LDF23: Conviviality – The Art of Living Together in Brompton Design District

10.05.23 | By
LDF23: Conviviality – The Art of Living Together in Brompton Design District

Among a design week that now boasts 13 separate design districts (count ’em!), Brompton Design District is the OG – London Design Festival’s first and oldest design district established in 2007 to “foster a space where new design can flourish.” 16 years on, Jane Withers’ curation explores the theme of “Conviviality – The Art of Living Together” and how design can not only flourish but forge positive relationships between people, the spaces they inhabit, and the wider world. And it delivers on that brief in spades.

Guan Lee, an Asian man in his 50s, wears a pale linen suit and stands in front of a long table and a series of multi-coloured high stools. He is captured mid-sentence, gesticulating with his hands.

Guan Lee introduces The Farm Shop. \\\ Photo: by Katie Treggiden

‘Fels presents The Farm Shop’ (top and above) is a curatorial project that brings together 22 artists, designers, and architects to create a playful experience drawing from Grymsdyke Farm – a research facility, experimental fabrication workshop, and live-work space located in rural Buckinghamshire, in the UK. Curated by Marco Campardo, Guan Lee (above), and Luca Lo Pinto, the project includes site-specific dining homeware created over the summer of 2023 and brought together into an immersive space that uses food to explore the concept of “conviviality.”

Two Asian men in their 30s look at a scaffold bench containing a row of glass and wire baskets.

Second Nature: Vessels of Habitation, Livelihood, and Politics by Shivangi Gupta \\\ Photo: Studio Stagg

Cromwell Place, with its 14 gallery spaces across five Grade II listed townhouses – and brand new cafe – plays host to the “hub” of the district and a number of key exhibitions. Gallery 6 provides a home away from home for graduates from the MA Design Products course at the Royal College of Art. Shivangi Gupta’s “Second Nature: Vessels of Habitation, Livelihood, and Politics” (above) examines the relationships between craft and technology, maker and designer, and material and hand, with the aim of uncovering new methods of collaboration and practice.

Glass forms bulge out of black metal frames.

Contained 2.0 by Kamea Devons \\\ Photo: Katie Treggiden.

Meanwhile “Contained 2.0” by Kamea Devons features Coca-Cola glass bottles re-blown into shapes inspired by the historical glass-blowing artist Ennion, as an exploration of the intertwined nature of globalization, design, technology, the economy, and society at large.

Various people move around a garage in which work benches have been created from scaffolding. The black beam above the entrance has the words "no parking" painted onto it in white.

Back of House by MA Design Products course at the Royal College of Art \\\ Photo: Studio Stagg

The partner exhibition to the gallery showcase within Cromwell Place was in a garage on nearby Cromwell Mews and extended the theme of “back of house” by demonstrating making processes and works in progress.

A wooden frame suspends baskets, while a wooden cabinet is open and surrounded and wooden vases and bowls.

Objects by Ash & Plumb, Darren Appiagyei, Takahashi McGil, Alex Walshaw, and Studio AMOS \\\ Photo: Studio Stagg

Back at Cromwell House, The New Craftsmen returns to its pop-up roots under the stewardship of internationally renowned gallery owner Sarah Myerscough and former product director Kathy Lacour, with a showcase of British craft entitled “Join, Assemble, Hold” across two rooms conceived as a kitchen and a drawing room. The Kitchen (above) features “crafted pieces that are connected or joined and conjure a sense of conviviality and togetherness.” The Nailed Pantry “overflows” with turned wood vessels and hand-wrought natural objects from Ash & Plumb, Darren Appiagyei, Takahashi McGil, Alex Walshaw, and Studio AMOS. The suspended installation of regional baskets behind it highlights rare and endangered basketry techniques, some of which rely on British woods that are at risk of extinction. The hand-turned bowls on the mantlepiece are by one-half of Forest & Found, Max Bainbridge.

A cabinet made from yellow tiles with pink grout is open. Inside is a mirror and green glasses and vessels. On mirrored tables in front are white and lilac glasses and bottles.

Welcome Drinks Cabinet by ceramicist Matthew Raw. Glass objects by Jochen Holz.\\\ Photo: Studio Stagg

The centerpiece in the “drawing room” is the tiled Welcome Drinks Cabinet by ceramicist Matthew Raw, complemented by iridescent glass objects by Jochen Holz. “His innovative and unique pieces draw us into his world of the playful and sublime,” says The New Craftsmen.

A table shaped like a fish with a fin piercing the surface is in the foreground of a large room populated with other pieces of art and furniture.

Fish Table: Fatty Tuna by Rio Kobayashi and James Hague, 2019 \\\ Photo: James Harris

What do you do when you get invited to do your first solo show and the theme is “conviviality?” Rio Kobayashi understood the assignment, invited all his pals to take part, and turned it into a collaborative effort. Calling the show “One Hand Washes The Other,” he collaborated on every piece and brought them together into a space that “co-exists” as a living room for people to enjoy the company of design objects and designers, much like they might do in his own living room at home. His motto of “bringing people together and having fun” epitomizes conviviality and demonstrates his belief that “happiness is achievable by creating a life of quality both in the materialistic world and in our inner world.”

A poster featuring two yellow circles, a Japanese character in black and three illustrated hands has creases from having been folded and is hung from a wooden frame.

Exhibition poster by Tilmann S. Wendelstein, 2023 \\\ Photo: Katie Treggiden

Kobayashi was born in Japan, trained in Austria, has lived all over Europe, and is now based in East London. His work reflects his journey, the relationships he has forged along the way, and his life story so far. Here’s to the next chapter!

A frame of red-painted wooden beams supports a series of graphic flags on a London street in front of a red brick building.

All Together Installation by All In Awe \\\ Photo: Studio Stagg

All in Awe has created All Together – an on-street installation supporting the work of a mental health charity and volunteer center in the London borough of Kensington & Chelsea – a reflection on the subject of loneliness, inspired by the startling fact that this area of London has one of the highest numbers of single-person households in the country and one of the most profound economic disparities across the UK, reminding us that loneliness is universal, affecting people from all walks of life.

A frame of red-painted wooden beams supports a series of graphic flags in front of which stands Eva Feldkamp, a white women in her 40s, captured mid-word.

All Together Installation by All In Awe \\\ Photo: Katie Treggiden

“Our mission is to bring together people who create change with designers to support their mission and vision through the power of design,” says Eva Feldkamp of All in Awe. “We know that design has a higher purpose and possesses the capacity to tackle social issues. Through our workshops, we shared practical tools and concepts of visual design, giving people a voice to express their thoughts collectively.” The flags (above) were designed as an output of one of those workshops to visualize different emotions.

A black woman in her 30s, with long braided hair, stands in front of a wall-hung sculpture made from braided, tied and knotted threads.

United Ties by Shanince Palmer \\\ Photo: Studio Stagg

Powershift, is a group exhibition curated by POor Collective, featuring the work of emerging artists, designers, and architects, to celebrate their collective power to create change when people work together. It won the London Design Festival’s “emerging design medal.” United Ties (above) by Shanince Palmer is a visual sculpture made, as part of a community workshop entitled A New Narrative, using braiding, knotting, and tying as a catalyst to “bring unheard voices together and express, imagine, and create a united future.”

Giles Nartey, a black man in his 30s, lies on a black wooden daybed in front of a braided, knotted and tied wall handing.

Interplay by Giles Nartey \\\ Photo: Katie Treggiden

Designer Giles Nartey created Interplay (above) – a daybed that doubles up a board for playing the West African game of Oware, which he learnt from his grandparents in Ghana as a child.

A black man and a white woman, both in their 30s, sit straddling a black bench/game board.

Interplay by Giles Nartey \\\ Photo: Katie Treggiden

Designed not only for lounging on, but also for two people to sit opposite one another, it forms part of his research at London’s Bartlett School of Architecture, where he is exploring the ways in which African craft cultures can be used to embed rituals into objects.

A black man stands in front of a glass box that includes larger-than-life illustrations of men in suits, a sun and a fish.

Gonzo’s Underground Mix Vol 7 by Yumura Teruhiko

Inspired by an annual exhibition in Tokyo of the same name, WAVE: Currents in Japanese Graphic Arts, was curated for Japan House by artists Hiro Sugiyama and Takahashi Kintarō, to present the work of 60 of Japan’s most significant graphic artists, introducing many of them to the UK for the first time. Pop art, surrealism, and illustration appear alongside pieces representative of the concept of heta-uma, which translates as “bad, but good,” and refers to apparently unskilled art which reveals greater merit upon close inspection – challenging our perspectives of what is “ugly” or “beautiful.”

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.