How dare we look to young people for hope? (STIR World)

The last time I visited Dutch Design Week was in 2015. I remember the Design Academy Eindhoven show in particular: it fizzed with possibility. “The problems of the world are so deep, so profound, that thinking of solutions will not help us,” said Thomas Widdershoven, the creative director at the time, in his welcome address. “If you narrow down a problem to solve it, then you have a narrow mind, and it will not be profound enough to come up with real alternatives. What I see my students do is sometimes clumsy, sometimes funny, sometimes nonsense, and sometimes spot on, but they address social issues.”

Eight years on, I can’t remember what the pressing issues of the day were, but I do remember graduate projects that included a light-hearted reflection on the social media-driven popularity of the monstera plant (by Daniela Treija and Sara Sturges), a Willy-Wonka-inspired reinvention of the popcorn maker (by Jolene Carlier), and Simone Post’s multi-layered, multi-coloured glass pendant lamps inspired by the drawings of a seven-year-old boy. Of course, there were also more serious projects addressing topics such as migration, unemployment and premature birth, but the tone—as Widdershoven indicated—was light. The projects did address the issues of the day, but they did so with a sense of optimism.

Why Don’t You Throw it Away by Blanche Vivet /// Image: Courtesy of Nicole Marnati
Our Beloved and Sacred Sun by Adam Bialek /// Image: Courtesy of Carlfried Verwaayen
Look Up With Me by Linting Min /// Image: Courtesy of Nicole Marnati
Feeling Flemish, Felting Flemish by Nell Maher /// Image: Courtesy of Femke Reijerman

The majority of this year’s BA graduates started at DAE in the autumn of 2019. COVID reached the Netherlands on February 27, 2020, when the country’s first case was confirmed in Tilburg. To date, almost seven million people have died worldwide. In May of the same year, 44-year-old white police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black American man, in Minneapolis, prompting a global reckoning with historical racism and police brutality. Within a year, 229 more Black people had been killed by the police in America.

In 2021, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that human activity is changing the climate in unprecedented and irreversible ways and within a year, the oceans and 28 countries had all experienced their warmest year on record. Russia launched a military invasion of Ukraine in a steep escalation of the Russo-Ukrainian War, and there are currently major armed conflicts in seven separate parts of the world, including in Gaza where the death toll has already eclipsed that of Ukraine.

Machine by Myrna De Bruijn /// Image: Courtesy of Carlfried Verwaayen
Ensnared Identity by Yawen Cong /// Image: Courtesy of Femke Reijerman
Unearthed by Szymon Klejborowski /// Image: Courtesy of Nicole Marnati

In 2022, ‘Roe vs Wade,’ the 1973 landmark case after which abortion was made legal across the US, was overturned, and more than 60 countries have criminalised consensual same-sex activity. Still, more have laws and policies that threaten the very existence of members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Widdershoven described the world problems of 2015 as “so deep, so profound.” I am not sure what he would have to say about the issues this year’s DAE graduates have been grappling with, but their show felt anything but clumsy, funny or nonsense. Instead, there was a real sense of heaviness that feels hard to shake off even as I write this two weeks later.

After the Pyrocene by Nico Neves /// Image: Courtesy of Femke Reijerman
The Big Pile of Cardboard Boxes by Gabriel Richard /// Image: Courtesy of Ronals Smits

Nico Neves’ work, After the Pyrocene, was an imagined landscape of burnt trees—a ‘scorched forest made of digital textures’ to highlight the impact of digital technologies on our relationship with the natural world. The project draws on his own experience of having to watch his grandmother’s village in Portugal burn via his mobile phone and news footage. It aims to evoke ‘solastalgia’—the emotional distress caused by environmental change—in those who engage with it.

The Columns of Cardboard Boxes by Gabriel eszo Richard were totem-like piles of discarded cardboard boxes he had collected on the streets on Eindhoven and covered in black illustrations to depict ‘how much is experienced in daily life.’ With images that include grotesque faces piled on top of one another, trees grouped into dark forests and a person lying in bed, underlined eyes fully open, next to an alarm that has stopped ringing, the experience of walking among them was overwhelming to say the least.

Sonic Footprints by Louis Möckel /// Image: Courtesy of Nicole Marnati
The Intangible Performance by Marie King /// Image: Courtesy of Pierre Castignola

Audio projects such as Louis Möckel’s Sonic Footprints added to the feeling of claustrophobia and rising panic. He investigated the environmental impact of industrial sound emissions, treating them as ecological footprints. A mass-produced PVC toy dolphin affixed to a vinyl record playing recordings of all the sounds that had been generated during its manufacture and transportation demonstrated their disruption to ecological systems.

There were of course more optimistic projects and some brilliant ideas offering real alternatives, but many projects felt like an expression of very personal pain—a cry for help rather than an optimistic vision of the future.

With the rise of youth activism, and figures such as Greta Thunberg, Mikaela Loach and Clover Hogan gaining prominence, it can be tempting to think the next generation has taken on the challenge of resolving the problems we face, but as Thunberg said to world leaders at a UN Youth Summit in New York in 2019, “You all come to us young people for hope. How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.” I couldn’t help but hear her words echo around my mind as I walked around this show—a 44-year-old adult looking to the next generation for inspiration; for hope.

Staring at Empty Spaces by Lea Wurthmann /// Image: Courtesy of Ronald Smits
Crafts of Resistance by Daniela Tokashiki Kunigami /// Image: Courtesy of Pierre Castignola
The Prescription: A Consolation for Melancholic Souls by Alissa Guillouet /// Image: Courtesy of Carlfried Verwaayen
he Popping Sound of Bubble Wrap by Ilaria Cavaglia /// Image: Courtesy of Carlfried Verwaayen

Perhaps it’s about time we, as leaders in business, in government, in our own damn lives, started to take genuine action. Maybe it’s time the grown-ups offered some real alternatives and provide these young people with some hope rather than looking to them to fix the messes we have made.

Despair is not the soil in which creativity thrives. If we really want the help—and respect—of this emerging generation of designers, we need to take the pressure off a little, give them back the freedom to explore, to respond to the reality we have built for them in clumsy, funny, nonsense or serious ways. Perhaps some of them will show us the path to addressing social and environmental issues, but they should be free to do so without bearing the weight of the assumption that these are their problems to fix, when, if we are really honest with ourselves, we know they are ours.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position of STIR or its Editors.)

Materials matter at Material Matters 2023 (STIR World)

Material Matters is a show that feels like a magazine, with a mission to ‘make the world a bit better,’ and it (mostly) succeeds.

Imagine visiting a design show that feels like walking through the pages of a magazine. There is a visually striking installation that doubles as an eye-catching front cover; a ‘news section’ exploring material innovation, bigger exhibitions that mimic in-depth features and a marketplace and talks space that evoke the back pages. That’s exactly what Grant Gibson, former editor of both Blueprint and Crafts, and his co-founder William Knight, have pulled off in the second edition of Material Matters.

First up, the cover story: Walk into the airy, yet industrial atrium of the Bargehouse on London’s Southbank during the London Design Festival. You are met by the usual team of enthusiastic badge-zappers anplad a hotel-worthy reception desk fashioned from recycled plastic by SmilePlastics. But wait, there is more. Suspended from the double-height ceiling, 10 textile pieces—made from hemp and yarn spun from oranges, seaweed and pineapple—sway gently in the breeze, setting the tone for what is to come. Planted, an installation by Danish designer Tanja Kirst invites visitors ‘to experience new degradable and circular materials through experimental processes,’ and encourages them to turn the page by heading upstairs and into the show proper.

Planted by Tanja Kirst // Image: Courtesy of Material Matters

The first floor is the ‘news section’, where exhibitors are showcasing experimental material innovation, from Gareth Neal’s collaboration with the New Raw that programmes imperfections into 3D-printed, three-times-recycled polymer vessels to Silklab’s intelligent fabrics that can change colour to indicate anything from pollution to yeast infections.

Recycled polymer vessels designed by Gareth Neal // Image: Courtesy of Material Matters

Gibson describes the second floor as the ‘features section,’ where applied material innovations in the industry are given more space, and in many ways, he’s right. The show’s ‘Designer of the Year,’ Pearson Lloyd, fulfils this brief particularly well with a gently educational exhibition that reflects on their changing use of materials over time. Themes such as ‘design with waste,’ ‘design with data’ and ‘design for circularity’ feel comprehensive and don’t shy away from potentially controversial decisions such as replacing the plywood component with more lightweight recycled expanded polypropylene competent for the furniture which lowers the carbon footprint and increases the recycled and recyclable content. Contributions to this floor such as Norwegian aluminium giant Hydro and British lighting brand Bert Frank are both beautiful and interesting, but perhaps read more like glossy ads than in-depth features.

Camira Pupa by Pearson Lloyd // Image: Courtesy of Material Matters

Moving up the stairs, ever smaller stands recreate the feeling of flipping to the back half of a magazine: the third floor is conceived as a marketplace with commercially ready content. Social enterprise Goldfinger showcases its ‘treecycling’ initiative that sees timber felled due to weather, urban development or disease, saved from the chipper by being turned into furniture—in this case, a collection of tables and benches originally created for London’s Tate Modern. Interior leatherwork studio Bill Amberg exhibits its collaboration with the Knepp Estate, renowned for the ground-breaking ‘wilding’ project. A simple diagram on the wall demonstrates the efficient cutting pattern that enabled the most respectful use of leather from Knepp’s cattle.

Bill Amberg Studio x Knepp Estate’s Knepp Furniture Collection // Image: David Cleveland

Half of the third floor is given over to Isola, the design district more readily associated with Milan Design Week, and the bar, resulting in a slightly more chaotic feel, but no less interesting projects. My favourite was Simon Frend’s ‘ephemeral eco cremation vessels.’ Made from recycled materials such as coffee grounds and newspaper and designed to biodegrade with ‘zero environmental impact’, they are perfectly pot-bellied vessels that honour one of the toughest moments of many of our lives with more respect for the oft-quoted line ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust’ than the stuff of most end-of-life paraphernalia.

Simon Frend’s Eco Urns collection // Image: ©Matt Theodore

The top floor, within the eaves of the building, holds smaller stands and the talk space. Highlights include Yair Neuman—who makes lighting and spectacles from the display lenses that pop out of Cubitts frames when you have them made up with your prescription—and Solidwool, purchased in 2020 by Roger Oates Design from founders Hannah and Justin Floyd. It is good to see that the Hembury Chair, the seat of which is made from British wool and bio-resin, has kept its soul after a lengthy process of re-engineering, redesign and production development.

Hembury Chair designed by Solidwool // Image: Courtesy of Material Matters

Material Matters worked with The Collective and MCM Design Consultancy to create the talks space from waste EchoPanel offcuts. This enabled its construction to walk the circular talk of its content and created a highly functional and inclusive space, even for those with hearing difficulties and auditory-processing issues, for whom the open layout would otherwise simply not have worked.

Talks space at Material Matters 2023 // Image: Sophie Mutevelian

But it is in the programming that design festivals usually fall short. Epitomising ‘pale, male and stale,’ they are often nothing more than a talking shop for show sponsors and the organisers’ social network, invited to rehash old ideas despite a distinct lack of expertise or fresh perspectives. At Material Matters, nothing could be further from the truth. The panel I see, Scaling Up: Biomaterials Meet AI, ably chaired by STIR’s curatorial director Samta Nadeem, is representative of a programme of diverse speakers tackling the pertinent issues facing the industry, such as decarbonisation, waste and regenerative design. It features a stellar line-up of brilliant women, namely Asli Dirik, research assistant at Silklab; Nancy Diniz, the co-founder of bioMATTERS; Liz Corbin, the director of Fraqter; and Loulou van Ravensteijn, founder of ChangeAutomation—who don’t shy away from flexing their collective intellect to explore the topic with the nuance and complexity required to do it justice.

Like any magazine, there are parts of Material Matters I skim over or flick past, and parts I devour and want to know more about, and that’s what making a magazine—or a show like this one—is all about.

There are a lot of shows around these days, many of them struggling to find their purpose in this ever-changing digital, post-Brexit, ‘living with’ COVID era. This show is not among them. Beyond its perspective-shifting focus on materials, there is one thing that everybody involved in Material Matters has in common. “We are trying to showcase people who are trying to make the world a bit better,” says Gibson, simply. And it shows—from the front cover all the way through to the back page.

London Design Festival is back! In its 21st edition, the faceted fair adorns London with installations, exhibitions, and talks from major design districts including Shoreditch Design Triangle, Greenwich Peninsula, Brompton, Design London, Clerkenwell Design Trail, Mayfair, Bankside, King’s Cross, and more. Click here to explore STIR’s highlights from the London Design Festival 2023.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position of STIR or its Editors.)

If you care, then repair – Design Anthology UK, Issue 15

There are a few moments in history to where you can trace the explosion of our single-use society. A New York industry event in 1950, when American clothing retailer B. Earl Puckett announced that “utility cannot be the foundation of a prosperous apparel industry. We must accelerate obsolescence.” Five years later, the cover of Life magazine depicted a family throwing plastic into the air with glee, under the headline “Throwaway Living”. And a comment that was made in 1956 that plastic’s future was “in the garbage can” (requoted in the 1997 book American Plastic: A Cultural History) – referring to the fact its profit lay not in the durability for which it was engineered, but in its disposability.

Today, fashion is fast, disposability is the norm and it is often easier to replace than repair. But we are starting to understand that this “take-make-waste” approach is not sustainable on a finite planet. We are running out of raw materials to take from the earth, generating too much carbon, making more and more stuff, and running out of space to safely dispose of our waste. We need to move towards a circular economy; one in which (as defined by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation) we design out waste and pollution, keep materials and objects in use, and regenerate natural systems. It is just possible that we are witnessing the moments in history at which that is starting to happen.

Venice’s Architecture Biennale in May was criticised by Zaha Hadid Architects principal Patrik Schumacher for not showing enough architecture. He drew particular attention to the German Pavilion, which he described as full of “piles of construction material”. But
perhaps he missed the point. The event, curated by Lesley Lokko, was lauded by other visitors for being the first major design and architecture event to take on some of the world’s biggest problems. And the German Pavilion? A material bank for Venice repair projects to “keep materials and objects in use”.

It’s not only architects who are putting repair at the heart of their thinking. British lighting company Anglepoise now offers a lifetime guarantee on new lamps and a repair service for vintage models. “We have for many years been sold products that are designed to fail at some point, while also being sold the ridiculous notion that something is better replaced in its entirety than repaired,” says chairman Simon Terry. “The design industry is distracting itself by moving the conversation towards recyclable or recycled materials but, of course, that isn’t enough. It needs to broaden its scope and stop churning out new things for the sake of it.”

Danish furniture company Takt is doing just that. Its first sofa, Spoke – launched in June – is designed to be repaired at home. “I hope we are part of a repair movement,” says Takt’s founder and CEO Henrik Taudorf Lorensen. “Besides the environmental benefits of extending the lifespan of products, our customers have become emotionally attached to the furniture that they have repaired.”

When people repair their own objects, whether it’s a sofa, a lamp or the knee of a child’s trouser leg, they don’t only increase the functional and emotional durability of that object, they also reclaim their own power. They start to ask questions about a system that has such little respect for the finite materials we have taken out of the earth and the labour that has shaped them into the objects we use every day.

Lebanese-British artist Aya Haidar creates installations that highlight the hidden labour of care and repair. “The personal agency that comes with repair goes against consumerism and represents a challenge to a broken system,” she says. “If there’s going to be any sustainable long-term change, everyone needs to take into account this responsibility and negotiate a bit of personal agency for themselves.” Perhaps that’s why repair is really important. It represents not only one practical solution to the environmental crisis, but a shift in mindset, a growing desire to challenge the systems that make fashion fast, disposability the norm and a broken object easier to replace than repair. I really hope we will look back on moments like the German Pavilion at the Venice Biennale as more than “piles of construction material” but as a physical marker of the moment when the circular economy really started to gather pace.

Image credit: Yeshen Venema Photography

This article was written for Design Anthology UK, Issue 15 published in September 2023.

Cleaning and maintenance guidelines (Kvadrat)

In the wake of the COVID19 pandemic, global textiles company Kvdrat asked Katie Treggiden to review the latest research and update their cleaning and maintenance guidelines with new facts and research presented in an easy-to-understand digestible way.

All copy as provided to client.

Into the Woods (Land & Water)

Creative content studio, Stranger Collective, commissioned me to write a story exploring the architecture that encourages us to explore the liminal spaces between land and water for their client of the same name. I wrote a piece which took readers on a journey into some of the spaces with me while diving into the history and psychology of our designer to return to nature. All copy as provided to the client. 

On a mission to discover the architecture that reconnects us with nature, author, journalist and design commentator Katie Treggiden packs a rucksack and takes us camping in the liminal spaces between trees, land and water.

I arrived after dark and parked my car in the rain. Shouldering a backpack, I clipped on my head torch and turned to the right, finding a hand-painted sign with its beam: ‘Kudhva – adventurous route.’ Deciding I’d signed up to enough adventure already, I took the left-hand path, following a distant light through the trees – a candle flickering in a triangular window. Soon I was climbing the steep ladder into my simply furnished ‘kudhva’ (‘hideout’ in Cornish) – an insect-like pod atop metal stilts. I pulled the door shut behind me and settled in for the night.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived,” says Henry David Thoreau in his seminal work, Walden; or, Life in the Woods (1854). He is not alone – ever since we came down from the trees (a way of life maintained by the Korowai and Kombai people of Papua New Guinea), we have yearned to return; to reconnect with nature and with ourselves.

In the 1st century AD, the emperor Caligula reputedly held banquets in a large plane tree; in 15th century Tuscany, arboreal architecture was a must-have for the Medici; and pulley systems hoisted champagne up to diners in the chestnut-tree restaurants of 19th-century Paris. “Climbing a ladder feels out of the ordinary, and in the adventurous surprise, people delight in being transported back to their childhoods,” says Studio Puisto architect Jenna Ahonen, explaining our attraction to treehouses and the ladder-accessed sleeping pod she designed for Finland’s Arctic Treehouse Hotel. “We instinctively feel safer in elevated places,” adds Kudhva founder Louise Middleton. “Looking upwards opens our body language, making us feel more capable.” Middleton’s theory is backed up by social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s ‘power pose’ – a wide-legged, open-hearted stance she argues makes us feel more in control.

Waterside

It’s not just trees that we instinctively long for, but also water. A treehouse in Atlanta might be one of Airbnb’s most ‘wished–for’ listings, but Scandinavia’s summerhouses are perhaps Europe’s most ubiquitous rural retreats – Finland boasts one for every three inhabitants – and they’re just as often at the water’s edge as in the woods. Most are simple huts designed to provide little more than shelter and reconnection with the natural world. “Everything about summerhouses emphasises nature,” says Sabine Zetteler, the half-Finnish director of her eponymous London-based communications agency, who relishes the annual pilgrimage to her family’s ‘mökki’. “They are wholly designed to make you look outside or go outside.”

Despite insisting on tactile textiles and a wood burner, designer Heather Scott purposely excluded a bathroom from her Triangle House, the glazed end of which frames the sea view. “An outside loo might feel like a hardship, but there’s something wonderful about being reminded of your surroundings by the stars or the hoot of an owl,” she says. London-based Danish designer Nina Tolstrup took a similar approach in her Whitstable beach chalet. “A simple life isn’t necessarily an easy life,” she explains. “I wanted a contrast from our home comforts so we could enjoy time in nature, cooking slowly and even the washing up. The only thing you want to do here is take in the infinity of the sky, the sound of the waves and deep breaths of fresh air, so my focus was the view – we don’t need much more than that to be happy.”

Urban escapes

Scrolling through Instagram’s aspirational ‘cabin porn’ – a term popularised by Zack Klein’s coffee table books of the same name – might seem like the only way for urban folk to get in on the action, but there are in fact architectural interventions that bring flora, fauna and water to the city. Cutting right through Manhattan, the High Line is an elevated former railway line, repurposed as a linear park. Paddle-perfect water features are planted with wetland species such as cattails and swamp milkweed, and miniature woodlands engulf you with crab apples and bigleaf magnolia. The 10th Avenue Overlook provides a unique view of the Hudson River and a reminder that you are in one of the biggest cities in the world.

Architectural office Boeri Studio took a more vertical approach in Milan, planting as many large trees as you might find in a hectare of woodland, along with 5,000 shrubs and 11,000 floral plans on the balconies of all four sides of its ‘Bosco Verticale’ (Vertical Forest) skyscrapers in the Italian capital. The planting is intended as a way to combine high-density residential planning with new habitats for birds and insects – and will create both a humid oxygen-producing micro-climate and shaded areas of outside space for the building’s residents. VTN Architects took a similar approach for Vietnam’s FPT University Administrative Building the chequerboard design of which sees square walled sections alternate with tree-planted balconies, offering a contrast from the technology-based courses taught within and screening from the heat of the sun. And it’s not just outside walls that are going green, ‘living walls’ – and even relaxation rooms filled with plants – are a popular trend in office interiors as part of a biophilic design movement that embraces the natural world.

Unplugged

It’s that sense of unplugging from the digital demands of our always-on lifestyles – even just for a moment – that these spaces have in common. “For everything that today’s connected world offers, its fast pace leaves many of us feeling disconnected,” says Ahonen. “In nature, we can slow down and re-engage with its inherent order and beauty.”

“I feel so lucky to be able to walk in the woods and swim in the lakes – things that feel a million miles away from modern life,” says Zetteler. “After two days in the chalet, it feels like we have been away for a week,” adds Tolstrup. “It’s the perfect antidote to London life – calming my mind and bringing joy to my soul.”

As for me? I woke at dawn as the half-light streamed in through that triangular window and birdsong came not from above, but from all around; the view through the tips of the willow trees revealed in the morning light. Pushing open the window to feel fresh air on my face, I nestled into my sleeping bag and felt a deep sense of connection – not only to the landscape around me, but to something within myself. I felt refreshed, renewed and ready to take on anything. Not least the trek through the woods in search of coffee.

To read the article at its source click here, or find out more about Land & Water here.

I’m slow (Massproductions)

Massproductions commissioned Katie Treggiden to help them to articulate the rationale behind their new brand positioning of ‘I’m slow’ through a press release to launch the Roadie at 2020’s Stockholm Furniture Fair. ‘We worked with Katie in connection to our most important week of the year – Stockholm Design Week,’ said Massproductions’ Sanna Fehrman. ‘With a very short brief from us, Katie asked the right questions and encapsulated our brand DNA and philosophy into a brilliant press release. The release was very well received by international press and opinion leaders in the design industry. I would highly recommend Katie. She is professional and delightful to work with.’ All copy as provided to the client.

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I’m slow: Massproductions calls for a change of pace at Stockholm Design Week

Stockholm-based furniture company Massproductions is taking a stand against today’s fast-paced obsession with novelty and growth with a brand positioning encapsulated in the words: ‘I’m slow’ and an installation at Stockholm Design Week comprising a bell tent and central ‘fireplace’ that provides space for tranquility and relaxation.

On Wednesday 05 February, while embracing the dynamism of the city during the busiest week of the design calendar with an explosive club night, Massproductions is also offering a place to slow down and take stock. An oversized bell tent, with newest product release Roadie encircling a ‘fireplace’ at its heart, will provide the time and space for visitors to the Stockholm Design Week to step off the treadmill of the typical design fair experience. From tactile surfaces to a bespoke scent, every one of the five senses has been carefully catered for to enable a mindful moment of reflection, evocative of nights under starry skies.

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‘We hope this approach might encourage visitors to slow down and think twice before acting on their first “I want this” instinct – and perhaps even inspire some of our colleagues in the industry,’ says Massproductions co-founder Magnus Elebäck. ‘It’s time to make smarter choices and think more carefully about why we consume the way we do. If we slow down, we will have the time to make sure we buy products with a long-lasting value, in terms of quality, design or even the resale value. The slow movement is here.’

‘We need to produce fewer things, and better things,’ echoes Massproductions co-founder and designer-in-chief Chris Martin. ‘That’s where we should be heading for environmental reasons. Furniture should have a long life for the customer – and that means investing more time before bringing it to market.’

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With a name like Massproductions, this approach might seem counterintuitive. When craft theorist David Pye defined craft as the workmanship of risk, he argued that the maker’s ‘judgment, dexterity and care’ are exercised throughout the making process. But he contrasted this with mass production and the workmanship of certainty in which the ‘judgment, dexterity and care’ are deployed before making begins – and that takes time. It is time Massproductions is happy to invest. ‘We are in no rush,’ says Martin. ‘Of course, we have deadlines and we keep our customers happy by delivering on time, but when it comes to developing ideas, it is better to be slow.’

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True to his word, Martin often holds on to ideas, developing them slowly over years, even decades and only releasing them when they are absolutely ready. ‘If an idea can stay with me for 20 years, the end-result should last a lifetime,’ he explains. Massproductions is very careful about what it puts into production, always asking what contribution the piece is making and whether it is built to last. Remaining true to these principles requires a certain set-up: to break-free from sales and PR-driven product launch cycles, Elebäck and Martin assumed control of the entire production chain when they established Massproductions in 2009 and haven’t looked back since. Without being tied to one factory, they invest time in research and relationships to ensure the best fit for every product, whether that is the latest technical innovation, quality materials or sustainable practices. The approach has paid off with Möbelfakta certification for quality and sustainability, 700 Odette bar stools in use 24/7 at Stockholm’s Arlanda airport with only two repairs in five years, and a glut of distinguished awards, renowned clients and representation in the permanent collection of the Swedish National Museum of Arts.

Right to Repair: exploring mending and restoration (Skinflint)

In May 2019, Katie Treggiden was commissioned by Skinflint to put together and chair a panel discussion at Clerkenwell Design Week entitled ‘Right to Repair: exploring mending and restoration. Following a lively debate, Katie wrote a blog post for Skinflint sharing some of the most salient points raised. All copy as provided to the client.

Right to Repair: exploring mending and restoration

Design journalist Katie Treggiden chaired a panel comprising V&A Artist in Residence and Hackney Fixers co-organiser Bridget Harvey, Restoration Station volunteer Justin South, textiles artist Celia Pym, and our very own Chris Miller during Clerkenwell Design Week. Here are some of the key insights…

‘By extending the lifespan of the product, we are reducing its environmental impact. The lights we reclaim are extremely well designed and engineered. They have fallen out of use, not because they have failed, but because the buildings around them have failed’ – Chris Miller, Skinflint.

‘The people who come to Hackney Fixers either bring things they really, really love and have a deep emotional connection to, or things they really, really need.’ – Bridget Harvey, V&A Artist in Residence and Hackney Fixers co-organiser.

‘Repair is not really about consuming or not consuming – it’s about keeping the things that make your life more pleasant in use.’ – Bridget Harvey, V&A Artist in Residence and Hackney Fixers co-organiser.

‘Clients often can’t believe that we have genuinely salvaged our lights – that they are original – so we purposefully leave the imperfections in and celebrate the history of the pieces.’ – Chris Miller, Skinflint.

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‘Restoring furniture with Restoration Station, and celebrating the life stories of those objects, has been an important part of my recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. It says that you don’t have to forget where you came from, that even as you move past an area of your life, it is still part of your recovery, part of your story.’ – Justin South, Restoration Station.

‘There is a heap of evidence that shows that working with your hands is good for your wellbeing. I love how time feels different when I am repairing something – just that rhythm of being in it.’ – Celia Pym, textiles artist.

‘You can go too far with a repair. But what I have grown to love is the powerful feeling that even if I break something or take it too far, I still have the capacity to do something else, because it was broken and damaged in the first place – there’s a real freedom in that.’ – Celia Pym, textiles artist.

‘I have mended some things and been extremely moved to discover previous repairs – there’s a wonderful layering of stories in mended objects.’ – Celia Pym, textiles artist.

‘Whether you are a maker or a mender; you put something of yourself into the objects because you care.’ – Bridget Harvey, V&A Artist in Residence and Hackney Fixers co-organiser.

‘In museum conservation, there is now more care for the narrative of the object, rather than just the object as it was when it was made – for example, museums might not staple broken ceramics together anymore, but neither do they remove historic staples, because they want to keep those stories – the staples help us understand the history of the piece.’ – Bridget Harvey, V&A Artist in Residence and Hackney Fixers co-organiser.

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‘In ten years, we have salvaged and restored about 50,000 lights and we now only take lights from the 1920s until about the 1970s, because after that value engineering and planned obsolescence had come into play, and we are physically unable to restore these pieces. That is a real shame and something I feel very strongly against.’ – Chris Miller, Skinflint.

‘It’s the same with midcentury furniture – any earlier and it’s very complex and intricate and would require specialist skills to restore, and any later you start getting veneers and if a veneer is too thin, you can’t really sand it and it becomes very difficult to repair – Justin South, Restoration Station.

‘I think the notion of visible mending is quite a catchy idea, but I don’t fully trust it – it feels too obvious. The point isn’t the visibility for me. Creatively, it’s exciting to play with colour, but not everybody is not comfortable with a mend being visible and I would never push someone to use contrasting yarns.’ – Celia Pym, textiles artist.

Visible mending can be a really good statement of intent, or of the environmentalism or politics of mending…but if you are mending someone’s work clothes, for example, they might not want bright yellow yarn on their smart black suit jacket. It’s an aesthetic choice. I have a lot of visibly mended coats, and there are days I don’t even want to wear them myself, days when I just want to blend into the background.’ – Bridget Harvey, V&A Artist in Residence and Hackney Fixers co-organiser.

‘As a charity that aesthetic of visible mending is less of a concern – it’s more often about making use of what we have and making a feature of things that don’t match.’ – Justin South, Restoration Station.

‘I am a little cautious about trends – there is a danger that people only buy into the aesthetic and not the purpose and start mending things that aren’t damaged, or purposefully ageing new products and that seems wrong somehow.’ – Chris Miller, Skinflint.

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‘People can be scared to attempt their first repair, but most of the things we restore don’t require any specialist skills. I would say, “just have a go. If something is already broken, you are not going to make it worse”.’ – Justin South, Restoration Station.

‘The trend for visible mending is in danger of romanticising repair, but a lot of mending is not romantic at all – it is often more to do with austerity; purely pragmatic.’ – Bridget Harvey, V&A Artist in Residence and Hackney Fixers co-organiser.

‘I love that Bridget said a big part of her job at Hackey Fixers is getting big crumbs out of toasters, because the thing is, if you’re stuck, you’re stuck! There is something lovely about showing someone else your problem – sometimes people show me things they don’t want mended, they just want to share them with me.’ – Celia Pym, textiles artist.

‘There is no point in mending something you never liked in the first place because you won’t like it anymore after it is fixed. So, don’t worry about getting rid of things you don’t love – and it’s okay to buy new things too, just try to only buy things you really love or need.’ – Celia Pym, textiles artist.

Getting started with mending is about confidence and having access to support – our events are highly social and are often just as much about the cup of tea and the chat as they are about fixing things’ – Bridget Harvey, V&A Artist in Residence and Hackney Fixers co-organiser.

‘People just need to try and understand that it’s okay to ask for help, it’s okay to fail and if you do fail, it’s not the end of the world – you can get past failure. That was something that I had to learn in my recovery, that something might have gone wrong that I needed to address, but I also needed to move forward.’ – Justin South, Restoration Station.

‘Repair is a craft and you do have to practice it, you can botch something with gaffer tape but the more you practice the more beautiful your mends get and the more choice you have in terms of visibility or invisibility. Just approach it in the same way you would approach learning to cook or to speak another language, the more you do it the better you get at it.’ – Bridget Harvey, V&A Artist in Residence and Hackney Fixers co-organiser.

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The blog post can be found here. Photography: Skinflint.

Exploring Eden with Nature Squared (Bethan Gray)

CEO of Bethan Gray Design, Massimo Gray, approached Katie Treggiden shortly before the launch of Exploring Eden at Milan Design Week in April 2019 seeking a copy platform that could be quickly repurposed for a number of different copy requirements. She reviewed all the pre-existing collateral, interviewed Bethan and Massimo, and wrote a ‘vision document’ that covered the ‘who, what, why, where and when’ of the launch. The copy for the press release, website, brochures, postcards and social media was all adapted from this one piece of writing, with Katie offering editing and proof-reading support as needed. All copy as submitted to the client.

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When Paul Hoeve and Lay Koon Tan founded Nature Squared in 2001, it was with the express purpose of re-imagining sustainable natural materials – waste, by-products of other industries and fast-growing natural materials – and transforming them into beautiful surfaces fit for the pinnacle of the luxury market using master-craftsmanship and cutting-edge technologies. Exploring Eden is the first collection to come out of a new partnership between Nature Squared and award-winning British designer Bethan Gray. It brings Bethan’s passion for telling stories with craft and design together with almost two decades of living and breathing sustainability and social responsibility in natural materials.

‘Creating objects of outstanding beauty and quality is absolutely at the core of ensuring that the materials we work with are recognised and cherished,’ says Lay Koon Tan. ‘There is a groundswell of desire for change, and we hope that such recognition translates into greater acceptance of holistic sustainability and the importance of balancing the needs of the environment with social and economic health.’ 

Nature Squared’s 200 craftsmen have pioneered applications such as banana bark ceilings, eggshell bathtubs and feather dashboards and their surfaces appear in 92% of the world’s superyachts – yet they are virtually unknown. The Exploring Eden collection of furniture and accessories brings previously unseen materials, skills and techniques to the attention of a wider audience, enabling further stewardship of craftspeople in the Philippines and beyond.

‘The more we find a market for what we produce, the more we create a virtuous circle of jobs, appreciation for materials that are currently seen as waste, acceptance of sustainable practices, and self-belief in our people. In Bethan, we have found a like-minded partner and we are delighted to be working with her on this collection,’ says Lay Koon Tan.

The collaboration resonates with Bethan’s love of natural materials and her nurturing approach to craft, which involves enduring partnerships with master craftsmen and women based on mutual trust and respect.

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‘I met co-founders Paul Hoeve and Lay Koon Tan by chance because we are both based at Great Western Studios in West London – it was a genuine water-cooler moment,’ says Bethan Gray. ‘I knew we were kindred spirits as soon as I heard their story and realised how passionate they were about nurturing craft. The opportunity to work with these incredible materials, and apply them to furniture for the first time, has been really exciting, especially as it will expand their reach and expand their stewardship of Filipino craftspeople.’ 

Bethan Gray and Nature Squared share a passion for exploration, experimentation and pushing the boundaries of possibility within natural materials and craft. Bethan immediately saw the potential in the skills and techniques of Nature Squared’s artisans, and spent time working alongside them to develop the Exploring Eden collection.

‘They know their materials so well that it has been a real joy to join them in their explorations and push the boundaries of what the materials can do in the context of a contemporary design,’ she says. ‘We were able to use the pen shells for this collection because of the hundreds of samples Nature Squared’s craftspeople had made in a bid to find a use for the black iridescent part of the shell that usually gets left behind.’

Bethan’s fresh perspective on these captivating materials coupled with her instinct for colour and texture, has resulted in a profusion of ideas, only the very beginning of which is represented in this first collection.

The Exploring Eden collection comprises ten key pieces including furniture such as armchairs, tables and shelving, perfectly complemented by accessories such as paperweights, bookends and bell jars – each one the outcome of Bethan’s explorations into the possibilities of these exciting materials.

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Nature Squared was founded to create new value for sustainable natural materials that are currently either waste- or by-products of other industries or simply fast-growing enough to be entirely self-replenishing; transforming them with master-craftsmanship and cutting-edge technology. In keeping with Bethan’s love of seashells and feathers, she has chosen pearl, abalone, capiz, pen and scallop shells for her first collection – along with goose and pheasant feathers.

‘The iridescence found in nature is absolutely unique. My colour palette has always been inspired by natural materials, so this is a really exciting opportunity to work with something completely new and yet absolutely aligned with my practice,’ says Bethan.

The exotic but plentiful shells used across the collection are sourced from Filipino fishing communities with on-going conservation projects while the British goose and pheasant feathers come from birds that have been sustainably processed for food. These are perfect examples of Nature Squared’s commitment to traceability throughout the supply chain.

Known for pushing the boundaries of craft techniques, Bethan Gray has the expertise to deftly combine materials, resulting in products and spaces that are tactile and engaging. Her work has always been characterised by bold, confident patterns inspired by the shapes she sees in the natural world – the graphic patterns in this collection are not just inspired by, but also created by, natural materials.

‘The scallop shells are graphic in themselves. When they are laid flat and infilled with black [eco-resin?], the natural pink pattern they create is really beautiful,’ says Bethan. ‘The capiz shell is usually used in circles, but by arranging it in a grid, not only is it a more efficient use of the material, but you get this striking modern pattern made from a side of the shell you don’t usually see.’

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Bethan’s refined colour palette, developed over a number of years, is inspired by her love of travel, photography and culture and informed by the natural materials she works with.

‘In every piece in the collection, we’ve tried to keep things as simple as possible so the naturally occurring patterns and colours can really shine,’ says Bethan. ‘Putting matte black next to shiny, iridescent pearl really highlights it – and the black iridescence found in the base of the pen shells was a revelation. It is like a black rainbow and comes from the part of the shells that is usually discarded. I’ve never worked with iridescence before, so to find it in natural materials is really exciting. It’s added a whole new dimension to my colour palette.’

Each material comes with its own story – of its environment and its community. Bethan’s instinct for creating combinations that work has resulted in a distinctive colour palette that weaves a continuous narrative across the collection.

Bethan Gray’s ancestors went on an incredible journey across continents – Bethan has since visited many of the places they passed through, inspired by a love of art, travel and culture. Today, Bethan’s expertise lies in bringing contemporary relevance to the traditional techniques from these regions – keeping both cultural narratives and craft skills alive.  Established in 2008, Bethan Gray Designs creates best-selling collections of hand-crafted furniture and home accessories for global retailers and brands, such as Lane Crawford, EJ Victor, Living Edge, The Odd Piece, Liberty and Harrods. The studio’s work features extensively in global media; has been recognised with four Elle Decoration British Design Awards; and is regularly exhibited in London, Milan, Paris and New York. Working within equal partnerships built on mutual trust and respect is at the heart of Bethan’s creative practice. By collaborating with master craftspeople and bringing contemporary relevance to their work, she is able to connect them to new commercial markets all over the world, celebrating and preserving their skills in her furniture and home accessories.

Nature Squared transforms sustainable and abundant natural materials, such as eggshell, seeds, bark, seashells, precious stones, exotic leathers and feathers, into unique surfaces and luxury objects using centuries-old craft techniques enhanced with today’s ingenuity and technical innovation. Employing 200 master craftsmen, Nature Squared has elevated heritage craft to heirloom quality and today, their surfaces can be found in 92% of the world’s super yachts. With almost 20 years’ experience in sustainability and social responsibility, they are now expanding from their bespoke roots into furniture and accessories, to make their work accessible to a wider audience and promote the compatibility of such skills and quality with environmental, cultural and social stewardship.

Bethan Gray and Nature Squared share a common commitment to natural materials, nurturing craft and sustainability and this is just the beginning of a long-term collaboration.

Photography: Bethan Gray and Nature Squared.

The Future of Architecture (RAJA / Greenlight Digital)

Working on behalf of eco-friendly packaging brand RAJA, Greenlight Digital were looking for expert opinions on the future of architecture and sustainability. They interviewed Katie Treggiden and put together an article for the RAJA blog from her answers. They also used key quotes within press releases which were then picked up by industry press such as International Investment. All copy as provided to the client.

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ARCHITECTURE IN 2020

Trends move quite slowly in architecture, so 2020 is likely to see a continuation of the current shifts and movements: Innovation around small-space living and the ‘tiny house movement’ as more people move to cities where space is at a premium and young people find innovative ways to own their own homes – and the continued growth in the importance of sustainability and wellbeing in both new builds and adaptations of existing buildings. The UK Green Building Council is focused on: ‘mitigating and adapting to climate change, elimination waste and maximising resource efficiency, embracing and restoring nature and promoting biodiversity, optimising the health and wellbeing of people, and creating long-term value for society and improving quality of life’ and I think and hope we’ll see positive shifts in all those areas.

ARCHITECTURE IN 2070

The United Nations predicts that two thirds of us will be living in cities by 2050, and so-called ‘megacities’ such as London, New York and Tokyo already house more than 10 million people, so by 2070 we can assume the population will have urbanised further putting extreme pressure on space; and we can anticipate more single-dwelling premises too. MINI Living – the architecture arm of the automotive brand – has come up with creative solutions such as tiny two-story ‘totems’ that operate as live-work pods for single people within communal spaces that offer shared kitchens, dining rooms, gyms and entertainment zones. This sense of sharing space chimes with mid-century ideas for how we might live in cities and might finally come to fruition.

I would also like to see the notion of ‘universal design’ (also known as ‘design for all’ or ‘inclusive design’) that is already popular in Norway, America and Japan gain traction worldwide. Universal design brings the people usually at the peripheries of design into the process very early on, resulting in solutions that might only be needed by some, but are better for everybody – it avoids the stigma and mis-steps associated with the ‘special solutions for special needs’ that typify accessible design, and ensures everyone’s needs are considered – Oslo School of Architecture and Design professor Tom Vavik defines it as ‘a framework that accepts diversity of ability and age as the most ordinary reality of being human’. The Norwegian government has committed ensuring their entire infrastructure is created according to the principles of ‘inclusive design’ by 2025 – so another 25 years for the rest of the world to catch up doesn’t seem unreasonable.

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ARCHITECTURE IN 2120

Trying to predict the future is always dangerous and tends towards either utopian or dystopian thinking, but let’s be optimistic. I would like to predict that in 100 years’ time the most significant change in architecture will be a shift in focus away from skyward gestures of ego, towards a more inclusive practice that finds lasting solutions for the 1 in 200 people who are currently homeless or living in inadequate homes, for the people in the 617 UK buildings still thought to be fitted with combustible cladding and insulation, despite the 72 lives claimed by the Grenfell Fire in 2017, and for the 46% of 25- to 34-year-olds currently unable to get onto the housing ladder and therefore living with the instability of renting. Just like inclusive design, this sort of architecture would start with building solutions that might only be needed by some, but create better world for all of us.

FUTURE CONSTRUCTION MATERIALS

=There is a lot of material innovation at the moment – largely driven by sustainability and that will continue. Fast-growing, mouldable and entirely compostable, fungal mycelium is a really exciting material to watch for its use in cladding, temporary structures and insulation. Green & Blue’s bee bricks are another interesting innovation – they provide habitats for solitary bees – currently in decline due to loss of habitat and yet responsible for a third of what we eat due to their pollination activities.

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FUTURE CARDBOARD

We’ve been experimenting with cardboard as a sustainable building material since Buckminster Fuller prototyped a house in 1944 – attracted to cardboard’s low cost, flexibility, strength, sustainability, and recyclability. Japanese architect Shigeru Ban returned to the material in the 1990s and built emergency shelters for Rwandan refugees and dwellings in Turkey and India from cardboard tubes and tarpaulin. He built a schoolhouse in China, a concert hall in Italy, and a cathedral in New Zealand, all out of cardboard, promising a life expectancy of 50 years for the latter. Most recently Dutch collective Fiction Factory created cardboard ‘Wikkelhouses’ made from made of 24 layers of corrugated cardboard, which is glued together and then wrapped up foil. It’s clearly a material that architects will keep returning to, and with the need for sustainable, flexible and temporary dwellings only looking set to increase, it seems cardboard might indeed become an increasingly a viable option as a sustainable material.

FUTURE BUILDING SHAPES

When Louis Sullivan coined the term ‘form follows function’ he was actually referring to forms found in nature. It has become a somewhat of a mantra for architects the world over ever since, but many are now coming back to its original meaning and embracing more organic shapes, especially as we understand more about their role in sparking joy and supporting wellbeing.

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MONTHLY JOURNAL POSTS (PELDON ROSE)

Peldon Rose approached Katie Treggiden to write monthly editorial blog posts for their website as part of a broader content marketing strategy. Katie worked closely with the marketing department to put together an editorial calendar to support their marketing objectives and position them as thought leaders. Having agreed monthly topics, she interviewed industry experts and undertook desk research before drafting each post and then working with the in-house SEO team to optimise the copy for the web. The website has seen increased traffic and dwell times and the work is valued within the organisation. ‘Katie brings a fresh approach and valuable advice which helps shape our strategy and deliver successful marketing’. says Benjamin Murray, Head of Marketing at Peldon Rose. ‘She seeks out a diversity of voices for her insightful and well-researched blog posts. Working with her is also really enjoyable – she’s great to collaborate with.’

Please find below an example journal post about using workplace design to attract and retain talent.

Attracting and keeping talent is one of the most pressing issues for businesses today – and something in which workplace design plays a significant role. When we say ‘talent’, what we mean of course is talented people. But what if there was another perspective? In her TED Talk ‘Your elusive creative genius,’ Elizabeth Gilbert argues that creativity does not come from within us, but instead visits us when the conditions are right. In ancient Rome ‘genius’ wasn’t a word used to describe a person, but a divine entity that lived in the walls of artists’ studios and occasionally chose to pay them a visit. The American poet Ruth Stone describes poems barrelling across the landscape towards her like a ‘thunderous train of air’ sending her running for a pencil and paper so she could write them down before they passed her by in search of another poet. In the deserts of North Africa, people used to gather for moonlight dances and occasionally one of the dancers would become ‘lit up with the fire of divinity’ and people would chant ‘Allah, Allah, Allah’ at the incomprehensible brilliance – ‘the glimpse of God’ – that had momentarily inhabited the dancer. It was only with the advent of the Renaissance 500 years ago that creativity started to be understood as coming from within us and with that the usage of the word ‘genius’ changed from something people had to something they were.

What if we went back to these earlier understandings of creativity – to the belief that our most brilliant moments of talent are only ever on loan to us? The brief then becomes not about attracting and retaining talented people, but about attracting talent to the people we already have, coaxing the genius out of our walls and creating spaces that enable our people to do their best work.

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With that in mind here are three ways to coax the genius out of your walls:

Ambiverts
There has been a lot of attention paid to creating spaces for introverts as well as extroverts – cubby holes for those who detest open plan offices. But the truth is two-thirds of people don’t strongly identify as either one or the other, leading to Adam Grant’s research into ‘ambiverts’. It turns out that most people oscillate between the two extremes depending on how they’re feeling or what they’re working on. Getting the best work out of ambiverts is about designing spaces that support different types of work, rather than different types of people. Creating opportunities for dynamic collaboration, spaces for focused introspection, and everything in between – and most importantly encouraging people to move freely between these spaces – enables people to do their best work regardless of where they sit on the introvert-extrovert spectrum today.

Play
Jeffrey Davis recommends the best way to solve a problem is to clearly define it, analyse it, think about it until your head hurts, and then ‘step away and play.’ Creating spaces for seemingly idle recreation attracts moments of genius, whether you believe in the spirit in the wall or just the power of the subconscious mind. The cliché of the table-football table in every advertising agency across the land is actually backed up by science, but it’s not the only solution. Anything from a climbing wall to an Etch-a-Sketch on every desk will encourage breaks from work that foster new connections.

Ownership
Research shows that people work best within environments for which they feel ownership and control. Bickering over the thermostat rarely has as much to do with the temperature as it has to do with autonomy and power. As communal spaces, hot-desking and clear-desk policies risk de-personalising individual workspaces, it’s important to ensure staff feel at home and empowered to do their best work. Involving staff in designing their own office spaces has been shown to increase productivity by as much as 32% and companies that encourage personalisation have better cultures and lower staff turnover rates than those that don’t. Customising digital spaces, team areas or mobile carts that move from desk to desk are all ways of supporting personalisation within a flexible office.

You can read all Katie’s journal posts on the Peldon Rose website: peldonrose.com/insights/

Brand consultancy and website Copy (Trifle*)

After a long period of strategic development, Katie Treggiden came on board to help workspace design agency Trifle* find clarity around their brand messages and tone of voice. A short consultancy session was followed by several pieces of key copy for the website and follow-up support as the project evolved. ‘We always love working with Katie. She has a way of taking all the creative jumble from our minds and making perfect succinct sense of it all!’ says Emma Morley, founder and creative director of Trifle*. ‘She is insightful, wise and funny and brings great energy to the process and her writing. She was absolutely instrumental in helping us understand our USP and how to express that.’

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Brand Reset (Bethan Gray)

Katie Treggiden worked with Bethan Gray Design as their in-house copywriter for an intense period of six months. She joined the team in March 2018 after strategic work initiated by CEO Massimo Grey. Together Katie and Massimo refined the brand definition and Katie then developed its articulation, creating two distinct tones of voice – one for the studio and one for Bethan. This unusual approach enabled the brand’s high-end aspirational values to sit comfortably with Bethan’s down-to-earth, approachable and empathetic personality. Over the following six months, Katie edited or originated all the copy across every brand touchpoint from the website and brochures to press releases, film scripts and speeches.

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‘Everything I design starts with a story – through collaborating with skilled craftsman I bring those stories to life for contemporary audiences.’

London-based Bethan Gray is one of the UK’s most celebrated furniture and homeware designers, having been awarded three Elle Decoration British Design Awards including the coveted Best British Designer. Established in 2008, Bethan Gray Design creates luxury handcrafted collections of furniture and home accessories that are sold through global retailers such as Harrods, Liberty, Lane Crawford and EJ Victor, and also available directly.

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JOURNEYS
Bethan Gray has an extraordinary background: born to a Scottish father and Welsh mother, her maternal family descends from a nomadic Rajasthani clan that migrated across Arabia and Persia over centuries. Inspired by her heritage and fuelled by a deep-seated curiosity about global art and culture, Bethan has travelled to India, Asia, the Middle East, Northern Africa and South America.

‘My Grandmother was a Romani Gypsy. I was brought up to be proud of my roots and open to other cultures – I think that might be why I love travelling so much.’

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KINSHIP
Working within equal partnerships built on mutual trust and respect is at the heart of Bethan Gray’s creative practice. By collaborating with master craftspeople and bringing contemporary relevance to their work, she is able to connect them to new commercial markets all over the world, celebrating and preserving their skills in her furniture and home accessories. Within her own practice in London, she nurtures, connects and encourages new design talent and mentors upcoming female designers. She has recently launched a Prize for Women in Craft with Cardiff Metropolitan University where she is an honorary fellow.

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CULTURAL NARRATIVES
Bethan’s design process always begins with a story. Whether it is the sails of Oman’s distinctive Dhow boats, the rounded castellations of the Nizwa Fort, a 12th-century Italian cathedral or the three-legged Welsh cricket tables of her childhood. These stories are distinctive parts of the cultures to which they belong – and often in danger of being forgotten. By capturing their essence in collaboration with local artisans using traditional craft skills, Bethan is able to tell stories through craft, deftly preserving and translating cultural narratives, materials and aesthetics in a way that resonates with both the people to whom they belong and audiences across the globe.

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GRAPHIC PATTERN
Bethan Gray’s work is characterised by bold, confident patterns inspired by the shapes she sees all around her from the growth spirals of shells to the sacred geometry seen in architecture all over the world. Her patterns are drawn by hand to capture their natural imperfections and then meticulously executed using ancient craft skills.
‘Even the most complex pattern becomes harmonious when you get it just right. I think my instinct for geometry comes from my family’s middle eastern heritage.’

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NATURE
Known for pushing the boundaries of craft techniques, Bethan Gray has the technical expertise to deftly combine materials as diverse as marble, birds-eye maple, leather and brass need some refining, resulting in products and spaces that are tactile and engaging.

‘I am often inspired by nature and I absolutely love natural materials’

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COLOUR PALETTE
Bethan’s colour palette is inspired by her love of travel, photography and culture and informed by the natural materials she works with. References such as the ombré effect caused by sunlight falling across the castellations of the Nizwa fort, paired with an innate talent for creating combinations that work, has resulted in a distinctive colour palette that represents a contemporary take on femininity that is warm and welcoming.

‘Photography is an important part of my creative process and I try to really pay attention to the colours I capture. Over the years, I’ve distilled those colours into a balanced palette.’

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ABOUT BETHAN GRAY DESIGN

Combining their talents, creative director Bethan Gray and husband and CEO Massimo established Bethan Gray Design in 2008. A decade as Habitat’s design director provided Bethan with extensive experience collaborating with craftspeople all over the world as well as a thorough grounding in the commercial workings of the industry. An honorary Fellowship of Cardiff Metropolitan University recently recognised her contribution to craft and design – one that is characterised by empathy, originality and instinctive talent. Massimo’s entrepreneurial upbringing, a previous career in finance and an MBA from the SDA Bocconi School of Management, combined with his training as a registered life planner under George Kinder, provides the long-term vision to realise the creative potential of the studio.

In the ten years since establishing the studio, Bethan and Massimo have built meaningful partnerships supporting over 400 craftspeople worldwide, always developing deep relationships based on mutual trust that help to achieve the ambitions of all parties – in fact, as well as sitting on the boards of some of the world’s leading design studios, Massimo works closely with each of the studio’s partners to help them to develop and realise their visions. In partnership with local artisans, Bethan tells cultural stories through craft and design, creating best-selling collections of luxury furniture and homeware that are at once decorative and highly original, while remaining comfortable and functional.

Bethan Gray Design also works with global design brands such as The Glenlivet, Anthropologie and Rado creating immersive experiences as well as physical products to help them tell their own stories. Bethan’s empathetic approach combined with Massimo’s strategic vision results in unique narratives communicated through craft. Bethan Gray Design’s collections are distributed by global retailers such as Lane Crawford, EJ Victor, Living Edge, The Odd Piece, Liberty and Harrods. The studio’s work features extensively in global media; has been recognised with three Elle Decoration British Design Awards; and is regularly exhibited in London, Milan, Paris, Dubai and throughout the United States.

See more at bethangray.com

Brand and copy guidelines (Giles Miller Studio)

Katie Treggiden worked with surface, sculpture and architecture practice Giles Miller Studio following a long period of brand strategy work to help them clearly articulate their vision, brand character and pillars, target audience and tone of voice. She ran a brand workshop for the whole team and subsequently developed a set of brand and copy guidelines to guide communications going forward, providing website copy and an example press release to demonstrate how they might be applied.

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Katie’s astute interpretation of our studio and aspirations made for an invaluable contribution to our re-brand,’ said founder and director Giles Miller. ‘Critically, she was able to bridge the gap between our internal creative dialogue and the projection of that process to the wider world. We will certainly be working with her again at the earliest opportunity.’

 

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BOILER PLATE COPY (Universal Design Studio)

Katie Treggiden worked with Universal Design Studio to help them to define and articulate their brand, running a brand workshop and 121 interviews with the company’s six directors to find and articulate a vision that this diverse group of designers and architects could each sign up to. She then wrote the boilerplate or ‘about us’ copy and a personal profile for each director. This copy is already in use on the website and in pitch documents – and Katie continues to offer editing and proof-reading support on new copy.

CASA DE LA FLORA (MR & MRS SMITH)

Katie Treggiden was invited to review Casa del Flora in Thailand for boutique hotel guide Mr & Mrs Smith. ‘Despatching Katie as an undercover hotel reviewer is never anything short of a delight,’ says editor Richie MacKichan. ‘She tells the tales of her stays with wit, warmth, a deft turn of phrase and an eye-catching eye for detail. If you don’t happen to be on holiday yourself, I highly recommend living one vicariously through Katie’s words.’

‘Which scent would you like for you room?’ (Lemongrass)
‘Which shower gel would you prefer?’ (Scented wood)
‘Which of these pillows can we get you?’ (Heavy duck)

It felt a bit like the Spanish Inquisition (albeit with less torture and more cold towels), but as we sniffed at tiny bottles and twizzled the cinnamon sticks in our ice-cold coconut water, we started to relax and take in our surroundings at Casa de la Flora. The combination of cool concrete and warm wood had a decidedly Scandi-Modernist vibe quite at odds with the 38-degree heat and Khao Lak location, but far from feeling incongruous, it felt like a confident, worldly approach to architecture perfect for its well-travelled clientele.

Room scents and pillow combinations decided, we headed up a spiral staircase worthy of a Guggenheim and were shown to our room. A concrete bathroom and dressing room complemented a wood-lined lounge and bedroom – and a private pool and terrace overlooked the grassy roofs of our neighbours to the sea. The sun goes down in a matter of minutes this close to the equator, so we watched a speedy sunset, before being plunged into darkness and our own private pool.

‘Nightswimming deserves a quiet night,’ sang Michael Stipe, and the only thing stopping us from having one was me singing the same every time I came up for air. Mr Smith looked quietly irritated, but I put that down to jetlag and carried on. Given that our luggage was still on its way from Kuala Lumpur, I will leave the issue of whether we carry swimwear in our hand luggage to your imagination, but needless to say, it was a very private space.

Suddenly exhausted, we delighted in the chill of the air conditioning and climbed into the implausibly large, ridiculously comfortable bed, surrounded by a grand total of eight ‘heavy duck’ pillows and that crisp white bedding you only seem to find in hotels. We were asleep by 9pm, lulled by the sound of Jacuzzi bubbles in the pool behind our headboard.

I woke up bright and early for one of three complimentary yoga classes I’d signed up for. Sadly, the tranquillity of the class was shattered by some idiot on a running machine in the same room – an experience made slightly less annoying, if infinitely more embarrassing, by the fact the idiot in question was none other than Mr Smith, who was there at my suggestion and completely oblivious to the racket he was making due to the noise-cancelling headphones I had bought him. Needless to say I rolled my eyes with my fellow yogis and sidled out after the class without acknowledging him.

Reunited at breakfast, we sipped cappuccinos served with sugar encrusted cinnamon sticks and free-flowing bucks fizz. Faced with an extensive menu, Mr Smith plumped for quesadillas and I ordered the Spanakopita Eggs Benedict, (largely for the sheer joy at saying the word ‘spanakopita,’) but not before we’d thoroughly savaged the Continental buffet, piling our plates high with incongruous combinations of everything from smoked mackerel to pecan pastries.

Sated, we headed back up to our roof terrace for a morning of sunbathing, punctuated by much-needed dips in the pool when it all got a bit sweaty. It was only afterwards that we noticed that the white parts of both my bikini and Mr Smith’s chest hair had turned a delicate shade of green. It took us a little while to work out that our habit of hanging over the infinity pool edge to people-watch had brought us into close contact with the algae growing happily in the chlorine-free water. Luckily a double shower, concrete bath the size of a small swimming pool, and our specially-selected ‘scented wood’ shower-gel proved more than adequate to return everything to its proper hue in time for lunch.

We took advantage of room service – spring and summer rolls – on the roof before my second yoga class of the day, this time on the seafront instead of the gym. It turns out crashing waves and birdsong make a much better backdrop for yoga than your noisy husband on a treadmill. I met Mr Smith at the pool bar where my yoga-teacher-turned-barkeep served us happy-hour cocktails as we watched the sun go down over the bobbing heads of German tourists taking a dip.

We sidled over to the table-lined lawn outside the restaurant and nabbed front-row seats for the hotel’s watery equivalent of a fireworks display – booming waves crashed against the promenade, splashing into the air to ‘oooh’s and ‘aaah’s from our fellow diners. Mr Smith ordered the ‘007’, feeling slightly apprehensive having been served neat vermouth in response to a request for a martini on holiday once before, but with three green olives this debonair concoction turned out to be the perfect cocktail. I turned down offerings from Norway, France and Italy that cost more than the wine, and opted for the local mineral water. In keeping with the architecture, Thai recipes were given the fine-dining treatment, which meant a choice of breads in a napkin-lined basket preceded crispy noodles with salmon, squid, scallops, prawns and kale for me, and a soft-shell yellow crab curry for Mr Smith. What it may have lacked in street-food authenticity it more than made up for in white-tablecloth indulgence.

The following morning, we checked out and headed off on the ‘Three Temples Tour’ to learn more about the Buddhist temples that embrace Hinduism and Chinese fortune telling as well as tourists and locals alike. As Casa de la Flora disappeared in the rear-view mirror, it struck me that its approach wasn’t so different – Scandinavian architecture and French-inspired fine dining meets generous Thai hospitality for citizens of the world. There’s an incense stick burning in a temple carrying a wish that we’ll be back.

WEBSITE COPY (DANIEL SCHOFIELD)

Interior design by 2LG Studio. Photography by Megan Taylor.

Award-winning British furniture designer Daniel Schofield commissioned Katie Treggiden to edit the copy he had drafted for his website before putting it live. ‘As a creative working in three dimensions, writing about my own work can be a struggle, so having Katie’s help was immeasurably valuable. Most importantly Katie always understood what I was trying to say and articulated it in a way that is eloquent, intriguing, and easily understandable,’ says Daniel.

What Makes a Successful Office Move (Peldon Rose)

Office designers and London workplace consultants Peldon Rose invited me to chair the first in a new series of breakfast seminars entitled ‘What Makes a Successful Office Relocation?’, exploring best practise and using the newly developed MOO headquarters in on 20 Farringdon Road, Clerkenwell as a case study. The panel included Tim Swann and Steve Taylor of Peldon Rose, alongside creative director of interior design practice Trifle Emma Morley, with whom Peldon Rose collaborated on the project, and MOO’s own Amanda Champion. The panel format and conversational style was a welcome departure from more formal PowerPoint-based presentations more typical of this part of the industry. The event was such as success that Peldon Rose has invited me back to chair the next event in November and we are already discussing 2018’s programme.

THE MAKERS (LONDONEWCASTLE)

Katie Treggiden was commissioned by Studio Small on behalf of their client Londonewcastle, to write a book called The Makers that brought Shoreditch to life as part of a marketing campaign for a new housing development and school in the area. Katie interviewed Hackney locals Sheridan Coakley – founder of SCP, Violet Bakery’s Claire Ptak, Martin Usborne – co-founder of Hoxton Mini Press, renowned Marksman chef Tom Harris, CEO of Hackney Empire Clarie Middleton, Nik Southern – founder of Grace & Thorn, graphic artist Camille Walala, and DJ, poet, teacher and founder of Run Dem Crew Charlie Dark in order to explore what makes the area so special. She then worked alongside Studio Small and a team that comprised a photographer, a filmmaker and an illustrator to create content for a cloth-bound hardback book, a website and a short film.

 

Eliza Soane Instagram Takeover (Sir John Soane’s Museum)

Photography by Katie Treggiden

As part of their bid for Museum of the Year 2017, Sir John Soane’s Museum commissioned to Katie Treggiden to do an ‘Instagram Takeover’ running its feed for a week as part of a series of takeovers on the theme of ‘Inspired by Soane.’ Katie explored the role that Sir John Soane’s wife, Eliza Soane, had played in his life and work. She took original photographs inside the museum, undertook secondary research and met with the museum’s curator to put together a series of posts telling the story of Eliza Soane and her influence on her husband, his career and those who seek to follow in his footsteps. “Katie shows an infectious enthusiasm for learning and research, approaching subjects in a really fresh way, resulting in new angles every time. Her professionalism and unique insight is coupled with a warm and generous nature that makes her a pleasure to work with.” – Adam Thow, Barbican / Sir John Soane’s Museum

Sir John Soane left his wife’s bedroom untouched for nineteen years after her death, only converting it into a space to house his extensive collection of architectural models towards the end of his life in 1834 – 1835. At the same time he created the oratory off his own bedroom, which seems to be a shrine to his wife, displaying paintings they acquired together, a stained glass panel depicting the hermit St Arsenius and an white urn believed to have been painted by Eliza. #InspiredBySoane #InspiredByElizaSoane

After Industry (Dundee Design Festival)

Katie Treggiden was commissioned by the organisers of Dundee Design Festival to write the foreword for the festival brochure – an essay about the role of design in the city of Dundee. “Katie, this made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. It is a brilliant, well thought-through, and concise piece of writing.” – Siôn Parkinson, Dundee Design Festival. All copy as provided to the publication.

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From Dundee’s first fireproof mill to the Beano’s print works; and then from Dundee Design Festival venue to one of the largest cultural centres in the UK – the evolution of West Ward Works tells the story of how a city once famous for ‘jute, jam and journalism’ is using the power of design to reinvent itself for the post-industrial age.

Modern design was invented by industry. The advent of mass manufacturing separated the design process from making. When the objects we needed were created by hand, they were made locally, often to bespoke specifications. Design and making happened simultaneously with craftspeople making decisions and adjustments throughout the process; managing what designer David Pye called the ‘workmanship of risk’. Making by machine requires a different approach – the economics of tooling demand high volumes of identical objects, the form of which must to be fully resolved before production can begin. Industrial making is dependent on the ‘workmanship of certainty,’ and to fulfil this need, design has become a distinct function in its own right.

So if designisa result of industry, what becomes of design in a post-industrial society? And what becomes of the cities built on the back of its success? Can design help cities once entirely reliant on industry – from Dundee and Detroit – to thrive again?

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In 1973, Daniel Bell forecast The Coming of the Post-Industrial Society in his book of the same name. He predicted a shift away from dependence on the ‘economics of goods’ towards the ‘economics of information’ arguing that we should expect “new premises and new powers, new constraints and new questions — with the difference that these are now on a scale that had never been previously imagined in world history.” He wasn’t wrong – when Detroit lost the car industry to China and Japan, and Dundee lost jute production to India, the effect on both economies was devastating. “Weak market cities across Europe and America, or ‘core cities’ as they were in their heyday, went from being industrial giants dominating their national, and eventually the global, economy, to being devastation zones,” says Anne Power in her book Phoenix cities: The fall and rise of great industrial cities. “In a single generation three-quarters of all manufacturing jobs disappeared, leaving dislocated, impoverished communities, run-down city centres, and a massive population exodus.” The fact is that manufacturing simply stopped driving growth in the western world.

But just as the Industrial Revolution and its after effects shaped the 19th and 20th centuries, so the digital revolution will shape the 21st century. At its heart, whether it is through the workmanship of risk or of certainly, design is about solving problems, and the problems raised by post-industrialisation have been reframed as opportunities in what Chris Anderson has dubbed “the new industrial revolution.”

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According to Karl Marx, “power belongs to those who control the means of production.” In the industrial era, the scale and cost of machinery meant that big companies controlled factories. Now the digital revolution is redefining the factory (a word that comes from ‘manufactory’, and therefore means anywhere that things are made) and creating new factory floors. As Cory Doctorow says in his prescient sci-fi novel, Makers, “the days of companies with names like ‘General Electric,’ and ‘General Mills’ and ‘General Motors’ are over. The money on the table is like krill: a billion little entrepreneurial opportunities that can be discovered and exploited by smart, creative people.” Some 2,500 maker spaces, hacker spaces and fab labs (fabrication laboratories) worldwide now offer access to digitally-controlled machines such as CNC-routers and 3D printers, alongside more traditional tools and machines, that might previously have been out of the individual maker’s reach. And as costs fall, its increasingly likely that serious makers can own these tools themselves.

Anne Power attributes the speed at which European cities such as Dundee are recovering from the effects of a post-industrial society, (compared with the slower recoveries of American cities such as Detroit), to “innovative enterprises, new-style city leadership, special neighbourhood programmes, and skills development,” – all things in which design is playing a key part.

Now that we’ve reached ‘peak stuff’ (according to IKEA CEO Steve Howard, of all people), young designers no longer aspire to design the next ‘it chair’, but instead want to apply the skills and methodology of design to some of the hardest problems facing humanity. Design thinking takes the process of solving a problem, and asks, ‘What if the solution isn’t an object?’ Making something isn’t always the answer; sometimes it’s about creating systems, programmes and models. Take a problem like an empty 19th-century jute mill in the heart of your city. Design thinking might suggest a pop-up festival to demonstrate its value. That festival might attract the right audience and the right investment to convert it into something more permanent. That investment might result in a cultural centre that can engage, educate and inspire another generation of design thinkers – and equip them with the skills to solve the problems of the 21st century. In Dundee, that’s exactly what it has done. After the Dundee Design Festival finishes, West Ward Works will be converted into one the largest cultural centres in the UK – a testament to the power of design to evolve its way around problems, and a living reminder that it will continue to do so for centuries to come.

Tumi travel guides (Design Milk)

Katie Treggiden worked with American design blog, Design Milk, to create sponsored content for travel brand TUMI – part of a series called City in a Suitcase. She wrote a travel guide to London and worked with filmmaker Jenner Brown to create a series of short films including an interview with London-based artist Camille Walala and Tokyo-based designer Daisuke Kitagawa and stop-motion films of the objects they each chose to represent their home city making their way into a TUMI suitcase.

Made in Mayfair (Intercontinental Hotel Group)

Katie Treggiden was commissioned to write a story about the history of craft in Mayfair, by the Intercontinental Hotel & Resorts group, for use in their content marketing for a hotel in the area. All copy as supplied to the client. “I always look forward to reading Katie’s work. I just know it’s going to be an engaging story, deftly told, always on the cutting edge. One of my favourite and most trusted writers.” – Iain Ball, Contently

Mayfair has been at the heart of British craftsmanship for over two centuries. See how one of London’s most storied neighbourhoods has weathered economic transformation and the changing face of luxury.

Comprising just 42 streets on the western edge of central London, Mayfair tells the story of British craftsmanship and perhaps holds the keys to its future. Since the turn of the 18th century, it has been the gilded shop-front of Britain’s artisanal industries, but despite the apparent permanence of its Georgian façades, the neighbourhood has witnessed dramatic change.

The area became a destination for craftspeople after the Great Fire destroyed much of central London in 1666 forcing them West. The more affluent artisans set up shop in Mayfair—among them are Lock & Co, inventors of the bowler hat, and John Lobb Bootmaker, both of which survive to this day.

Political turbulence, namely the English Civil War and revolutions in France and America, drained the aristocracy’s resources, forcing them to sell their country residences and move into Mayfair or lease Mayfair properties to craftspeople. Natalie Melton, co-founder of Mayfair craft retailer The New Craftsmen, explains why this was so important: “A gentleman living in Mayfair could walk around the corner to his maker,” she says. “Economics and geography allowed them to exist side-by-side, so commissioning was straightforward.”

In 1733 The Daily Post announced ‘a new pile of buildings,’ marking the arrival of Savile Row. By the 19th century it was populated with the tailors who made its name including Henry Poole & Co, originator of the tuxedo and famed tailor of Winston Churchill.

You can read this article online here. 

Riad de Tarabel (Mr & Mrs Smith)

Mr & Mrs Smith invited Katie Treggiden to travel to Marrakech to anonymously review Riad Tarabel. ‘Despatching Katie as an undercover hotel reviewer is never anything short of a delight,’ says editor Richie MacKichan. ‘She tells the tales of her stays with wit, warmth, a deft turn of phrase and an eye-catching eye for detail. If you don’t happen to be on holiday yourself, I highly recommend living one vicariously through Katie’s words.’ All copy as supplied to the client.

I am lying in a Victorian roll-topped bath in front of an open fire. Mr Smith is here too – following what is clearly a very important football match on his phone – but there are no arguments over the stupidity of reading a phone in a bath, or even who gets the tap end, because he’s in his own bath. A room with twin baths and an open fire is my kind of room. But before you start imagining a cosy British retreat, I should clarify – we’re in Marrakech and we’ve been sunbathing all day. It turns out December is the perfect time to visit Morocco and Morocco is the perfect place for some winter sun that doesn’t leave you feeling unseasonably summery just before Christmas.

The last time we visited the city Winston Churchill once described as ‘the most lovely spot in the whole world,’ we were here for adventure. We got followed by a seven-foot tall hooded gentleman down a dark alley before realising he was actually escorting us to our restaurant, we got trapped between a donkey and a moped in a chaotic corner of the souk, and we ate unidentified things on skewers. This time we were here to relax – we had agreed, somewhat decadently, that we wouldn’t be leaving Riad Tarabel from the moment the (complimentary) driver dropped us off until the moment he picked us up – and not Place Jemaa El Fna, famed for its market traders, Chleuh dancing-boys and snake charmers; not the haggling opportunities of the souk; nor even the highly recommended Maison de la Photographie, were going to tempt us outside.

We were met from the car by a member of the riad’s staff, dressed in white knee-high socks, cropped white harem pants and a white smock, finished off with red Converse boots and a fez, who led us down a series of increasingly dark and narrow alleys we would have been hesitant to traverse alone. ‘Welcome to Tarabel.’ We stooped through a fortress-like door into a courtyard, where a babbling fountain and orange-laden trees set the scene for the weekend to come – and instantly confirmed our decision to stay put. (Especially as it transpired that the riad has its own shop selling tagines, leather slippers, and even Tarabel’s own signature scent – no haggling required!)

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Inherently inward looking buildings, riads are often un-noteworthy from the outside, but calm and luxurious within, and this one is no exception. Built in an understated French colonial style around three courtyards, the high, thickset walls protect guests from the heat of the sun and the chaos of the medina outside. As well as two baths and an open fire, our junior suite has a traditional tiled floor, a huge double bed with enormous pillows and marble-topped bamboo tables on either side, a pair of antique French armchairs and a shower that can only be described as Moroccan hammam meets Victorian luxury. The refined palette of sandy-beige and charcoal grey continues throughout the riad and provides the perfect backdrop for contemporary wicker furniture, antique maps of Africa and a collection of (stuffed) exotic birds. It is luxurious enough to make you feel spoilt, without making you worry about spilling your sun cream. All conceived by the owner, it has the feel of a home away from home, albeit much nicer than our actual home – and with staff.

With promised temperatures in the 20s, we headed straight to the roof terrace. We had been given a mobile phone on arrival with just two numbers in the contacts – the kitchen’s and the manager’s, ‘so that if you need something, you can just call.’ Having got over our initial reticence to be quite so demanding (‘You call,’ ‘No, you do it,’ ‘I’m too shy,’ ‘You’re the one who’s hungry’) we phoned down for lunch, and soon a table was set with a white tablecloth, silver cutlery and green and gold French tableware. We tucked into a vegetable pastilla that sent Mr Smith into a near-alarming state of rapture, followed by sliced orange and cinnamon.

Sated and by now slightly sweaty, we made for the pool. After a bold start, Mr Smith decided that standing knee-deep was actually just as refreshing as a swim, and I busied myself with making watery footprints around the edges. The near-freezing water temperature is no doubt utterly refreshing in the scorching heat of summer, but right now, we’re in danger of losing toes to the chill.

We whiled away the rest of the afternoon reading on an ornately carved four-poster daybed on the roof. Despite the fact that just beyond the aloe-vera-topped walls surrounding us khobz sellers were plying their trade – hawking the traditional flatbread in paper bags to passers by; burka-covered ladies, revealing just a hint of their colourful outfits beneath, were bartering over spices; and mopeds carrying entire families were haring around tiny streets; the only sounds we could hear were the circling birds overhead and the hauntingly beautiful call to prayer that is sung out from nearby mosques five times a day; our only view – plane tracks in the blue sky above.

Suddenly starving, we changed for dinner and took our seats next to another roaring fire. A recent convert to vegetarianism, I eyed Mr Smith’s chicken and green olive tagine jealously, while he tucked into both that and my veggie alternative. ‘You can dip some bread into my sauce,’ he offered generously, without a hint of a smirk. Chocolate soufflé finished us off and only lashings of mint tea could save our stuffed stomachs in time for bed.

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There is nothing nicer than waking to the sound of a distant cockerel, knowing that you have nothing to do. Breakfast is served from 8am until ‘whenever you’d like it,’ so we ambled up to the roof at about nine. Fruit, yoghurt and pastries were followed by entirely unnecessary pancakes and cake, and once we’d sacrificed the honey to a nearby table to tempt the bees away, we polished off the lot. Over breakfast, we organised a hectic schedule of lunch, massages and dinner. An on-site hammam is on its way, but for now it was with relief and disappointment in equal measure that we decided to forego being scrubbed to within an inch of our lives and opted instead for an in-room massage. We could barely leave our room without someone surreptitiously making the bed, replacing the water, or even ironing the outfits we’d left out for that evening, so when we returned this time, we shouldn’t have been surprised to find it transformed with candles, Berber music and massage beds. An hour later, we emerged relaxed from head to toe – the massage included everything from our heads to all 10 fingers and all 10 toes – and that was how we stayed for the rest of the weekend.

Mr&Mrs_Smith_Katie_Treggiden_02.jpgHaving tried to work out if we could move into Riad Tarabel – or at the very least smuggle a few staff members home – we have settled on a weekend getaway every December and an en suite with twin baths and an open fire for our new house. In the meantime, Mr Smith is trying to crack the recipe for that vegetable pastilla.

You can also read the review online here. 

Hotel Helsinki (Intercontinental Hotel Group)

In January 2017, the Intercontinental Hotel Group commissioned Katie Treggiden to write a story about their new Helsinki hotel for their website and content marketing channels. All copy as submitted to the client.

To say Scandinavian style is having a moment would be an understatement – there are crime novels by Jo Nesbø and Henning Mankell, Nordic noir television series like The Bridge and The Killing; clothes shops such as Cos, Marimekko and Acne, and the foraged food phenomenon that saw Copenhagen’s Noma voted best restaurant in the world four times in five years – and that’s not to mention the publishing craze that means a search for the term “hygge” (a Danish concept loosely translated to cosiness) currently returns 440 books on amazon.co.uk.

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With the whole world going mad for Nordic style, how does a Finnish architect create something uniquely Finnish in Finland? That was the brief from Hotel Indigo for their central Helsinki hotel. “Everything is based on the unique Finnish culture and language,” says architect Sami Horto. “We wanted to honour our Finnish roots, legacy and values and use them as a basis for our designs.”

Finland is not technically part of Scandinavia, which comprises Sweden, Norway and Denmark, and although it is considered a Nordic nation alongside those countries and Iceland, most Finns pride themselves on what makes them uniquely Finnish rather than what they have in common with their neighbours. By focusing on inspirations taken from the hotel’s immediate vicinity on a historical boulevard in Helsinki’s design district, and by specifying furniture and ceramics by Finnish designers, the architects and interior designers have created something very much of its place.

Inside, the hotel has 120 rooms arranged over eight floors as well as a boardroom, sports gym, and restaurant and bar Bröd connected to the hotel lobby. “We decided to make the hotel as cosy and warm as possible,” says Horto. “We wanted it to feel like a second home.” An understated Nordic colour palette and informal furniture from bookshelves to barstools help to create that effect – and of course the traditional Finnish sauna, somewhat of a national pastime.

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Interior designer Markus Eskola has used oversized graphic artwork by local artists Linda Linko and Pietari Posti as well as carefully considered details such as Minna Parikka shoes and Iittala ceramics in glass box-frames in the bedrooms to ensure the uniquely Finnish thread runs right through the hotel.

Whether you plan to curl up under a cosy blanket reading a Jo Nesbø novel by hyggelig candlelight, or enjoy the 19-hour days that summer brings by exploring the Punavuori neighbourhood’s design shops and sampling Nordic cuisine at a local restaurant; if you want to feel truly Finnish while you do it, there’s one thing you can’t do without: “Mähöne underwear – sold in the reception!” laughs Horto.

You can also read this article online here.

London Design Week (Design Centre Chelsea Harbour)

Design Centre Chelsea Harbour commissioned Katie Treggiden to run their live blog for London Design Week in 2014 and 2015 and for Focus 2015. This involved interviewing influential members of the design community live on camera for the screens throughout the centre; liaising with a film crew and production team to ensure key events were filmed, edited and published; writing blog posts both in advance and covering events as they happened, providing both words and photography; and hosting a panel event as part of the talks programme.

 

Brand Consultancy & Website Copy (Charlie Smith Design)

Website design by Charlie Smith Design

Katie Treggiden was commissioned to write the copy for Charlie Smith Design’s new website. She started by running a one-day brand planning workshop with the whole team to provide clarity on the brand messages and tone of voice. She then wrote all the copy required for the new site. “Katie delivered a very well prepared and thought out workshop which helped us develop our personal tone of voice and how we present ourselves, particularly online,” said founder the eponymous design studio, Charlie Smith. “She’s professional but warm and really listened to our comments tailoring her approach to our individual needs. We loved Katie’s energy and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend her for other projects.”

Informing (American Hardwood Export Council)

Photography by Jon Cardwell and Petr Krejci.

In early 2015, Katie Treggiden was commissioned by the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) to follow the process of thinking, designing, making and informing that underpinned The Invisible Store of Happiness, shadowing Sebastian Cox and Laura Ellen Bacon as they worked. As a result, she wrote a series of four essays that were used across printed and online materials produced for the project. All copy as provided to the client.

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Thinking

Furniture designer Sebastian Cox is passionate about English coppiced hazel. So he’s perhaps not the obvious choice for the American Export Hardwood Council (AHEC)’s installation for Clerkenwell Design Week. But then AHEC aren’t known for making obvious choices. Their installation for the 2013 London Design Festival – designed by dRMM as an investigation into the structural properties of hardwood – was an Esher-inspired Endless Stair.

What excites Cox about coppiced hazel is its sustainability. Coppicing involves felling trees every 14 years. They regrow and, as long as they are coppiced, will never die of old age. But it’s also about giving value to an underused resource. One fourteenth of the wood is cut every year, so there are always trees at every stage of regrowth. British woodlands were managed in this way for thousands of years, so whole ecosystems of plants, insects and birds evolved to live in these unique habitats. A decline in coppicing due to the falling value of the timber is threatening these species. “My motivation is putting money back into the woods by making objects that people want to buy,” said Cox.

Having worked as a maker for Benchmark on AHEC’s Out of the Woods project in 2012, Cox was one of ten young designers asked to take part in AHEC’s Wishlist project for the 2014 London Design Festival. He was commissioned to make a ‘cocoon-like desk’ for Sir Terence Conran. First, he needed to be convinced of the environmental impact of importing wood. It turns out that the carbon footprint of moving wood 6,000 miles by ship is equivalent to moving it 600 miles by road, so sourcing wood from the East coast of America is comparable to getting it from Scotland. Given that Europe will never be self-sufficient in hardwood, even with declines in manufacturing, it made sense. And the American hardwood forests are so vast that the timber used for the entire Wishlist project was replaced in less than two seconds. The next thing Cox wanted to know was which timbers are currently underused. Design is subject to trends like anything else, but when it comes to wood it’s important to use what nature provides. The current fashion for white oak and walnut is resulting in imbalanced demand. Cox chose to work with red oak and cherry and made Conran’s desk with a carbon footprint one third that of an iPhone 6.

The challenge for the Clerkenwell Design Week installation is to raise the profile of maple and cherry, both beautiful and yet underappreciated American hardwoods, and to create a three-dimensional form to communicate the environmental benefits of using them. To meet this challenge, Cox is collaborating with artist Laura Ellen Bacon, known for abstract willow sculptures – another surprising choice. The two couldn’t be more different, illustrated by the fact that Cox draws with a 2H pencil for accuracy, while Bacon sketches with a 6B for complete freedom, but as David Venables AHEC’s Marketing Director explains, “She turns the whole thing on its head – she comes at this from a completely different angle, but with the same passion.”

AHEC want to challenge perceptions of hardwood, both as a material and as a sustainable and growing resource. With an installation in one of Clerkenwell Design Week’s most important locations – the archway at the Order of Saint John – created by two such passionate and interesting designers, it’s difficult to see how they can fail.

Designing

Laura Ellen Bacon is a sculptor. Sebastian Cox is a furniture designer. Laura sketches in 6B pencil. Sebastian uses a 2H, or a computer. For Laura, the form and scale of a piece dictate the material. Sebastian designs objects that make best use of his material. Laura’s creative process starts with the space she’s designing for. Sebastian rarely knows where his work will end up. Laura works with her hands, often using willow because of how it feels in her fingers. Sebastian uses machines, and even when he’s making by hand there’s a tool between his hands and the wood.

What these two very different designers do have in common is a love of wood, and a love of making. “Every maker derives such a lot of joy from the making process,” says Laura. “That shows in your work – it has a fullness to it. Everything you make has an invisible store of happiness hidden inside it. We poured over ideas for months, but in the end that’s what it came down to.” So the seed for the Invisible Store of Happiness was sown.

Working together to turn that seed of an idea into three-dimensional form has tested them, challenged them, driven them. But the design process has always come back to a love of making things out of wood. Together, they have been able to look at American hardwood in a completely new way.

“To work with Laura, I needed to reduce the material from great lumps of hardwood to something that could be woven,” said Sebastian. “The obvious way would have been to cut it into strips, but I wanted to do something more interesting, more efficient, more beautiful.” Using a spindle-moulder and a series of cutters, straight lengths of maple are partially split into ribbons, which are then soaked in water overnight creating something more akin to the willow Laura is used to working with. “Kiln dried American hardwood is usually used for flooring or furniture, it’s a very solid thing, so we’re reimagining how it can be used,” says Sebastian.

And that’s not all they’re planning to do with it. “We want fluidity in parts and solidity in others,” says Laura. “We want some sort of disciplined structure in there. It will be clearly defined and show strength and yet also have this organic aspect to it.”

But for all their talk, the honest truth is that they don’t yet know what it will be. There are sketches (Laura), CAD renderings (Sebastian) and 1:1 plywood models, but until the wood comes off the boat from America, they simply don’t know what they’ll have to work with. “We still don’t know what’s going to arrive in that container, which is quite exciting,” says Sebastian, “We have to design this thing to make sure it will work with whatever lengths, whatever grades of timber arrive. And that is an important point. Of all the wood that grows in the forest, you can’t only take the sweet stuff – you’ve got to use some sap wood, some shorter lengths, some not so straight bits.”

What is very clear is their vision: “As you approach it, it will feel very constructed, very ‘made’, almost architectural,” says Laura. “But as you go past it, you’ll get tantalising glimpses of the interior. Inside, gorgeous surges of organic wood will feel like they’re springing from the structure. It will be deeply textural, like standing in seaweed in a flowing river. You will get the chance to just stand for a moment and breathe it in.”

I for one can’t wait.

Making

They say it takes a village, and despite Sebastian Cox and Laura Ellen Bacon being the lead designers on the Invisible Store of Happiness project, they’re by no means the only people making it happen.

“Everybody ready?” Cox asks. “Ready” replies Jo Weaden. “Ready,” says George Mead. “Ready,” yell Becky McGowan, Kate Finlay and Jack Huberry in unison. “Laura?” he prompts. “Ready,” she replies.

Cox pops open a small door and pulls a 2.4m length of steaming hot cherry wood onto his shoulder, moving quickly towards his team. Together they position it into the jig. “One, two, three,” says Cox and they bend the now pliable wood around a specially made form. Within a matter of seconds G-clamps are holding it in place as it starts to cool.

These lengths of steam-bent cherry wood, linked together with 11 different scarf joints, will form the horizontal structure of the installation AHEC have commissioned Cox and Bacon to make for the archway at the Order of Saint John during Clerkenwell Design Week. They will be fixed to uprights using simple mortise and tenon joints.

Keen to work with whatever the forest provided, the designers didn’t know what they would be getting until the wood arrived. “It was hugely exciting,” said Cox. “None of it is FAS [first and second] grade wood, but there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just aesthetic – it’s about standardising materials, but why would you want wood to look uniform? It’s a plant. To see these flecks, cells and knots is massively exciting. I never expected it to look like this.” Four end panels will showcase the hardwood in all its flawed beauty – knots, cracks and sap wood in the cherry and the rippled growth-lines of the ‘curly’ maple.

The timber is cut into straight lengths on a table saw, then planed and ‘thicknessed,’ resulting in consistent lengths with sides at 90 degrees to each other. It takes two weeks just to produce the raw material the team are working with. And every time a machine is switched on, so is a stopwatch. Data sheets list the amount of CO2 used by each machine per hour, enabling the team to calculate the total carbon cost of the project. “I can’t wait to meet the AHEC lifecycle analysis team to review the data,” says Cox, visibly excited.

The timber for the interior ‘swathes’ is cut using a spindle-moulder and a stack of spinning circular blades. Slots are cut parallel to the length of the timber, resulting in pliable wooden ribbons attached to the uncut end.

The ribbons are soaked in water to mimic the green wood traditionally used for steam bending, and steamed to make them flexible enough to shape by hand. “They’re really nice, and coincidentally feel quite similar to the willow I often work with,” says Bacon. The wood will be attached to the frame with a mortise and tenon joint at one end and anchored into slots in the structure at the other. “I want to twist and flex each one as much as I can without breaking it,” she says. “Some won’t bend very far at all and some will bend much further – creating a real sense of volume and movement.”

The installation will be built in the workshop, before being divided into three pieces for transport to Clerkenwell, where it will be reassembled.

“Seb, can we try a really long one?” Weaden asks eagerly, returning to the steam bending. “Yes, why not,” comes the reply and they’re off again. It really does take a village.

Informing

On 19 May 2015, the Invisible Store of Happiness by Sebastian Cox and Laura Ellen Bacon will be installed in the archway of Order of Saint John in Clerkenwell, and after months of thinking, designing and making, the project will be complete.

But in some ways, this is just the beginning. The role of the installation, in the words of AHEC’s marketing director David Venables, is to “inform the debate,” which for David is more about provoking questions than providing answers. “It should make people think: ‘How did they do that?’ or ‘What on earth is this?,’ he said. “I love it because I can already hear all these questions: ‘How long is it going to be here for?’ ‘What sort wood is that?’ and ‘Who made this?’”

“I don’t think my job is to make people buy more American hardwood,” he said. “I think my job is to create an environment where people are choosing to use American hardwood because of a better understanding of the materials.” That understanding encompasses everything from craftsmanship to environmental concerns.

“One of the debates we’re addressing is about the seriousness of craftsmanship and what happens when you put two amazing craftspeople together,” he said. “Our job was to pick the right people, put our trust in them and let the process happen. Creating is about relationships and every time we do one of these projects, we learn more about that collaborative process. I think that’s very valuable.”

The other element of craftsmanship was about pushing the boundaries of what is technically possible with wood. “Sebastian and Laura were continuously improvising,” said David. “It’s been an on-going experiment. One of the challenges for wood right now is embracing innovation and we’re learning all the time. We could write a manual on steam-bending hardwood as an outcome of this project.”

The two designers have been sharing their learnings throughout the process, not just with AHEC, but with a team of interns and students. There’s a type of insight you can only gain by doing something yourself – a ‘hand’ understanding rather than a ‘head’ understanding, and it’s one Sebastian and Laura are keen to share with whoever is interested enough to lend a hand.

And finally, there’s the environmental impact, which is where American hardwood really comes up trumps. “I’m a marketing guy so I look for advantages,” said David. “We’ve got some brilliant timbers that you can make efficient structures out of, that you know are affordable and there in the long term.” The hardwood forests in America are so vast that the wood used in the Invisible Store of Happiness will have been replaced in the time it takes to walk from one end to the other. The whole project has undergone a formal process of environmental Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and the carbon footprint of the whole structure, on a cradle to grave basis, is just 173kg CO2 equivalent – that’s less than an iPad Air 2.

“When we started this project, I had no idea quite what we would end up with,” said David. “But I knew one thing for sure, when we got in under that arch, it would create a buzz. People are going to want to touch it, regardless of whether they love it, hate it or simply don’t understand it. Emotion is good, positive or negative, because it means people are thinking about it, and that’s all I want them to do: If people are thinking about what we’ve done then this thing has immense value.”

These essays were written for the American Hardwood Export Council. You can also read them here. 

Wyndham Place (Studio Loop)

Wyndham Place, Studio Loop, July 2013


When Studio Loop renovated 16 Wyndham Place in London’s Marylebone, they were looking for just one discerning client to buy it. They commissioned Phage to produce just 300 copies of a beautifully produced hardback book that would serve as the marketing material for the property. Katie Treggiden worked closely with Studio Loop and Phage to write the copy for that book, telling the story of the Georgian townhouse, its sensitive renovation, and the local area, in a way that would appeal to the broad range of clients who might be interested in the property. 

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