Curator for the UK
When we look at the Hallingdal fabrics today, all the important qualities that made Nanna Ditzel’s design from the 1960s such a classic design are still completely relevant. It is modern and hardwearing, made of pure wool in the most basic of weaves, available in a fantastic range of colours, adaptable and versatile to use. I wanted to focus on these classic mater-ial qualities for this project as it coincides with a current development in design in the UK: a renewed focus on processes and materials.
There are many small design studios here with a very individualistic approach to design; there does not seem to be a common theory but certainly a shared method of design. We can see a type of practice that does not follow the model of the traditional industrial design studio; current practice is more hands-on experimental and concerned with artistic expression. Through choice and necessity, young designers apply their knowledge of industrial techniques and materials to batch production, one-off gallery pieces and commissions. This set-up creates an exciting new type of practice, where design, art, engineering, performance, media and poetry mix.
As four exponents of this new type of design practice, I asked Simon Hasan, Patrik Fredrikson and Ian Stallard (Fredrikson Stallard), Tim Simpson and Sarah van Gameren (Glithero) and Yael Mer and Shay Alkalay (Raw-Edges) to participate in this project. These are all designers who I think posses a strong affinity with materials, almost working as artisans and at the same time they operate in the remit of contemporary culture with today’s tools.
Typically, these four practices are all based in London; a city that has undoubtedly become a center of design. London has always been a magnet for free thinking, independently minded people. At the moment, the international character of the city in combination with its entre-preneurial spirit (continuing from a 1980s designer-maker tradition, infused by a 1990s art scene gift for hyping-it-up) has created a unique environment for design. There is a real sense of openness to new ideas and appreciation of innovation in this energetic city of possibilities. This is also culture against the surreal backdrop of a continuing declining industry, recession and government cuts, poverty in the streets contrasting with concentrations of the world’s super-rich, the glamour of fashion, art, music and big business. A city that taught designers to be experimental and inventive in order to get noticed.
When I first encountered the work of Glithero, it was at the RCA degree show in 2007. Sarah and Tim had made a large machine: The Big Dipper which manufactures candle-wax chandeliers by automatically dipping a wick structure in a vat of molten wax. I found the references to trad-itional candle making and industrial production intriguing but was really moved when the machine got switched-on and it started to perform a ballet of automatic movement. The process of making was as important as the outcome.
I saw the work of Simon Hasan for the first time at the Craft Punk exhibition during the Milan Salone in 2009. He was working with his ‘boiled leather’ technique that is based on ancient but forgotten leather working methods. It was striking to see how Simon was working with the dedication and concentration of a true artisan, but at the same time allowed himself all the freedom to create wonderfully irregular forms and products.
Fredrikson Stallard have worked together since their student days at Saint Martins. I very much appreciate their unusual choice of materials and technical perfection in the execution of their works. They are able to articulate their complex ideas clearly through their understanding of materials. Unexpected and poetic.
Raw-Edges are driven by a relentless experimentation with materials, construction, movement and colours. Each project they undertake goes through a process of model making, testing and more model making in the studio. This sometimes leads to products for manufacturers and sometimes to gallery pieces in a small edition. The results are often innovative and surprising. I hope this group of designers will contribute to this celebration of Hallingdal.