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


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.






Cancelled plans’ pop up shop






London design festival: Kings Cross design district


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_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


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.





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


Everyone needs a break now and again…



I am finally ready to write again after three months of ‘work-detox’ period. This is the first entry since I went on my sabbatical, and I am writing solely because I feel like it, rather than seeing it as some kind of obligation.

After running the business for over six years (plus a year of preparation beforehand), I made a rather risky decision to close the e-shop and take six months off work. I did not take this decision lightly, and I even asked a few good friends for their advice. Why? The reasons were quite straight forward: I was losing my enthusiasm, passion, and I was getting bored. This is not a good sign when you are running your own business! I felt like I have devoted the last seven years to this business, and I felt stuck/ trapped… work became a drag, and I was quite unhappy for the last two years. I felt like I needed an adventure rather than routines. And I simply couldn’t carry on as usual anymore.

The word ‘sabbatical’ originates from the Greek word sabatikos, which means “of the Sabbath” – the day of rest that happens every seventh day. According to Oxford dictionary, it means: “A period of paid leave granted to a university teacher or other worker for study or travel, traditionally one year for every seven years worked.” However, mine is neither one year nor paid; well, whatever you name it, it is a long break nonetheless.

In recent years, the word ‘sabbatical’ has become more ubiquitous because it is regarded as a positive act for both the worker/teacher and the company/university in the long run. Well-known designer Stefan Sagmeister is a forerunner in encouraging workers to take sabbaticals. Every seven years, he closes his NYC design studio for a one-year of ‘creative rejuvenation’, and he has been promoting this idea for years.




Of course not everyone is lucky enough to have a boss like him, or financially secured to do this. Nevertheless, I still believe that even if you can’t take six months or a year off, it would be beneficial to take short breaks now and again to revitalise yourself. We are living in a world that is obsessed with speed and productivity, and it is only by slowing down or stopping that we can feel what is missing and gain insights about our lives as well as the world around us. We are not robots, so don’t treat yourself as one.

I can safely say that after three months of traveling, learning new skills, and spending time with family and friends, I am already feeling more enthusiastic about returning to work, and have some new ideas for the future. I feel more relaxed, open, and most importantly – happier. Taking the sabbatical is not a step backwards, it is in fact, a step-or several steps- forward.


Pop-up shop at White Conduit Projects

chapel market  chapel market

chapel market

The vibrant Chapel market


Gentrification in many parts of London has turned the city a soulless place dominated by chains and corporate companies. When I was a student a long time ago, my cousin and I hired a stall selling vintage fashion at the Camden Stables market, and it had a very different vibe back then. Both Camden and Portobello markets used to sell an eclectic mix of genuine vintage and independent fashion, accessories and furniture. These days, the two markets have become tourist traps; and even food markets like Borough and Broadway have become victims of their own successes.

Luckily, there are still some traditional and authentic markets that cater to locals like Ridley Road (Dalston), Whitecross Street food market, Walthamstow Market, and Chapel Market.

One of the reasons we chose the pop-up shop location was due to the market. This is not a posh market, it is an unpretentious working class market selling food, plants and household products at very reasonable prices. Spending the four days working in the vibrant and friendly neighbourhood was wonderful, and we were spoilt for choice with the vast array of eateries around us.


Costumier and Furrier  Costumier and Furrier

Costumier and Furrier

Costumier and Furrier – Possibly the coolest vintage shop in London


Next to the White Conduit Projects is Costumier and Furrier, a fun vintage shop selling fashion, ceramics and knickknacks. Once inside, you feel like you are in Aladdin’s cave and you could hardly move around inside because it is so jam-packed. It is one of a kind, and a rare hidden gem in London.



pop up shop party  pop up shop party


Our opening night party


On the opening day of our pop up shop, the temperature dropped dramatically and it even snowed a little around midday. Thankfully, our friends braved the cold in the early evening and came to support us nonetheless.

Over the four days, we had many passerby dropping in including locals and tourists. Sunday was the busiest day partly because of the farmers market, and partly due to shoppers buying Christmas trees at the stall opposite the gallery. Situated opposite the Christmas tree stall helped us immensely, as many tree shoppers spotted us while they were making their purchases.



pop up shop  pop up shop



baby girl  pop up shop


Overall, we did quite well with the sales and met many locals who were very supportive – including the little 10-month old baby girl who felt very at home at the gallery. Although we were exhausted by the event, the experience was a positive one and we probably will do it again in the future.


4-day X’mas pop-up shop in Angel



We will be popping up with our Japanese partner Di Classe for 4 days next week from 30th November until 3rd Dec in Angel just off Chapel Market. This is the first pop-up shop that we organised and we are very excited!

The idea of doing a joint Christmas pop up shop came to us last year, but it somehow didn’t happen. This year, we started looking quite late in October and thought it was too late after being told that several venues we were interested in were booked up already. Yet with a bit of luck, we managed to find an art gallery space White Conduit Projects available during our requested weekend; and it was only then I found out that the gallery owner is Japanese (an interesting coincidence).


pop up shop

pop up shop


We did not do a pop up shop earlier because it is riskier, more expensive and it involves more work. Yet after a few rather disappointing Christmas fairs with different organisers, we decided that it’s time to take the matters into our own hands. Perhaps it is the right timing.

Instead of cramming most of our products onto one table, we will have more space to display more products this time. We will also be showcasing books, magazines and zines for the first time. Meanwhile, Di Classe will be selling their lighting and home accessories that are normally only available through retail shops like the Conran shop.


pop up shop


Please drop by to say ‘hello’ if you are in the area. We look forward to seeing you next week!


Maison et objet (autumn 17)

maison et objet

Hall 6 at Maison et objet


The term ‘enochlophobia’ means fear of crowds, a phobia that I suspect I have – mildly. Although I don’t experience blackouts or panic attacks in crowded places, I do feel overwhelmed, as if my energy is being sucked out of me, and I often feel exhausted afterwards.

This can be a problem when I visit business-related trade fairs, hence I rarely spend more than a few hours at a trade fair (or even art fairs). However, once in a while, I have to conquer my fears and plunge into it. It took me some time to decide whether I should spend €60 on a ticket to Paris’ mega design trade fair, Maison et objet, particularly when most trade fairs in the world are free of charge. Perhaps the reason why they could charge so much is because of its reputation and history (it is 22 years old); and it attracts luxury and well-respected brands, independent names, as well as up-and-coming designers from around the world. If you want to know the trends of interior, furniture and products and what is happening in the design world right now, then this fair is most likely to provide some ideas. With over 3000 brands exhibiting at Paris Nord Villepinte (about 45 mins outside of Paris) for 5 days, it would be wise to do some preparations before the visit.


maison et objet

maison et objet  maison et objet

maison et objet

maison et objet


My strategy was to spend a day there focusing on 2-3 halls only (there are 8 in total), because it would impossible to see everything in a day. But soon after I arrived via the entrance of Hall 6 (the largest hall), I was lost, stressed out, and feeling overwhelmed. I thought I was mentally prepared, but the sheer scale of the venue was staggering. The layout of this hall was like a vast maze and it wasn’t easy to navigate at all. Luckily, Hall 7 (Now! Design a Vivre) was more spacious and it gave me some breathing space. Six hours later, I only managed to cover 2.5 halls, but it was sufficient for me already.


vitra eames  marimekko


Flensted Mobiles

Top left: The classic Eames Elephant at Vitra; Top right and 2nd row: new collection by Marimekko; Botton row: Flensted Mobiles


But was it worth all the fuss and sweat? Yes, I suppose. Since most of the trade fairs in London focus mostly on British brands and businesses, M & O provides a more global perspective of the design world outside of the U.K. There are many interesting brands that I have never heard of before, and many of them are based in Asia too.

Here is an overview of some of the brands/products that I encountered during the 6 hours at the fair including many Asian participants:



Gmund papermakers and stationery (Germany)


papier machine

Papier Machine (France) is a booklet gathering a family of 13 paper-made electronic toys ready to be cut, colored, folded, assembled or torn.



Samesame recycled glass products (Germany)



Storytiles from the Netherlands


Animal theme



elephant table and chairs element optimal

peacock at Element Optimal  Zoo collection at Element Optimal

Top and 2nd rows: super cute cuddly toy chairs at AP Collection from Belgium; 3rd row: elephant table and chairs; Bottom left: Peacock; Bottom right: Zoo collection at Element Optimal from Denmark



wonders of weaving

luce couillet

dsc_0063-min  img_4998-min

Top row: Wonders of weaving (Indonesia); 2nd row: Luce Couillet textiles (France); Bottom: origami textiles at the Material lab



In the last few years, Japanese art/digital collective teamlab has created some fascinating immersive installations around the world. After their popular installations at Pace London earlier this year, they have teamed up with tea master Shunichi Matsuo to promote his new brand, En tea, a new tea grown in Hizen.

Visitors were led into a dark room, where they would sit at the table and be given a bowl of green tea. Then virtual flowers would appear when tea is poured in the bowl; the visuals are rendered in real time by a computer program and are not prerecorded. Petals and leaves would scatter and spread as you move your bowl. It was a fun experience, and a nice way to rehydrate and enjoy a bit of downtime away from the hustle and bustle outside.


Espace en tea X Teamlab  Espace en tea X Teamlab

more trees

Top row: flowers blossom in the tea bowl: Bottom row: En tea & More trees space outside of the installation



Misoka – an award-winning toothbrush that requires no toothpaste



The quirkiest lamps ever… Pampshade is made from real bread by bread lover/artist, Yukiko Morita. I have ever seen anything like this before!


washi paper


Osaka design centre – Washi paper and K-ino Inomata


draw a line  suzusan

suzusan  suzuzan

Top left: Draw a line tension rod by Heian Shindo and TENT; Suzusan shibori textiles and lighting




lee hyemi


small good things  kim hyun joo

Top row: Ceramic products at I.Cera; 2nd row: Lee Hyemi; 3rd row: Korean craft & design foundation; Bottom left: Small good things; Bottom right: Kim Hyun Joo studio



A notable presence from Taiwan at the fair, aside from the Taiwan crafts & design stand, there were other independent brands like Haoshi, Toast, EY products, new brand called Melting, and the 2017 Rising Asian Talents: Kamaro’an.


taiwan craft design






1st row: Taiwan crafts & design; 2nd row: Haoshi; 3rd row: Kamaro’an; 4th row: Toast; 5th row: Melting; bottom row: EY products



Meanwhile, Thailand’s Department of International Trade Promotion (DITP) also showcased TALENT THAI, which introduced various Thai lifestyle/design brands to an international audience. Thai design studio, Atelier 2+ was also selected one of the 2017 Rising Asian Talents.


zen forum  saprang

atelier 2+ Greenhouse MinI

salt and pepper studio  img_4968-min

1st left: Zen Forum; 1st right: Handmade jewellery by Saprang;  2nd row: Greenhouse Mini by Atelier 2+; Bottom left: woven chair by Salt and Pepper design studio; Bottom right: wooden panels by Deesawat




The stand of Singapore-based architectural practice WOHA was named Designer of the year Asia 2017


Hong Kong


2017 Rising Asian talent: Lim + Lu Studio




London Christmas fairs 2016

stock  christmas leaflet

Left: Selecting products for the Christmas fairs; Right: New postcards with info of the Christmas fairs


Since our e-shop first started 5 years ago (I can’t believe it has been 5 years already!), we have participated in different pop-up Christmas fairs around London. They serve as our opportunity to meet customers/ potential customers face to face. Since it is becoming more competitive these days, some popular/reputable Christmas fairs may require sellers to apply before summer! It is advisable to do research as early as possible and start preparing/applying around summer because usually by October, many major fairs would be booked up.

I had a blast at the Barbican Christmas fair last year, however, they decided not to do it this year, hence I had to look elsewhere in central London. Finally, I opted for two smaller fairs over the first two weekends of December. It is exhausting and stressful to manage online sales and do Christmas fairs at the same time, so I try not to overwork this year.


candid arts gallery  angel christmas fair 16

angel christmas fair 16

angel christmas fair 16

angel christmas fair 16

Top left: Candid arts gallery; Top right and the rest: our stall at the Angel Chrismas fair


I picked Candid Arts Trust‘s long-running Angel Christmas fair because my shared studio/office is based there. I moved in last year and have been told that the fair is a popular one with the locals. The trust’s gallery hosts art/design exhibitions all year round, and it offers affordable studios for artists/designers/makers in an affluent area of London.

At the 2 1/2 day fair, all the sellers were placed on the ground floor, while upstairs was turned into an art gallery and bar. I was told that the fair this year was quieter than the previous years, but as always, it is hard to predict the footfall or sales at these fairs. Though one thing I love about doing fairs is the opportunity to meet and make friends with fellow designers/makers/business owners. At the Angel Christmas fair, I met Winnie from Minute & Azimut, a new stylish watch brand that was launched via a Kickstarter campaign. Winnie, who is originally from Paris, is the designer and owner of this new brand. And a week later, I was invited by her to the opening evening of her pop-up shop near Bond Street, which turned out to be a cosy and enjoyable event.


angel christmas fair 16

minute & azimut  img_9045-min

madeleine marsh

Top: The upstairs art gallery; 2nd left: Winnie from Minute & Azimut; 2nd right: the friendly Ecuadorian ladies selling tagua nut jewellery and handmade scarvies; Bottom: The wonderful scupltures made by my artistic and eccentric stall neighbour Madeleine Marsh


The week after, I did the 1-day ethical Fair Christmas Fayre organised by The Salvation Army. The fair took place at Regent Hall inside their headquarters on Oxford Street. I had no idea that the organisation owns a massive buildling on Oxford Street, and was somewhat surprised to see such a big hall behind an inconspicuous entrance.

The ethical crafty fair has been running for 10 years and I only heard about it last year. Since we sell many eco-friendly and upcycling products, I thought it would be apt to do a fair that showcases these products. I was impressed by the fair organisation and helpful team members/volunteers. I also enjoyed selling inside a spacious and warm venue, which partly explains why I never do any outdoor/semi-outdoor Christmas markets!


regent hall salvation army  Fair Christmas Fayre 16

Fair Christmas Fayre 16

Fair Christmas Fayre 16

Fair Christmas Fayre at Regent Hall on Oxford Street


Unfortunately, the footfall on the day was rather disappointing, and it could be due to the heavy rain on the day. Although Oxford Street is probably the busiest street in London/UK, shoppers usually have their targets on certain shops and so it is never easy to sway them to visit an ethical fair on a not-so-ethical shopping street (this is solely my opinion).

The lower-than-usual footfall at both Christmas fairs this year could be down to an increase of local Christmas fairs and online shopping. Our online sales plummeted after Brexit and it stayed that way until the end of October. Then suddenly, sales surged in November and December, and they ended up being our best months yet! Online sales peaked over the Black Friday weekend and the second week of December, which took me somewhat by surprise after months of stagnant sales. I believe that more UK shoppers were doing their Chirstmas shopping online this year, hence this has given me the confidence that online shopping will continue to grow in the future.




Top: Chau at the Islington Christmas Market; Bottom: our lasercut coasters from Japan


At Fair Christmas Fayre, I became friends with my neighbour, Chau, a young and talented Vietnamese illustrator/designer/owner of Chau art. Chau designs all her greeting cards; she cuts them out by hand initially, and then have them lasercut locally. Chau spotted our Japanese lasercut coasters at the fair, and she thought their styles are similar to hers, so she suggested selling them for me at her upcoming Christmas markets. It was a very kind gesture, and I was more than happy for her to do it. I went to visit her at two of her Christmas fairs the following week, and we spent some time chatting about business and life in general.

Over the last few years, I have made new friends at different Christmas fairs, and although I have not kept in touch with everyone, most of us would support each other via social media like instagram/twitter. It is not easy to run a small business these days, and I think sharing business tips or the difficulties we encounter with each other is immensely helpful.

Christmas fairs are not merely about selling, it is also about supporting, sharing and building friendships. And this is also why we will continue to do them in the future.



Our 4th theme: Read


Charlene’s initial draft of the home page


The initial idea of selling art books and zines emerged about 2 years ago, stemming from my passion for printed matters and reading. Having launched three themes focusing solely on products, it seems like a change of direction to sell books, magazines and zines. Yet I think this change is necessary for the company to evolve. Since our launch 5 years ago, I felt that we have become more of a shop than a platform. My wish is that the new theme and changes to the website will enhance the user experience and encourage users to learn more about the artists/illustrators/designers behind the publications or products.

In recent years, independent publishing seems to be making a comeback. We are seeing a new range of indie aesthetic-driven lifestyle/art/design/craft/food magazines like Kinfolk, Cereal, Delayed Gratification, Dirty furniture, Oh comely, Hole & Corner, Intern, Flaneur, Toilet paper... the list goes on. The same trend is happening in Asia, indie magazines like ‘Science of secondary‘ by Atelier Hoko from Singapore, Design Anthology from Hong Kong, White Fungus from Taiwan and IDEA from Japan are all getting distributed outside of Asia. Many of these magazines showcase bold/conceptual photography, playful illustrations, interesting writings on niche topics and crucially, the standard of printing and paper is much higher than the ones we normally see on the shelves of newsagents. If you think Monocle is expensive, well, it isn’t anymore. Yet these pricey indie magazines are gaining followers because of their quality and unconventional subject matter. One of my favourite magazine is Uppercase from Canada and it is retailed at £14 here, which I think is really expensive for a magazine! I also like Print isn’t dead (£10) from UK, the annual FUKT from Germany and the biannual Weapons of Reasons (free/£6) from the UK.


Hong Kong zines

Various zines created by Hong Kong and Taiwanese illustrators at Open Quote in Hong Kong


Aside from magazines, I also noticed a thriving fanzine/zine market during my travels to Asia in recent years. Artists, illustrators, designers, photographers and independent press studios have turned to self-publishing, and their work can be found in independent book shops, galleries and local zine markets. Earlier this year, I spent some time in Hong Kong, Taipei and Berlin seeking out small independent book/zine shops for research and inspiration. It was an utterly rewarding experience because everyone I contacted was very supportive and encouraging. Since the zine market is not highly profitable, most zine-makers are passion-driven, thus it is a close-knit community. In Hong Kong, I had the opportunity to meet with independent booksellers from Book B and Open Quote, and other local illustrators/artists like Kylie Chan, Gabrielle Tam aka Onion Peterman, Wong Sze Chit, Luna Ng, Kevin Leung from Brainrental. I felt particularly positive after meeting with artists/illustrators, and I wanted to use our platform to promote them as well as other up and coming illustrators/artists/zine-makers in the region.

Back in London, I visited the East London Comic Arts Festival (you can read my blog entry here) and I came across London/Hong Kong-based illustrator Charlene Man. Charlene‘s colourful and playful zines caught my eye, and although I didn’t talk to her, I did get her contact for future reference. Eventually I emailed her and asked her if she was interested in collaborating with us to create an one-off illustration for our new home page. She told me about her upcoming exhibitions in Japan and Hong Kong, but she said she was interested and could work on this before her trip to Asia. We arranged to meet in Shoreditch, had some vegetarian lunch followed by coffee afterwards. We brainstormed and then chatted about work, family and travel. The meeting was casual and spontaneous, and I really enjoyed spending the day with her.

Initially we weren’t sure whether the interactive idea would work or not, and I had to consult the IT guys to see if it was feasible. We thought we would give it a go, and if all things fail, we would make some adjustments to the work. Luckily, everything went smoothly and we were all pleased with the result. Spending the last eight months researching and building a collection was rather bumpy, but I am glad that we finally were able to launch the new theme/collection before Christmas.

I sincerely hope that we can continue to introduce more artists and illustrators from Asia and showcase their wonderful zines and books here in the future.


London Design Fair 2016

Rive Roshan at the design fair 2016

Installation by Rive Roshan using Kvadrat Divina


This year, Tent London & Super Brands London celebrated its 10th anniversary and was rebranded as London Design Fair. The fair at the Old Truman brewery hosted over 500 exhibitors from 29 countries, making it the most international fair of the Festival. Exhibitors include independent designers, established brands, and international country pavilions, such as 100% Norway, Portugal, China, Sweden, India and Italy.

I felt that the overall standard of this year’s fair was high. There was a strong emphasis on handmade crafts and designs using mostly natural and organic materials. The pavilions that caught my attention were Inspiring Portugal, China academy of art and Scotland: Craft and design.


ceramics made at Cerdeira village  serip

Gencork  Kit Miles and Moooi Carpets   Corvasce Design

Top left: Ceramic crafts made at the Cerdeira artist village; Top right: Lighting by Serip; Bottom left: Gencork and BlackCork by Sofalca; Bottom middle: Kit Miles and Moooi Carpets; Bottom right: Cardboard chairs by Corvasce Design


I am a big fan of Portugal or anything Portuguese, and so I was particularly intrigued by Portuguese designs. Cork is one of Portugal’s most popular raw materials, and it is often featured in the creation of local crafts and designs. Aside from cork, a range of beautiful crafts were on display to show the craftsmanship from the Cerdeira artist village.


leonora richardsonmamoutzis

Forest and Found

Wooden & woven spoons  img_8227-min  yuta segawa

Jie Yang

img_8259-min   Liang Liu

Top left: Leonora Richardson‘s ceramic cylinder cells; Top right: Ceramic lighting by Mamoutzis; 2nd row: Handmade wooden objects and textiles by Forest and Found; 3rd left: spoons by Wooden & woven; 3rd right: Yuta Segawa‘s miniature vases; 4th row: Ceramic designs by Jie Yang; Bottom right: Ceramic designs by I Liang Liu


Fung and Bedford

img_8251-min  calendar by An everything  caroline mcneill-moss

glass marbles by kosmosphaera

Top: Fung & Bedford‘s origami installations; 2nd middle: Paper calendar by An everything; 2nd right: Brass sculptures by Caroline Mcneill-Moss; Bottom: Giant glass marbles by Kosmosphaera




naomi mcintosh  julia smith ceramics  img_8271-min


Scotland: Craft & design pavilion – 3rd left: Naomi Mcintosh; 3rd middle: Julia Smith ceramics; 3rd right: Lizzie Farey; Bottom row: Utopian surface tiles and condiment Set by Jennifer Gray


I thought the most impressive pavilion at the fair was the Scotland one. The Scottish designers and makers’ work demonstrated their ability to combine traditional skills with new digital technology to create outstanding pieces of craft.


img_8276-min  img_8243-min


feelex by Gong Qiaolin/ Qiu Kushan/ Wang Weijia  img_8246-min

Design east exhibition – Top left: Relation textile by Lang Qing & Tea ware by Wu Peiping/ Gu Rong/ Chen Jun; Top right: Blue by Li Jie; 2nd row: Black T by Hu Ke; Bottom left: Feelex by Gong Qiaolin/ Qiu Kushan/ Wang Weijia; Bottom right: Meditation seat ware by Gao Fenglin/Nanoin design studio


Another pleasant surprise was the Design East exhibition that featured a range of impressive work by designers and craftsmen from China. The exhibition challenged our perception of Chinese-made designs, and revealed a changing design landscape that is taking place in China today.



img_8279-min  img_8289-min


img_8284-min  img_8285-min  cobalt design

2nd right: This is India exhibition; Bottom middle: Claymen; Bottom right: Jerry can water flask by Cobalt design


Out of all the trade fairs at the design festival, I enjoyed this show much more than others. I think sometimes emerging designers and craftsmen are more daring in their creation, probably because commerciality is not their high on their priorities. Designers and craftsmen have to follow their intuitions rather trends, and it is always encouraging to see people following their hearts than their minds.

Designjunction in Kings Cross 2016

granary square

granary square  granary square

Designjunction in Kings Cross’s Granary Square


This year, Designjunction moved from Holborn to Kings Cross, and it was indeed a good move. Instead of cramming hundreds of stands and outlets into huge abandoned buildings, this year’s show was split into four areas around the Granary Square. It was easier to navigate and more fun than the previous years.


dyslexic design  blackbody

transport for London collection

Vic Lee

Top left: Dyslexic design exhibition; Top right: Blackbody lighting; 2nd row: Transport for London’s new Metroland collection; Bottom: Illustrator Vic Lee working on a mural


At the Granary Square, the Dyslexic design exhibition showcased a range of works created by dyslexic designers from different disciplines like fashion, product, illustration, fine art and architecture. Curated by one of the UK’s leading designers Jim Rokos, the exhibition challenged our perceptions of dyslexia by accentuating the positive effects of living with dyslexia and its close association with design.


johnston twitter machine

johnston twitter machine  img_8090-min

Johnston Twitter Machine by Florian Dussopt


I met and spoke to London-based French designer Florian Dussopt, the designer of a bespoke Twitter machine shaped like the TFL roundel to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Johnston typeface commissioned by Transport for London and KK Outlet gallery. During the 5 days, the Twitter Machine used the Johnston typeface to print all tweets linked to the hashtag #inspiredby on twitter.


design junction cubitt House

img_8114-min  img_8136-min

Top: Cubitt House featured a 70 metre long by 7.5 metre GRID installation designed by Satellite Architects; Bottom: Cranes are ubiquitous in Kings Cross


img_8110-min  Greenhouse by Atelier 2+ for Designhouse Stockholm

samago  samago  3doodler create


img_8127-min  isokan plus  channels design

Top right: Greenhouse by Atelier 2+ for Designhouse Stockholm; 2nd left & middle: Uruguay’s Samago and its designer; 2nd right: 3Doodler Create; 3rd row: ‘Who’s Casper’ project created by Modus to raise funds for the refugee crisis; Bottom left: Foldability; Bottom middle: Isokan Plus; Bottom right: Channels Design


For me, the most impressive and intriguing part of the show was Brain waves, an exhibition showcasing the work of Central Saint Martins’ leading design graduates from across a wide range of disciplines.

Biying Shi‘s ‘Made in China’ project interviews the craftsmen/makers behind the products, and examines our prejudices towards Chinese made goods; while Hanan Alkouh‘s ‘Sea-Meat seaweed’ looks at the industry behind pig meat, dissects it and replicates it with the Dulse seaweed.

I particularly liked Italian jewellery designer Giada Giachino‘s ‘Per Inciso’ – a upcycled jewellery collection made of shell-­lip waste. How sustainable and fun!


Made in China by biying shi  Made in China by biying shi

Library by Sarah Christie

Hanan Alkouh  photosympathise by Freya Morgan

per inciso by Giada Giachino  Digital Daiku by Mark Laban

Top: Made in China by Biying Shi; 2nd row: Library by Sarah Christie; 3rd left: Hanan Alkouh‘s Seameat seaweed; 3rd right: Photosympathise by Freya Morgan; bottom left: Per Inciso by Giada Giachino; bottom right: Digital Daiku by Mark Laban