We’re back from a whirlwind week in the capital, for this year’s instalment of the highly anticipated London Design Festival.
Our Smile Plastics surfaces were exhibited far and wide, in many forms. From the fabulous reception desk designed by Make Relief using our Heron wash collection and a custom Fir Green mix to welcome visitors to Material Matters - to a unique table crafted from our one-of-a-kind tinsel PET material for 2LG’s You Can Sit With Us installation at Truman Brewery. Our surfaces were also featured as part of the innovative interiors at the new Tala showroom in Shoreditch.
You may also have spied our directors Rosalie and Adam contributing their thoughts to the plastics debate as part of the official talks series. Despite a packed programme of activity for us this year, we still managed to squeeze in a loop of the festival to check out the latest developments in material design. And of course, we were far from disappointed - with invention offered in bucketloads. Here are our highlights…
Material Change comprised an exhibition of ongoing research by Pearson Lloyd - a design office based in East London - into improving the circularity of mass-produced products.
The exhibition, which was part of Material Matters, explored how the clear and present threat to our planet’s health is forcing us to ask new questions, and demand answers for the way we make, distribute and consume things. It most definitely provided some food for thought.
Modern Synthesis x Ganni
Biotech company, Modern Synthesis – founded by designer, Jen Keane and synthetic biologist, Dr Ben Reeve, have developed a patent-pending process that employs microbes to grow nanocellulose-based materials – “circular by nature, and customisable by design.”
At this year’s LDF, the innovative company teamed up with GANNI to introduce a bag made from a bacteria-created textile, which offers an alternative to leather. Excitingly, it was presented on a Smile Plastics plinth. Although, currently, one-of-a-kind, it’s hoped the product will hit the high street in 2025. For us, this epitomised how the future of fashion could look if a circular system is embraced – inspiring stuff.
Make Relief, Kerf Collection and Make Relief x Smile Plastics Reception Desk for Material Matters
Utilising the power of Smile Plastics, Make Relief has fabricated our post-consumer, 100% recycled/100% recyclable materials into a collection of gorgeous side tables and stools. Each piece has vertical flutes, which are machined before being heated and formed around a cylindrical jig to create a unique item of furniture.
In the interest of making these pieces your own, to ensure they are cherished over time, any Smile Plastics material can be selected for transformation into a side table or stool. A selection exhibited at Material Matters illustrated, beautifully, how it is done.
The New Craftsmen
Curating, commissioning, and selling unique, contemporary collections for interiors that are rooted in narrative, The New Craftsmen offers everything from furniture to lighting, textiles to curiosities, all made by expert craftspeople across the British Isles.
We were particularly captivated by the Welcome Drinks Cabinet in Olive by Matthew Raw, which sees the development of his series of hand-crafted tile-clad furniture inspired by British railway stations.
Hackability of the Stool by Daisuke Motogi at the Vitra Tramshed showroom
Daisuke Motogi – a Tokyo based architect – exhibited Hackability of the Stool at Vitra’s showroom during LDF, presenting 100 ideas for altering the iconic Stool 60, designed by Alvar Aalto in 1933.
The project began back in 2019, where workshop participants came up with suggestions as to what a stool could be used for. Artek Stool 60 - defined as a masterpiece of modernist design - was used as the basis for modification, adopting new attributes along the way - from becoming a chessboard, to a xylophone, a vinyl record player, to a series of sculptures. We loved the ingenuity in giving an existing piece of furniture extra legs – metaphorically, and physically!
Brompton Design District
The Farm Shop by Fels
Presented by Fels, The Farm Shop comprised a collaborative project between Marco Campardo, Guan Lee, and Luca Lo Pinto, which saw the bringing together of designers, architects, and studios to realise an exhibit of dining homeware – designed and produced at Grymsdyke Farm in Buckinghamshire.
During the summer, the designers were invited to take part in a residency on the farm, where they would utilise the facilities there to produce one element of the dining collection. The outcomes highlighted clear engagement with the farm’s local community and the surrounding material palette.
While over at the Brompton Design District, two graduate projects caught the eye of Rosalie.
Firstly, Saltscapes by Julia Briere, which took the humble material salt and compacted it into a functional stool. With an almost glittering aesthetic, it was also unparalleled in form – we’d never seen anything like it before.
Secondly, crafted from a storm-fallen piece of partially rotted oak, the Lace Oak Natural Edge Bowl was sandblasted to expose the growth rings and sense of decay of its host material. Another extremely interesting concept with stunning results.
London Design Fair
The Swedish Design Pavilion
The Swedish Pavilion - the annual showcase for Swedish designers, studios and companies during the London Design Festival returned once again to the London Design Fair.
It was produced in partnership with Swedish Wood and offered a meeting place and a hub for inspiration, knowledge and collaboration within architecture and design – we thoroughly enjoyed immersing ourselves in trailblazing Swedish craftsmanship from the likes of Swedish Ninja and Stamuli.
You Can Sit With Us by 2LG Studio
For this year's London Design Fair, 2LG Studio gathered collaborators new and old for a project with inclusivity at its heart. With a view to strengthening connections within the design world, a unique set of chairs accompanied a table crafted from our one-of-a-kind tinsel PET material.
Symbolising celebration and the coming together of people, as well as ensuring circularity through a guaranteed afterlife, our colossal 6 x 1.2m table, also fully modular, was exhibited in all its glory, alongside fantastic creations by a host of other designers and manufacturers. We were honoured to be involved, and to be in such good company – thank you to 2LG for inviting us to be part of this joyous project.
As we mentioned, there will be another purpose for this table – potentially in London's Theatreland – so stay tuned for more details on that.
As well as soaking up the wealth of visual inspiration across the various districts of LDF 2023, we also gained much insight through taking part in the talks programme. At both the Sustainability In Retail discussion at Seen Studios, and Realising Circularity: Time for Action, we discussed how plastic can play a role in a more sustainable built environment for the future with likeminded peers.
We want to say a huge thank you to all who joined us for those events, and for supporting our collaborators throughout the festival’s duration – it was fantastic to see so many of you.
Something we missed? Head to our socials and let us know your best bits from LDF!