Clerkenwell Design Week opened today, and runs for another 2 more. It’s a free 3 day hip-fest of commercial and domestic design talent spread across various venues in EC1. You’d have to work hard to cover it all in a day, but I managed a diverse range of events at several locations in just a few hours.
My visit began in the Farmiloe Building at the bottom of St John Street, where I was on time but the organisers were not. Built in 1868 and used until 1999 as a head office and warehouse, it is bursting with character and is the perfect backdrop for the best in contemporary furniture and accessories. The whole place looked like a high-class Ikea, with a strong 1950′s and 60′s influence.
The breadth of CDW is extraordinary. It encompasses not just exhibitions, but guided walks, screenings, visits to artists’ studios, pop-up shops – and even lessons in making your own gin infusions – in a number of historic and interesting locations in EC1. Their website has an excellent day-by-day guide to events, and there is also a free app to help you get the best out of your visit. Be prepared for some strange sights – my favourites were the Textile Hut (made from old hot air balloons and tights) and the sheep outside Sedus wearing woolly jumpers!
My next expedition was to Kinnarps, manufacturers and designers of office spaces. Office design isn’t something I give much thought to, but I was blown away by their uber-stylish premises in Turnmill Street – the result of a collaboration with acclaimed Swedish designer Bea Szenfeld. I could have happily lived there, never mind spent a few hours a day scratching a living! They have an artist in residence – Joe McCrae – for CDW.
Trying not to think about my own woefully inadequate working conditions (battered chair, desk covered with food crumbs, leads trailing…), I set out for the Living Furniture Project‘s exhibition, conveniently sited in a cafe in Farringdon Lane. The LFP is a charity which employs and trains homeless people to restore, up-cycle and create furniture such as this (below) from found and donated goods.
Heading towards my final destination in Charterhouse Square, my eye was caught by a stunning necklace in the window of the Lesley Craze Gallery in Clerkenwell Green. I was given a personal tour of their Special Exhibition, featuring imaginative, high-quality and quirky jewellery, and the beautiful ‘cobweb’ adornment by Craig Mcauley (below) – made from resin droplets on strands of nylon monofilament.
The pop-up pavilion in Charterhouse Square is all about walls and floors. I was lucky enough to get talking to the charming people at Muraspec, producers of textured and faux-fabric wall coverings which made me salivate. Less glamorous, but certainly innovative, is their new IdeaPaint which turns any surface into a whiteboard. I learned a lot and left with a strong urge to clad my bathroom walls in sequins…
This was but the tip of the iceberg. My plimsolls have a hole in them, I am weak with desire, and my head is spinning with the sheer talent on display. If you can possibly get there, do. Phone in sick or cancel lunch with your best friend if you have to.