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Design Bridge Visits: Clerkenwell Design Week 2017

Our London home sits in the heart of Clerkenwell, one of the biggest creative hubs of designers and makers in the world. So with the annual Clerkenwell Design Festival on our doorstep, I went off to explore what it had to offer.

The exhibitions were set in a range of authentic and inspiring venues from various churches, to bars and clubs and even an old prison. There were pop ups and installations dotted around the classic cobbled streets and greens making the festival truly unique. From Bloomon, an urban meadow, to Kaleidoscope, large mirrored installations, the range of style and materials was limitless.

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The festival had a strong interior design presence, inspiring us from spatial design to furniture and lighting. A few of trends I observed from Icon House of Culture, set in the infamous old Fabric nightclub building, and likely to filter out into other areas of design over the next 12 months, were as follows:

- The Brass Revival: brushed, polished, weathered… you name it – Brass is back! Say goodbye to copper, the gold takeover is next. Definitely an addition to the colour palette.

- Graphic Ceramic Tiles: Graphic patterns are pushing tiling to a new level with more unique shapes and repetitions – something that might also become more prevalent in graphic design. Coloured grout is also taking centre stage, and it made me think about how designers can be bolder in the detail.

- Incorporated Lighting: Whether it be strip lighting incorporated into framework or a light incorporated into a table, filament bulbs are phasing out. Sculptural lighting is the future, using frames and objects to inset the light source. Simpler, out of sight and intelligent– time to stop deconstructing, and to cleverly combine and contain, creating bold yet elegant forms.

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With an overwhelming choice of events, inspiring talks and creative workshops on offer, I had to be selective! Here are 3 of my favourite events that I attended during the week:

Wagstaff: Design through the Ages

As one of the oldest furniture designers and makers, Wagstaff have a rich history and evolution. Their exhibition highlighted some monumental designs that have been made in their company lifetime. From the iconic Coca Cola glass bottle and the first tea bags in the early 1900’s, to the drones and early computers, it is surprising at just how much of these iconic designs are still so influential in a variety of design disciplines today.

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Paper & Type by Alan Kitching

Fine paper specialists Fedrigoni hosted an exhibition of DB favourite Alan Kitching’s work, and Alan himself gave a talk about his work and life in letterpress typographic design.

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Alan began his talk outlining the importance of paper, and how size, weight, price and source is always so carefully considered. For example, he explained how he avoids cut paper, preferring to use sheets as they were made in the mould, complete with deckle edges, from all over the world.

He then moved onto type, talking about the compositions and layouts of his work. Starting with Broadside, which embodies traditional letterpress with white paper and black ink and sans serif fonts influenced from Swiss German 1950’s Bauhaus.

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He talked of how the art of letterpress is the resizing and positioning letters to make fonts work; Blood Toil Sweat and Tears, a piece featuring Winston Churchill’s famous quote, shows the precision and art in layering and colouring in the different letters as well as the composition of the words.

Hearing Alan talk about the thought and consideration behind each piece of work helped me to appreciate how careful selection of basic materials and composition is all you need to create stunning prints.

Alex Booker: Woodblock printing workshop

Set in the quirky gallery and shop at Bar 155 Farringdon Road, Alex Booker held a small group workshop where I was able to try out woodblock printing. We were instructed how to use the different wood carving tools and then we got to work, trying them out on a spare bit of ply before starting our own designs.

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Since we were printing onto some beautiful Japanese paper, I was inspired to do my print of a Japanese Koi fish tail.

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The appreciation of the skill in this printing method came when I was trying to get my head around which parts of the drawing would be ink and which would be white space, never mind that our carvings would be mirrored when we printed them!

I definitely got a real taste for the craft and am very tempted by the day workshops Alex has to offer at his Limehouse studio.

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As a newbie to Clerkenwell Design Week, I really enjoyed exploring the area more and go to places that I may not have visited otherwise. There was a huge variety of inspiring design work and it was great to have the opportunity to learn from the experts and try out new crafts. There was an even greater buzz to Clerkenwell, particularly helped by the glorious weather we had!

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