New Designer’s 2009 – I spy with my little eco eye…
By Elaine Dutton, Director Pure Design
2009 New Designers in Islington opened its doors to the public this Thursday, and for the fourth year running I was there to see what promising new graduate talents are in store for the UK design industry, and of course my radar was set to sustainable!
What is special about this trade show?
With over 3,500 of the best new design graduates represented for the two weeks the show runs, New Designers is definitely one of the highlights of my design calendar. Not only is the quality of the work on show fantastic, the buzz about the place is great, and the designers are overwhelmingly positive and all eager to talk about their work. Week one exhibitors include contemporary applied arts, ceramics and glass, jewellery and precious metalwork graduates, and the ‘One Year On’ exhibit tracks award winners from the year before. Week two includes product & furniture design, visual communications and spatial design, and as above ‘One Year On’ of award winners from 2008 in these disciplines.
How to spot the green goods?
The irony when searching for new eco design products and talents for Pure Design online boutique, gallery and gift shop,
is that Pure Design is a design-led sustainable company – so we don’t
go looking for accessories that look green we go looking for design
pieces that have the ‘ah’ factor and then we ask the designer the deal
breaker “are your products eco or ethical?” So it is actually quite
hard to ‘spot’ eco products in a way. In my view the best eco design
does not scream out “I’m green and good, pick me, pick me” – it is
quietly and confidently stylish and doesn’t need to flaunt its virtues
to be noticed.
Over the past few years of visiting design
fairs and exhibitions and interviewing designers, I have learnt which
disciplines of craft and design tend to score high and low on the eco
scale. There is often little eco joy to be found in acrylic – although
I have met several designers trying to reduce, reuse or replace the use
of plastic, for example opting to use plant based bio-resin
alternatives. Ceramics and glass are usually not particularly eco, and
sadly many of the textile designers I speak to do not use natural or
non-toxic dyes. However, I have been pleasantly surprised when I have
been proven wrong and a designer has pointed out that they have found a
way to turn a material on its head.
This year, with limited
time and a few hundred stalls to get round I decided to try the top to
bottom approach, so duly started on the top floor and set off into the
world of ceramics….
Now I have to admit I do usually move quite swiftly through this section as to date, with the exception of Sarah Jerath of Sustain Ceramics who
incorporates recycled car window glass and reclaimed china in her work,
I haven’t encountered much in the way of eco ceramics. However, I am
ever hopeful and would be delighted to be proven wrong, so answers on a
postcard please if you have any tips on eco ceramics!
Tomorrow’s ‘Newspaper’ Jewellery
exhausted the ceramics section quite quickly I moved into the
contemporary applied arts section and immediately spotted some
jewellery that intrigued me. Sidling up to the cabinet for a closer
look and to read the designers statement, I saw the magic words ‘eco
range’ – bingo! I am pleased to say Julie Linn the designer was also
nearby and having spotted my obvious interest she very kindly chatted
through her range, ideas and ambition of creating a fully recyclable
range of recycled paper jewellery. Julie’s range recognises the
transient nature of fashion and offers an affordable and sustainable
product that can reinvent and recycle itself with every new season. In
my opinion a great alternative to the endless new ranges of bright
plastic or cheap metal jewellery the high street retailers seem to be
awash with at the moment.
Intrigue & Attics
had also received an inside tip from an ex-colleague that there were
some intriguing flying light bulbs at the Falmouth college stall which
I couldn’t resist seeking out and am very glad I did. Curious,
intriguing, humorous and a little Tim Burtonesque are just some of the
adjectives I would pick. Luckily before I had a chance to meddle and
break the delicate workings of these automata pieces, Richard Hackney
the designer came over and explained that all of the parts were
salvaged treasures from his grandfather’s loft. As a self-confessed
attic/second hand /antique shop addict, I found these little reclaimed
sculptures instantly likeable and how great that they were the result
of a dusty rummage through family treasures.
I then descended
onto the main floor of the centre – awash with textile swatches,
banners of printed paper draped floor to ceiling, upholstered gilded
armchairs in bespoke textiles and eye-catching screen printed dresses
and fashion designs.
Amongst the sea of textiles, the next
promising designer I met was Jenny Clarke a graduate from Nottingham
Trent University. Jenny carries out intricate hand embroidery on
reclaimed textiles and second hand clothes and unlike one of her chosen
subject matters ‘Marmite’ I didn’t think it was a love or hate affair.
I really liked Jenny’s work – the concept was simple but the
application of her craftsmanship and creativity inspiring, and I am
sure her work would appeal to a wide range of audiences. And amongst
all the super modern technologies, trends and textiles, Jenny’s work
showed that even the very traditional applied crafts such as embroidery
have a place and a market in our style obsessed but eco 21st century
Elaine Dutton is the founder and Director of Pure
Design, contemporary ethical design online, and an award-winning social
Pure Design sell beautifully designed and made
environmentally friendly gifts, eco fashion and contemporary jewellery,
and decorative arts and accessories for you and your home. And because
Pure Design only sell products that are ethically and ecologically sourced you can feel good about shopping with them too.