Take a seat...

my fave green chair jade mellor.JPG

A chair can stand alone as a striking three dimensional object in a way most other furniture can't. A universal object, one in every home. Well hopefully at least one each, but if you not you had better be quick when the music stops. Sometimes they wait patiently in the corner ready to accommodate the extra guest. Sometimes they move frequently: in and out from under the table, admiring the view from the window or holding steady under your feet in the dimness as the new bulb twists into place. How many chairs does it take to change a light bulb? Just one.

 This is a chair from my Nan's bedroom. As a little kid I would sit in it while she brushed the tangles out of my hair. It's been with me in my student houses and various bedrooms getting itself a bit scuffed on the way but I just can't paint it. I never knew what happened to the cushion which I keep meaning to replace but in the meantime (erm the past 12 years) this wooden top off an old coffee table fits perfectly in place.

 There were several chairs nominated for The Design Awards at London's Design Museum. As a chair they all begin with the same simple purpose of a seat, but the designer's approach, material choice and processes makes them so much more. They are examples of unique textures utilizing imaginative processes and even expressing thought and ideas. Here are a few I snapped while I was there.



A Seat for Support

From the 60s satellite shape, to the bold colours, woven construction and graphic lines this really is Marni as a chair. As well as looking so great, there is substance behind the style.

These woven designs are from a collection called 100 Chairs as a collaboration between Marni and Colombian craftsmen. 

The frames are reclaimed from traditional Colombian furniture, with the colourful PVC woven by ex-prisoners in a social rehabilitation program. The profits got to ICAM, an institute to help children of imprisoned mothers.


100 Chairs Marni

100 Chairs Marni

100 Chairs Marni, rocker. There is also an amazing sofa if you check out the  Chairs for Charity  site.

100 Chairs Marni, rocker. There is also an amazing sofa if you check out the Chairs for Charity site.

Reimagined Chairs  Studiomama

Reimagined Chairs



More salvaged frames below, found on the streets in East London by the designer's studio. Powder coated and reupholstered these once sad office rejects take on a bold new personality. It would be great if their Reimagined chairs encouraged others to mend or do-up their own pieces or go hunting for their own to recycle and reuse making them fit with their personal style.

The Studiomama online shop has some great projects giving you a tutorial on how to make your own chairs, lamps and play houses. There's even a free PDF to make your own outdoor kitchen. Its is a perfect way to escape a hot cooking zone to get out in the great outdoors, and own a piece of great design but satisfyingly made by your own fair hand!

Furniture Winner

The Winner of the furniture award is this Medici chair whic you can see/sit on & purchase for yourself at the Aram store. It looks simple even with it's joints left in full view and it's honest elegance comes from the well planned construction and knowledge of materials by cabinet maker Konstantin Grcic. Using thermo treated ash, and precision joinery the shapes are created in Northern Italy by family firm Mattiiazzi, who have embraced modern computer technology to give meticulous accuracy.

This back to basics approach illustrates how a familiar material and the traditional skills of a craftsman can combine with the digital technology we have available today.  Grcic says:

"Designing for Mattiazzi was like a personal time travel. It took me all the way back to my professional roots. At the very beginning of my career, I was trained a cabinet-maker. Working with wood is what I learnt from scratch. It is where it all started for me."


WINNER: FURNITURE  Medici Chair, Konstantin Grcic


Medici Chair, Konstantin Grcic

Well Proven Chair, James Shaw & Marjan Van Aubel

Well Proven Chair, James Shaw & Marjan Van Aubel

Well Proven Chair

This edible looking chair isn't a big baked biscuit, but as it's name suggests is formed by a chemical reaction between wood shavings and bio-resin just like the yeast making your ball of bread dough double in size. This material can actually expand up to five times its original and was discovered by Marjan Van Aubel and James Shaw through RCA workshop "Out of the Woods" looking at ways to use some of the 80% of material that is wasted in furniture manufacture.  Like the DIY fabrication encouraged by Studiomama, this expanding material looks like it could have a use as a product for individuals where a small amount of mixture that is easier to transport can provide you with a solid piece of simple furniture, like a llittle stool.

Here is a video of the two designers discussing their discovery and getting their hands dirty squidging the material in place around their chair mould.

The Sea Chair.JPG

As well as highlighting the problems of pollution to raise our awareness of the state of our own coastline, another positive of this piece is it actually uses the offending material and transforms it into a useful object with infinite colours and a unique texture. After the plastic waste is swept up in fishing nets and sorted to go into a hydraulic press and furnace named "The Sea Press" this new material is moulded and shaped with hand tools. 

The designers propose this could become an opportunity for fisherman as a micro industry, using their skills to trawl for this material and make these products, helping to clean up the seas as they do so.

Sea Chair 

This intriguing object originates in Cornwall. Contrasting the idyllic family holidays and beautiful sea views that have inspired so many artists, it is made from plastic waste collected from Porthtowan beach. I had no idea that it is one of the most polluted coastlines in the U.K for this, and that is what U.K designer Kieran Jones and the Brazilian based Studio Swine want to draw our attention to with this piece.

A chair in a bottle

A chair in a bottle

I love this alchemy of making something from nothing, and the object they produce becomes much more interesting and organic-looking like the texture of a strange pineapple or layers of oil paint zoomed into a painting.

the sea chair close up.JPG
Markunpoika engineering temporarality burnt chair.JPG

Engineering Temporarilty

Tuomas Marunpoika created this chair by encasing wooden furniture in metal rings, before burning away the original piece to be left with the shell he created. On his website he says: 

"The use of language in Western contemporary culture implies that memories are often conceived as possessions: we ‘keep’ memories alive or ‘preserve’ them, as if our memories were materialised objects. These objects become mementos and our personal possessions of which we are responsible for. When objects impregnated with memories are created, they become precious and irreplaceable because of the transference of memories into that object."

This was his own personal response to his grandmother's Alzheimer's disease. Watching her health decline, losing her memories and the strong person she once was he wants to represent the fragile shadow left behind: "vaporising the very core of her personality and life...turning her into a shell of a human being."

The designer states his design aim as to: "translate human fragility into a design object and introduce humanistic, more profound values into the field of design where functionality, aesthetics and mass produced perfectness are the paramount." 

Below is an atmospheric video of one of his other beautiful creations using this method.

Gravity Stools

I was very excited to see these next sci-fi looking stools by Jólan van der Wiel after reading about his amazing process a while ago. My own work is inspired and informed by the construction of minerals and learning about geological processes that form the Earth over millions of years. These stools have that same appearance of organic growth and mysterious, almost unbelievable natural processes to create a unique shape. 

“This is a departure from the idea that everything is influenced by gravity,"

Even the tallest stalagmites start with one drip, and these remarkable pieces are due to the tiny iron fragments in their composition. Using a machine a bit like a vice with magnets in both parts, when drawn apart the plastic and iron filing mixture betwixt them is magnetically pulled forming the legs. He is also experimenting with other objects, I really like the candlesticks, I could imagine Labyrinth Bowie hosting a dinner party with those.


Jólan van der Wiel gravity stools design museum.JPG
Jólan van der Wiel gravity stool close up.JPG

A great thing about the Design Awards is that they exhibited the machine in the actual display. When I was given a tour by one of the curators he spoke about the careful planning and budget constraints of the exhibition. International shipping of these kinds of objects isn't cheap or easy which is why it's a great opportunity to see these new, ground breaking inventions behind the product.

Jólan van der Wiel gravity stool machin.JPG

Here is a video of the magnetic magician at work where you can actually watch it form before your very eyes! To learn more on the Design Awards and find out what's on at the Design Museum here's the link: Design Museum

Designs of the Year 2013

Winning Design: it's not always black and white.


colby neon poster design museum.JPG

The people's Choice winners have just been announced for the Design Museums "Designs of the Year" (see the Design Museum's full list here). These are some of my favourite colourful nominees from my visit to the exhibition.


colby neon poster joy design museum.JPG

 Made in L.A: Work by Colby Poster Printing Company. The contemporary graphics were curated & designed by Anthony Burrill and produced by the family run Colby company, who have continued to use woodblock, silkscreen and letterpress printing methods since 1946. Their pleasing no-frills style and energising colours continue to have an impact.

colby see you yellow poster design museum.JPG

Now how about printing...sounds???!!!

These magical postcards are from Uniform. The prototypes include these cards and a special player. By slotting them into the gadget and squeezing the printed "buttons" the conductive ink controls a play, pause and skip track feature. 

uniform using digital postcard conductive ink design museum.JPG

Imagine combing these last two to create giant posters advertising bands, gigs and festivals where by being able to touch the special ink you could listen to their music!

Here's a link to the BBC website where Peter Thomas from Uniform talks about doing just this, with their "Listening Post" idea.

"There's a really different reaction from users to physical media as opposed to digital media, especially when it comes to music...

we're trying to recapture some of the tactile experience you got with vinyl records." Peter Thomas.


This could work brilliantly well for the partially sighted, posters containing spoken information or conveying a message.

Hands on again, but with Colour Porcelain! These exquisite pieces were hand painted by one the oldest Japanese porcelain manufacturers 1616 Arita. The simple modern design uses traditional Japanese colours, such as aquarelle blue, light green, red-orange and yellow ochre. Designed by Scholten & Baijings Colour Porcelain consists of three collections named after their decoration: Minimal, Colourful and Extraordinary. 

arita 1616 colour porcelain.jpg
colour porcelain japan design museum.JPG

In the Design Museum's exhibition the collection was displayed alongside images of the workshops where they were produced to communicate the craftsmanship behind them. I think if a lot of products were accompanied with an image of how they were made and who by it make make people consider where they are spending their money. Similar to cigarette packets showing health consequences, would you still buy that "bargain" with a photo of a sweatshop child peering at you? Or on the other hand would you be more likely to spend a bit more if you saw an established workshop stocked up with the finest quality materials? 


WINNER: Child Vision

The winner of the visitor's choice Design Award (voted for by the public) went to Child Vision. These self adjusting glasses have been a great help in developing countries where it can difficult or expensive to receive eye tests and have an individual's prescription lenses made. These liquid filled lenses can be adjusted by the wearer to help them see better and this design is specifically aimed at young adults. What a clever idea, see well AND look good! :)


There's more to come on this exhibition, so don't worry if you missed it. Lots more great designs to share coming up...

Karl Fritsch at Manchester Gallery

It was Fritsch mania at Manchester Gallery the other Thursday night! The exhibition on his exciting jewellery work is running currently at the Gallery on Mosely Street, who's outer façade  inner hall and staircase are currently cascading with luscious leafy foliage and blooms to lift your heart in this Narnia March we're having.

Fritsch Mania!

Fritsch Mania!

The curator of this exhibition is Jo Bloxham the driving force for many amazing shows such as The Sting of Passion in 2009, uniting jewellery artists with Pre-Raphaelite  paintings to create some remarkable work. aiming to show jewellery as an artform, rather than purely a decorative commodity, something she believes that the U.K is a little behind in.  Manchester museum's site reads on The Sting of Passion: "The works portray women as a femme fatale, a seductress, and in some cases, purely as an object of beauty. You can see how this was a perfect union to push preconceptions of jewellery as an artform and show it is much more than something nice to look at, the same as the iconic women depicted in the famous paintings, with equality and the portrayal of women in the media today a continuing topic for debate.

Ophelia,  Arthur Hughes part of "The Sting of Passion" exhibition combining Pre-Raphaelite paintings and contemporary jewellery.

Ophelia, Arthur Hughes part of "The Sting of Passion" exhibition combining Pre-Raphaelite paintings and contemporary jewellery.

Necklace by Kepa Karmona to accompany the painting

Necklace by Kepa Karmona to accompany the painting

As Karl dashed across the globe from Germany's Schmuck fest over to New Zealand where he is based he stopped over to talk to us about his work (as part of Manchester gallery's Thursday lates). Often controversial, his approach caused many a "heated discussion" while he was studying under his mentor, and now friend non other than Hermann Junger. When asked about his unconventional ways and his opinion on learning the recognised ways of working in order to be an artist jeweller Fritsch said: "You must take ownership, do it the way you think right. If it is new it will always be a challenge."

Expressive, strong, unconventional looking, tactile and defiant      A Fritsch Ring poking it's tongue out at convention (or excerpts from my imaginary online dating profile?)

Expressive, strong, unconventional looking, tactile and defiant  

A Fritsch Ring poking it's tongue out at convention (or excerpts from my imaginary online dating profile?)

"Yes, of course the ring wants to be beautiful. The technique also wants to be beautiful, and most often it’s the idea that wants to be the most beautiful.
But sometimes a piece likes nothing better than to sit in the mud and not give a damn about how it looks. If it is exactly what it wants to be in a given moment, it is precise, perfect and the most beautiful."

(From Fritsch's new publication on his work)

A series of his earlier work he himself describes as intentionally ugly, at a time when he was looking at the concept of wearing jewellery to attract attention and thought that an "unattractive" piece would draw the eye as much as one with a conventionally "pretty" aesthetic. The selection of work on show in this exhibition showcased the diversity of his work, giant sculptural pieces, including dinosaurs and mountains of gems down to simple, pared back oxidised metal work of lines and forms.


The museum is also part of the fantastic Own Art scheme allowing the purchase of these pieces with affordable payments trying to make artists work accessible to as many people as possible who may be put off by a one off splurge. There was a live discussion on this subject  via the Guardian website last week (read it here). Hopefully this will make art become more attainable and also help artists by selling their pieces without having to water down their ideas or compromise to make a more affordable piece. It is definitely something I am continuing to learn, buying one amazing well made perfect thing you really really want instead of compromising and ending up serial buying inferior things in a bid not to spend too much.

Karl Fritsch Screw ring from Unexpected Pleasures at The Design Museum earlier this year.

Karl Fritsch Screw ring from Unexpected Pleasures at The Design Museum earlier this year.

 With the hard work of curators, artists and organisations like Manchester Gallery for this show and The Design Museum's Unexpected Pleasures exhibition and Aram's Beautiful Objects already this year hopefully this is something that is transforming before us, so we must do everything we can to encourage it to become the Island for jewels of intellect, intrigue and substance.

“Over the last 30 years there has been a movement within the jewellery world which has pushed the boundaries of what is possible to achieve within this practice. This has led to work being produced that has a narrative – a conceptual element to it."

Jo Bloxham

Fritsch rings, available to purchase via the "Own Art" scheme

Fritsch rings, available to purchase via the "Own Art" scheme

"Different rings for different things. It doesn't have to be for every occasion. You might put it on to sit and watch T.V. They are a luxury to be enjoyed."  Karl Fritsch when asked about the practicality of some of his pieces. 

This was my favourite, I love the soft green gold tones and the old fashioned blue and coral coloured cabochons and the playful shape.

This was my favourite, I love the soft green gold tones and the old fashioned blue and coral coloured cabochons and the playful shape.

Not just  "glue". SUPERGLUE!   As an accomplished silversmith Fritsch combines his technical training and skill with an open mind to realise his ideas. Sometimes simple is best.

Not just "glue". SUPERGLUE!  As an accomplished silversmith Fritsch combines his technical training and skill with an open mind to realise his ideas. Sometimes simple is best.

"Jewellery should excite, surprise, intrigue and stand alone." Jo Bloxham

This ring with it's shiny towers of gold was another of my wish list choices. 

This ring with it's shiny towers of gold was another of my wish list choices. 

karl fritsch ring spiney jewels.JPG

Whether you know of Karl Fritsch's work or not this a great exhibition to look around as there is such a variety of materials and styles it will get you thinking and discussing your opinions. Guessing each other's favourite, or even psychoanalysing "which ring would represent so-and-so" is a good, fun game as well. I think with wearable objects there is always another level of engagement to enjoy as you automatically imagine wearing it, touching it and how it would interact with your life. Many people may feel more at home "browsing" objects than viewing and critiquing a piece of art, so I hope this kind of exhibition encourages more people into galleries and museums.

Exhibition runs from 15 February 2013–23 June 2013 and it's FREE