The city-wide London Design Festival is in full swing — and, perhaps surprisingly, the buzzword is handmade.
Mass-produced old-school “industrial design” is eclipsed this year by radical new materials and methods from art and design school graduates. At the same time, old crafts are blooming. Even things you thought came from a factory turn out to be largely handmade.
New craftspeople talk of “process” — their word for the fresh ways they make things through research. This is a different kind of craft for the 21st century that pushes the boundaries.
For example, visit Matter of Stuff, which celebrates “new acts of making” at the Hospital Club, 24 Endell Street, Covent Garden WC2, opening to the public from tomorrow until Sunday. Designers at the cutting edge make bowls from plaster/resin using a spinning bucket, craft furniture from layers of paper, and bend a chair from laminated cork sheet.
More familiar are handmade products at The Four Corners of Craft, a charming marketplace with craft from all over the UK organised by Etsy — the international internet site for craft — at Tent London, 12 Dray Walk, Old Truman Brewery, E1, until Sunday.
Then head to the Geffrye Museum in Kingsland Road, E2 for Ceramics in the City, a selling fair with 50 makers, showcasing a rich spread of ceramics for the home with prices from £10. The public are welcome at an opening party tomorrow at 6pm and the show runs until Sunday.
Furnishings you thought were made industrially can be substantially hand crafted. Skilled craftspeople can shape hardwood frames and cut and stitch cloth to make sofas, for example. Sofa in Sight shows how sleek modern sofas are made at SCP in Shoreditch, where owner Sheridan Coakley has his own workshops, pioneering sustainable techniques (until Sunday, 135-139 Curtain Road, EC2).
Berkshire-based Benchmark is a 70-strong furniture company, but director Sean Sutcliffe is showing “industrial craft” at his show in London, fittingly called Factory. See multiple craft techniques — plus new designer ceramics from 1882 Ltd, made by a workshop in Stoke-on-Trent — and enjoy a free breakfast/lunch (26 Elder Street, E1).
Fine craft underpins the bespoke pieces which are “the future of luxury” — the theme of Decorex. Handmade glass, hand-painted silk wallcoverings, hand-screened fabrics, finely crafted carved stone and wood, embroidery and hand-woven objects were on display.
Focus at Design Centre Chelsea Harbour (free public day, Friday) has abundant handmade furnishings include exquisite silk wallcoverings from Japan in 51 shades lined with washi paper — only a few skilled craftsmen can make these (at David Seyfried by www.bidendesigns.com).
This weekend, there is the chance to scoop up rare craft from around the world. Impressive Eastern European design is at Manufactured Culture (39 Thurloe Street, SW7; open until Sunday). Treasures from Ireland, Norway, Korea, Italy and more are at Tent London opening tomorrow until Sunday. Rustic furniture and contemporary ceramics from China are on display at Rouge, 158 Stoke Newington High Street, N16. A show of virtuoso Japanese woodwork techniques is at Native & Co, 116 Kensington Park Road, W11.
Finally, can craft be art, and does it matter? Decide for yourself at Designed/Crafted, showing work from 12 leading contemporary artists, and snap up special limited editions for just £50 — open until Sunday at 24 Rivington Street, EC2.
Talks, seminars and workshops are at the Victoria & Albert Museum, SW7, until Sunday, while designjunction has demos from Ireland at Tent London.
Tomorrow is party day in the Brompton Design District. Evening workshops include cabinet and candle making at Smallbone, and picture framing at Campbell. Weekend pottery demos/kids’ workshops are at the Geffrye Museum (as before). Luna & Curious in Calvert Avenue, E2, has free workshops. On Sunday, there’s Wonder(fin)land at the Finnish Institute, with an experimental workshop for families.
Bespoke design moves up a gear
Car buffs take note: an iconic British three-wheeler sports car, hand-built in Malvern, Worcestershire, by the firm founded in 1910 by Henry Frederick Stanley Morgan, has pride of place in Squint Garage, 1 North Terrace, SW3, until Sunday as part of the festival.
Lisa Whatmough, founder/director of the Squint furniture and home accessories brand, has customised the interior using outdoor fabrics with her signature contemporary patchwork — and added her favourite flock finishes.
Alongside the Morgan is customised Williams Handmade luggage, designed by Squint and tailored to fit the car.
Tomorrow and Friday, Morgan’s craftsmen show how they build this model’s wooden frame (in an infinite choice of colours) and the metalwork, then add leather trims and upholstery. You can even design a car yourself, with Whatmough on hand to help (www.londonmorgan.co.uk).