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Clerkenwell Design Week 2017

31st May 2017

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One of the best-loved events in the design industry calendar, this year’s Clerkenwell Design Week has once again delighted and surprised us, not only with throngs of Clerkenwell’s long-established design community, but also with its largest gathering of new talent to-date.

Ever expanding, the festival maintained its familiar, cheerful pink ‘complexion’ of 2016 with the same ubiquitous magenta way-finding systems (and in some cases, house-spanning string installations) that create an unmistakable, vibrant haven for this annual celebration of design.

Like proud villagers up for a best-kept village award, the permanent showrooms pulled out all the stops; the chairs, the sofas, the rugs, even the kitchen sink – all their latest wares were proudly out on display as designers from further afield flocked to their streets. There’s nothing like a little bit of healthy competition to drum up some creative showcasing techniques… One company, Edge Design even had an assortment of original Banksy prints on display up in their showroom.

As for the kitchen sink – this was actually one of the biggest eye-catchers in the British Collection (an exhibition back for its second year by popular demand). Located down in the Crypt on Clerkenwell Green, this exhibition focused on some of Britain’s best design, demonstrating the amalgamation of craft and industry. Hand & Eye Studio struck us with its ‘really nice’ approach to ceramic lighting, and the magical effect this lighting had whilst it was suspended over two gorgeous hammered sinks – one nickel, one brass.

Tom Housden, a practicing architect, set up Hand & Eye Studio in 2011 and has since developed a small but carefully crafted range of work. Each item is designed by the studio and then produced in collaboration with small manufacturers, all of whom are masters of their craft. This allows great scope for experimentation in the design process and for a hugely intimate understanding of the objects’ material. Reverting to old-fashioned nylon wiring and pairing it with surprisingly delicate ceramic shades undoubtedly made this designer stand out.

Our favourite part of CDW however is still the House of Detention’s Platform exhibition. This subterranean Victorian Prison showcases some of the world’s most exciting up-and-coming design talent; a curated collection of emerging and cutting-edge design. Having closely followed the story of last year’s fresh faces, Baker Street Boys – and having subsequently celebrated often at their astounding success – we were rather keen to meet the next new faces of tomorrow’s design. Perhaps aptly (whilst we played subterranean homesick blues in our heads) our eyes were on alien stalks for the duration of our stroll through the old prison cells. Everything was amazing, but here’s our shortlist as far as the highlights are concerned:

David Hughes uses the humble, basic, recognisable LEGO brick and through his careful and meticulous designs he creates colourful, fun and beautiful mosaics and sculptures that engage, and bewilder somewhat. His artworks, are accessible, with classic works of pop-art re-made in bricks, portraits and bright, graphic based images from architecture, design and popular culture.

100% Belgian brand, Pinscher were there to flaunt one thing only; their La Grande Bouffe table made of white ebony wood… It really did speak for itself – the table exhibits the unmistakable lure of its silky smooth wood finish, exuding simple elegance and rarity. Every Pinscher table is a combination of old skills and new skills, using innovative methods to incorporate natural materials with lightweight aluminium supports.

Claire Potter Design is an award winning multi-disciplined design and research studio based in Brighton, specialising in sustainable, circular economy solutions for interior architecture and product-based projects. Taking up a whole cell in the House of Detention, she showcased only one light installation that had actually already been sold. No matter though – it was still just a pleasure to stand and look at the delicate jellyfish-like tendrils as they glowed and seemingly floated en masse. Unbelievably – the vast majority of the material in all Potter’s installations are waste plastics that have been recovered from the sea. We’ll be honest – it’s nice to see such a beautiful chandelier finally doing its bit for the environment!

A very clever-looking stall we stumbled across was that of Camilla Lee – a recent design school grad who started working on her current project, Resound as part of her graduate degree and has continued to explore the aesthetics and organic sound qualities of wood and ceramic… Fusing functionality with unique aesthetic forms, her organic sound amplifiers are made entirely of wood or ceramic. The sheer usability and pretty Skandi aesthetic of her mini gramophone speakers are an immediate win; they’re clever and cool.

Platform is filled with so many bright young things with bright ideas. It’s always fabulous to see the designs and meet the people behind them. It’s been another cracking trip, CDW – thanks and see you next year!

Clerkenwell Design Week:

Twitter: @CDWfestival
Instagram: @clerkenwelldesignweek