LDF16: New Talent at the London Design Fair

Tent London and Super Brands have come together under a new umbrella – the London Design Fair – and extended up another floor to make space for country pavilions, collaborative projects and new initiatives. But there was no shortage of the new design talent with which Tent made its name, such as Barnby Design’s Hedges Sofa and coffee table (above). The white ash frame looks like it is made of giant Popsicle sticks and is held together with polished copper details. “The Hedges Sofa encourages a comfortable yet informal recline,” says Rob Barnby. “Back and side cushions are removable, leaving ample sleeping space if desired.”


The renewed appreciation for craft was in evidence right across the London Design Festival and Wooden + Woven, founded by Alexander Devol, was one of the finer examples. “I believe in a simple, honest approach to design where aesthetics and utility are intrinsic,” he says. “There is a distinct and individual quality in well made, slow made, and hand made things which begins with the story of their making and continues on with each use.”


The eye-catching Poured Plates by Danish designer Troels Flensted are made from mineral powder and water-based acrylic polymer. “We add a little bit of pigment to this casting mix which, when poured into the mold, flows together and creates patterns that are difficult to predict,” he explains.


Amy Isles Freeman hand-turns wooden bowls in the very South Westerly corner of England and then hand-paints them with a decorative flourish. “I’ve never been afraid of being decorative,” she says. “I want to challenge the extent to which a functional object can be considered art.”


100% Norway returned to the London Design Fair again this year, with its trademark selection of prototypes from up-and-coming Norwegian designers. Una by design duo Domaas & Høgh is a reaction to the colors and shapes found in the work of goldsmith artist Jacob Prytz. “The lamp is a result of the joy of creating new things,” they say. “We want to surround ourselves with things that have personality and work as conversational pieces.”


Plymouth College of Art graduate Stevie-Leigh Smith creates art jewelry from bones and feathers she collects in local woodland and moor areas. “I integrate these natural materials with metal and modern jewelry techniques including casting and electroforming.” she says. “The main element of my work is the bones; I see beauty in the small pieces of death I collect and endeavor to highlight this beauty through recreating them into edgy jewelry designs with a bohemian flair.”


Gail Bryson is a textile, graphic and product designer, specializing in simple and graphic prints. Having taken a couple of years off trade shows, she was back with new collection that stood out from the crowd. It was good to see her back.


Cornish designer Heather Scott was exhibiting at the London Design Fair for the first time. Her modern, geometric products are made, primarily from wood and metal, in her farm-based workshop. “From moments of inspiration drawn from real people and real life, to the playful discovery of new materials and designs – I create contemporary products, made to be used,” she says.


This cabinet is a special edition made entirely from copies of the famously pink Financial Times newspaper, but all of NewspaperWood’s products are made from newspapers. “NewspaperWood reverses a traditional production process; not from wood to paper, but from (news)paper to wood,” founder and Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Mieke Meijer explains. “When a NewspaperWood log is cut, the layers of paper appear like wood grain or growth rings of a tree and therefore resemble the aesthetics of real wood.” The products are sealed once complete, making them absolutely safe for everyday use.


And finally, Amsterdam-based design studio JonghLabel is an example of the current trend for integrating traditional craft and new technology. “These nostalgic methods provide a basis for new design,” they say. “This results in industrial handicraft, an exceptional combination of craftsmanship and modern production capabilities.” Matmatic, the collection they launched at the London Design Fair, reimagines the traditional caned chair. “This craft is known for its use of rattan and the hexagonal pattern. The material, rattan, is fixed due to the craft,” they say. “Innovation occurs by experimenting with color and patterns.”

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.