On visiting the V&A in London recently I happened upon an extraordinary exhibition titled ‘Heatherwick Studio – Designing the Extraordinary’. Funny that. At first glance it seems you’re looking at a room full of stuff. Too much stuff. Then a journey begins with the first cabinet. And what a journey! And it ends too soon!
Well who are these people at Heatherwick Studio? To quote their site “Heatherwick studio has earned an international reputation for creating stunning and ingenious works that span a breathtaking array of disciplines: from architecture, furniture, product design and fashion, to engineering, sculpture, transport and urban planning.” Difficult to better that description, as I was blown away with their work. I had spotted some of their designs previously but not had the chance of getting the full scope of their work. And it is pretty much crammed into this small space. But each model and prototype [the show is made up of them as opposed to the finished items] reveals the shear brilliance of their thinking and approach to design. Unfortunately taking photos was not allowed, which was a pity because the models and prototypes demonstrate this process so well.
To begin with they are a multi-disciplinary group, hell-bent on breaking every design typology in existence. And the secret is in their exploratory process, interrogation of materials and passion for craftsmanship. “At the heart of his Studio’s practice is a profound commitment to elegant, integrated design solutions and the absolute dedication to materials, research, prototyping, industrial collaboration, tactility, texture – and above all, extraordinary form-making.”I had a spin in one and loved it… nearly fell out though.
A bridge that works both as intended as a crossing which can be removed to allow boats to pass through, as well as a cool sculptural piece.
And who would dare to redesign one of London’s greatest icons of design… the London Bus? Not only have they answered the brief but they have surpassed previous designs without throwing out the proverbial baby. Even the stunningly mod seat fabric was designed by them.
The UK Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo. This ‘Seed Cathedral’ was designed in response to the theme of “better city, better life”. “We started to explore the relationships between cities and nature and the significance of plants to human health, economic success and social change.” It was decided to use texture, like the waving grass in a field, to create the form. There would be no sense of where the structure begins or ends. “The Seed Cathedral is a box, 15 metres high and 10 metres tall. From every surface protrude silvery hairs, consisting of 60,000 identical rods of clear acrylic, 7.5 metres long, which extend through the walls of the box and lift it into the air. There are 250,000 seeds cast into the glassy tips of all the hairs.”
East Beach Cafe, Littlehampton. Nothing like the traditional English seaside cafes, often has queues outside waiting to get in. Withe Heatherwick’s approach to design, we’re not surprised!
For these and many more amazing design wonders visist the Heatherwick Studio Website.
I love it when you are drawn to an artwork, whether it be a painting or photograph, and on closer inspection you realise you’ve been duped. But in a positive and rewarding way. In these photographs by Auckland photographer Emma Bass, one is stopped in one’s tracks by a stunning image of a still life of flowers in a vase. Fresh is the image, but on closer inspection you realise that the flowers are anything but fresh. They are dying, wilting, the petals falling and surrounding the vase. In another image what appears to be a beautiful flower ‘arrangement’ from a distance is in fact a collection of weeds in close up. The series is aptly named Imperfect. And celebrates the opposite of what our consumer society demands… perfection in all things aesthetic. Instead Emma celebrates the unwanted, the damaged and the aging in nature. And particularly in flowers where perfection in colour, form and freshness is aspired to, her works prove that there is indeed beauty in imperfection.
Rekindle is the name of a new brand, or more like a new movement, waiting to take off. Something that already resonates with many, these early prototypes of chairs made from upcycled weatherboards show what can be created from waste material. I spoke with founder Juliet Arnott who is an occupational therapist and artist, and was impressed with her vision to secure sustainable sources of recycled timber, not only from the demolition of hundreds of buildings in Christchurch, but also in other centres around New Zealand, and create a range of well designed practical furniture. And in doing so create job opportunities and put the profits back into the Christchurch community. I like the name ‘Rekindle’ as it implies a nurturing way of starting over again, with hope. ‘Upcycle’ is a new word we use which is also apt in this case, as it is about using old materials but in a completely new way. Where real value is added through creative design rather than merely reusing the materials.
So if you know of or have a stash of demolition timber, do get in touch with Juliet and get it to work in this good cause. And we look forward to seeing the final product, and hopefully selling it on our site. Contact Juliet through the website www.rekindle.org.nz or email her at email@example.com
Nearly every child in New Zealand grows up listening to the stories of Maori legends. It might be said that the stories of Maui Tikitiki-a-Taranga are some of the most popular. In some of the stories Maui is cheeky, curious, and his inquisitive nature means that he goes on really awesome and dangerous adventures. When he’s old enough Maui starts to question his origins and begins to figure out his own identity. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the legends of Maui continue to influence our lives; like Maui, we are discovering what we find unique about ourselves, what we can create that expresses our own individual New Zealand identity.
David Hakaraia amalgamates his Maori heritage with contemporary designs and practises. The result is a fascinating synthesis: Hakaraia creates works that have a “design approach that is distinctly his own”, they are a combination of Maori storytelling and modern techniques through the use of a variety of media. David is of Ngapuhi and Ngati Paoa descent and grew up in Tokoroa and Kororareka. He graduated with a Masters of Design with Distinction at Victoria University School of Architecture and Design in 2011. David’s aim is ”to develop new ways to express my history by marrying contemporary design technologies with the tradition of Maori story-telling. My hope is that this historically and culturally grounded approach will offer new ways with which contemporary Maori may connect with their history”.
David’s works are obviously reminiscent of his Maori heritage, as seen in his Waka Whakaka, which also combines pacific and western cultures. Intricate koru designs are magnificently laser-etched on a wooden elliptical shape. When switched on, light streams through the cuts, making the patterns on the Waka Whakaka glow.
David’s other light, Mahuika, is directly influenced by Maori legend: it is based on one of the stories of Maui, when he goes to the underworld to get fire from the old kuia, Mahuika. The light is made of porcelain and native timber. Mahuika looks like a multi-coloured flame, and is both bright and delicate at the same time. And pretty soon David is going to become a cleverbastard (which we are very excited about). We are looking forward to having a new and extremely innovative designer join our team. Story by Jane Yonge
After meeting David several years ago he mentioned his ideal work space would be designed and built to fit his unique requirements and values. A space that would not only foster great innovation in design, but would incorporate the factory as well as a showroom to showcase his new work and projects. Other important values like sustainability, good working environment for his staff and accessibility to his customers and the ‘real world’ out there would be important. Well it’s all become reality. It’s located near the old industrial site where he used to be based, but is now alongside a very Kiwi neighbourhood. Connecting with and being a part of the community is all part of running his business in the Hawke’s Bay area and also one of the reasons he and his partner, Linda, live there.
I love the way the building, while mostly industrial, welcomes you in. The entrance is informal and friendly, full of light, and provides a lovely space to show David’s range of lights, furniture, special projects and prototypes, as well as his art prints and photography on the walls. David showed me around the design area as well as the work-friendly workshop. Underfloor heating, excellent light, clean air and a number of sustainable innovations make this a space worth working in. We look forward to seeing new work pouring out from this nest of kiwi creativity. Next time you’re down there pop in yourself… it will be well worth it.
Jo Blogg’s studio is right next to Fane’s and so it was great to get a look-in on what she’s been working on too. And there’s much to see since my last visit, which is a little surprising as Jo is the antithesis to Fane’s working style…. fastidious, measured, painstakingly detailed [therefore slow] and methodical. But no less inspired. Her techniques remain constant, but her canvases and materials change. Objects that have a previous life as ornaments, like this collection of animals, or utilitarian items like doors, get new life energy breathed into them. Pages from a classic 70’s Playboy serves as the medium for a new work… a hole punch is used to create perfect circles of colour pasted over an old print of Gainsborough’s Blue Boy painting. The juxtaposition and layering of old and new subjects and using unexpected media, make this incredibly fresh work.
Sadly I didn’t get a new photo of the camera-shy Jo this time, but I’ll be back when these works are ready for show. Who knows when that will be but it will be worth the trip. In the meantime check out her current work on CleverBastards…
Fane and I go back a long way, having made many TV commercials together back in the 90’s… the Vogels Legends series for one. And man we had plenty of fun. So it was great to see him again, going hammer and tongs in the new-old studio in his Napier back yard, an old school room he’s managed to haul in. He’s given up making ads [me too], but he makes so much more these days… and the evidence is everywhere… drum kit and guitar to one side, easel loaded with a large oil in the middle of the studio, computer in the corner. He plays me a new song he’s recorded and the music video he’s filmed to go with it, a new kid-adult book, which he’s written, illustrated and laid out. Oils in progress, a new swag of ‘Bird’ gouaches, assemblages made of stuff from the demo yard lie against the walls everywhere. This is just a normal day in Fane’s prodigious creative life. I’ve always loved his creative energy… like an exploding head of ideas.