Design news for January – broken treasures made better and Britain’s only black glassblower

As lockdown drags on, even the most optimistic are finding it hard to remain cheerful. But hopefully these design stories will help introduce some positivity. From a clothing company partnership, to rent and recycle childrenswear, to art raising money for the NHS, it’s good to be reminded of the generosity, thoughtfulness and creativity out there. If you only read one story, make sure it’s our interview with glassblower Chris Day. If his achievements don’t delight out, get in touch and ask for your money back.

Arket joins the rental and recycling revolution


Arket’s new spring clothing range, available to rent on Circos from this week

Arket’s new spring clothing range, available to rent on Circos from this week. Photograph: Arket

This week, nordic clothing brand Arket starts a new partnership with Dutch rental company Circos. Though the rental clothing sector for adults is booming, childrenswear lags behind, even though children outgrow clothes at an alarming rate. A typical child grows through eight sizes in the first two years of their life. Circos offers a rental subscription service for children’s and maternity wear, delivering clothes to the customer’s door for a monthly fee. You return them when they’re no longer needed and pick out some new items. Clothing is available for newborns up to children aged four. This means up to 10 families can use the same items and, once pieces are worn out, they’re recycled to make new products.

Arket already uses mainly recycled and eco-sustainability materials. The partnership with Circos builds on the brand’s ethos of sustainability and longevity. A range of Arket’s designs will available for all pint-sized eco warriors from this week.

Singaporean artists upgrade broken treasures


A restored and upgraded radio alarm clock by Clement Zheng, a designer combining computerisation and other materials

A restored and upgraded radio alarm clock by Clement Zheng, a designer combining computerisation and other materials. Photograph: khooguojie

Last year, Singaporean designer Hans Tan put out a social media call for broken treasures. “We asked for objects that had stopped working but were kept because of sentimental value.” He was looking for potential exhibits for his new show, R for Repair, which has just opened at the National Design Centre in Singapore. Each item was matched with a designer or artist who used it to create an exhibit for the show.

Tan, an industrial designer who teaches a sustainability and design course at the National University of Singapore, wanted objects that designers wouldn’t simply repair. “We wanted to end up with items incrementally, if not fundamentally, better than the original.”


Tote bag restored by textile weaver Tiffany Loy

Tote bag restored by textile weaver Tiffany Loy. Photograph: khooguojie


Broken toy bus reworked by the Mighty Jaxx art collective

Broken toy bus reworked by the Mighty Jaxx art collective. Photograph: khooguojie

The exhibition features a worn-out bag given new life and value by textile weaver Tiffany Loy and a fused radio clock repaired and upgraded by industrial designer Clement Zheng, alongside broken watches, teacups and glasses all thoughtfully redesigned.

“Many people are daunted by the idea of repairing and, considering how so many products are cheap and accessible with one click, who can blame them?” ask Timothy Wong and Priscilla Lui. Their Studio Juju worked on a broken antique Singer sewing machine, which now works again and has been reconfigured to double as a study table. “Consumers need to be conscious to buy things that last. Or to repair where possible. You just need to be a little creative. It’s such a simple idea.”

R for Repair runs until 6 February

Stay at home and raise money for the NHS


Poster for 19 Artists versus Covid-19 by designer Piero Di Biase

Poster for 19 Artists versus Covid-19 by designer Piero Di Biase. Photograph: Piero Di Biase

Last year, Álvaro López, a Spanish graphic designer based in London, organised an international collective of artists to create Covid posters. The artworks spread the message “Stay at Home” and brought in money for NHS Charities Together, a federation of 250 charitable organisations who support the National Health Service, its staff, volunteers and patients. Now the NHS is under even more pressure than in 2020, paper manufacturer Fedrigoni has relaunched the 19 Artists versus Covid-19 initiative to raise additional funds for the health service, so you can once again get your hands on posters by the likes of Noma Bar, Rob Lowe and Morag Myerscough. The posters are great – and the need of the NHS is greater. Buy online – stay at home.

Posters are £19 with all profits going directly to NHS Charities Together

Emerging artist Chris Day on the art of glass


Emmett Till by Chris Day

Emmett Till by Chris Day. Photograph: Ester Segarra

Growing up mixed race in the West Midlands, Chris Day never felt like he fitted in. “On forms I couldn’t tick the box for white or the box for black, I had to be ‘other’. I didn’t have many black friends because I was too white, but with my white friends I wasn’t really one of them either.” Now, aged 52, he’s finally found a comfortable place in the world, though he still isn’t part of the crowd. After 20-odd years as a self-employed plumber, Day has become Britain’s only black glassblower.

Day went to Wolverhampton University to study ceramics and glass four years ago (“My wife made me go – I’m dyslexic and left school at 16”) and his work found instant success. It was shown at the 2019 British Glass Biennale and received special commendation. It was spotted at the BGB by Angel Monzon, creative director of the prestigious Vessel Gallery. Day was given a solo show in 2020 – Blown, Bound and Bold.

“To be honest, I still think someone’s going to find out that my work isn’t good enough; I really suffer from imposter syndrome,” he admits. Luckily, the art world has more faith in him. Next, his warped and wonderful pieces will appear in the group show Crafting a Difference at SoShiro gallery.


Strange Fruit by Chris Day

Strange Fruit by Chris Day. Photograph: Simon Bruntnell 2019

Day’s unconventional glass-and-metal work, which combines his technical skills honed during his time as a plumber and his natural talent for glassblowing, would always have found attention but the events of 2020 also created a greater audience for art inspired by the experience and history of race, a core theme to his work.

“The Black Arts Movement of the 1980s grew from Wolverhampton where I was at university, so I studied their work and they became my heroes. Their art is political and I wanted to make work that started a conversation about race too.” The stories of Emmett Till and American lynchings have informed his work, as well as his own experiences as an artist of British Jamaican heritage. “During my research, I started looking for other black or mixed-race glassblowers in the UK and, as yet, I haven’t found any. I’d love to hear if there’s another out there, that I’m not the only one.”

His works at the SoShiro gallery will be displayed alongside textiles, ceramics, metalwork and other crafts by 70 artists, something which also delights Day. “I love the idea of looking at my work as craft, and it will give me the opportunity to look at other things for the first time. Maybe I’ll look at textiles and bring that influence into my work. I’ll meet artists who’ve been at the top of their game for years – I hope that will give me confidence.”

Crafting a Difference is at the SoShiro Gallery until 2 April. Virtual visits also available

Twentytwentyone turns twenty five


The Robin Day reclining chair in Twentytwentyone’s London showroom.

The Robin Day reclining chair in Twentytwentyone’s London showroom. Photograph: twentytwentyone

Twentytwentyone is an institution for design fans, one of the best places to windowshop for furniture and pick up unusual and affordable gifts and cards. In 2021, Twentytwentyone celebrates 25 years since the London shop was opened by furniture aficionados Simon Alderson and Tony Cunningham to sell vintage and reissued design classics, and champion young new talent.

To mark the anniversary, the shop will release 25 exclusive product drops throughout the year, including some special and limited-edition collaborations with creatives such as Jasper Morrison, Finnish designer Alvar Aalto and Bauhaus-trained textile and print maker Anni Albers.

One of the first exclusives will be the reclining chair by industrial and interior designer Robin Day. The chair was originally created by Day in 1952 and he considered it one of his most successful designs.

Photography funds children’s art therapy


Joy Labinjo’s Masked portrait in aid of AT the Bus.

Joy Labinjo’s Masked portrait in aid of AT the Bus. Photograph: Graeme Bulcraig/Joanna Vestey

Grayson Perry, Cornelia Parker and Jenny Saville are just some of the artists who’ve signed up to help charity AT The Bus for their new fundraising auction. Portraits of these artists and others have been shot by photographer Joanna Vestey to create images of life during the pandemic. The photographs will be auctioned next week to raise money for a customised double decker bus for the charity to use as a mobile arts therapy centre, which can be driven to different schools reaching many vulnerable children.

Concern about the effect of lockdown and the emotional fallout of the pandemic on children is rising. And as most mental health problems start during childhood, with rates of anxiety and depression increasing by 70% amongst teenagers over the last 25 years, the need for therapy and mental health intervention is greater than ever. And art is fun as well as therapeutic.


Jenny Saville’s Masked portrait in support of AT the Bus charity

Jenny Saville’s Masked portrait in support of AT the Bus charity. Photograph: Graeme Bulcraig/Joanna Vestey

“To be creative is to be free,” says artist Jenny Saville, a patron of AT The Bus and one of the sitters for this project. “The process of being utterly present in the moment, where all your concentration is given to a particular creative task. It’s when humans play their best game, can love life and themselves. AT The Bus helps children re-discover their habits of creativity. Making something from nothing that is theirs for life. In a moment like this current pandemic, the work of AT the Bus is more important than ever.”

The Masked portraits go on sale from 1 February

The Modern House goes old school


Designer Duncan Campbell’s Victorian London flat

Designer Duncan Campbell’s Victorian London flat Photograph: inigo

The Modern House has done much to change the reputation of estate agents in the 16 years since founders Albert Hill and Matt Gibberd decided to create a specialist company to celebrate and sell modernist and design-led homes. Never before had marketing property seemed so aspirational and the team helped build a cult around the idea of The Modern House. An online editorial platform, magazine and podcast now serve a public who are as happy thinking about these unusual homes as buying them. The Instagram account has the largest number of followers globally of any estate agent.

Fine if you like minimalist architecture, but now the company has launched a new agency for those who like their buildings more traditional, more cosy. Inigo – named for 17th-century architect Inigo Jones, who sparked a revolution in British building design – will provide a listings platform for historic properties and different aesthetics to the very particular feel of The Modern House.


The Queen’s House, Greenwich, designed by the original Inigo – 17th-century architect Inigo Jones

The Queen’s House, Greenwich, designed by the original Inigo – 17th-century architect Inigo Jones. Photograph: Inigo

“Colour, pattern and decoration have come to the fore in recent years, capturing the hearts of a new generation,” says Gibberd. “Inigo as a brand is optimistic, colourful and a bit irreverent and, at a time when we know people are thinking about their homes more than ever, we hope that it will really resonate.”

And if you can’t afford the houses, Inigo also has an online magazine – The Almanac. Your property porn just got a little more stately.

The Guardian

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