Clerkenwell Design Week is an annual three-day festival “celebrating design’s creative richness”, with a host of exhibitions, installations, parties and receptions. Largely a networking event for the international design community, there is also opportunity for those with an interest in the area to view, and buy, work by product and furniture designers from across the globe, and to attend talks and workshops on various aspects of design. The event comes at a time when design is very much in the foreground in the artistic community, with a string of recent major institutional shows exploring, in particular, the shape of British Design, celebrating not only all things British, but also the huge undertaking of preparing a metropolis for a global event.
The week’s main exhibitions -- split between three of Clerkenwell’s most noteworthy locations: the House of Detention, the Order of St John and the Farmiloe Building -- are what attracts the majority of the festival’s visitors; organised into up-and-coming design talent, higher-end designers and limited edition pieces. There can, however, be something sterile about design exhibitions on this scale, particularly when the PR drive is as present as it is here; and to the detriment of the designers, much of the work often becomes forgettable. The Italian Chair District in the Order of St John succeeded in showing how clever design can still benefit from good presentation to maintain the interest of its audience, particularly in exhibitions of this size, as visitors were lead round the display of twelve concept chairs in search of a constellation known as "Cassiopeia's Chair".
Courtesy Clerkenwell Design Week Ltd.
Other design highlights included Amy de Wit and Ornella Stocco’s 9 Across collaboration -- a project inspired by a newspaper crossword. The collection features items such as 4 Across – Cabled – a modern take on the English Windsor chair, incorporating cabled wool and plastic, combining minimalist contemporary furniture design and an interest in craft with unique finesse; and 6 Across – Clearcut – a range of lamps made from blown glass, cut with scissors in the very final stage of the blowing process to create an elegantly organic item. Certainly ones to watch.
Also, Abberant Architecture/Benchmark’s Devil Amongst the Tailors brilliantly functional yet highly coveted pub-tables-cum-work-bureaus, commissioned by Wallpaper magazine as part of their Handmade exhibition earlier this year, were on show as part of the limited-edition items in The Order of St John.
Fay McCaul, Knitting the Light Fantastic, Courtesy the artist.
Alongside the exhibitions ran a busy schedule of talks. Many of those that I wanted to catch -- Vitra’s screening of Jason Cohn and Bill Jersey’s film Eames the Architect and the Painter and Milliken’s letterpress printing workshop -- were, however, scheduled during the day, once again emphasising the focus of the festival towards industry rather than public audiences.
For those in the trade the CDW is a must, but for those looking to get a feel for Design in London during the festival, you might be better off seeing what is on offer at London’s premier design venues, the Design Museum or the V&A.
(Image on top right: Ornella Stocco, Clearcut the Candles; Courtesy of the Artist and Clerkenwell Design Week)