Clerkenwell Design Week 2016

It’s that lovely time of year again when the sun is starting to make an appearance and of course it’s Clerkenwell Design Week so I couldn’t be happier. Clerkenwell is one of my favourite places in London a complete mecha of creatives both commercial and artistic in nature. The festival continues to grow each year; with this year being its 7th iteration, more ambitious showrooms, exhibitions and brands to be involved with, its audience and impact continue to saw. By involving even more young practitioners the organisers continue to enlighten and make a design accessible and enlighten those who normally wouldn’t get a glimpse in to the exciting life that is the design environment.Blogheader

I cry for the lose of the Familoe Building as the main festival hub but eagerly wandered to the specially constructed two-floor pavilion at Spa Fields, that houses a large scale curated exhibition called Design Fields as this years centre piece. It was also conveniently located next to one of my new discoveries Exmouth Market, a great street for a bite to eat and a peruse of the independent gift stores along its length.

To be very honest I think that the newly constructed pop up pavilions at both Design Fields as well as Additions & Project venues lacked the spark that I enjoy about Clerkenwell. Getting to explore the beautiful historic and authentic buildings of the area and seeing it contrast & set off the products is the half the reason I explore the festival. So that left the Icon House of Culture to tip the balance, set this year in the legendary night club Fabric. It was similar in feel to the House of Detention with a warm basement filled with yellow lit dark corners, great for interesting conversations with a real living room feel.

Besides the varied exhibition venues, show rooms, the Fringe has been condensed to the very best 25 and Clerkenwell is once again brought together with public installations dotted along a clear route to navigate the area. As always the festival is diverse & thought out offering up everything from talks and workshops to yoga classes and cocktail creation training. I have the most fun exploring the displays and discovering new brands I have never seen before; the festival is the perfect platform to launch new products and ideas, which many do.

So lets take a look at some of my images, I’ve split them by exhibition in the order I walked around so you get an idea of my journey. I’ve also included a few thoughts and links for my favourite brands & products, there are plenty of items that you can order as well as a few luxury pieces just to dream about.

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Fred & Juul – An Italian/Dutch duo of architects that apply traditional craftsmanship to contemporary designs, I particularly like their butterfly details that make a feature of the simplest fixings.

Turner Furniture – The latest piece from Chris Turner have heavy geometric elements with new materials and colours just for CDW. He is know for his luxury bespoke commissions and interprets his briefs with a real flair.

Cane-Line – This Danish producer of garden furniture are really conscious of their products working in practice, its on the move side tables are a particular favourite with a handy grip on top for carrying. They really sit well in the St. John Cloister Garden and got plenty of action thanks to the champagne bar.

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Silvia K – A small Brighton ceramic studio who creates terracotta tableware and decorative interior objects.

Jonathan Field – Jonathan Field’s work was the first in a trend of natural finished tables I saw at CDW, he preserves the woods natural qualities and even makes features out of the knots and cracks by filling them with a translucent inky resin that itches for you to run your hands on.

Melina Xenaki – All of Melina’s pieces are made by hand in her Hackney studio and each wonderful unique, her selection of planters are split in to three collections. Her Instagram is well worth a follow if you want a little look in to her processes and techniques.

Claudine O’Sullivan – This talented young Irish illustrator works in London creating true to form creatures out of abstract strokes and colours with a heavy blue tint. There are some seriously big names in her portfolio but you can also buy a little of her work for your walls at home.

Jimbobart – James eccentric pen & ink designed plates are tableware essentials across London; because who doesn’t need a bear in his underpants protecting your sandwiches! However for CDW James made a selection of woodland creature specials, with an adorable otter couple vase as my favourite. You can now full fill all your bear in pants needs in his own Brick Lane store!

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Palau – This Dutch furniture brand specialises in modular seating systems, producing customer orders for residential and business applications. They also had one of the tallest men on the stand I have ever met, not sure whether it helps with selling furniture but I enjoyed him.

Sixteen3 – Not to far from home this Cheshire based brand has an in-house design & upholstery team with an extensive vision and knowledge base coming up with some great colour combinations and pairing them with complimenting accessories to suit any work space. A little more modern than what I usually like but very functional.

Arkaia – The second natural preserved table from CDW; with each of their unique Were items coming from a log that wouldn’t be used for mass manufacturing due to their imperfections get a given a second chance by this Spanish studio. They highlight the virtues of the outstanding trees they source and add small bow styled fixings (a process called Tximeleta) that I am dying to find out more about.

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The Crypt on the Green is usually my favourite venue with and its barrel-roof, this year it housed a small collection of British talent allowing you to see the architecture of the building in a single glance. However I wasn’t drawn to much with the exception being:

The Workshop – Their bureau’s from their Well Hung collection are sculptural and structural at the same time and their use of copper and zinc set against walnut and oak is a suave nod to industrial architecture. The pictures really don’t do the piece justice, their folding tops with concealed hinges turns the desk to a table. The piece is a wonderful modern take on a traditional bureau and comes as a free standing table or a cantilever. They design concepts are admiral: “Each concept is developed from a single idea, steering away from fashions and trends, going against the grain, and focusing on the purity of the design itself “, beautiful!

For the first time St. James’ church above was available during the day as a communal space. A partnership between its enlightened vicar and Tom Dixons Studio saw the space filled with a selection of lighting fixtures & furniture including a large chandelier in the main space. Add a co-working space and a soup kitchen and they were all donated as permanent fixtures. This mixture of design & heritage is in the hopes it opens the space to new audiences and becomes a space for the residents. I know Tom’s designs best from The Interchange workspace in Camden and those iconic Y chairs.

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Yenchenyawen Design Studio – This amazing pair made their time at university really count and now have built a brand around their experiments with raw materials and colour and re creating natural effects with chemical processes. Their merge between craft and technology is just right producing beautiful lifestyle products with a real rich life aesthetic. You need to read more about their Landscape of Oxidation project and subsequent collection before you buy.

Archie Proudfoot – Archie is an artist and sign painter with a talent for language and explores it with the opulent technique of reverse-glass gilding often choosing a single word and a bold gold scheme to grab attention. It’s going to be interesting to see what he transfers his techniques on to next with more product applications in his future.

Quixotic Bespoke – My third CDW live edged table preserves the woods origins and individualism, combined with polished chrome butterfly key details. Founder and creator John Yeung blurs the lines between furniture and art combining hand chosen materials for each project, having to see the woods qualities before choosing what to make from it. The brands name itself means an idealism that doesn’t take consequence or absurdity in to account.

Leiz Designs – This was a creative solution that I had not seen before, a Leiz cush-ons can be customised to combine existing pieces of furniture and give it a new contemporary look. They slip on to the back of a chair and then curve around the seat even connecting it to a second chair, coming in gradient stripes the designs are bold thats for sure.

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Dedon – Specialising in colourful woven garden furniture made out of a synthetic waterproof fabric that makes them practical as well as bold. The company may have started when Bobby Dekeyser founded his own company and work in a nice environment, not even knowing what he was going to sell but 20 years on after jumping all over the world developing a quality product you can find Dedon shops and showrooms all over the world.

Gloster – An entrepreneur brand which can trace its history back to 1960 in Western Africa that started making designs out of discarded branches and tree stumps. They now specialise in a rich teak wood story with their exhibition displaying two live rough edged natural tables, the fourth of its kind I saw at CDW.

Offecct – This Swedish brand develops sustainable furniture for modern meeting places, it was hard to not be drawn to their circler centre piece with a large tree in its middle, they are famous for developing products that improve air and sound quality.

Petite Friture – This french collective supports funky french designers who create objects, lighting & furniture. Their display was a great compilation of graphic features and interior ideas: an impressive wallpaper, product cards printed as polaroids and lots of bursts of colour interest. Your going to need google translate for their website though.

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Haberdashery – Situated on the basements entry stairs this bespoke leaf lighting product is made from bone china coming in a selection of gold & white finishes that when installed with integrated downlighting cast wonderful shadows and reflections. Brand new and exclusively for sale in the UK.

Di-Classe – This Japanese brand offered up a collection called the motif of nature, with impactful greenery wrapped pendant lights with small stuffed birds wrapped in to the foliage for a creative point of interest.

Nic Parnell – Nic is a true artist thought he describes himself as a ‘high-end up cycler’ I don’t think it is strong enough to describe the effort and techniques which goes in to his pieces. Working in usually wood his exhibit at CDW was of his Strata collection, a synthetic study of layered rock foundations, made out of coloured cement layered up over uneven stone then cut to expose a cross section. I could have looked at them for hours and his site offered up lots of information on the rest of his collections.


There are 10’s of showrooms with a programme offering everything from cocktail classes to workshops with famous street artists, way to much to choose from really. I normally go back a second day (depending on good weather) and wander the streets peaking in to the varied showrooms to see whats on offer. This year I had a diary full: a screen printing workshop with Supermundare, a talk on sourcing creative narratives at Lipton Plant Architects and life drawing & networking with Pilbrow & Partners. I even found time to pop in to the Metropolitan archive for a small photography exhibition on the history of the council estate, there really was a little something for everyone as long as you can use a map and make sure to turn up early.

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My favourite venue that first brought me to CDW years ago is the amazing Craft Central, they now have multiple locations around Clerkenwell with their variety of spaces offering up everything from showrooms to corner shops. I managed to see a whole host of talent hosted just by them over the 3 days:

Demonstrations by FOREST + FOUND

PAPER TANGO‘s card making workshop in the Museum of Making

Seeing HELEN YARDLEY‘s design & the tufting process

A showroom full of TED WOOD Furniture & Lighting

An organisation with over 700 members who’s mission is to support UK designers providing a network at all stages of their business, most prevalent their studio and showroom spaces right here in Clerkenwell.

Finished for another year! But so much to look forward to, new collections, brands & design trends. I will be interviewing a couple of highlighted exhibitors in their London studios in the coming months, so thats something else to look forward to.