Today we went to London to have a look at Hidden Art’s Open Studios. This is a brilliant event, that I have been to before, where creative practitioners open up their studios in order to sell to the public. Admittedly I wasn’t going down to London specifically to buy from makers, more to meet them and find out about their work and, equally importantly, their workspace. We had organised this trip weeks ago and set the day aside to drive down. On Friday I had a look at the makers that were actually going to open up their studios, and it turned out NONE of the furniture makers were participating this year. Very annoying. But I can sort of understand – ceramicists and jewellers can sell all sorts of small ‘gifty’ things for a few quid to make the Sunday worth their while – furniture makers don’t generally make small ‘gifty’ things.
I was not going to let this put me off having a look at a few small work spaces and having a day in London, and checked what was going on elsewhere. We arrived in Aldgate to start looking at the studios and because of the heavy downpour of rain dived into the free entry Whitechapel Gallery. The art exhibited there was not to my taste, but we had a look around. I noticed an unused stool, in a corner, reserved for an invigilator. There was something about it that made it more interesting than the art on the walls so I went over to inspect. It turned out to be much more interesting than the art on the walls, as it was made of bamboo sheets. A lot of things fell into place in my mind; my slightly tongue-in-cheek suspicions about Jair Straschnow not developing the bamboo sheets himself are obviously true, unless these pieces were made my Jair Straschnow. I checked with an invigilator and they told me they were designed and manufactured by Artek. The reason the article in Icon (reviewed in a previous post) didn’t mention the bamboo was because it was nothing to do with Straschnow. BUT that wasn’t the way it was portrayed at the exhibition.
Further research has shown that in fact, yes I am behind with the material times and this product has been available since 2007. This raises a question; why isn’t this more widely used? It is not an unattractive material, and is light and strong. Perhaps it isn’t used over here because of the mileage of importing it – something I initially highlighted as a problem with the material. However I don’t see this being the case, as most imported plywood comes from Brazil, Thailand, Indonesia and other distant places – if UK manufacturers have issues with importing the bamboo because of the carbon footprint we can assume they would have the same thoughts about plywood. I would much prefer to see bamboo used (appropriately) in place of conventional plywood and MDF; as was argued at the ‘Grassworks’ exhibition, it is a fast growing grass so is a much more renewable resource.
Aside from this completely accidental piece of question-answering research, London managed to inform and inspire me as per the plan, as per usual. We had a jolly time in Brick Lane eating and looking at the market wares form the Hidden Art and eco-fashion stalls located in the Old Truman Brewery, and then Liam and I progressed to the Design Museum. The exhibition we had gone there for was Dieter Rams. What a bloke he was. Most of his design principles seem to me to underpin the thoughts of the majority of thinking modern designers – or at the very least every thinking modern designer will at least share 3, surely? His 10 commandments are as follows:
Good design is innovative
Good design makes a product useful
Good design is aesthetic
Good design helps a product to be understood
Good design is unobtrusive
Good design is honest
Good design is durable
Good design is consistent to the last detail
Good design is concerned with the environment
Good design is a s little design as possible
I certainly share 8 out of his 10, which is pretty good. The first of the two I can’t agree with is: ‘Good design is unobtrusive’, Rams argues that ‘design should be neutral and restrained to leave room for the user’s self expression’. My reply to this is simple, the piece of design is invariably part of the users self expression. The second commandment I don’t wish to adopt is ‘Good design is as little as possible’. I believe good design can sometimes be as extravagant and expressive as is necessary, but it does need to be appropriate.
The exhibition was a marvellous display of his designs for Braun and Vistoe, and his other works. Each piece was designed with absolute intelligence and timelessness. It really puts to shame so many of the useless and badly designed things we have on the market today, every designer should be introduced to Rams’ 10 commandments before they are even taught to draw. I am quite confident his products that were made in the 1950′s will still be as iconic and timeless in 100 years as they are today.
The trip to London didn’t go according to the plan and the weather was horrible, but I am still yet to return from our magnificent capital without ideas and questions racing around my head and a smile on my face. An extrememly well spent day.