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Sunday, 12 July 2009

New Designers 2009 - I spy with my little eco eye...

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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 design 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 News Jewellery

Having 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
I had also received an inside tip from an ex-colleague (from crafts charity The Making) 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 world.

Elaine Dutton is the founder and Director of Pure Design, contemporary ethical design online, and an award-winning social entrepreneur.

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 us too.

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3 comments:

Mrtwowheel said...

Hello,

Do you accept product for reveiw to be sent in? If so how would one do so?

Thank you,
Adam

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