Aranya Natural & Athulya at Srishti Welfare Centre in Munnar

aranya natural

 

Before visiting Munnar, I was not aware of the health issues related to tea plantation workers in India. Often foreign media would focus on the working conditions of garment factory workers, yet the problems related to tea plantation workers (primarily female) are largely ignored. Although they are not stuck inside cramped factories, tea plantation workers have to deal with other serious safety and health issues. Locals told me that workers not only have to work long hours at low wages, they also have to live together in communial dormitories with poor sanitation at the tea estates. Health awareness among the tea plantation workers is poor, and often they give births to children with various health conditions and disabilities, yet they receive hardly any government support.

 

srishti welfare centre

srishti welfare centre

 

In 1991, the Srishti Trust was formed, backed by Tata Tea Limited, to support differently-abled children of the estate workers. Founded by Ratna Krishna Kumar, the Trust launched two major projects: Aranya Natural and Athulya, aiming to rehabilitate local youngsters in a safe and fair environment. Later, Nisarga (the strawberry unit) and The Deli (a bakery and confectionery) were added to make preserves, breads and cookies using locally-grown ingredients.

Most visitors to Munnar would head to the main tourist attractions, but few would seek out the Srishti Welfare Centre. Well, they are really missing out. In 1996, the Srishti Welfare Centre moved to an abandoned shed in Tata Tea’s Nettimudi estate outside of the town centre. Their beautiful site is open to the public and visitors can meet many happy workers who are trained at natural dyeing and paper-making. What started out as an experiment has paid off for Ratna and her all-female team’, now even big corporations have employed the Trust to make paper and textiles-related products.

 

aranya natural

aranya natural

aranya natural

aranya natural

aranya natural

aranya natural

 

Aryana Natural is the natural dyeing department at Srishti. All the textiles here are created in a non-toxic environment and all the dyes are azo-free. Many dyes are locally sourced, like eucalyptus, Nilgiri kozha (eupatorium), tea waste, pine cones and other leaves, petals, roots and bark are harvested from the forest nearby. Some specific dyes are sourced elsewhere, like indigo from South India, lac from Jangir Champa, and myrobalan, from traditional medicine shops in Coimbatore. Only natural fabrics such as cotton and silk are used as they work best with natural dyes.

 

aranya natural

aranya natural

aranya natural

aranya natural

 

Every newcomer would receive training by volunteered trainers for about six months on skills particular to their aptitude and interests. Each artisan would specialise in at least one technique i.e. shibori or traditional block printing. World-renowned Japanese textile artist and researcher, Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada, regularly visits and acts as mentor to the young learners. She introduced many traditional Japanese shibori techniques to the trainees, which enable them to develop the skills further. Most of the artisans I spoke to told me that they really enjoy their work, and it was amazing to watch them work – they are fast and very skilled.

 

aranya natural

aranya natural  aranya natural

aranya natural

aranya natural  aranya natural

 

Athulya is the handmade paper unit that creates handmade paper from recycle waste paper, cut boards and other stationery waste. It is committed to use only natural additives in their paper, most of them are found around Munnar like tea, eucalyptus leaves, lemon grass, pineapple leaves, onion peel, flower petals, elephant droppings and water hyacinth (which is a weed affecting our back waters).

Now around thirty people work in this unit and they produce over 52 eco-friendly, azo-free, biodegradable recycled paper products by hand. It is also encouraging to see Starbucks hiring the unit to produce their shopping bags.

 

Athulya

Athulya

Athulya

Athulya

Athulya

Athulya

Athulya

Athulya

Athulya

Athulya

Athulya  Athulya

 

At the back of the sheds, there are a line of greenhouses growing organic vegetables and plants. Seasonal vegetables are picked and used in the Srishti canteen where nearly two hundred employees have lunch every day. There is also a playground for the staff’s children to play, and an award-winning flower garden that features a wide variety of flowers.

 

srishti welfare centre

srishti welfare centre

srishti welfare centre

srishti welfare centre

 

One cannot come here without stopping at the shop. The Aranya Natural shop has to be the most beautiful shop in Munnar. It sells one-of-a-kind handdyed scarves, clothing and home accessories made by the artisans next door. The prices are extremely reasonable and you would not be able to find them elsewhere. If you purchase here, you are directly helping the centre and the artisans, thus making a bold statement supporting sustainable textiles and fashion.

 

aranya natural  aranya natural

aranya natural

aranya natural  aranya natural

aranya natural

aranya natural

 

The Srishti Welfare Centre is not only a beautiful site, it is also an inspiring organisation. Before my trip, I knew little about this place, and I am flabbergasted that few people outside of the textiles world have heard of it. If you have only one day in Munnar, make sure that you spare time to visit this centre because it is well worth it.

 

 

 

 

Aranya Natural’s “The sustainability of natural dyes” conference in Munnar

aranya natural conference

 

The purpose of my trip to India in February was to attend a natural dyeing conference. And it took place before COVID-19 changed our lives. Aranya Natural is a natural dyeing organisation under Srishti Trust in Munnar, supported by TATA Global Beverages Limited, which runs programs for the education training and rehabilitation of the differently abled children of Munnar’s tea plantation workers. Last year, it was the organisation’s 25th anniversary, and “The sustainability of natural dyes” conference was organised as part of the celebration. However, the conference was postponed by a year after a major flood in Kerala devasted many parts of the state. It was fortunate that the conference managed to take place before COVID-19 started to spread in India, otherwise it would have been cancelled for the second time.

Honestly, I am not a big fan of conference and would rarely volunteerily attend one. Yet this conference was like no other, and I felt that it would be beneficial if I want to continue my natural dyeing practice. To me, natural dyeing is not merely a hobby, it has become my passion and aspiration in recent years. Currently, we are seeing a revival of natural and indigo dyeing as many people realise the harmful effects of synthetic dyes on our bodies and environment.

 

aranya natural conference  indigo farmer aranya natural conference

Left: The conference schedule; Right: A local indigo farmer and conference attendee

 

The 2-day conference took place at Eastend Hotel in Munnar, bringing dyers, manufacturers, teachers, designers, farmers, and enthusiasts etc together from Indian and around the world. One huge draw for me was the list of speakers, which included experts like Yoshiko Wada, Jenny Balfour Paul, Michel Garcia, Charlotte Kwon (Maiwa), Dominique Cardon, Jagada Rajappa and Buaisou… these are all big names in the natural dyeing and textiles world, so it was a rare opportunity to meet them all in one room.

One factor differentiates Aranya Natural from other organisations – it is an all-women team led by a visionary founder, Ratna Krishnakumar. Since India is a patriarchal society, it is inspiring to see the empowerment of women here. The fact is women in India are likely to face more challenges than women in the West, so being able to run an all-female team here is highly commendable.

The conference also addressed the most important issue that we are facing in the textiles and fashion industry today – sustainability. The rise of fast fashion has done immense damage to our environment in the past decade or so, hence the conference aimed to increase the awareness of natural dyes, and discuss how the industry can shift from using synthetic dyes to more sustainable ones.

 

aranya natural conference

aranya natural conference

aranya natural conference

aranya natural conference

 

Until recently, sustainability has been fashion industry’s last concern. If you trace the path of your favourite item from Primark, then you might be in for a surprise. Your ‘bargain’ £10 shirt probably costs about £3-4 to make, meanwhile the garment factory worker in Bangladesh would receive less than £1 for a day’s work (14-16 hours). Aside from exploitation of these workers, the environmental damage caused by the chemicals used is unaccountable. Although India has had a long history with natural dyes, many garment manufacturers have now switched to synthetic dyes to cope with the high demand from the fast fashion sector. Natural dyes have been pushed aside due to higher costs. lower production rate and more labour intensive.

So, how can we re-introduce natural dyes back into the profit-driven industry? There are no easy answers, but I did meet some young Indian designers at the conference who are using natural dyes to create beautiful designs. I do hope that they will change the landscape of Indian fashion in the future.

 

aranya natural conference

Soham Dave and his sustainable collection

 

When I was still a student years ago, I bought my first shibori book, “Shibori: The Inventive Art Of Japanese Shaped Resist Dyeing” by artist, author, and curator, Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada. This is an important book to me and I never thought I would get the chance to meet Yoshiko in person, but I did – we even exchanged contacts, and later had dinner together, which all felt a bit surreal. Besides Yoshida, I also spoke to other speakers like Dominique Cardon, Michel Garcia, Axel Becker, Jagada Rajappa, William Ingram from Threads of Life, and Rashmi Bharti, the co-founder of Avani. The conference also enabled me to connect and make friends with attendees from around the world. Many of them are dyers, designers, textiles teachers, and shop owners etc, so I found the whole experience valuable and unforgettable.

 

aranya natural conference

aranya natural conference

aranya natural conference

 

The talks on both days covered a wide range of topics relating to sustainability and natural dyeing, but the word ‘indigo’ was a key term at the conference. Indigo is probably the most mysterious and complex natural dye of all. Indigofera is a flowering plant of over 750 species and belongs to the pea family, Fabaceae. It has been in cultivation in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide for many centuries, yet the characteristics of each specie varies and can yield different shades of blue. The world-renowned indigo expert writer, artist and curator, Jenny Balfour-Paul has published several indigo-related books, and she was the last speaker to give a talk on indigo. Not long ago, I read her novel “Deeper than Indigo: Tracing Thomas Machell, Forgotten Explorer, hence it was interesting to hear her examine the colour ‘blue’ from many angles.

 

aranya natural conference

aranya natural conference

aranya natural conference

aranya natural conference

Talks and slides on indigo

 

On both evenings after the conference, there were entertainments including dance and music performances, violin recital, and fashion show. The fashion show featured natural dyed designs created by Riddhi Jain (Studio Medium), Sreejith Jeevan (Studio Rouka) and Sunita Shankar. Unlike other fashion shows, their show was modelled by workers at Srishti, which was more authentic and fun.

Based in New Dehli, Riddhi Jain is a rising star in India’s fashion world who has won the Elle Decor India Design Awards, International Craft Awards and India Story design awards amongst others. She told me that she employs a small team of artisans and designers to create beautiful hand-dyed and hand-stitched shibori pieces that are one of a kind. I love her designs, and honestly, I would rather spend my money on an unique handmade piece that supports a local craft community than a designer piece that supports its marketing campaigns and executives.

 

aranya natural conference

aranya natural conference

aranya natural conference  aranya natural conference

Riddhi Jain (Studio Medium)

 Sunita Shankar

Sreejith Jeevan (Studio Rouka)

3rd row: Riddhi Jain and her collection; 4th row: Sunita Shankar and her collection; bottom row: Sreejith Jeevan and his collection.

 

I never knew that conferences could be so exhausting! Besides two full-day talks from 9am to 5pm, I did not anticipate two hours of evening entertainments, followed by dinners at 9 pm on both nights. Despite the lack of rest, I was still looking forward to attending two more days of workshops led by different experts. And I got to visit the beautiful site of Aranya Natural, which is located outside of the polluted town centre.

To be continued…

 

aranya natural conference

I loved my conference gift bag

 

 

Emmanuelle Moureaux’s ‘Slices of Time’ exhibition at Now Gallery

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

 

I have been a fan of Tokyo-based French architect Emmanuelle Moureaux and her colour-driven architecture for some time. Since 1996, she has been living in Tokyo where she established Emmanuelle Moureaux architecture + design in 2003. I have never actually seen Moureaux‘s architecture and installations in real life, so I was really looking forward to seeing her first art/design exhibition “Slices of time” in London.

Moureaux invented the concept of shikiri, which literally means ‘dividing (creating) space with colours’. She uses colours as three-dimensional elements, like layers, in order to create spaces, and her work ranges from art, design to architecture.

 

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

 

Inspired by the location of the gallery, near the Greenwich Meridian, “Slices of Time expresses the past, the now and the future through 168,000 numbers cut out from paper. The cut-outs are hung in the gallery space, as a representation of the round earth floating. 100 layers of numbers in 100 shades of colours visualise the next 100 years to come (2020 to 2119), while 20 layers of numbers in white represent the past 20 years (2000 to 2019).

On the preview night, I headed to NOW Gallery on the Greenwich Peninsula, and a long queue had already formed outside of the gallery. At the door, we were assigned a timeslot and when it was our turn, we had to queue (again) outside of the exhibition area. We were allowed to walk around the installations for a short period before being hurried out to let the next group in.

 

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

 

It was wonderful to see the striking installations from above and up close. I am also glad that the architect has chosen paper as her medium – the installation truly reveals the beauty and power of paper. I only wish that I was given more time to linger, but since I was going to be away for several months, this was the only opportunity for me to see the exhibition before leaving. And for those who don’t live in London, there are currently two other exhibitions being held in Taipei (“Forest of Numbers” ) and New York (“100 colors”) where visitors can be stimulated by vast array of colours.

 

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux  Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

 

 

LDF19: Biodesign Here Now at Open Cell

open cell

OPEN CELL

OPENCELL

 

After my recent visit to the biotech hub Open Cell at the Shepherds Bush Market, I was keen to learn more about biodesign and its future. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long because at the London Design Festival this year, Open Cell organised an event called Biodesign Here Now at its premise over one weekend.

The event showcased over 30 emerging international designers and startups with innovative ideas that are breaking boundaries between biology, design, and technology. Although I missed the fashion show on the opening night, I did manage to visit the exhibition and listen to some designers talk about their projects.

 

bio design now

Yggdrasil

Yggdrasil – an architecture collective of PhD researchers from Newcastle University specialising in living technologies for the future. Our mission is to challenge conventional methods of construction by proposing an ecocentric alternative. We believe that the buildings of the future should be living, breathing and inclusive of nature.

 

Paula Nerlich

Paula Nerlich – her current research explores vegan biodegradable bioplastics and foams from industrial and household food waste with diverse possible applications within interiors and product design.

Nina Jotanovic

Nina Jotanovic

Nina Jotanovic

Nina Jotanovic (in collaboration with Bartlett School of Architecture) – ‘Biogenic Luminosity’  is a research project that questions ‘flat’ appearance and unsustainability of synthetic materials in comparison to those of biogenic and geologic origin.

 

Mohammad Jawad

Mohammad Jawad

Mohammad Jawad – Manufactured by Nature: Growing Generatively Designed Products

 

Post Carbon Lab

Post Carbon LabPost Carbon Lab

Post Carbon Lab – a design research studio launched their service pilots of two pioneering microbiological processes for sustainable and regenerative fashion applications: Bacterial Pigment Dyeing and Photosynthesis Coating on fabrics and garments.

 

Studio Aurelie Fontan  Studio Aurelie Fontan

Aurelie Fontan is a sustainable fashion designer, with a focus on bio-design and circular economy (including zero-waste production methods in texture making and cutting). Her collection includes a bio-designed dress from bacteria, recycled materials and four fully recycled leather outfits, none of them being sewn together but rather linked through innovative re-usable elements that allow complete disassembly and recycling.

Piero D'Angelo's Wetwear Couture  Piero D'Angelo's Wetwear Couture

BIO DESIGN  Piero D'Angelo's Wetwear Couture

Piero D'Angelo's Wetwear Couture  Piero D'Angelo's Wetwear Couture

Piero D’Angelo’s Wetwear Couture uses Physarum Polycephalum/slime mould to create fascinating fashion pieces

 

OPEN CELL

Nicole Stjernswärd KAIKU Living Color

Nicole Stjernswärd KAIKU Living Color

Nicole Stjernswärd – KAIKU Living Color is a sustainable alternative to colours made from petroleum. KAIKU uses plant waste to create natural powder pigments. Many plants & fruits we eat every day, such as avocados, onions, and oranges, have valuable colors within their skins and peels. Normally these are left to rot in landfills, but KAIKU transforms this waste into a high value resource.

 

img_2253  img_2251

img_2252

Nikoletta Karastathi & Zafer Tandogdu’s ‘Awareness of the Microbial World’ explores antimicrobial resistance and the human-microbe relationship as key concepts for creating bio-textile.

 

Carolyn Raff

Carolyn Raff uses Agar Agar, an algae based gelatin substitute for many different experiments as a new kind of bioplastic. The complete biodegradable material can be created in many different shades, looks and structures. It is dyed with natural dye, mainly with algae based colours, such as astaxanthin and phycocyanin.

 

Mira Nameth Biophilica

Mira Nameth Biophilica  Chiara Tommencioni Pisapia - 'Made by moths'

Top & bottom left: Mira Nameth – ‘Biophilica’ is the result of a year long material development, working with plant-based resources. Biophilica materials are truly local, biodegradable, and recyclable.
Bottom right: Chiara Tommencioni Pisapia – ‘Made by moths’ is a project that investigates the potential of clothes moths and their digestive enzymes as collaborators in selecting and breaking down keratin-based textile-waste.

 

Silvio Tinello - 'Grown Objects'
Silvio Tinello – ‘Grown Objects’ is a collection where all the producrs have been bio-fabricated. This means, grown and harvested using biological processes. Grown in two predominant materials: A fungi bio agglomerate and bacterial cellulose, both grown in yerba mate: part of the “argentine cultural DNA’.

Lindsay Hanson, Margot Vaaerpass and Zaki Musa Resistance Runner  Wearable Lab on Body

Left: Lah Studio – ‘The Resistance Runner’ is a bio-formulated shoe that utilizes cloned bacteriocins and micrococcus in a nutrient broth cocktail; essentially harnessing the bacteria’s own defense system as a protective layer. 

Right: MIT Media Lab’s Fluid Interfaces group creates ‘Wearable Lab on Body’ wearable systems and interfaces for cognitive enhancement.

Valentina Dipietro Mychrome

Valentina Dipietro – ‘Mychrome’ is a project that explores the possibility of mycelium and its surface applications. Mycelium is the vegetative part of mushrooms and it has been used to bind agricultural waste and create new sustainable materials which are naturally fire retardant, insulating and sound-absorbing. Dipietro likes to focus on designing with waste as well as using it as a pigment to dye and finish her materials.

Midushi Kochhar A waste project

Midushi Kochhar – ‘A waste project’ is made from by-products of poultry industry, namely, eggshells and feathers. The aim is to create alternatives for plastic disposables and encourage sustainable living. All the objects are 100% biodegradable and once their purpose is over, they can literally be crushed and thrown away in the compost.

 

Pat Pataranutaporn wearable lab on body

Pat Pataranutaporn from MIT gave a talk on the future of ‘Wearable Lab on Body’

 

Denimaize

Denimaize

Denimaize gave a talk on denim made from corn husk

 

The last talk of the day was by Denimaize, a studio from the University of Pennsylvania, which includes bio-designers, artists and engineers. They use wasted and diseased corn husks and process them to extract their cellulose fibers. The corn fibers are spun with flax and woven in a twill pattern. The fabric is then coloured with microbial dye and relaxed with cellulase enzymes. Denimaize is a response to the dominance of the corn crop in the U.S. and the waste it generates, as well as the pollution in the denim industry. Denimaize is proposing a biological (albeit corny) alternative to the old way of denim processing.

The weekend event was interesting and inspiring, and it is very encouraging to see so many designers, startups and innovators coming up with sustainable solutions to address the issues our planet is facing right now. Sustainability is not a trend, it has to be here to stay for the sake of our future.

 

 

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

img_2033

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.

 

img_2024

img_2026

img_2027

img_2028

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.

 

img_1948

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. 

 

A visit to the Biotech hub, Open Cell

shepherds bush market

Shepherds Bush market

 

In the last few years, we are hearing more of the terms ‘biodesign’ and ‘biotech’, but is it a fad or a breakthrough that will change our world? Recently, I joined a design-oriented walk called ‘Human: Biophilia in community and design’ organised by the Design Museum and curated by Something & Son to find out more about the biophilic communities and projects that is taking place in London today.

It has been years since I visited the Shepherds Bush market, and I was surprised to learn that a biotech hub is now situated in the middle of the market. Opened last year, Open Cell is a biotech hub for startups and designers located at the Old Laundry Yard, with 45 shipping containers that have been converted into labs, workshops and office space. Founded by Helene Steiner and Dr Thomas Meany, they aim to create a low-cost labspace with a user-centric focus, and provide a flexible testbed where innovative lab designs can be rapidly installed and tested.

 

open cell

open cell

open cell

open cell

 

We were greeted by Helene Steiner at the yard, and she gave us a tour around the area and explained about the work they do. I found it encouraging to see these affordable and community-driven labs because as many of the world resources are becoming scarcer, it makes sense to use the living organism around us to create alternative, innovative and sustainable materials for our future.

We met a bio fashion designer Piero D’Angelo who uses slim mould to create textiles and fashion, which is absoultely fascinating. The slime mould would also release a scent that makes people aware of any pollution in the surroundings. I never thought I would want slime mould on my skin, but maybe it is time to change my preconception.

 

Piero D’Angelo

Piero D’Angelo

 

We also met with three architects Paola Garnousset, Pierre de Pingon and Martin Detoeuf, who are the founders of Blast Studio. The collective uses mycelium, the root network of mushrooms, and coffee cup waste to create a series of homeware and furniture called ‘lovely trash’. Since 500 billion coffee cups are discarded globally and mostly end up in land, this project is a great way to upcycle these coffee cups. The cups are processed into a substrate that enables the mycelium to be fed on. This mycelium material can be transformed into vases and furniture through the 3-D laser printer. The results are very interesting and look almost like ceramics!

 

blast studio

blast studio

blast studio

blast studio

blast studio

blast studio   blast studio

Blast Studio

 

The tour of the Open Cell lab was eye-opening, and it has given me more hope about the future. I believe that not only the way we consume has to change, but sustainable innovations are necessary to change our future, and hopefully biodesign/ biotechnology will play a crucial role in the years/decades to come.

 

A visionary’s mind: Stanley Kubrick exhibition at the Design Museum

stanley kubrick exhibition

 

Although I haven’t seen all the art and design exhibitions in London this year, but out of all the ones that I have seen, I would say the Stanley Kubrick exhibition is the cream of the crop (alongside with Christian Dior at the V & A); it is certainly the best exhibition that I have seen at the Design Museum.

The exhibition is dedicated to the fans of Kubrick, so if you have not seen his films, then you are unlikely to appreciate this exhibition. But as one of most iconic and revered directors of the last century, it would be odd to not have seen any of his films, unless you were born after 2000.

 

design museum

 

Initially, I was quite apprehensive about this exhibition, and I didn’t quite see the link between Stanley Kubrick and the Design Museum (I guess I saw him more as an artist). Yet the vast exhibition really blew me away since it enabled visitors to catch a glimpse of Kubrick‘s creative mind. As we all know, he was a perfectionist or so-called ‘obsessive’. Life is never easy being a perfectionist, because you would want to control everything; nothing is adequate enough, and you believe that there is always room for improvement. However, it was Kubrick‘s drive for perfectionism that provided his audiences some of the most mesmorising cinematic experiences of their lives.

I still remember the shock of watching the rape scene in ‘A clockwork orange’, and the anxiety felt when Danny was running away from Jack in the haunted hotel in ‘The shining’ (while feeling irritated by Wendy‘s screams). I didn’t quite understand ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ the first time round because I was too young, but I was awed by his visions of the future when I watched it again (the restored version) a few years ago at the cinema.

 

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

 

I had no idea that this exhibition had been touring around the world since 2004. It first started at Deutsches Filmmuseum in Frankfurt, and has taken over 14 years to come to the country where Kubrick lived and worked for 38 years until his sudden death from a heart attack in 1999. It has been a long wait, but it was well worth it.

Curated by the museum’s curators with help from Pentagram’s designers, the huge archive was transported from Kubrick’s Hertfordshire home, where his wife still resides. With over 700 exhibits on display, including photographs, slides, cameras, lens, film posters, props, costumes, illustrations, sketches, personal letters, models, and storyboards etc; you could easily spend hours here and be astonished by the meticulous work that went on behind the scenes of all his films.

 

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition  stanley kubrick exhibition

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

 

This comprehensive exhibition is almost overwhelming (in a good way) because there is a lot to take in… and when you see the attention to detail Kubrick applied to all his work, you would understand why he is considered as one of the greatest directors of all times. Unfortunately, we are now living in a fast-paced world where speed has become the priority, and this attitude has lowered the standards of everything around us. Perhaps Kubrick‘s work ethic can be seen as the antidote to our speed-driven society today.

 

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

Sketches of A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) were sent to Stanley Kubrick, the original director and producer, but he later handed it to Steven Spielberg, and the film was made after his death

 

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition  stanley kubrick exhibition 

Spartacus (1960)

 

stanley kubrick exhibition Barry Lyndon

Barry Lyndon (1975)

 

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

A Clockwork orange (1972)

 

Extensive research was crucial in all Kubrick‘s productions, and one of the most fascinating exhibits is the set of panorama photos of Commercial Road in East London (see below), which was originally considered as the location to recreate Greenwich Village in Manhattan for the set of ‘Eyes wide shut’. Although the majority of film ended up being shot in a studio, it was still amazing to see the scrupulous research done in preparation for the film.

 

stanley kubrick exhibition  stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

Eyes wide shut (1999)

 

stanley kubrick exhibition  stanley kubrick exhibition  stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition  stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

The Shining (1980)

 

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

Sketches for ‘Dr Strangelove’ (1964)

 

After seeing this exhibition, it made me want to watch his earlier and less well-known films, as well as rewatch his famous ones. I think that at different stages of our lives, we would interpret his films differently; but one thing for sure is that I am most likely to appreciate his work even more from now on.

 

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition  stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

 

 

William Morris’ Red House in Bexleyheath

bexleyheath

bexleyheath  bexleyheath

Architecture in Bexleyheath

 

Although I live in London, there are still many areas of the city that I am unfamiliar with or have never been to. I have long wanted to visit William Morris‘ former residence Red House in Bexleyheath, but somehow never got round to it. Since August is a quiet period, I decided to venture out to the SE part of Greater London on a sunny day.

To my surprise, the town centre of bexleyheath has some interesting historic buildings like Trinity Baptist Chapel (1868) and Christ Church (1872–7), and it feels more ‘Kent’ than London. After a 15-minute walk from Bexleyheath train station, I reached the National Trust-run heritage building and garden in a quiet residential area. With my National Art pass, I was able to get free entry and arrived in time for the guided tour.

 

red house

red house william morris  red house william morris

 

Commissioned in 1859 by William Morris, founder of the Arts & Crafts movement, Red House was designed by his friend and architect Philip Webb which completed in 1860. At the time, Upton was a hamlet on Bexley Heath, a largely picturesque area dotted with cottages, medieval ruins, and Tudor mansion (Hall Place). Intended as a post-wedding house for him and his new wife Jane, Morris financed the project with money inherited from his wealthy family, and dreamed of the house becoming a ‘Palace of Art’, a place where his artist friends could decorate the walls with stories of medieval legends. Influenced by Medievalism and Medieval-inspired Neo-Gothic styles, the building was constructed based on Morris‘ ethos of craftsmanship and artisan skills, which later became known as the Arts and Crafts movement.

 

red house william morris

red house william morris  red house william morris

red house william morris

red house william morris

red house william morris

red house william morris

 

Summer is definitely a good time to visit the house and garden, and since it was during the week and summer holiday period, there were very few visitors during my visit. Before entering the house, I spent some time walking around the north side of the 2-acre garden, and it made me feel at ease immediately.

Red House garden was first laid out over 150 years ago and successive owners have put their own stamp on the garden. The garden was important to Morris, hence he and Philip Webb put a lot of thought into the design of the garden. They wanted it to ‘clothe the house’ to soften the effect of the startling red brick. Little of the original garden design remains, so Red House’s head gardener Robert Smith and his team embarked on an ambitious project to re-introduce some of the spirit of Morris’s ‘lost garden’.

 

red house william morris

red house william morris  red house william morris

red house william morris

red house william morris  red house william morris

 

Inside the house, it was Philip Webb who designed most of the furniture, while Morris, Jane, and his friend/painter Edward Burne-Jones designed all the furnishings including windows, wallpaper and tiles. Their collaborative works paid tribute to medieval craftsmanship, for example the glass in the gallery features flowers painted by Morris painted flowers, birds painted by Webb, overlaid with Burne Jones‘ work depicting Fortuna. On some windows (see the round one below) and tiles, inscriptions of Morris‘ motto: ‘Si je puis” (if I can) can also be seen.

Another notable piece of furniture is a settle-cum-cupboard in the landing designed by Webb, with door panels painted by Morris which depict a scene from Malory entitled ‘Sir Lancelot bringing Sir Tristram and the Belle Iseult to Joyous Gard‘. The picture features Edward Burne-Jones offering cherries to his wife Georgie and Janey Morris and with Morris’ servant, ‘Red Lion Mary’ in the background.

 

red house william morris

red house william morris  red house william morris

img_0523

Orginal architcetural plans and belongings of Morris are exhibited in one of the rooms on the ground floor.

 

red house william morris

red house william morris  red house william morris

red house william morris

red house william morris

Dining room

 

red house william morris

red house william morris  red house william morris

red house william morris

red house william morris

 

As visitors walk up to the first and second floor, they can admire Morris‘ patterned wallpaper which covers the ceiling suppored by wooden beams. In a small room on the first floor, there is a catalogue of Morris & Co‘s archive wallpapers. In 1862, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co began to design woodblock-printed wallpaper for the house, thus Morris & Co was born, a company still exists today producing wallpaper and textiles based on Morris‘ designs and ethos.

 

red house william morris

red house william morris  red house william morris

red house william morris  red house william morris

red house william morris  red house william morris

 

On the second floor, there is a drawing room which showcases an original built-in settle, and a fireplace painted with Morris’s motto: “Ars Longa, Vita Brevis” (Life is short, art is forever). On the sides of the settle are murals painted by Pre-Raphaelite artist/his friend, Edward Burne-Jones depicting the 15th century marriage feast of of Sir Degrevan.

Although the structure of the house was not altered, many of the original furnishings and wallpaper were either removed or painted over. Hence, the wallpaper in some of the rooms are simply reproductions of Morris‘ original designs. Since there is a sharp contrast between the murals and the surprisingly ‘modern-looking’ yellow polka dot patterned wallpaper on the ceiling, it made me wonder if the latter was added on during the restoration.

 

red house william morris

red house william morris  red house william morris

red house william morris

red house william morris  red house william morris

 

In 2013, the National Trust discovered a mural hidden behind a large built-in wardrobe on Morris‘s bedroom wall. The near-lifesize figures on the wall are believed to be the joint efforts of Edward Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, his wife Elizabeth Siddal, Ford Madox Brown and Morris. The figures are from the Bible, which include Rachel, Noah holding a model ark, Adam and Eve, and Jacob with his ladder, and they were painted as if hanging on fabric.

 

red house william morris

The rediscovered mural by William Morris, Jane and other young pre-Raphaelites

 

Sadly, after five years living in their dream house, Morris, his wife and his two young daughters had to sell the house due to financial difficulties. Morris never returned to visit the Red House again, but described the five years as being “probably the happiest and not the least fruitful of his life.”

Over the years, the house changed ownerships quite a few times and was threatened to be demolished until it was designated a Grade I listed building by English Heritage in 1950. Since the National Trust took over the house and garden in 2003, research and efforts were made to restore and conserve the house to its original condition.

 

red house william morris  red house william morris

red house william morris

red house william morris

red house william morris

red house william morris

red house william morris

red house william morris

red house william morris

 

Besides the house, I particularly enjoyed spending time in the garden surrounded by flowers and fruit trees and vegetables. After touring the house and garden, I had a coffee at the cafe’s outdoor seating area and left feeling jolly and energised. Maybe good design and nature are two of the elements that we need in our lives to make us happy; though Morris did not get to spend much time here, thanks to him, we are now able to appreciate his vision and legacy as a revoluntionary designer and entrepreneur.