London Design Festival 2014: New Highlights

Exhibition debuts, product launches and new collectives at this year's annual affair

Each year the London Design Festival joins together a city already bubbling with creativity to celebrate the best in design happening both at home and in studios abroad. While festival staples like DesignJunction, The Shoreditch Design Triangle, the V&A and many more always provide a healthy amount of visual and mental stimulation, sprinkled around are several new exhibitions, product launches and forward-thinking collectives that make each year feel fresh and unique. Below are a few highlights from those that made 2014 their year to shine.

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Austurland: Designs from Nowhere

Tucked away on a small street near the V&A museum was a multi-layered exhibition curated by Icelandic filmmaker Karna Sigurðardóttir and British design researcher and pundit Pete Collard. Dubbed “Designs from Nowhere,” the small show explored the creative potential found within the East Iceland town of Austurland. Designers Max Lamb, Þórunn Árnadóttir, Julia Lohmann and Gero Grundmann were linked with local practitioners, who helped them learn more about the area’s raw materials while in turn the designers presented new ideas on how they could be used.

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Árnadóttir worked with a net-making factory in Eskifjörður and created a colorful range of bags, hula hoops, jump ropes and other accessories; Lamb worked in Djúpivogur with local nature scientist Vilmundur Þorgrímsson to create a desktop accessory that accurately reflects the geology of the local volcanic mountain; Grundmann scavenged the forest and beach to find driftwood, reindeer antlers and pieces of local wood to create a series of toy trains with carpenter Þórhallur Árnason; Lohmann set off in search of seaweed and, through meticulous research and discovery, she found many examples of how certain types can become valuable materials for the area. You can see some of the time the designers spent in their unique environment through a a set of images documenting their process.


Ventura London

For LDF 2014, Ventura Projects brought the fever found at their annual Milan showcase to the Big Smoke in an exciting international display on view at Designjunction. Young designers from all over the UK, Brazil, Europe, the US and even New Zealand took part, and their collective energy showed a focus toward sustainability, design ingenuity and natural materials.

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Standouts from the group included textile designer Gemma Kay Waggett, who applied her bold patterns to metal furniture and wall-hangings, and the group from Lund University, whose Lo-Fi Washer and Emergency Porcelain Hammer are a modern updated on time-honored objects.


The Saturday Market Project

Launched in the spring of 2014, London- and NYC-based Saturday Market Project aims to provide high-quality tools and materials with budding craftspeople. In their Shoreditch space during LDF, they hosted a range of makers who helped visitors learn how to do things like forge a pair of scissors, mold leather, make a speaker, use conductive ink and build a Swedish Himmeli sculpture. The enterprising group is one to watch as they continue to document various creative fields through insightful videos, and add new craft kits and products to their online shop.

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J Hill’s Standard

A dinner hosted at the studio of Martino Gamper celebrated the launch of J Hill’s Standard, a new crystal company founded by Anike Tyrrell (CEO of Ireland’s Waterford County Enterprise Board). Both London-based Gamper and Amsterdam-based duo Scholten & Baijings added their contemporary touches to a range of tumblers, decanters and stemware—all hand-cut and hand-polished using artisanal techniques passed down over generations of glass craftsmen.
We enjoyed a dinner with the crystal, which wasn’t used solely for drinking (although a sure highlight was putting our lips to the refined crystal for a dram of Teeling Whiskey—interestingly, the team behind Italian food collective Arabeschi di Latte also cleverly used the range of glasses to cut out shapes for elements of every dish. (Keep an eye on Cool Hunting for the full story when J Hill Standard’s collection hit stores next month.)


Super Stimuli

On view in the lobby of the Ace Hotel Shoreditch was Super Stimuli, a show curated by the newly launched Modern Design Review magazine. Featured works included installations by Fabien Cappello, Martino Gamper, Michael Marriott and Bethan Laura Wood.

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In addition to Marriott’s architectural range furniture inspired by the Antonello da Messina’s 1475 painting “Saint Jerome and His Study,” other highlights included Wood’s series of flower vases and not only Gamper’s Recto Verso chair, but also his donuts.

Images by Karen Day