Heal's is rediscovering its role as a design pioneer and promoter of innovative craft. The furniture and homewares department store, which started off making beds in 1810, was a leading exponent of the Arts & Crafts movement and a centre for Art Deco, but came to the fore as the go-to store in the early Fifties for contemporary furniture, fabrics, ceramics and glass. Today it belongs to the Weston family, who own Selfridges, and chairman and chief executive Will Hobhouse aims to put Heal's back on top as the leading innovative design destination.
Design Fest at the Tottenham Court Road store until February 16, Discover is a modern market featuring the best of contemporary craft by innovative designers and artisans. The event also takes over Heal's windows, with a conveyor belt showing work by Swedish design duo Soderlund Davidson. There are workshops where customers can try creating marble effects, making table mats, veneers and tiles, or watch demonstrations in ceramics, glass and other media, and meet the designers. A wide sweep of very different makers has been gathered together with the help of WORKS — a collective of Royal College of Arts graduates - the Crafts Council and Contemporary Applied Arts (CAA).
Works designers have come up with intriguing but functional wares. James Thompson's Cast Table (£425) is made of Jesmonite given a contemporary twist, Marian Van Aubel and James Shaw's Well Proven Stools (from £450) are made of foamed wood, and Will Shannon's Petrified stools/tables (£375) are created from wood, papermâché and foam. Glass is prominent. Emilie Voirin's Virvel Lamp (£650) looks like a ship's vent stack, there are Kristallin foldable, pleated water bottles (£70) by Jule Waibel that expand when filled with liquid, and a series of pastel-coloured Flamingo Salt candle holders (from £15) made from salt by Jungin Lee.
Trad-mod CAA makers offer slightly more traditional, yet still modern, approaches. Ceramics include Derek Wilson's porcelain containers (from £40), Stuart Carey's tableware (from £25) and Kyra Cane's pinched porcelain beakers (from £70). In textiles, Morag McPherson's zigzag cushions, and in glass Stewart Hearn's coloured bowls, start at £60.