London is at the cutting edge: Design Festival 2009

With 200 fabulous events across the capital, the internationally famous design-fest is on now to 27 September.
Ayda Anlagan and her Every Drop Counts soup bowls; Dan Usiskin with his Dot to Dot calendars; Susan Bradley’s London landmark bookends; and Antonio Arevalo’s Random World light shades
Ayda Anlagan and her Every Drop Counts soup bowls (£25); Dan Usiskin with his Dot to Dot calendars (£12); Susan Bradley’s London landmark bookends (£18); and Antonio Arevalo’s Random World light shades (£38.50).
The internationally famous London Design Festival celebrates this year with 200 events across the capital over two weeks. On Friday, a life-sized ceramic chess set by the London-based Spanish designer Jaime Hayon will be placed on a mosaic chess board in Trafalgar Square, and people will play the game all week. Giant sculptures in coloured enamelled steel and cardboard will dominate the South Bank and an arch will be built of chairs at the V&A.

The serious players are at 100% Design in the huge halls at Earls Court, SW5; and at Tent London, at the Truman Brewery in Brick Lane, E1. About town there are also highly focused smaller exhibitions, lots with designers from abroad, plus workshops, talks, seminars, markets and shops.

Technology calls the sharpest shots, with reality sci-fi at 100% Design. Computers and lasers create jaw-dropping new shapes and patterns, for example, "growing" intricate objects by hardening plastic in a tank. This has spawned lights with complicated geometry only possible because of sophisticated software.

The best designs are at Within4Walls ( Lasers can also etch cork (visit Sam Pickard’s panels at, or even engrave patterns within (as opposed to on) a sheet of glass. Also, visit Vitrics, who did the huge screens in Terminal Five (

Other computer-controlled (CNC) machines are carving and cutting involved shapes in wood and metal. "It’s revolutionised furniture and made the complex affordable," says Sean Sutcliffe, director of Benchmark Furniture (

Tapping into a similar technique, new company Lazerian’s ( tables have lacy fretworks of birch ply joined by hand with wing nuts to support glass tops - high-tech meets handcraft. Pattern-makers are also going digital with computer-controlled printers. Ayme Fitzgerald loves their detail for her OTT tropical wallpapers ( And Tent London in E1 is a sensory explosion of computerised effects underpinned by serious technology for the future.

Elsewhere, craft designer-makers subvert old techniques and discover new ones. "Up-cycling" is the name of a new(ish) game: designers are harvesting scrap and re-jigging it into new pieces, sadly at hugely inflated prices.
British designers such as Tom Dixon and Matthew Hilton are all showing new work. A patriotic showcase is the Britain Can (Still) Make It show at Liberty, with an impressive mix of established and emerging British talent, from 19 to 27 September (

The seventh London Design Festival runs from 19 to 27 September (

More design dates around the capital

100% Design is at Earls Court, Warwick Road, SW5, from 24 to 27 September, with public day on Sunday 27 September (01923 690640;

H&P offer: tickets are £15 but Homes & Property readers can get two for one by booking online in advance and quoting offer code ES02.

Running at the same dates, Tent London is at the Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, E1 (020 7739 5561; Open to the public on all days, tickets cost £7.50 on line in advance or £10 on the door.

H&P offer: two for one booked online in advance by 18 September. Quote offer code ES09.

Design for sale "pop-ups" are the new craze, where designers set up temporary shops in an otherwise empty space. Tom Dixon has organised the biggest around his new showroom at Portobello Dock, in the rest of the complex, which is waiting to be let. Taking part are Thorsten van Elten, Hidden Art and other creatives. It runs 21 to 27 September, 344 Ladbroke Grove, W10 (

Giles Miller ( will sell his wacky cardboard creations at Unit 1, 12 Kingly Court, Carnaby Street, W1 from 17 to 26 September, along with digitally printed wallpaper by Abigail Borg ( Snap up discounted design from designer-makers at a one-day sale on Monday, noon to 7pm at Craft Central, 33-35 St John’s Square, EC1.

Ceramics in the City is a selling show with 50 makers at the Geffrye Museum, E2, from 18 to 20 September ( Another show, called Contemporary Ceramics, has more work for sale, from Saturday to 28 September, at Somerset House, The Strand, WC2 (

For Maker Difference Cockpit Arts has installed an antique letterpress to print modern graphics on to cards and prints for sale, from 22 to 27 September, at 3 Lowndes Court, W1 (

A show called The Revivalists, exploring the blurred boundaries between art, craft and design, is at Contemporary Applied Arts, 2 Percy Street, W1, until 3 October, with all work for sale, including furniture, leather vessels, glass and ceramics (

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