CDW16: Exploring Clerkenwell From Top to Bottom

With a new ‘spine’ layout leading visitors from Smithfield Market in the south to Spa Fields in the north (instead of the previous orientation around Clerkenwell’s Farmiloe Building), Clerkenwell Design Week had a different vibe this year, but despite fears to the contrary, that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. A series of site-specific installations such as the Hakfolly by Fleafolly Architects and Hakwood (above) helped to delineate the new route. “One of the best things about Clerkenwell Design Week is discovering pockets of activity or events hosted by local businesses scattered right across the area,” says Hikaru Nissanke of OMMX – the upcoming architecture practice behind the new layout. “Moving away from a centralized hub to a new spine running the length of Clerkenwell will help to knit all of these wonderfully diverse events together and evolve the festival into something more cohesive and inclusive.”


The new route also felt more inclusive of a wider range of the creative businesses that are based in Clerkenwell year-round. With more architects per square meter than anywhere else in the world – there’s a reason this corner of London gets its own festival. Cross-disciplinary space ‘Clerkenwell London’ got involved for the first time this year and threw itself in at the deep end with a series of exhibitions and installations around the theme of Design Undefined – one such exhibition was the Fiera Edit, a selection of objects from Issue 03 of Fiera Magazine that blur the boundaries of creative disciplines (curated by our very own Katie Treggiden! – CW).


Another such installation was Max Fraser’s One Thing. The former deputy director of the London Design Festival, and editor of the London Design Guide, asked 26 designers, design writers and entrepreneurs to name the one object that meant the most to them. These items – largely ‘undesigned’ in the typical sense of the word – were showcased in a glass room within Clerkenwell London’s space.


As part of the British Collection, a new exhibition for this year, upcoming London-based designer, Liam Treanor, launched his Lowick Side Table. Made of oak, ash or walnut, it features a vegetable-tanned leather shelf designed to soften and develop a unique patina as it ages. The piece is typical of Liam’s understated yet carefully considered work.


‘CDW Presents’ is the name given to the site-specific installations throughout the show. As well as Hakfolly, there was The Future of Design, an educational and community project that gave 15- and 16-year-old school pupils the chance to design and make a pavilion with the aim of teaching them hands-on skills and encouraging them to consider a future in the design industry.


Ahead of our visit to Romanian Design Week this week, it was interesting to see Romanian design brand Dizainar presenting a range of ceramics as part of Additions – the festival’s showcase of home accessories.


Meanwhile over at Platform, an exhibition housed in a subterranean former prison to showcase new designers, we loved this contemporary collection of Jesmonite tableware from London-based design studio Yen Chen & Ya Wen, founded by the eponymous Royal College of Art graduates.


Alf is a three-legged, and therefore non-wobble, chair aimed at the contract market. Designed by co-founders of Cornish furniture manufacturer MARK, John Miller and Anna Hart, it comes in a range of colors and is also available with four legs or as a stool.


The new ‘spine’ layout of Clerkenwell Design Week sought to be more inclusive of showrooms – and Great Sutton Street, home to many of them, was buzzing with a genuine festival atmosphere throughout the week. At carpet showroom Desso, I curated a mini-exhibition featuring the work of local designer/makers inspired by my recent book Makers of East London. The exhibition included hand-printed wallpaper by Daniel Heath, hand-folded paper light sheets by Foldability, and hand-cast concrete bowls by Katharina Eisenköck.


UK craft charity and co-working space Craft Central is located in the heart of Clerkenwell. Every year, they offer ‘pop-up’ spaces to exciting new designers. Ted Jefferis is a Sussex-based furniture maker who lives in the forest “like a farmer lives among his fields”. Working mostly with wood and with an Elle Decoration award under his belt already, he is definitely ‘one to watch.’


And finally, another CDW Presents installation, the Museum of Making, was curated by Pete Collard and designed by White Arkiteckter and presented an opportunity for visitors to try their hands at some of the crafts and making practices that Clerkenwell is famous for, with workshops by The Goldsmiths’ Centre, Craft Central and Thomas.Matthews.

Katie Treggiden is a purpose-driven journalist, author and, podcaster championing a circular approach to design – because Planet Earth needs better stories. She is also the founder and director of Making Design Circular, a program and membership community for designer-makers who want to join the circular economy. With 20 years' experience in the creative industries, she regularly contributes to publications such as The Guardian, Crafts Magazine and Monocle24 – as well as being Editor at Large for Design Milk. She is currently exploring the question ‘can craft save the world?’ through an emerging body of work that includes her fifth book, Wasted: When Trash Becomes Treasure (Ludion, 2020), and a podcast, Circular with Katie Treggiden.