London Design Festival 2012: designersblock Highlights

designersblock party

With queues around the block for the opening night party, designersblock was set to be hit from the beginning. And, it didn’t disappoint. Known for their use of interesting spaces (they were in the Familoe Building last year), this year’s venue was the Southbank Centre’s Festival Village – a space that’s never been open to the public before; it’s usually used as a green room for performing artists.

It’s a comparatively small space, but it was jam-packed with unexpected art, design and experimentation. Lauren Baker’s collection of embellished skulls set the tone. No animals are harmed in the making of this art. Each skull is named and comes complete with the story of how its owner lost its life. After a successful career in events marketing, Lauren decided to become an artist after having a vision during a visit to a shaman while traveling.


There were, of course, some chairs – it’s a design show after all. This one is from Mexican designer Valentina Gonzalez Wohlers; The Wild Bodged Chair, which was conceived in the woods of San Jose del Pacifico, at the highest point of Oaxaca’s Sierra Madre, in Mexico; in collaboration with Oaxacan artisan Gabriel López.

Rough & Ready

And this one – Rough & Ready – an experimentation by Vanja Bazdulj with the imperfect, the unfinished, the human. Rubber is embedded into wool felt, for decorative and structural purposes. The sheets of wool felt are then simply folded and bound with rope. It’s not often you see a new chair form, so this was exciting to see.

Miso New English

designersblock regulars The New English put in an appearance with their inimitable brand of ceramic design. This time they had commissioned artists to decorate their porcelain hearts – I liked this one from Miso. They were even running “Pimp Your Pottery” workshops where you could customize your own.

Love Me Bender

Experimental installations included Love Me Bender from Breaded Escalope – an approach to DIY that uses steam bending techniques to rescue discarded furniture and give it new life…

24 Hour design

…and Hendzel and Hunt‘s 24-hour design challenge. This (barely functional!) pinball machine was on display as the result of a previous challenge. This year’s challenge was: “To design and produce a machine capable of playing a record within the set 24 hour period.”

Tortie Hoare and Natalie Brady

Tortie Hoare and Natalie Brady were showing positively conservative design by contrast. They met at college and have worked together ever since, producing contemporary designs using traditional techniques. I love their use of leather.


These lamps look fairly ordinary at first glance, but  have an interesting story behind them. Degross design studio found a job lot of discarded glass bottles behind their studio and wanting to put them to good use, chopped the tops off them turned them into light shades. Their neighbor, helpfully a wood merchant, donated  offcuts of wood from which they crafted the body of the lamps. (In case you’re wondering, the bottoms of the bottles became plant pots.) See our post on these bottle lamps here.

Coralie Bonnett

More experimentation, this time from Coralie Bonnet, who in a bid to revive traditional embroidery techniques is embroidering any material or surface she can get her hands on – the image above shows embroidered wood.

designersblock signs

All in all, a well-curated show that revived the spirit of exploration and curiosity; even for the most design-weary.

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.