Monday, 3 October 2011

I Left My Heart at Origin

Last week's London Design Festival (17-25 September) marked the most exciting celebration of creative  design industries worldwide. Hundreds of events were held all over the capital and in case you've missed any of the the action, here's a roundup of my personal highlights. There's still time to visit the V&A's Power of Making and Postmodernism Style and Subversion 1970-1990 exhibitions, which opened during the festival.

Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, once again Crafts Council brought together the best in contemporary craft in its annual fair origin. This was the second time it took place at Old Spitalsfield Market, a historical, dynamic landmark in the cultural hub of East London. Encompassing a broad spectrum of disciplines from glass, ceramic, jewellery to wood, textiles and paper, I call it the Diagon-Alley of applied arts. A must-go event for craft lovers, designers, students to view and purchase beautifully made items and meet the designers themselves

This year saw iconic department store Liberty curate Liberty Selects display windows around the pavilion. The themed windows were adorned with specially chosen exhibitor pieces, reflecting the fashionable, eclectic and covetable spirit of the store. In addition there was  Lux Craft, a new collaboration with Nokia Design, showcasing innovative lighting by 10 selected makers. Suspended and placed on elevated black platforms in the pavilion's centre, the exhibits gave Origin a cutting edge and space age feel.

It's always great to see fresh talent, new work and exhibitors, which was evident this time. The selection panel- Michelle Alger (Liberty's home and gift buying manager), Yvonna Demczynska (Flow Gallery director), Lee Broom (Product/interior designer), Brigid Howarth (creative industry specialist) and Henrietta Thompson (Wallpaper editor-at-large) have done a commendable job for choosing a good balance of established, up-and-coming and international makers. Regarding the latter, it's not every day one gets to be up close with fantastic American, Japanese, Korean and Estonian craft to name but a few. Their strong cultural influences shape their styles and separate their work from British based designers. 

The works of Korean ceramicist Hyosun Kim and Japanese ceramicist Yoshimi Azuma intrigued me in that although remarkably similar looking, incorporating fused, distorted thrown containers. Both makers look at their native ceramics heritage for inspiration- Kim interprets the translucent qualities of Korean Moon jars and waster forms, while Azuma uses the traditional Japanese Kiyomizu technique.

Hyosun Kim
Yoshimi Azuma
Sophie Woodrow's porcelain creatures charmed me in an instant, reminiscent of the magical monsters in Spirited Away.Weird, amusing and adorably eerie, they were fascinating to look at, not least because of the labour involved- Woodrow painstakingly coils, incises, impresses and builds up the intricate textures of each one.

Sophie Woodrow

Kerry Kastings' stoneware vessels were some of the most amazing ceramics I have seen in a while. She has perfected a technique of adding oxides and carbonates to the clay body, glazing only the inside of the forms. The harmonious zen-exuding sky-like colours are a result of the glaze reacting with the additives in the clay body. A visual marriage made in heaven when paired with the elegant, speckled grey matt exterior.

Kerry Hastings
Kathryn Roberts' blown glass vessels blew me away with their understated elegance. The fluid shapes were illuminated in gorgeous jewel colours. Upon closer inspection you will see deliberate cut marks, which Roberts says, is a conteraction to the instinctive, loose way she makes glass.
Kathryn Roberts
Ceramics, glass, precious and non-precious jewellery were particularly strong, with  incredibly diverse approaches to each material- indicating the level of skill and reflecting the individuality of maker. What was surprising was the  affordability of many of the pieces (£100 and under). A clear sign of industry's understanding of shifting consumer attitudes towards buying contemporary craft in the current economic climate. This is good news for consumers as it makes authentic, quality craft accessible to all, not just the elite.

The only criticism was the lack of originality of some textiles, which to me all looked very similar, indistinguishable in a sea of same coloured knitted or woven patterns. The fact that few of the Lux Craft makers were present was another. The catalogue is impossible to navigate either. Besides this Origin has lived up to its reputation. No doubt I will be there next year, spending hours exploring the mecca like a child in a candy shop, enjoying every minute of it.







 



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