Elle Decoration, October 2015
My first article for Elle Decoration appeared in the October edition – an eight page feature on the winners of the British Design Awards, entitled Elle Decoration British Design Awards 2015. (All copy is as submitted)
Now in their 14th year, the ELLE Decoration British Design Awards, held in association with John Lewis, celebrate and reward the best of British design. This year we have decided to recognise emerging designers who have made an impact over the last 12 months. We concentrated our search on UK-based creatives, brands, designers and manufacturers who have been working in the industry for less than five years. Thousands of ELLE Decoration readers nominated young talent across the six categories Here, we announce the shortlist.
Best use of print and pattern: Anna Glover
Despite an eclectic mix of influences spanning Indian miniature painting and Japanese woodblock printing, Anna Glover’s creative process is always the same. “All designs start with hand painting, usually in gouache or watercolour,” she says. “The images are scanned and manipulated on the computer, enabling a complex layering of motifs, textures and colour. The artworks are then brought to life on different surfaces using digital print technology.” Her larger-than-life bespoke linen wall covering was designed for an Austrian farmhouse and depicts an arrangement of objects, animals and plants in moonlight. “Together they tell the story of the owners, their house and the beautiful location,” she says. Her striking Las Pozas Frost collection for MINT was inspired by gardens established in Mexico in 1947 by English poet and artist Edward James. “After many of the flowers did not survive the frost of 1962, he built beautiful concrete sculptures to replace them,” she says. “Set amidst the lush jungle foliage, they form a spectacular, surreal playground.” Having studied printed textiles at university and spent four years in working in design studios, Glover says the biggest challenge in getting started was leaving the security of a full-time job. “Although at times it is really hard, the risk and challenge has helped push me forward,” she says. It was clearly a risk worth taking.
Best furniture design: &New and Liam Treanor
British-Finnish design duo Jo Wilton and Mirka Grohn met at the school gates four years ago while collecting their children and went on to found the antique and vintage furniture business that became &New. “Working with vintage design furniture made us appreciate the quality and craftsmanship found in these pieces,” says Grohn. “But we felt that those qualities could be given a modern twist. We started with a few key pieces and expanded from there. Everything so far has been unplanned.” Their ‘big break’ came through ‘Selected15’, an exhibition of new and established talent as part of Austria’s Graz Design Month earlier this year. They describe their aesthetic as a combination of Nordic simplicity and British wit, inspired by mid-century designers such as Yrjö Kukkapuro, Greta Grossman and Eileen Gray. The minimal forms and bold pops of colour in their powder-coated collection came about because “brown can get a bit boring.” The pair has big plans for the coming months, including launching their latest collection at Super Brands, part of Tent London, and taking part in pop-up shop Tranzitstore at the the London Design Festival later this month, coupled with an appearance at Maison & Objet in Paris. How do they feel about being shortlisted for the ELLE Decoration British Design Awards? “If you had told us a year ago, we wouldn’t have believed you!”
Liam Treanor’s Santiago collection was inspired the work of by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, and specifically his vision for Bilbao airport. Treanor’s Lina desk and Affonso stool, both part of that range, are named after mid-century Brazilian architects Lina Bo Bardi and Affonso Eduardo Reidy. “I’m heavily influenced by architecture,” he says. “If I wasn’t a furniture designer, I like to think I would design buildings.” It’s not just nomenclature; the confident form and clean lines that define Bilbao Airport are apparent in the collection’s tapering legs and the Lina desk’s expansive horizontal surfaces. “I’ve taken a playful idea and stripped it back, staying true to my refined aesthetic,” he says. The collection is made from FSC-certified oak and white ash – materials Treanor chooses to work with because of their texture, warmth and familiarity. “Humans have worked and lived with wood for thousands of years,” he says. “I feel great pride in adding to its story, creating items that have not been made from it before.” Currently working on a new a collection that combines leather and metal components with his trademark wood, Treanor still dreams of houses: “When I design I don’t just consider the product itself, I also think about the context it will be used in. So to design an interior as well as the furniture would be extremely satisfying.”
Best lighting design: Studio Vit and Sarah Colson
Studio Vit’s Cone Lights each comprise a sphere and a cone. This simplicity of form is something that Helena Jonasson and Veronica Dagnert, founders of the North London studio, worked hard to refine. “The idea originates from a standard lampshade and bulb,” says Helena. “We reduced those things to two geometric shapes, applying contrasting materials to each, and then considered scale and proportion to create an interesting whole.” The oversized bulb is the result of their desire to create a little imbalance or tension in each product they make. Studio Vit works closely with small factories and craftsmen in and around London to bring their concepts to life. “It is very important for the creative industries that companies are willing to offer their time and advice for a small order of prototypes,” they suggest. The designers describe their first few years in business as an ‘endurance test,’ explaining that “the time between the early stages of a project and it reaching the market and generating money is long. It requires dedication and perseverance.” But their hard work is clearly paying off. They are developing their Cone Lights for a European manufacturer, and working on a new collection for &tradition. They are also working on a lighting commission for the Ace Hotel in London’s Shoreditch and will be showing their Cone Lights at Viaduct during the London Design Festival.
Losing her job in 2013 led London-based Sarah Colson to pull a box of materials, tools and half-finished projects out from under her bed and rediscover her passion for making. In doing so, she sparked a whole new career that has seen her exhibit at Milan Design Week, take part in community projects in Brazil and even give a TEDx Talk in Dubai (and all this from someone who cites a lack of confidence as her biggest obstacle). Her design process still involves a box of unlikely materials: “I have collections of objects that live in my studio: pound shop bargains, brightly coloured wires, fishing tackle, sewing machine parts, woven baskets…” Colson makes three-dimensional ‘sketches’ from these objects to create what she calls “families of monsters”. She takes these forms to glassblower Jochen Holtz and together they turn them into lights such as those in the Vitro Lux collection. “I go in with a monster and come out with objects that have a genuine beauty in their balance of form and colour,” she says. Having launched her first collection just 17 months ago, she already has plans to exhibit at Masion & Objet and the London Design Festival later this month, and there are collaborations in the pipeline for early 2016. “I am really honoured to be shortlisted for the ELLE Decoration British Design Awards – to achieve such an accolade so early on is just fantastic,” she says.
Best craft makers: TedWood and Stuart Carey.
Ted Jefferis’ love of wood is in his blood: “I come from a family of woodworkers,” he says. “My dad builds wooden boats and I love messing around with them.” It’s this love of wood that informs his designs. “It all starts with a tree growing in a woodland. When I make furniture, I use simple tools to expose the natural beauty of the wood. To do this, I have to read the timber and feel its reaction to my tools. Craftsmanship is about respect for your material.” Indeed, so much so, that he lives and works surrounded by that material, a relationship he compares to a farmer living among his fields: “Being surrounded by the material that is your livelihood connects you to your work in a way that is intangible.” Describing being shortlisted for the ELLE Decoration British Design Awards as “unreal and unbelievable,” he claims that his ultimate ambition is to work with British furniture makers Benchmark: “They are an amazing example of how British craftsmanship is the best in the world. Despite their size, they have managed to stay true to their love of making.” In the meantime he is busy preparing for his first appearance at the London Design Festival’s Tent London and working on a collaboration with Britain’s oldest paint-making dynasty, Mylands. “It is a pleasure to be working with a family-owned company that has been supplying British craftsmen for over 130 years.” We’re sure the feeling is mutual.
Stuart Carey’s ceramics career began when his name was picked out of a hat aged just 14. The head of his school’s art department Glyn Thomas, a trained potter, randomly selected 15 GSCE art pupils to try ceramics instead of the traditional painting and drawing syllabus. “I was doubtful at first, but under the guidance of such an inspirational teacher, I soon found I had an aptitude for ceramics and a yearning to explore the material,” says Carey. Almost a decade later a Masters at London’s Royal College of Art had a similarly transformative effect. “The RCA broke down what I thought I knew, cut away my bravado and left me open and honest but exposed,” he says. ‘Honest’ and ‘exposed’ are words that could easily be used to describe Carey’s work. He hand throws semi-porcelain or white stoneware tableware in batches, resulting in unified collections of one-off objects. He has already received big commissions – he is currently hand-making 750 pieces for the Calvin Klein tableware collection – but Carey is dreaming even bigger: “I would love to take over a huge public space like the Turbine Hall at the Tate and spend a few months experimenting, slowly filling the space and interacting with people to explore the possibilities of clay”. He says that being shortlisted for the Elle Decoration British Design Awards has provided him with renewed energy to “keep striving to create beautiful things”, so we might just see that Turbine Hall installation yet.
Best accessories design: Daniel Schofield
“I really didn’t see it coming,” says Daniel Schofield of his appearance on the ELLE Decoration British Design Awards shortlist, a sentiment that could be said to apply to both his career and his approach to his work. After studying graphic design, serving a carpentry apprenticeship, and working on historic restorations, Schofield finally found his way into design, and hasn’t looked back since. The Tarnish collection also came about by accident: “I was making some lighting and noticed the way polished brass reacted to touch. It made working with it quite difficult so I decided to stop fighting it and started looking for a way to enhance the fingerprints to make a feature of them.” By lacquering just half of each piece in the collection to protect it from blemishes, he draws attention to the non-lacquered side. “The more people engage with the object, the more half of it will tarnish and create a story unique to that person,” says Schofield, who worked closely with craftsmen in Sheffield to make the collection. “It’s great working with people with so much knowledge in a particular area – every time I speak to them, I learn something new.” The designer has his first solo stand at Tent London, and is currently putting the finishing touches to a capsule collection for Indian furniture makers Capsbury, launching at designjunction during the London Design Festival this month.
Best eco design – Juli Bolanos Durman
Edinburgh College of Art’s artist-in-residence, Juli Bolanos Durman, turns jam jars and beer bottles sourced at car boot sales and blown glass discarded by students into the Ode to Intuición series, a limited-edition collection of non-functional vessels. “I believe that we have to do the best with what we have,” she explains. “I have always been conscious about the amount of rubbish we produce every day and it scares me. I enjoy reusing materials. It is a personal challenge to see the potential in ordinary objects, to give them a second chance and transform them into precious pieces.” But the sense of colour and fun she injects into every piece is what really makes them successful – something she credits to her Costa Rican heritage and her deliberate adoption of a childlike curiosity in her design process. “I have learned that once you cave into the discomfort of not knowing, life can surprise you in wonderful ways,” she says. Durman is currently pursuing an Exceptional Talent visa to enable her to stay in the UK, and would love to create a lighting collection, despite never having worked in lighting before. Should her wishes be granted, we can look forward to more wonderful surprises.