I loved this creative use of polystyrene for the design of the stand. Making the most of the materials properties in an appropriate way.

A visit to London Design Fair 2016

The guy on the table next to me cheekily looked towards the pastry and cappuccino that had just arrived in front of me “it’s rather late for breakfast!” He commented. I had to agree. My excuse being that I actually had no idea what time it was, only that I hadn’t eaten since leaving home in Ullapool at 4.15am. It was now 11.45, I had finally made it in to London, and was 5 minutes walk from the Old Truman Brewery and the London Design Fair.

I made a beeline for the Scotland: Craft and Design section, which was organised by Craft Scotland and Emergents. The distinctive design of the display was the first thing I noticed, a very contemporary polystyrene block system that had jagged mountains carved into the side, and a clean stepped surface to show the work on. After getting over what I thought was a very clever display, that made the most of the chosen materials properties, I did a quick run around the room.

As its a big show, and I wanted to see it all, it isn’t possible to spend too long in any one room. I had seen a lot of the Scottish makers work before but was struck by a couple of new collections from people who’s previous work I had seen. One was Melanie Muirs polymer clay vessels, a development from her usual jewellery pieces. Another favorite from the Scottish showcase was Jennifer Gray’s tiles and condiment sets made in jesmonite with brass details. Using digital technologies to design her pieces she is able to push her designs and combine them with traditional craft techniques to create new collections that are distinct from one another yet identifiably hers. She retains her style of cast pieces in this collection, with surprising details such as the hidden olive pick and a reassuring weight to the brass grinding spheres. The contemporary functional furniture of David Watson also caught my eye, in particular the coffee table made from laminated European oak, with the beautiful details that you only get in a handmade piece.

Having been out of the making loop for the best part of two years, with baby duties, I was reassured to see that nothing major had happened. No big changes in style or technological leaps that I had missed. There was lots of talk of “sustainable”, a lot of it with rather weak premise, one example being the use of hardwood from a small estate but no mention of a replanting plan and long term sustainable management of the woodland. On the other end of the scale one of India’s biggest industrial manufacturing companies had a showcase for their Punah Project, which is focused on recycling the tons of waste material produced in their manufacturing processes, to create new products. Rather than simply recycling metals, by melting them down, which uses a lot of energy and creates more waste, they look for new ways to up-cycle the waste in a more sustainable way and use it as the raw material for new designs. Such as using crimping waste to create designer shoes, which take the waste as it is and add value, working towards a more circular flow of materials. Being truly sustainable is not an easy thing to achieve, there is always energy used and materials wasted, but perhaps as I delve back into the studio I should be assessing my own practice more and designing Jewellery pieces informed by this.