It’s taken a while to find the time to sit down and write this post about my visit to Clerkenwell Design Week 2016 but during that time I’ve had plenty of time to reflect and think about some of the deeper themes and trends I saw emerging across the different exhibits. So, without further ado, here’s a closer look at my favourite bits of Clerkenwell 2016!
The precious jewels which stole the show
Clerkenwell is a show which encompasses so many different exhibits, spread across a wide area, but undoubtedly there are exhibits, installations and designers which stand-out and grab the spotlight. One of the stand-out moments of my visit, as it was for many I’ve heard from, had to be Tom Dixon in The Church. It was a setting that showed off Tom’s work to beautiful effect.
With hymnal music playing softly in the background and the subtle scent of luxury incense in the air, Tom’s beautiful lighting pieces in particular looked stunning in the space. I especially loved the slightly incongruous area at the back of the church with partly assembled stools, a witty nod to ‘behind the scenes’ and, for me, reminiscent of the area at the back of the church hall where all of the chairs are stacked – in a good way!
For me, the stand-out pieces of Tom Dixon’s exhibition were his incandescent copper orbs; glowing from the inside out, translucent but richly coloured. This jewel-like quality shone out in another of the headline acts; the shimmering glass-tile walls that were spread along the Exhibition Route and created by Giles Miller Studio in association with British Ceramic Tile. I was lucky to visit when the sun was shining, and and as each tile caught the sunlight, it highlighted the smooth texture of the glass along with the deep, rich colours.
I also really enjoyed seeing, (and touching and sitting on!) Poliform’s intensely-coloured velvet chairs and sofas which shone out from the dark staging like precious gems nestled inside a jewellery case. The vibrant yellow colour in particular was stunning and I predict this is a colour we’ll be seeing more of this Autumn/Winter, along with touches of other rich jewel tones, especially in luxurious finishes; in glass lighting, and velvet and silk upholstery and soft furnishings.
Craftsmanship, Design + Material
I started my tour of Clerkenwell with a talk at The Goldsmith’s Centre chaired by Grant Gibson, editor of Crafts Magazine, with creative director Theo Williams, designer-maker Sebastian Cox, jewellery designer Ivonna Poplanska and Fredrik Farg of design duo Farg & Blanche. The topic under discussion was craft and its place within the design world. It was a fascinating talk, with wonderful case-studies from Sebastian, Fredrick and Ivonna and a thought-provoking presentation from Theo Williams, who has designed for many of the big design-houses around the globe, about the nature of craft and craftsmanship and its role within design. His conclusion, and my strong belief, is that craftsmanship is a vital part of the process and becoming increasingly more important and for me, some of the strongest work on show at Clerkwenwell displayed that fusion of craftsmanship + design.
Fredrik Farg talking about 'extreme sewing' - sewing layers of wood on a sewing machine
I’ve always been a huge fan of Sebastian Cox’s elegant, expertly crafted work and his kitchen, made in collaboration with DeVOL didn’t disappoint. It is undeniably cool and hugely covetable; with a palette of muted taupes and washed out charcoal, and clean, modern lines, this is a seriously well designed, good-looking kitchen range. What is more, it is all of the above, precisely because it celebrates the craftsmanship necessary to make it. The back of the cabinets are made using beautifully lightweight woven strips of wood, and, with the construction of this element so deliberately visible, the conscious design decision to render visible the craftsman’s touch is exactly what makes each piece so joyous.
Kitchen display case by Sebastian Cox for DeVOL
Another exhibitor’s work I’ve admired for a while, but hadn’t seen in real life until Clerkenwell, is Liam Treanor ‘s furniture. His pieces shine because the care and attention that goes into them is visible in the joinery and the shaping and in the quality of the material used. Beautiful in their simplicity, Liam’s furniture is clearly built to last and designed to be enjoyed as much in years to come as it is now.
Silvia K Ceramics on display
My final top picks were 2 ceramicists, both of which I was excited about seeing. Silvia K’s ceramics are so expertly crafted and glazed, they are modern yet timeless; items of true beauty and care and it was fantastic to be able to see them and hold them. They have a weight and solidity to them which is an integral part of their appeal and I can never resist touching – I’m not very good at being hands-off when it comes to such wonderfully tactile work!
It was also a treat to see Whitebeam Studio’s ceramics and art prints; I’m a big fan of the fluidity of the decoration on their simply-shaped vases; the colours and decoration are just right and they’d make a wonderful addition to any modern room. I was also very drawn to their art prints; with the texture and colours of the watercolour again giving them an amazing feeling of organic fluidity which I love.
The work I find most successful and which I am drawn to time and again, combines craftsmanship and design but also material, so that these three pillars are intertwined and each informs and shapes the other. When the marriage of material, design and the application of craftsmanship join together, then in my mind, the material is used to its best effect, the design is just right for the material and the skill of the craftsman and the craftsmanship shines through and transforms the piece from the merely aesthetic, into something made to stand the test of time and connect the user with the maker. The combination of these 3 elements was evident in full-force at this year’s Clerkenwell, and, that, for me, is what stood out and made it a fantastic show.
Philippa Cambers, Founder of TheMakerPlace.co.uk
Thanks for reading my ‘best-bits’ of the show! I’d love to hear your thoughts, if you visited Clerkenwell or if you didn’t make it – which elements of product and furniture design are most important to you?