 

Not far from St Paul’s, we visited the enchanting Christchurch Greyfriars Church Garden, which is situated on the site of the Franciscan Church of Greyfriars, established in 1225. Destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 it was rebuilt by Christopher Wren, but later destroyed all but the west tower in WWII. It was decided not to rebuild the church and some land was lost to road widening in the 1960s. The present rose garden was laid out on the site in 1989 with rose beds and box hedges outlining the nave of Wren’s church, with wooden towers representing the pillars that held up the roof.

At the garden, a new public art installation (2017) was created to commemorate Christ’s Hospital School’s 350 years presence in the City of London, 1552-1902. The installation is a 2.4m long bronze sculpture by renowned sculptor, Andrew Brown, casted at The Bronze Age Foundry in London. It was selected following an open competition organised by the City of London Corporation, and it is positioned close to where Christ’s Hospital was originally founded in Newgate Street.

 

img_4388-min

img_4393-min

img_4394-min  img_4391-min

 

Nearby, there is another well-hidden small garden called The Goldsmiths Garden. It is located on the site of the churchyard and medieval church of St John Zachary, which was damaged in the Great Fire. The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths (also known as the Goldsmiths’ company) had acquired land here in 1339, and built the earliest recorded Livery Hall. After part of the Company’s property was demolished in WWII, the site was first laid out as a garden in 1941, redesigned in later years. A central fountain was installed in 1995 and the ‘Three Printers’ sculpture (1957) by Wilfred Dudeney was relocated from New Street Square in 2009 in the sunken garden.

Commissioned for New Street Square by the Westminster Press Group, the sculpture represents the newspaper process, with a newsboy, a printer and an editor. The printer (the figure on the left) is holding a “stick” which contains the metal type spelling out of the sculptor’s surname. This piece is Britain’s only public monument to newspapers. However, when the area was redeveloped, the sculpture was removed and ended up in a scrapyard in Watford. Luckily, It was rescued by the writer Christopher Wilson, who persuaded the Goldsmiths’ Company to reinstall the sculpture.

Another interesting feature at this garden is that several golden leopards heads can be seen at the entrance. The leopard’s head is actually the company’s symbol. There is also an arch presented to the Goldsmiths by the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths. Designed by Paul Allen, the arch incorporates the London Assay mark for gold in the shape of individually made leopards heads.

 

The Goldsmiths Garden

The Goldsmiths GardenThe Goldsmiths Garden

The Goldsmiths Garden

The Goldsmiths Garden

'Three Printers' sculpture formerly in New Street Square, installed in St John Zachary Garden, May 2010.

The Goldsmiths Garden

 

A large (but easily-missed) metal memorial ‘Aldersgate Flame’ stands outside of the Museum of London was erected in 1981. On the face of the memorial are enlarged facsimile extracts in cast bronze of Anglican clergyman, evangelist, and co-founder of the Methodist movement in the Church of England. John Wesley’s account of the events of Wednesday May 24th 1738, as described in his original printed text of the first edition of John Wesley’s Journal. On the back of the Memorial are the names of the three local tradesmen concerned with Wesley in the production and marketing of the Journal.

 

Aldersgate FlameAldersgate Flame

Aldersgate Flame

 

I am not sure how many Londoners are aware of the competition-winning sculptured stone bench (erected in 2006) at the circular Smithfield Rotunda Garden. Designed by Sam Dawkins and Donna Walker from Edinburgh University, the bench is inscribed with text and quotes relating to the history of the area, and the carving process was managed by apprentice stone masons from Cathedral Works Organisation in Chichester.

However, it is hard to read the inscribed text, and the bench looks out of place here. Most passerby would ignore it and choose to sit on the wooden benches instead, which is a shame.

 

img_4427-min  img_4428-min

 

Finally, before finishing at the Goldsmiths’ Centre, we stopped at Turnmill Street in  Farringdon, outside of a building to look at the inscribed letters above. Built in 1874, the building was formerly the premises of Ludwig Oertling, whose firm ‘manufacturers of bullion chemical and assay balances and hydrometer makers’ remained there until the 1920s. Although the premise is now occupied by Spanish restaurant, the inscribed lettering remains above it.

 

long lane

farringdon

farringdon station

Farringdon

 

As always, I learned a lot about London’s history during the two-hour walk, which is why I love joining guided walks in different parts of the city. It also encourages us to observe more as we wander around the city. There is so much to explore in London, and all you need is curiosity and awareness.

 

 

LCW 19: ‘Inscribed: The Craft of Cutting Letters’

Inscribed: The Craft of Cutting Letters

 

In my opinion, typography is the most underappreciated design field often neglected by the public. The term typography can be defined as the style, arrangement, and appearance of letters, numbers, and symbols; it is a means of visual communication. We are surrounded by all kinds of fonts in our daily lives, yet few people (aside from designers) take much notice of them. Before computers were imvented, engraving was one of the most important techniques used in printmaking, mapmaking, and book illustrations.

Besides printing, the craft of engraving and carving letters on metal, stone or glass also has a long and rich heritage. Hand engravings and cravings can often be seen on functional, decorative and commemorative objects – from signage, clocks and jewellery to trophies and coins.

 

Inscribed: The Craft of Cutting Letters

Inscribed: The Craft of Cutting Letters  Inscribed: The Craft of Cutting Letters

 

The exhibition at The Goldsmiths’ Centre “Inscribed: The Craft of Cutting Letterspresents an interesting selection of artists’ work, alongside loans from the Goldsmiths’ Company and other collections, to provide a unique insight into the processes used by contemporary craftspeople to design, craft and carve text. The display reveals the precision needed for this craftsmanship – not only do you need patience, the right pressure but also good eye sight.

During the Lonodn Craft week, workshops, demonstrations and walk were organised to accompany the exhibition. I attended the ‘Text in the City’ walk which focused on urban typography that we often miss while rushing around the city (see my next entry).

 

Inscribed: The Craft of Cutting Letters

Inscribed: The Craft of Cutting Letters

Inscribed: The Craft of Cutting Letters  Inscribed: The Craft of Cutting Letters

Inscribed: The Craft of Cutting Letters

Inscribed: The Craft of Cutting Letters  Inscribed: The Craft of Cutting Letters

Inscribed: The Craft of Cutting Letters

Inscribed: The Craft of Cutting Letters  Inscribed: The Craft of Cutting Letters

Inscribed: The Craft of Cutting Letters

 

 

 

 

LCW 19: Blue Innovations: Contemporary Czech Indigo Prints

Blue Innovations: Contemporary Czech Indigo Prints

 

Ever since I became interested in indigo dyeing a few years ago, I noticed that the resurgence of natural indigo is also taking place around the world. The art and science of natural indigo dyeing is an important world heritage that connects us all, and its timely revival reminds us that this ancient art/craft is universal as it has been practised in different parts of the world for centuries and even millennia.

The Blue Innovations exhibition at the Czech Centre London that showcased the established craftsmanship of indigo textile-printing production in the Czech Republic. Prior to the visit, I did not realise that traditional indigo printing techiniques have been integral to Czech culture for centuries and are listed as UNESCO‘s lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage. I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that contemporary Czech fashion designers are now using traditioanl indigo printing techniques to produce beautiful and high quality handmade clothing and soft furnishings.

 

Blue Innovations: Contemporary Czech Indigo Prints  Blue Innovations: Contemporary Czech Indigo Prints

Blue Innovations: Contemporary Czech Indigo Prints

 

The small exhibition was curated by Alice Klouzková, a Czech fashion designer and curator who has collaborated with many Czech indigo craftsmen, and is determined to revive this ancient craft in her country and introduce it to audience abroad.

Sadly, there are only two remaining wood block printing workshops in the Czech Republic, in Olesnice and Straznice. Their techniques and formulas were inherited from father to son and were kept as family secrets. Now younger Czech fashion designers are working with these workshops and incoporating indigo dyed patterned prints into their designs to produce more sustainable and unique items. These designers include Monika Drapalova, Martina Dvořáková (MADE BY ORDINARY), Adéla Součková, and artist Petra (Gupta) Valentová etc.

 

Blue Innovations: Contemporary Czech Indigo Prints

Blue Innovations: Contemporary Czech Indigo Prints

Blue Innovations: Contemporary Czech Indigo Prints  Blue Innovations: Contemporary Czech Indigo Prints

Blue Innovations: Contemporary Czech Indigo Prints

 

The revival of natural indigo dyeing around the globe is far from a coincidence. It is part of the sustainable fashion and slow movements that are driven by designers, artisans, craftsmen, curators, and many consumers who are rejecting the fast fashion industry. Now is the time for all of us to reflect and go back to the basics, and I salute all those who are swimming against the tide to make this change happen.