Francis Bacon, Rug ‘Composition’ (1929) Photograph: Sothebys
Green grads want to safeguard the future by making kitchen knives out of waste and creating new artwork, according to director Mark Cousins
London Design Festival celebrated its 20th anniversary this month, and Sir John Sorrell recounted how in the beginning he was often asked whether LDF will be held again the following year during the Medals Dinner held in St. Bart’s Great Hall last week. as though fashion were a transient phenomenon. The importance of design on sustainability, communities, and inclusivity has been widely acknowledged as attitudes about design have evolved over the years. As crucial as creativity are politics and ethics.
The articles in this month’s design news reflect these adjustments. If you’re interested in reading more articles on how we live today, subscribe to the Design Review newsletter.
1 Great Green Grads
Graduate Charlotte Werth’s bacterial dying machine – Moving Pigment – at the Green Grads showcase Photograph: Tom Mannion/Green Grads
It will be up to the next generation to clean up the ecological messes that their forebears have left behind. Therefore, it’s fortunate that one of the highlights of this year’s London Design Festival was the Green Grads display. Part of the sustainable event Planted, which encourages design that reconnects people with nature, is an exhibition showcasing recent graduates’ ecologically focused products and initiatives.
Students studying product and furniture design, engineers, animators, and textile and ceramic artisans are all featured in Green Grads. The event, according to the initiative’s creator Barbara Chandler, aims to connect up-and-coming designers with established experts.
A machine created by Charlotte Werth, a graduate of Central Saint Martins, that uses bacteria rather than chemical dye to build designs onto fabric was among the really creative concepts on display this year. Georgie Gerrard from Loughborough University made mycelium vessels, while Eva Katrenakova from Falmouth presented research on foraging nutrient-rich edible seaweed from British beaches. Other students used more conventional techniques; their work using clay, resin waterproofing, and lumber was also on display.
“Not all the projects we show will be commercially viable,” says Chandler, “but they are seeds to nurture, the results of in-depth research. Their inventors are the talent we so sorely need to help solve our eco-crises. Sustainability is now a commercial imperative. Consumers want action.”
Find out more about the Green Grads initiative on its website
2 Francis Bacon pulls the rug out
‘Composition’ rug by Francis Bacon Modern Decoration Furniture (1929)
Francis Bacon is recognized as one of the most significant painters of the modern era and his work has been shown all over the globe, but his work as an interior designer has received far less recognition. But Bacon created modernist carpets and furniture in the late 1920s, influenced by his trips around Europe and artists like Bauhaus and Le Corbusier. The carpets in particular are reminiscent of his early paintings in his shop, Francis Bacon Modern Decoration: Furniture in Metal, Glass and Wood; Rugs and Lights, which made significant contributions to British interior design.
Since Bacon’s tenure as a furniture designer was so short, little of his furniture is now in existence. Only seven of the 12 carpets he produced are still in existence. Bacon often destroyed his work (his cut and abandoned paintings are a nuisance for the writers of his catalogue raisonné). Two of the world’s most spectacular collections of art deco pieces are located in France at the Château de Gourdon and one is in the Victoria & Albert Museum collection.
However, one will be offered for sale at a Sotheby’s auction the following month to commemorate 30 years since Francis Bacon’s passing and to honor his passion for France. Bacon was a big fan of France and had a great deal of national esteem. The first living artist to receive such recognition since his idol, Pablo Picasso, in 1966, he was honored with an exhibition at the Grand Palais in 1971. From 1974 until 1987, he also resided in Paris.
The string instrument and brickwork that may also be seen in one of his first works, Gouache, are shown on the rug (1929).
The Sotheby’s auction will take place on October 24 at the conclusion of Paris+ week, the inaugural Parisian Art Basel event.
3 Out of office
Advertising office designed by Clive Wilkinson Architects 1996 –1998 in Los Angeles, California Photograph: Taschen
Eight percent of employees in Manhattan presently attend work five days a week, according to a recent poll cited in The New York Times. Nearly 30% of the remaining 92% are still completely distant. No number of post-pandemic pleasures, including slides, sleep pods, ball pits, and streams of cool brew, appears to have been able to change the undeniable reality. Because WFH is more efficient, you complete more work. (Presumably in part due to the lack of slides, sleep pods, ball pits, etc. that are more common in households.) To further emphasize the issue, almost 1,300 New York Times reporters recently made headlines when they vowed never to work there again after objecting to a requirement that they work at least three days each week.
It is The Office of Good Intentions that enters this new reality. A typically opulent 592-page hardcover from Taschen, a producer of luxury books, is titled Human(s) Work. Florian Idenburg and LeeAnn Suen, writers and architects, “expose the relationships between space, work, and people, and explore the intentions that have driven the development of the office design for working humans” in a total of 12 pieces. The growth of corporate festivals, the resurgence of work clubs, and the advent of work “gurus” are among the subjects covered. The landmark office constructions, such as the IBM complex in Florida designed by Marcel Breuer and the urban garden of the Ford Foundation in Manhattan, are lavishly documented by photographer Iwan Baan. It’s one for the coffee table at home and is more geared at design enthusiasts than businesses.
4 Discover fry-up chic at the caff
Regency Cafe, Pimlico, London. Photograph: Isaac Rangaswami/Caffs Not Cafes
While most of us enjoy a comfortable seat and a soothing cup of coffee at a London cafe while enjoying a fry-up, customers are often less interested in the architecture and history of these establishments while they are slurping up egg yolk. Fortunately, Isaac Rangaswami sees things that the rest of us miss. Copywriter by day, Rangaswami developed the lovely Instagram shrine caffs not cafes to celebrate the gastronomic and visual merits of the city’s restaurants.
“At first, I was attracted to historic cafes because of their stunningly gorgeous interiors, which function as free museums. Wood paneling, elaborate ceramic tiles, and ceilings constructed of Vitrolite, a kind of colored glass created in the early 1900s, are some outstanding examples of period elements.
Rangaswami’s Caffs not Cafes, which he founded in 2019, is delightful on many levels. The cuisine is reviewed, the interiors and exteriors are expertly captured, and the families that own these restaurants and the locals who patronize them are tenderly documented.
“I became interested in caffs’ role as places of refuge, where people can eat affordable meals without being moved along. I also became fascinated by the food they serve, the kind of carb and nostalgia-heavy fare that offers a glimpse into a not-so-distant British past, when eating out was relatively new and a lot more utilitarian. I’m interested in the regional differences between fry-ups, too, from square sausage to laverbread, a deliciously iron-rich edible seaweed.”
Although Rock Steady Eddie’s in Camberwell was where his passion for cafés began, he has included every area of London, from Turnpike Lane to Crystal Palace, as well as a record of a journey to Blackpool to enjoy its pleasures, in collaboration with Historic England. Additionally, he will begin writing a monthly piece about UK coffee regionalism for the culinary publication Vittles.
“I want people to visit these restaurants so they can remain open, and that’s my aim with my Instagram. I believe we are all aware that establishments like this are under danger, but I’m extremely enthusiastic about making it acceptable to just walk or take a train to a nice, vintage restaurant.
“I’m interested in celebrating places that are still around, rather than lamenting the ones that have sadly passed on. The best way to keep historical caffs alive is by visiting them and spending money inside.”
Visit @caffs_not_cafes for more details
5 Art, climate and Mark Cousins
Enhanced image of one of Wilhelmina Barns-Graham’s glacier paintings. Photograph: Fruitmarket
Wilhelmina Barns-Graham traveled by foot to the Grindelwald Glacier in 1949. At the time, the glacier in Switzerland covered a whole valley and extended as far as the Mettenberg peak in the Bernese Alps. The abstract painter’s astonishing series of paintings, some of the first to gain her greater notice, were inspired by the glacial terrain.
The glacier continued to inspire others more than 70 years later, including documentarian Mark Cousins, who has admired Barns-work Graham’s since the 1980s. He went back to where the artist had been, only to discover that the glacier had receded more than a mile and was now in danger due to the climate issue. Cousins produced his own piece of art as a memorial to Barns-Graham and an elegy for the glacier.
A massive art piece called Like A Huge Scotland enlarges the glacier paintings by Barns-Graham by 10,000 times. Along with her music, composer Linda Buckley also provided voiceovers for the exhibition soundscape that include bits of the artist on aging and memory. Along with Cousins’ new work, a few of the old paintings will also be on display.
“Willie Barns-Graham was a brilliant, free-thinking, 20th-century artist,” says Cousins. “My work is electrified by her paintings in the way she was electrified by a climb up to a glacier in the Alps in May 1949. In the Fruitmarket show, I will plunge people into the feeling of being inspired, of looking anew, of having your brain changed. What does inspiration feel like? What happened to Barns-Graham on that day?”
Before the premiere of Cousins’ film on Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, A Sudden Glimpse to Deeper Things, Like A Huge Scotland will be shown at Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Warehouse in November. The statement from Barns-journal Graham’s entry about the Grindelwald glacier serves as the film’s title. Tilda Swinton, a regular collaborator of Cousins’, will do the narration of Barns-letters Graham’s and diaries, many of which have never been made public before.
“Visiting the glacier in 1949 had a major impact on Willie’s practice as an artist,” says Rob Airey, director of the Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust. “The changes wrought on the glacier due to climate change since should have an equally profound effect on us all.”
Like A Huge Scotland is at Fruitmarket from 5–27 November
6 Man of steel
Allday Goods knives made from recycled plastic and scrap metal Photograph: Allday
Hugo Worsley received his training at the École hôtelière de Lausanne in Switzerland and spent ten years working as a chef. However, his exposure to the restaurant industry inspired him to leave the kitchen and take on a new position. Worsley intended to address the significant contribution of the food and beverage sector to plastic pollution. Because of the closure of restaurants and the increased time spent in kitchens during a lockdown, he adds, “I saw an opportunity to create a more affordable knife for the home-cook that was made directly out of people’s waste.”
According to Worsley, there is a market gap between inexpensive knives for home cooks and premium professional level blades, which he intends to close.
The outcome is Allday Goods, a business that sells high-quality British kitchen knives created from waste materials produced in the UK and intended for landfills. The handles are produced from plastic garbage, including bottle caps, DVD cases, broken tubs, bottles, and lids, as well as food containers, to give a satisfying circularity—using waste from the food business to generate new food industry equipment. The blades are manufactured in Sheffield from scrap metal.
Although the original Allday Goods knives were created in Japan, Worsley has now shifted production to the UK. “I want to help a fantastic local industry that is in need. In Sheffield, there were over 300 knife producers in 1920; now, there are just five. Sadly, cutlery production has relocated to Asia, where prices are more competitive. I want to promote outstanding regional workmanship and, maybe, in some little manner, revitalize the local economy.
Allday Goods online store is now open
Thanks to Alice Fisher at The Guardian whose reporting provided the original basis for this story.