British Ceramics Biennial 2015

british ceramics biennal 15 british ceramics biennial 15british ceramics biennial 15british ceramics biennial 15 P1150003-compressed

The former Spode pottery factory was used as the main hub of the event


I found out about the British Ceramics Biennial (26th September to 8th November) on the news, and it got me intrigued as I have never visited Stoke on Trent, the pottery home of England before this trip. Since the 17th century, the area (now a city composed of six towns) has been associated with industrial-scale pottery manufacturing, and it earned its nickname as “The Potteries”.

In the 1970s there were 200 potteries factories operating in the area; today there are around 20. The demise of British manufacturing saw the shut down of many well-known pottery factories like Wedgwood, which went into administration in 2009. Many renowned British ceramics brands now produce their potteries in Asia to cut costs, and this has had a profound effect on the industry. And as a result of the closing of the pottery factory, British Ceramics Biennial was set up in 2009 to promote the declining industry.

Luckily, the revival and appreciation of British craftsmanship in the last few years has brought new light to the industry and British manufacturing. Younger potters and ceramic manufacturers have been setting up small studios and factories in the city, which is helping the economy and restoring the reputation of this once-thriving pottery city.


british ceramics biennial 15british ceramics biennial 15 Ingrid Murphy and Jon Pigott's 'The Campanoligist's Tea Cup'Rita Floyd's ceramic flowers british ceramics biennial 15british ceramics biennial 15british ceramics biennial 15 british ceramics biennial 15

Top right: Ingrid Murphy and Jon Pigott‘s ‘The Campanoligist’s Tea Cup’; 2nd left: Rita Floyd’s ceramic flowers


Although I followed official map to the main hub of the event, I was quite skeptical as I walked through the gates of the derelict looking former factory ground of Spode. (The factory is no longer in use, but there is a Spode Works Visitor Centre on site which opens in the weekends.)

It was a relief when I eventually found the entrance to the exhibition area. The vast (and rather cold) factory space had been transformed into a gallery showcasing the best of British ceramics including works by renowned and up-and-coming artists from different parts of the country.


‘Spode Trees and Dressed Silhouettes’ by Charlotte Hodes Steve brownbritish ceramics biennial 15british ceramics biennial 15 british ceramics biennial 15

Top left: ‘Spode Trees and Dressed Silhouettes’ by Charlotte Hodes; Top right: Steve Brown; Main: Shop selling ceramic pieces


Eleven ceramic artists were selected for the AWARD competition, and their installations were exhibited in the centre of China Hall. The winner, Sam Bakewell‘s Imagination Dead Imagine is fascinating clay structure housing 12 years of occasional object making.

I also love Caroline Tattersall‘s ‘Geysers/ Breaking Through‘, which was inspired by Patricio Guzmán‘s ‘Nostalgia for the light’ (one of my favourite documentaries). Several curved vessels containing clay reveal the material in different states including ones emitting bubbles and steam like the gurgling geyser. The primitive and ephemeral aspect of this work demonstrate fully the versatility and essence of clay.


 Mella Shaw paul scott's 'Guldagergård Tree'Amy Hughessam bakewellSam Bakewell, Imagination Dead Imagine'Crossing Boundaries' by Anne Gibbs Caroline Tattersall's breaking throughAneta RegalJames Rigler

Top: Mella Shaw; 2nd left: Paul Scott‘s ‘Guldagergård Tree’; 2nd middle: Amy Hughes; 2nd right & 3rd: ‘Imagination Dead Imagine’ installation by Sam Bakewell, the winner of the 2015 British Ceramics Biennial AWARD; 4th left: ‘Crossing Boundaries’ by Anne Gibbs; 4th right: ‘Breaking Through’ by Caroline Tattersall; 5th row: Aneta Regal; Bottom row: James Rigler


Another showcase installation at the site was ‘Resonate: Remembering the lost soldiers of North Staffordshire’ by Stephen Dixon & Johnny Magee, which was placed in a separate room. Dominated by a monumental clay head by artist Stephen Dixon, made using a ton of clay sourced from the WWI battlefield sites of Passchendaele, the sculpture is based on the Victory Medal of 1919. The structure was accompanied by a sound sculpture by Johnny Magee, which orchestrated the familiar and incidental sounds, poignant songs and popular music of the period.


british ceramics biennial 15angie thirkellkate haywoodbritish ceramics biennial 15Standing on the Verge/Live Up by Nao MatsunagaZen Rogue by Vilas Silvertoncharlotte barker Standing on the Verge/Live Up by Nao Matsunagabritish ceramics biennial 15ragna mouritzen

2nd left: Angie Thirkell‘s Eastern inspired ceramic tableware; 2nd middle: Kate Haywood; 3rd & 4th right: Standing on the Verge/Live Up by Nao Matsunaga4th leftt: Zen Rogue by Vilas Silverton; 4th middle: Charlotte Barker; Bottom row: Ragna Mouritzen


I was very impressed by the standard and variety of works showcased at the site, though I would have lingered longer if the site hadn’t been so cold!

After visiting the main hub, I walked across town to The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in city centre before it closed its doors at 5pm. Aside from its superb collection of over 5000 ceramic pieces, it also traces the history of British ceramic manufacturing and the importance of Stoke in this industry.

The temporary ceramic exhibition ‘Confected, Borrowed and Blue…an installation by Paul Scott’(7 February 2016)is a delight. Scott uses the traditional visual language of blue and white decoration on ceramic to explore contemporary social and political themes. There is irony and playfulness in his works, as demonstrated in ‘Scott’s Cumbrian Blue(s), Cow in a meadow (after Damien Hirst)’.


pottery museum stoke on trent pottery museum stoke on trentpottery museum stoke on trentScott's Cumbrian Blue(s), Fukushimapottery museum stoke on trentpottery museum stoke on trent Eric Ravilious design for Wedgewoodpottery museum stoke on trentpottery museum stoke on trent

Top left: The statue outside of The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery; Top right: The poster of ‘Confected, Borrowed and Blue…an installation by Paul Scott’;2nd row: The facade that depicts the manufacturing of potteries; 3rd row: Paul Scott’s ‘Scott’s Cumbrian Blue(s), Fukushima’; 4th row: Scott’s Cumbrian Blue(s), Cow in a meadow (after Damien Hirst)’; 5th right: Eric Ravilious’ design for Wedgewood


To be continued…


Frieze London 2015

frieze London 2015P1140806-compressedP1140804-compressed'Mutter' by Erwin Wurm

2nd row left: ‘Cierra’ by John de Andrea at Galerie Perrotin; 2nd middle: ‘Steel Broken Figure’ by Daniel Arsham at Galerie Perrotin; 2nd row right: ‘Mutter’ by Erwin Wurm


I have continued to declare that I am not a fan of art fairs, yet my curiosity has led me back to them somehow. I have never been interested in attending Frieze London until this year. One of the reasons I changed my mind was because I wanted to distinguish the difference between Frieze and Art Basel.

After the eye-opening and atrocious experience at Art Basel Hong Kong earlier this year (you can read about it here), I was hoping that Frieze would change my view on these mega art fairs. Well, not really.

After my visits to the two art fairs within this year, I would say that Art Basel in Hong Kong was a more ostentatious fair (probably catering for the Chinese market), and the venue was filled with prodigious art and sculptural installations. A majority of the visitors were not buyers (or even interested in art for that matter), but they created buzz and hype around the show, which was free publicity that worked wonders for the marketing team.


cocktail party by Tom Friedmanai weiwei Abdulnasser Gharem's The Stampdo ho suhdo ho suhPaul ChanMark Leckey at Galerie Buchholz

Top row: ‘Cocktail party’ by Tom Friedman; 2nd row left: ‘Iron roots’ by Ai Wei Wei; 2nd row right: ‘The Stamp’ by Abdulnasser Gharem; 3rd row & 4th left: Do Ho Suh’s fabric installations; 4th row middle: Cords installation by Paul Chan; 4th row right: ‘Felix the Cat’ by Mark Leckey at Galerie Buchholz


Frieze London (not Masters), on the other hand, seemed more subdued and less gimmicky in comparison and displayed a wider range of art forms (like video, film and sound art). One of the biggest differences between the two was the attendees, it appeared that Frieze’s visitors were genuinely interested in art and in purchasing. There were not many selfie addicts, and the vibe was more ‘civilised’. Yet I still did not enjoy my 3-hour experience at the fair. While I felt overwhelmed at Art Basel, I felt slightly underwhelmed at Frieze. Not that there were no substantial works at the fair, but I was not blown away. Despite the disappointment, here are some of the highlights for me from the fair:

Do Ho Suh is one of the most renowned Korean contemporary artists working today. His neon-bright mesh sculptures and installations of domestic space, fixtures and fittings are intricate and fascinating.


birgit brennermark wallinger endgame Cornelia Parker 'Opposites' Hauser & Wirth at Frieze 2015Christina Mackie at Supportico Lopez Francis Alÿs' Camgunmounir fatmi 'The Paradox'louise bourgeoisP1140926-compressedmounir fatmi 'The Paradox' Mark Dion, 'The Phantasmal Cabinet,' Georg Kargl Fine Arts

Top: Birgit Brenner’s cardboard lorry; 2nd row left: Mark Wallinger’s ‘endgame’; 2nd row right: Cornelia Parker’s ‘Opposites’ with Fine Cell works; 3rd row: Sculptures at Hauser & Wirth; 4th left: Christina Mackie at Supportico Lopez; 4th right: Francis Alÿs’ ‘Camgun’; 5th left & bottom left: Mounir Fatmi’s ‘The Paradox’ at Goodman Gallery; 5th middle: Louise Bourgeois’ sculpture; 5th right: Alicja Kwade at 303 Gallery; Bottom right: Mark Dion’s ‘The Phantasmal Cabinet’ at Georg Kargl Fine Arts


Although I am not a huge fan of contemporary art, I would say that Belgian conceptual artist Francis Alÿs is someone who I respect. His works are often thought-provoking, imaginative and insightful. His ‘Camgun’ is a machine gun sculpture made of scraps (wood, metal, plastic) that works as a camera, which reflects the violence of life in Mexico City where he resides.

As a practitioner of Arabic calligraphy, it is not surprised that I was immensely drawn to Moroccan artist Mounir Fatmi‘s ‘The Paradox’, a sculpture that shows an obsolete machine featuring Arabic calligraphy and steel pieces scattered around the machine. Fatmi often questions written text and its visual poetry, highlighting the paradox between its beauty and its violence, its meaning and its shape. This piece is not only visually alluring but the craftsmanship is exquisite.


camille henrot camille henrotcamille henrot at Galerie Kamel Mennourhayv kahramangary webb  at The ApproachRyan Gander amalia pica's joy in paperworkKen Kagami at Misako & Rosen Ed Fiorneles at Carlos/Ishikawa

Top and 2nd row: Camille Henrot at Galerie Kamel Mennour; 3rd left: Hayv Kahraman; 3rd middle: Gary Webb at The Approach; 3rd right: Ryan Gander at Taro Nasu; 4th row: Amalia Pica’s ‘Joy in paperwork’; Bottom row left: live comic drawing by Ken Kagami at Misako & Rosen; Bottom right: Ed Fiorneles at Carlos/Ishikawa


French artists Camille Henrots paintings occupied most of the wall space at Galerie Kamel Mennour‘s booth. Her playful and intriguing pastel figures enact various private activities that reflect our narcissistic culture today.

Iraqi artist Hayv Kahraman‘s paintings reflect the controversial issues of gender, honor killings and war in Iraq and the Middle East. Kahraman tells these tales of horror with a demure grace through her stunningly beautiful and compelling paintings.

I also love Amalia Pica’s ‘Joy in paperwork’ comprises of 42 compositions created through traditional stationery rubber stamps. A simple but lovely idea.


Ann Agee's Lake Michigan Bathroom (II) at P.P.O.W. GalleryAnn Agee at P.P.O.W. Gallery Anri Sala's 'Still Life in the Doldrums'Samara Scott’s floor installation at The Sunday PainterP1140938-compressed Damian Ortega at Galeria Fortes Vilaca

Top & 2nd left: Ann Agee’s ‘Lake Michigan Bathroom (II)’ at P.P.O.W. Gallery; 2nd row right: Anri Sala’s ‘Still Life in the Doldrums’ installation at Marian Goodman; 3rd row: Samara Scott’s floor installation at The Sunday Painter; Bottom left: Charlie White; Bottom right: Damian Ortega at Galeria Fortes Vilaca


One of the most eye-catching installations at the fair was American artist Ann Agee‘s ‘Lake Michigan Bathroom (II)’ at the P.P.O.W. Gallery stand. I love azulejo and Agee‘s ceramic tiled wall installations feature a urinal, a toilet, a bidet, a sink and a water fountain. Don’t expect a wall of idyllic scenery ( remember that this is an ART fair after all), her contemporary version include illustrations of the human anatomy and genitals, as well as people in various states of excretion.

Albanian artist Anri Sala’s ‘Still Life in the Doldrums (d’apres Cezanne)’ was another crowd drawer at the fair. The multi-media installation features four hand painted human skulls, a snare drum, carved American Maple drumsticks, loudspeaker parts and soundtrack (mono). Visitors were bewildered by the sounds produced from the self playing drumsticks underneath the skulls. Fun, uncanny and enigmatic, this installation reminds us that art is not just restricted to the visual cue; and it is encouraging to see more artists combining audio with visual to create a multi-sensory experience for visitors.



The Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris

Fondation Louis Vuitton

Fondation Louis Vuitton  Fondation Louis Vuitton


Opened in October 2014, the Fondation Louis Vuitton was designed by star architect Frank Gehry in the Bois de Boulogne adjacent to Jardin d’Acclimatation.

Commissioned by Bernard Arnault, the Chairman of LVMH, the $143 million sails-inspired glass building is a contemporary art museum consisted of 11 galleries, an auditorium, a restaurant, a bookstore and a roof garden.


Fondation Louis Vuitton  Fondation Louis Vuitton

Fondation Louis Vuitton


Like many big-budget buildings by other contemporary star architects – Zaha Zadid, Daniel Libeskind and Renzo Piano to name a few, subtlety is the last thing you would expect from them. Imposing, audacious and conspicuous, the building’s facade is very ‘intagramable’, but it looks completely out of place next to the 19th century children’s amusement park Jardin d’Acclimatation. Beautiful or hideous, it is utterly subjective; though personally, I have quite mixed feelings towards this building.


Fondation Louis Vuitton  Fondation Louis Vuitton

Fondation Louis Vuitton

Inside the horizon, Olafur Eliasson's installation   Inside the horizon, Olafur Eliasson's installation

Top two rows: The miniature models and floor plan of the building; Bottom: Olafur Eliasson’s installation ‘Inside the horizon’


My issue with this building has less to do with its exterior, I was more bothered by its confusing layout and navigation. While there is only one route to visit the connecting galleries in the basement, the galleries upstairs are disjointed in an erratic manner, and so it is easy to miss certain rooms without even realising it!


Fondation Louis Vuitton  Fondation Louis Vuitton

Gilbert & george at Fondation Louis Vuitton

Jean-Michel Basquiat at Fondation Louis Vuitton

Jean-Michel Basquiat at Fondation Louis Vuitton  Fondation Louis Vuitton

Mann im Matsch ("Man in Mud") by Thomas Schutte

‘Popist, and music/sound exhibition’ – Top right: Philippe Parreno’s helium-filled black balloons; 2nd row: Gilbert and George; 3rd and 4th left: Jean-Michel Basquiat; Bottom: Mann im Matsch (Man in Mud) by Thomas Schutte


Fondation Louis Vuitton  Fondation Louis Vuitton

Fondation Louis Vuitton

Fondation Louis Vuitton  Fondation Louis Vuitton

The building’s stainless steel, carbon steel and wood (larch) structure and its roof garden


One of the highlights of the museum is its roof garden, where you can admire the building’s complex steel and wood structure and the skyscrapers of La Défense (looking very much like Canary Wharf in London) on a clear day.


Jardin d’Acclimatation

Jardin d’Acclimatation

Jardin d’Acclimatation  Jardin d’Acclimatation

Jardin d’Acclimatation – 2nd & 3rd row left: outdoor jazz/music concerts on Sundays


After spending time admiring contemporary art work indoor, I was eager to get out and enjoy some sun and nature. Even though Jardin d’Acclimatation is a children’s ‘theme’ park, it is spacious and relaxing, and has plenty to offer adults like outdoor music concerts in the weekends.

To my surprise, there is even a Korean garden and an Edo period (1862) Japanese farmhouse within the park.


Jardin d’Acclimatation

Jardin d’Acclimatation  Jardin d’Acclimatation

Jardin d’Acclimatation

Jardin d’Acclimatation  Jardin d’Acclimatation

Korean garden and a traditional Japanese farmhouse


Yet the cutest attraction at the park is the Little train, a locomotive with electric traction which travels on the historical railway (1878) that links the park to Porte Maillot metro station. It is great to see the railway still being in operation after 138 years!

If you are not prepared to pay €14 to visit The Fondation Louis Vuitton, you can spend €3 and enjoy the park’s attractions while admiring Gehry‘s architecture as the backdrop!


gare du petit train  gare du petit train

gare du petit train

Le Petit train


Autumn in Paris

La Seine  La Seine

La Seine


I had originally planned to visit Maison et objet, the mega design trade show in Paris at the beginning of September. Yet an unexpected event happened at home and I decided to postpone by trip by about a month.

I wasn’t quite mentally prepared for the trip, but the beauty of Paris completely captivated me and made me forget about my anguish. It was when I was walking along the river Seine that I realised I had forgotten how breathtakingly beautiful Paris is. As much as I enjoy walking along the Thames in London, it just doesn’t feel the same… Paris’ scenery and ambience stimulate people’s imagination and it evokes people to sit down and start drawing or write poems spontaneously; it is no wonder that the city has nurtured so many famous artists and writers for more than a century.


La Seine  La Seine

La Seine  La Seine

La Seine

La Seine  La Seine

The sights and activities along the river Seine


Although everyone thinks that Paris is a city for lovers, I felt extremely content walking along the river alone. I don’t view solitude as a negative state, in fact, there are times when solitude is necessary in order for us to absorb the sublime surroundings.


La Seine  La Seine

La Seine  La Seine

La Seine

Paris’ sunset


The glorious and sunny days made a huge impact on the trip. It made me feel joyful and relaxed walking around the city, and I almost didn’t want the trip to end!


paris  paris

paris  paris  paris


paris playground  paris playground


In the Palais Royal garden, there was a temporary exhibition of large stone sculptures and installations; it was wonderful to stroll and admire these art works while the sun was out.


palais royal garden  palais royal garden

palais royal garden  palais royal garden  palais royal garden

palais royal garden

palais royal garden  palais royal garden  palais royal garden

palais royal garden

palais royal garden  palais royal garden

palais royal garden

palais royal garden  palais royal garden

The Palais Royal Gardens and temporary stone sculptures and installations


The short trip simply reminds me that there is no place like Paris. And whether you are here alone or with a lover/partner or family, it would be difficult not be allured by the magic of this city.




paris  paris  paris



London design festival 15 at Somerset house

Marc Quinn: Frozen Waves, Broken Sublimes Marc Quinn: Frozen Waves, Broken Sublimes

Marc Quinn’s ‘Frozen Waves, Broken Sublimes’ sculptures in the courtyard


My last stop at the design festival was the Somerset House, a new major destination this year. In the courtyard were four new monumental sculptures by Marc Quinn entitled ‘Frozen Wave and Broken Sublime’. The stainless steel sculptures’ primal, gestural shapes originate from shells eroded by the endless action of the waves. And the theme of nature continued inside the building…


Max Lamb 'My Grandfather's Tree' Max Lamb 'My Grandfather's Tree' Max Lamb 'My Grandfather's Tree' Max Lamb 'My Grandfather's Tree' Max Lamb 'My Grandfather's Tree'

 Max Lamb ‘My Grandfather’s Tree’


One of my favourite installations at the festival was British designer Max Lamb‘s ‘My Grandfather’s Tree‘. The rotten ash tree was located on the land of the designer’s grandfather’s farm in Yorkshire. With help from his tree surgeon friend, they managed to divide the tree into 130 logs laid out in order of diameter, with the 187 annual growth rings clearly visible. The designer explained his motive: “the ash tree continues to exist as an ash tree, but with a new life, a new function and the start of a new history.


Arik Levy with Tabanlioglu Architects Transition; Warm/Wet Edward Barber & Jay OsgerbyPATTERNITY with Paperless Post Connected by Pattern Faye ToogoodAlex Rasmussen with Neal Feay The Wave Spine by Nassia Inglessis

Top left: Arik Levy with Tabanlioglu Architects – Transition Warm/Wet; Top right: Edward Barber & Jay Osgerby‘s Hotaru Lanterns in The Reading room; 2nd row: PATTERNITY with Paperless Post – Connected by Pattern; Bottom left: Faye Toogood – The drawing room; Bottom middle: Alex Rasmussen with Neal Feay – The Wave; Bottom right: interactive light installation Spine by Nassia Inglessis 


In the west wing, ten well-established designers showcased their work in collaboration with their best clients. The most playful installations were by PATTERNITY for Paperless Post and Luca Nichetto’s modular Alphabeta lamps for Hem, which featured a grand piano connected to 44 Alphabeta pendants, and each of the lamps illuminated at the touch of the piano keys. Cool.


Design Junction 2015

Victoria Housevictoria houseVictoria Housethe college the college the college

Top row: the art deco features at Victoria House: 2nd & bottom rows: The college


Like 100% Design, this year, Design Junction moved from its previous location (the Former Royal Mail Sorting Office on New Oxford Street) to two enormous and historical venues on Southampton Row – the art deco Victoria House (completed in 1932) and The College (the former site of Central St Martin’s College of Art and Design completed in 1908). The interior of both buildings are fascinating, but the maze-like layout (esp. at The college) made it hard for visitors to navigate and most of us were constantly going round in circles within the building.


P1140571-compressedvic leerokosAlicja Patanowskagoat story

Top: Teddy’s wish installation; 2nd left: Vic Lee working on a mural; 2nd middle: Tipping vases by Rokos; 2nd right: Plantation by Alicja Patanowska; Bottom row: Goat Story


This year, the retail section was allocated to the basement of Victoria house, which was the original home of the show back in 2011. One of the attractions was the ‘Teddy’s wish’ installation created by Anthony Dickens and Studio Make Believe, featuring 21 iconic Eames elephants customised by world renowned designers and architects.



Top & bottom left: Blackbody; Bottom middle: Ango; Bottom right: Haberdashery


Lighting had always been a strong focus at this design fair in the past, and this year was no exception. Over at The College site, the entire ground floor was dedicated to lighting, and one of the most visually spectacular was French light company Blackbody‘s installations at one of the entrances. I was also drawn to the nature-inspired lighting created by the Thai company Ango. The company’s designs have won awards at various local and international design shows including Good design award in Japan and Maison et Objet in France.


the gem roomlaufen at the gem room coelacanth shokudoucoelacanth shokudoucoelacanth shokudouYuta Segawa

Top and 2nd left: The gem room; 2nd right, 3rd & 4th rows: Scissors and crafts by Coelacanth Shokudou; Bottom: Yuta Segawa’s miniature pots


Among all the contemporary products, it was unexpected to see a Japanese craftsman sitting on the floor and making a pair of scissors in the middle of the room. Coelacanth Shokudou is a design research centre from Hyogo Prefecture in Japan that utilises local resources and traditional skills to produce functional and high quality designs.

Another surprise discovery for me was Yuta Segawa‘s miniature pots at the UAL now exhibitors section. The Camberwell MA graduate’s vast array of ceramic vessels are delicate and delightful, I absolutely adore them!


tools for everyday lifetools for everyday lifetools for everyday lifewe do wood Noble and woodTotem Mill by Tylko

Top row: Tools for everyday life; 2nd left: We do wood; 2nd right: Cape light by Noble and wood; Bottom: Totem Mill by Tylko


As a stationery fan, it was hard for me to not fiddle with the range of stationery and other tools displayed at the Tools for everyday life stand. The research project examines how skilled manufacture can lead to beautiful things, allowing the designers a space to explore and reflect on ‘making’ as a commercially relevant process in the manufacture of functionally useful things. The collection of products and furniture are created by designers who studied BA (hons) 3D Design programme at Northumbria University. The objects are playful and captivating, and the high quality craftsmanship reveals the beauty of ubiquitous every day tools in the most direct manner.

In our technology-driven society today, designers have to respond, adapt and innovate quicker than ever before. Backed by design entrepreneur Yves Behar (founder of Fuse project),the Polish furniture startup Tylko launched an app that allows users to customise each furniture piece according to their own desire and see it in their own space. Will this type of parametric design and technology change the way we shop in the future? We shall wait and see, but it is always exciting to see designers pushing the boundaries and finding new methods to innovate.


Maggie's donation box by Benjamin HubertBenjamin Hubert

Top: Maggie’s donation box by Benjamin Hubert; Bottom: Talk by Benjamin Hubert


Last but not least, it was interesting to attend a talk by designer Benjamin Hubert (founder of Layer) on his new donation box design for Maggie’s ( cancer support centre) and Worldbeing, a self-directed wearable and app supported by the Carbon Trust that tracks carbon usage. Although it has been predicted that wearable technology will be as Big as smartphones in the years to come, I still have reservation about this trend. The flop of google glass and Apple Watch indicates that perhaps consumers are not ready yet. Is it due to design flaws or psychological reasons? Again, only time will tell.



Tent London 2015

100% norway tent 2015

Facade of 100% Norway at Tent London


For some reason, the design trade shows that I attended this year at The London design festival appeared to be quieter than usual. At Tent London, the atmosphere was a far cry from the chaos I experienced last year… not sure if it was the time of the day or if attendees have dropped this year.

As always, one of the biggest stand at the show was 100% Norway with 26 designer/manufacturers exhibiting furniture and products inspired mostly by the country’s nature.


P1140513-compressedP1140535-compressed Trefjøla

Top: 100% Norway; Bottom left: Constancy and change in Korean traditional craft; Bottom right: Cutting boards by Trefjøla at 100% Norway


The main trend of the show was handcrafted designs made of natural materials like wood and clay, and this was evident at the Irish stand, O Design ad craft from Ireland. I was most pleasantly surprised by the simple, beautiful and well crafted work on display. I especially love the range of nature-inspired homeware by Superfolk, the cute wooden toys by Saturday Workshop, and the extraordinary stone sculptures by Helen O’Connell.


Mourne textiles saturday workshopsuperfolksuperfolkSuperfolkadam frewhelen O'Connell helen O'Connell

Top left: Mourne textiles; Top right: Saturday workshop; 2nd to 4th rows: Superfolk; 5th row: Adam Frew; Bottom row: Stone sculptures by Helen O’Connell


This year, there was no sign of Tokyo design week, and the overall Asian presence was less visible than the previous years. The largest stand from Asia was EATAIPEI, an immersive stand that promotes Taipei, which will be the World Design Capital of 2016. One of the most fascinating designs on display was the plastic ceramic tableware by Pili Wu. Inspired by traditional Chinaware from the Song dynasty and disposable plastic wares used in many taiwanese roadside restaurants, the range of plastic tableware could easily be mistaken as ceramics! Cool.

Another Taiwanese stand that caught my eye was Case, a new design studio that raises awareness on environmental and social issues through their thought-provoking products. The ceramic Toxic Tuna sauce dish features a sinking ship and comes with a map of worldwide oil spills, which reminds us of the hidden health risks from consuming the toxic seafood. There are also candles shaped as plastic waste, which reminds us of the poisonous released when plastic is burned. It is encouraging to see new brands like this using design to raise consumers’ awareness, I hope they will continue to keep up with the good work.


IMG_0184-compressedIMG_0183-compressed case projectssurugajiahao liao jiahao liao

Top row: Eataipei – Plastic ceramics by Pili Wu; 2nd row left: Eataipei –  2nd row right: Case project; 3rd row: Suruga from Japan; Bottom row: JiaHao Liao


I also spoke to Paris-based Singaporean designer JiaHao Liao, whose furniture and designs express a subtle Eastern influence and detailed craftsmanship. The ‘ADAPTable’ is inspired by the Chinese mahjong table and can be used as either a dinning or coffee table. The ‘1+1+1’ is a 3-piece multi-configuration furniture inspired by traditional Chinese furniture from the Ming dynasty, which can be used as a coffee table, stool, chair or armchair. I particularly like ‘lightscape’, a versatile and playful lamp that is made up of 3 geometric shapes in 3 different raw materials, wood, iron and stone. The design encourages the user to interact with and to compose various “landscapes” resulting in different lighting positions and graphical composition.


julian jay rouxSarah Tran Xuezhi LiuTortus CopenhagenWeeds by Karina Marusinska julain wattsP1140538-compressedlofstromKIWI by Agnieszka Tomalczyk P1140558-compressed

Top row: Julian Jay Roux; 2nd left: Sarah Tran’s textiles; 2nd right: Xuezhi Liu‘s ceramics; 3rd row: Tortus Copenhagen; 4th left: Weeds by Karina Marusinska; 4th right: Julian Watts‘ wood carvings; 6th row: Lofstrom; Bottom left: KIWI by Agnieszka Tomalczyk


At trade shows like these, the display of the stand is very important as it has to catch the visitors’ attention immediately. I was drawn to Lofstrom‘s stand because of its simple but effective mix of typography and photos its the wall. I spoke to Swedish interior designer Mikael Löfström and learned that it was his first show in London. His new jewellery collection features handmade necklaces composed of various sized and coloured recycled wood with typography on it. The collection reminds me of wooden toys for children, very simple, creative and playful, just like his stand.


IMG_0206-compressedEkta KaulBaileyTomlinShop ron arad

Etsy’s ‘Four Corners of Craft’ – 2nd row: Ekta Kaul‘s Embroidered London Map Quilt; Bottom left: BaileyTomlinShop; Bottom right: Ron Arad and Patrizia Moroso at Supertalks


It is always entertaining to attend talks by architect/designer Ron Arad. At Supertalks, he was invited to discuss his successful 25-year collaboration with Patrizia Moroso. It was especially ‘entertaining’ to see how he reacted when he was constantly interrupted by journalist Jonn Elledge. The vibe was awkward and I felt embarrassed for the journalist. Was it a good idea to invite the editor of CityMetric and New Statesman to chair a design talk? Maybe not.



100% design 2015

100% design 2015 donar at 100% design 2015

100% design’s new venue in Olympia; right: Donar


Having visited The London design festival for many years, I somehow feel that the festival is losing its spark/edge. The guide is undoubtedly getting thicker and heavier (not sure if anyone enjoyed carrying this design festival ‘bible’ around for 10 days), yet the festival itself has become more ‘business’ like.

This may sound mean but as far as I can remember, this year’s design trade shows were by far the least inspiring. Since when did design become so boring and safe?! Although 100% design moved from Earls Court to Olympia this year, the vast venue was unexpectedly quiet during my visit.


soso studio at 100% design 2015 soso studio soso studio hi design shanghaiey productssoso studio

1st, 2nd and bottom right: Soso Studio; Bottom left: Hi design Shanghai; Bottom middle: E-Y products


At the entrance of the show, one couldn’t help but notice the conspicuous booths from China. One of them was Icon’s Hi Design Shanghai, which featured ten Chinese emerging and established design brands for the first time in UK. It is interesting to see how Chinese designs have evolved in a short period of time; and although the Chinese design scene is still immature, many young Chinese designers are developing their own styles and utilising traditional skills and craftsmanship that have been passed down for centuries.


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Although I was disappointed with the show and the products in general, I did benefit from the insightful talk on the future of design by trend forecasters and 3D researcher. As we have seen in recent years, sustainability, ethics and upcycling have become the predominant factors in design; and designers are now rethinking human’s relationship with nature and consumerism. “How to make consumerism the answer rather than a thread?” is the question that designers have to deal with. It is almost ironic to talk about sustainability at these design trade shows because there are simply too many unnecessary products that are being made, and it is quite evident at these shows.

I left the show pondering how I, as a designer, e-tailer, consumer and citizen be more responsible of my actions; and at the same time make other consumers be more conscious of their behaviour. These changes cannot be made overnight, and they require collective power/movement. I believe that more collaborations and dialogues between different industries and sectors are necessary in order to create a global shift that focuses more on the quality of life than short term profits or economic gains.