Category: Designers

Piet Boon

Since a client showed me his new book last weekend, I’ve been a tad infatuated with the work of Dutch designer Piet Boon. There are so many great photos on his website, these are just a few of my faves…

sorry, no time for a ‘real’ post…

Maria Pergay

The Luxury Culture website and newsletter is fast becoming one of my favorite reads. Check out this weeks for a fascinating interview with the designer Maria Pergay.

Vintage Maria Pergay daybed and table both available through Jousse Enterprise
Vintage Maria Pergay bench seat through 1st Dibs

A more recent work by Pergay, a ribbon seat from JGM Galerie
If you’re looking for something new to read, sign up for the regular newsletter, its always full of interesting arts, culture and design news, and often before it makes it to the magazines.

J’aime Hong Kong!

Hong Kong’s cognoscenti was out in force last night at the Lane Crawford home store to catch a glimpse of the multi-talented Spanish designer Jaime Hayon, where he made a guest appearance. It seemed like the crowd just couldn’t get enough of the charming young Spaniard, and he seemed to be equally enjoying working the crowd.

A man whose style is difficult to define – although if pressed to do so, “Neo-Baroque” might partly fit the bill – Hayon seems to channel the past through his own unique filter system, to create new to the world products that are somewhat familiar to us in an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ kind of way.

Hayan’s brand of futurism is appealing on many levels, and is as elegant as it is whimsical. His unique stamp has graced products as varied as shoes, lighting, toys, furniture, textiles and interiors. It’s his bathware range entitled “Artquitect” that I’m most enamoured with though. High gloss, curvaceous legs and generous proportions are definitely a winning combination in a bath, as I’m sure the photos below will attest.

A few more of my favorite designs from Studio Hayon.

And yes, that first image is from my signed copy of his book…but you weren’t surprised were you? I already admitted I was a design groupie!

Charles & Ray Eames

Charles & Ray Eames are two names which have permeated the consciousness of many people around the world. They are known to those that are not even aware of the importance of their contribution to the world of design. I myself was not aware of just how varied their pursuits were until recently. Among the many interests of Charles, in particular, was photography. And what a great photographer he was. Not surprising talent to have, I guess, for someone who has an incredible eye. If you are living in or visiting Hong Kong, make your way over to the Lane Crawford home store at Pacific Place and check out the Charles & Ray Eames retrospective, which includes – amongst many of their iconic pieces for sale – an exhibition of photos taken by Charles himself, some of which include photos he took while in Hong Kong.

Eames plywood chairs by Herman Miller, available in Hong Kong from Lane Crawford.

Tomaso Buzzi

I have a new designer obsession. Tomaso Buzzi (1900 – 1981) was a member of the Labirinto group from 1927, along with the renowned italian designer, Gio Ponti. An architect and furniture designer, Buzzi created a limited series of neo-classical furniture designs in the late 1920s. His commissions included furnishings for the School of Arts and Crafts, San Paolo, Brazil. In 1932 he assumed artistic direction of Venini, and exhibited his innovative glass techniques at the 1936 Venice Biennale.

(Above) A Credenza and Cabinet (both from 1929) are availalable, along with other pieces, in the upcoming Christie’s 20th Century Decorative Arts auction in London on April 30. Both pieces have such gracious silouettes, and I absolutely love burlwood. So elegant!

“La Scarzuola” a convent in Umbria founded by St Francis of Assisi, was bought by Buzzi in the 50’s in the hopes of transforming it. This, along with Palladio’s villas in the north, will definitely be on my list of things to see next time I’m in Italy!

Just Andersen

I have recently become a little obsessed with the beautiful works of Just Andersen (1884 – 1943) – a Danish sculptor and silver smith. He is best known for his neoclassical Scandinavian style pieces for everyday use in pewter, brass, copper, bronze and “Disko”. Disko metal is an alloy of lead and antimony, Andersen’s own creation, which he named after Disko Bay (in Greenland), where he grew up. It was used to produce “Bronze” items, such as candlesticks, vases, lamps and sculptures for ‘common people’, because it was cheaper than true bronze. After being cast, the pieces were patinated as bronze, copper or brass. I absolutely love the elegant simplicity of the forms he created. Here are a few of my favorites that are currently available.

Disko metal accessories – 1st image (candelabra & bowl) available from 1st Dibs, 9th image (bowls) available through artnet, all other items from Gallery BAC.

Three pieces made from Pewter, all available from Gallery BAC.

A selection of lamps, all in Disko metal. 1st pic available through 1st Dibs, last 3 items available at Gallery BAC.

BODW, Day 2 – Tom Dixon

Tom Dixon is the type of designer that gives hope to all aspiring designers. A university drop-out (he lasted 6 months in a sculpture course at Chelsea Arts) and a rock-star wannabe (literally), Tom Dixon has made a career out of being rebellious. His presentation this morning at BODW was titled “Design, and how not to do it”.

Dixon’s passion for cars and motorbikes initially fuelled his dedication to teach himself how to weld, allowing him to fix and repair them by himself. At a time in the UK when the industrial era was ending, Dixon had access to an abundance of scrap metal. It was with this very crude material, and his basic knowledge of welding, that he first started to create furniture. He relished not having clients or school teachers giving him guidelines or restrictions, so his creations were borne of trial and error. His practice with this material and method churned out no less than 50 chair designs in his first year.

His first commercial ventures were with some of the large Italian manufacturers, Cappellini and the like. Their understanding of design being a value add in many industries gained Dixon’s respect and lead to a long term working relationship. A relationship that allowed Dixon to grown from a one-man operation, to a studio now employing more than 15 designers.

Not long after this time, Dixon was employed by Habitat as their head of design. This was to be his first ‘real’ job. He went overnight from being an untrained and uneducated designer and producer to the creative head of the largest furniture producer in the world (Habitat, founded by Sir Terrance Conran in the 60’s, is now owned by the IKEA group). Despite the shock to his system, he insists that Habitat was good grounding for him, an environment where he was able to work on diverse products in many categories, and enabled him to learn the peripheral business of design – sourcing, marketing, branding, packaging and retail.

Seven years later Dixon took the leap and went out on his own again starting his own label, in much the same way, he describes, as a fashion designer would. Rebelling again against what is the ‘norm’, Dixon decided rather than providing a design service to manufacturers (whereby he would receive only a small royalty); he decided if he could control the entire manufacturing process he would also be able to reap the financial benefits. One of the first designs he would produce under his own label was the mirror ball pendants (see photo below, from none other than the home of Gwenyth Paltrow). The idea behind this successful product was his rejection of design. His tenure at Habitat had left him almost sick of design, he explains, so these had to be pure, design-free. The sphere, being the purest form, along with a lack of design or decoration would enable the pendants to disappear. Thankfully, they don’t. But the designer is also happy to admit that sometimes things don’t work out the way you expect, and often what you think is a mistake can turn out to be a success.

The business of design is quite capital intensive, Dixon explains, – tooling and machinery can cost several hundreds of thousands of dollars – so again, he broke the mould and investigated unorthodox business models. He found off-the shelf plastic injection moulding machines, removed all the tooling and moulds, and ended up with what he described as a ‘plastic spaghetti maker’. He used this to create custom one-off chairs that are now worth far more at auction that what he originally sold them for (see photo below).

Dixon admits that the generation of the 80’s in London that he belonged to found it much easier to be rebellious. There was simply more to rebel against (i.e. the establishment), and the punk movement made that a lot easier. He feels that now almost anything is acceptable, so it’s much more difficult for designers (or anyone, for that matter) to be rebellious. However he encourages young and upcoming designers to do just that. He is still rebelling, be it against stereotypical business models, or types of self-promotion. I think it gives us hope that we can expect to see new and exciting things from him, and other designers in the future.

BODW, Day 1 – Marc Newson

Fellow Australian expat Marc Newson is definitely a force to be reckoned with on the international design scene. His work on a wide range of projects – from watches and cars to furniture and interiors – for companies all over the globe has brought his designs fame and the man himself many awards and accolades, including a place on Time Magazine’s “Top 100 most influential people in the world today” list. The hour-long presentation that I attended this morning gave us a privileged look into Newson’s work – past, present, and future – as well as some of his influences and methods.

Training in jewellery design rather than industrial design has given Newson more of an artist’s education than most of his contemporaries. Initially, working with his hands to realise his designs was born of necessity – it was the only way to get his designs into production. However, learning how to make the products he designed and the materials he wanted to use was an informative process for Newson and has influenced his career to this day, removing ties to any one particular material and lending a willingness to experiment with innovative techniques. In fact, Newson stressed repeatedly during the presentation the importance of young and upcoming designers learning how to make the items they are designing, and of understanding the materials they are working with (I agree with this ethos entirely), and spoke at length of the heavy influence of three things: technology, materials, and processes, on his work. To me, his fascination and respect for these factors are clearly evident in his body of work.

Physical production wasn’t the only part of Newson’s work born of necessity; he also explained that his desire and inspiration for most of his product design resulted from his lack of options. His design for a Japanese mobile phone for KDD (see above photo of Marc with said product), for example, sprang from him literally not being able to find a phone on the market that he wanted to buy, and his consequent frustration as a consumer at his lack of choice.

As for the future, Newson is already spending sixty percent of his time working on projects for the aviation industry (partly due to being appointed creative director at Qantas, the national Australian airline). His fascination for transportation design, particularly aeroplanes, he says has been mostly influenced by the need as an Australian to spend so much time traveling by air to get anywhere. (I can certainly identify with that!) With a few other trial projects and conceptual work for aeroplanes and other means of transportation (one being a passenger ‘space plane’), his work in this industry shows no signs of abating.

And Newson certainly should know something about travel: he moved to Tokyo after completing university, remaining there for four years until moving on to Paris, where he set up Marc Newson Limited. The company is now based in London, his home for the last ten years. And, despite having lived outside of his native Sydney for two decades, Newson still has a touch of the Aussie twang to his accent, much to my delight!

I’m looking forward to seeing what Marc Newson’s talents hold in store for us – even though the thought of space travel frightens the life out of me!