come and see us at PLATFORM at the Clerkenwell Design Week!

We will be exhibiting in PLATFORM, in the House of Detention for the Clerkenwell Design Week from 24-26th May with our marine litter concept pieces made in collaboration with the World Cetacean Alliance, Surfers Against Sewage and Parley for the Oceans. Come and say hi.

Clerkenwell Design Week 2016

Christmas Artist’s Open Houses @ Studio Loo – Penelope Kenny…

Christmas is certainly a time to stretch your imagination, for young and old alike, and one artist who has a wonderful imagination is the next up on our Studio Loo Artist’s Open House interviews – the fab Penelope Kenny

Hi! Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do? I make hybrid creatures inspired by our relationship with other animals and tampering with the species boundaries. I print my work by hand at a studio in central Brighton, using water-based inks that I make by grinding up pigments and metallic powders and mixing them with screenprinting mediums. I make limited edition books, wallpapers and prints and have recently begun to produce digitally printed textiles.

Limited Edition Love Bees Silk Scarf. 90x90cm. Made and printed in South East England. Now available in my shop.

What is your favourite thing in your range at the moment and why? Of the pieces available at Studio Loo this Christmas ‘The Transgenic Cabinet’ is my favourite print and was probably the most challenging to create. It has thirty-seven colours that were each hand-mixed and printed separately. It took two solid weeks of work to make and print the edition and was made especially for my first solo exhibition.

Coevolutionary Mutualism (100x70cm). Screenprint on Fabriano 5 paper. Printed with metallic and interference inks. Hand coloured with watercolour, inks and gouache. Edition of 4.

Ok – I’ve got £20 to spend. What should I buy from your range? For £20 I have a special Open House selection of things. There are sample 45x45cm silk squares, digitally printed in East Sussex on 100% silk crepe de chine and hand-finished in Brighton. Or alternatively there is a box of small prints of hybrid creatures ranging from £3- £12 that would make excellent stocking fillers and gifts.

Rhino Beetle. Limited edition screenprint with hand made metallic inks on fabriano 5 paper. Produced for NOT-ANOTHER-BILL

What is on your own Christmas List this year? I haven’t made a list yet, but I am keeping my eye out for something  locally made and that is ethically and sustainably produced.

Love Bees (25x25cm). Screenprint with metallic inks on Fabriano 5 300gsm paper. Edition of 10.

Christmas pudding or Christmas cake? Christmas pudding and Christmas cake 🙂

Thank you Penelope! 

*** you can see all of Penelope Kenny’s lovely stuff and more at Studio Loo – we are OPEN for Christmas Artist’s Open Houses 21/22 + 28 Nov, 5 + 12/13 December – 10.30 – 5.00 at 201 Portland Road, Hove, BN3 5JA ***

Monday Musings – is sustainable design the same for everyone?

A week or so ago we attended the fully sustainable Brighton Fashion Week 2015, starting with the debates and industry presentations and ending with the stunning and extravagent catwalk shows that we featured last week in our photo specials. It was a packed day. But what we were really keen to understand, as non-fashion designers, but sustainable designers – is the stuff we think about the same? Is sustainable design just sustainable design?

Brighton Fashion Week 2015

Of course, designing a ‘sustainable’ building, or creating a ‘sustainable’ piece of footwear needs distinct and defined specialisms, but at their core, what are the similarities? Sitting down at the talks for Brighton Fashion Week 2015, we were pondering this exact question.

We soon realised, as we had hoped, that regardless what your specialism is, the issues you face as a designer are the same:

  • materials – understanding where, how, when and what sort of material you will use in your design is key. And this also accounts for its end of life processing and how it will behave with the end user. Toxic ingredients? Impossible reprocessing? Material manufacture processes? This is a universal issue for all designers.
  • waste – understanding materials and processes allows you to understand waste generated – and how it can be limited. Reducing the waste and increasing the efficiency of your designs can be related to a cutting pattern for fabric as easily as it can be for timber. And waste appears at all stages of creation, though to end of life.
  • design for disassembly – this is an area that we personally feel very strongly about, as even if you choose your materials well and minimise waste in the production phase, if you merge materials into ‘monstrous hybrids’ that cannot be easily separated, you consign your design to landfill. Designing for disassembly from the start allows pieces to be uncoupled and reused with the minimum amount of material contamination.
  • ethics, legislation and certification – the physical difference between specifying an organic material and a non-organic material can be small, but the implications to the producer are likely to be huge. Equally, choosing uncertifeid timber will still allow you to build something, but using reclaimed or FSC certified timber ensures that the wood has been produced from sustainable practices. You may not see the advantages with your own eyes, but it is essential to understand the wider issues.
  • emotional durability – if we are emotionally attached to something, we are less likely to consign it to the ‘bin’. We are more likely to treasure it, and look to repair and reuse it.
  • technical / functional durability – this allows us to have pieces that are fit for purpose and when they need it, they can be reused, repaired, hacked, amended and reinvented.
  • stories – the importance of stories and context is another area that we feel very strongly about. By telling a story you are emparting a history, sometimes materialistic, sometimes humanistic, but that depth of a past helps us to have a connection – and aids emotional durability…

These were but a few of the key issues we picked up at the Brighton Fashion Week 2015 talks and debates, and these both reinforced our thoughts and gave us hope. We are all designers. We choose, we create and if we are all talking the same language, communication, collaboration and impact are a whole lot easier.

(image by claire potter)

*** EVENT *** Eco Open Houses 2015 – this weekend!

A quick reminder – our studio, Studio Loo will be open this Saturday 24th Oct and Sunday 25th Oct for the Eco Open Houses tours in Brighton and Hove.

Pop in and say hello! more information available at the Eco Open Houses website.

A day at The Great Recovery, with Camira, Ella Doran and Urban Upholsterers…

Quite often, it is the things that go unnoticed that have the biggest impact. Take fire labels for instance. They are a small part of a chair, or sofa, yet without these little pieces of legislative fabric, the whole piece of furniture cannot be reused. And even though they do seem small, they are often cut off as they flap about under cushions. We like things neat, so the flappy bit goes – and many of us do not realise that this then consigns our furniture to landfill at the end of its life. This is the baton that The Great Recovery have taken up over the past year or so in their ‘Rearranging the Furniture’ project. What does a circular economy sofa look like?

The great recovery sofa 4

Starting with one such fire label-less sofa, four designers (Ella Doran, Xenia Mosely, Kirsty Ewing and Sarah Johnson) set out to rethink the sofa – initially by taking it apart, learning the differences in construction between a cheap and quality piece of furniture, then developing a fabric with Camira to cover the stripped back, refurbished frame – over the process of about a year.

And so, to celebrate the end of the project, The Great Recovery held a day as part of the London Design Festival, looking at the project and with demonstrations from the designers and practitioners who took part.

The great recovery sofa 3

Patrizia Sottile and Andrea Simonutti – of Urban Upholstery are no strangers to reuse, as their pieces use rescued frames which are brought back to life with traditional methods, and the first part of the session was dedicated to a demonstration of how to refurbish a sprung chair, which itself had been recovered for a new life.

The great recovery sofa 2

Springs were connected with string, meshed together in a pattern that will be both strong and flexible, then covered with hessian, stitched, then covered again with coconut fibres. This is a craft – hand created and little altered in centuries. And, as the Urban Upholsterers explained, allows a piece to be reused, recovered, refurbished and repaired – unlike the cheap and mass produced pieces that we can pick up from chain furniture stores. Cheap construction means that recovery and reuse is often impossible.

The great recovery sofa 1

We also got to see the recovered sofa from the ‘Rearranging the Furniture’ project up close – and as well as the beautiful exposed frame, the fabric was something to behold.

The great recovery sofa 5

Created by British fabric manufacturer, Camira, in collaboration with The Great Recovery, the ‘Survivor’ fabric was developed to use as much pre-consumer fabric waste as possible. The new weave, created with 30% recycled fibres, uses offcuts from the upholstery industry – recovered, shredded and woven into a new, tweed like fabric.

The great recovery sofa 6

And whilst 30% recycled yarn does not sound like a lot, it is actually quite groundbreaking. Each time a fabric is recycled, the yarn shortens, making it unusable in a new fabric – it literally is not strong enough. However, if it is mixed with some virgin yarns, a natural recycled fabric is possible. The Survivor fabric is just that – and will soon be available to specifiers.

On the day, we were able to use the beautiful fabric to create our own cushions, in any variety of the three colourways – blue, red, or violet. Plumping (excuse the pun) for blue and red, each of our cushions was stuffed with recycled (post-consumer) yarn and finished with more traditional skills – we each learnt the ‘invisible stitch’, allowing us to close our cushions with no stitching visible.The great recovery sofa 7

The day concluded with a round table discussion between many of the partners involved in The Great Recovery, with representatives from Suez recycling, Surrey Reuse network, Surrey County Council as well as the designers themselves. Quite often the discussion was around connections – how can we ensure that bulky waste, such as sofas are directed to those who need them / want them? How can we encourage reuse and of course, how can we ensure that these pieces are not consigned to landfill or incineration as they are no longer sporting their fire labels…?

More thought early on in the design process is often the answer, or at least part of the answer. And my cushion? It got its first test on the train back to Brighton from London Bridge, as surprisingly, there were no free seats. Lucky I’d just made one.

(images by claire potter)

our latest Urban Foraging Walk is now live!

We have been pretty busy on the foraging front this year – mostly running foraging walks for other lovely people in the city, but we have had so many people ask us whether we are running any more, we are!

cherry plum foraging

Up now are full details of our Urban Foraging walk in Brighton on 2nd August… Ever wondered what you walk past each day which you could add into to your daily diet? Ever wondered what this whole urban foraging thing is about, where it has come from and what you can actually do with that random looking leaf? Well, during our 2 hour intro walk, we will help guide you through the laws and pitfalls of foraging and help you identify up to 20 things that are abundant and actually rather delicious in the city. Finishing off with a little drink at the end, this introductory foraging walk through the parks and streets of Brighton will give you a taster of what you are missing…

The walk is £10 per person (with kids free) and you can book through our Eventbrite page…

We look forward to seeing you!

(image by claire potter)

SPOTTED – the NURDkit by Alice Kettle…

In the last of our SPOTTED’s we are looking at a project that really caught our eyes and hearts at New Designers this year – the NURDkit by Alice Kettle, which educates people to the problems with nurdles.


So why did this catch our eye? Once upon a time, in a childhood far, far away, I wanted to be a marine biologist and spend my life studying sharks with a view to conserving their numbers and educating people to their true, non-killer personalities. Fast forward a few years, and marine conservation is still very high on our concern list as a studio. And one of the biggest concerns of ours is plastic. There is too much generally and too much is ending up in our seas and oceans.


But, despite the images of deceased birds full of plastic, scenes of great oceanic gyres full of a plastic soup gradually degrading to particles that are eaten by fish and get into the food chain, many people do not know the true scale of the issues with plastic in our seas.

And although we can all spot the empty drinks bottles and spent lighters on the strand line of a beach, there is a particular type of plastic that we all see, but many of us do not recognise. The nurdle.


But it is these tiny dots of raw material plastic that end up manufacturing the vast majority of the plastic products we consume globally.

We were immediately drawn to the work of Alice Kettle for these reasons – she has created a kit that allows people – and particularly children – to sieve out the tiny pieces of plastic (the nurdle) from the beach, safely remove them and even use them to create another NURDkit. A simple, yet elegant premise that aids to educate as well as creating something responsible.


Speaking to Kettle, who was both passionate and highly knowledgeable on the subject, we could see clear similarities with one of our all time favourite projects – the Sea Chair by Studio Swine, which also seeks to reclaim plastic from the ocean, turning it into one off chairs. Whilst poetic in nature, both projects are seeking to educate about the overwhelming scale of the issue – much of which is unseen by the general public.


We are passionate that these are the sorts of projects and products that we should be championing – one that deals with a real issue – in even the smallest of ways. If we demand these kinds of responsible products as consumers, more will be created.

Inside the NURDkit

However, given the scale of the issue, can well meaning projects such as the NURDkit really create change? It’s certainly a start. And starting is what we need.

We just hope that there will be more projects like Kettle’s at New Designers 2016.

(all images via Alice Kettle)

SPOTTED – Perished Pets at New Designers – One Year On…

Last week we were not here because we were up at New Designers with the University of Sussex final year Product Designers, and whilst we were there, we took the opportunity to have a bit of a scout about. We found some really interesting graduate work from around the UK – as well as a few selected designers who had been invited back, one year on, and it was here that we met Krysten Newby and her Perished Pets.

With the rise in public interest in taxidermy, Perished Pets has taken the slant of ‘the world’s most convenient taxidermy pet’ – stating that ‘no food or water is required’ and that there is no need for an expensive veterinary bill over the life of your pet. Of course, there will also be no clearing up, no running away and unsurprisingly, ‘no unexpected death’. Each piece comes with an adoption certificate and carry case, which continues the graphic design element of the brand (Newby graduated last year as a graphic designer).

But even though Perished Pets is highly stylised as a brand (with a great logo – see the skull? nice), it is clearly stated that each of the animals are road kill or have been killed humanely for other animal consumption – nothing was killed in the making of this perished pet.

Now, taxidermy will always be a divider. Some will think that it is not that ethical, some will argue it depends on the animal origins and some people cannot get enough. We understand this.

But, as far as craft goes, we were very taken with the skill that Newby shows with her taxidermy. A combination of humanistic and naturalistic forms give each piece great interest, and the ‘extras’ such as necklaces, bows and such do not overpower the animals themselves. We adored the Jay, Topaz, which we were told was found, passed-on outside a hospital…

So – if you are into your taxidermy, have a squiz at Perished Pets. It was certainly one of the stand out exhibitions at New Designers – One Year On this year.

(images via Perished Pets)

*** STOP PRESS *** come and say hi – we are at Clerkenwell with Fixperts!

residencyye1s – for today only, we will be helping out on the Fixperts stand, in The Design Factory, between 1pm – 5pm.

Come and say hi and learn all about the VERY exciting Fixperts residency with Benchmark...


weekend words – direction is more important than speed…

We noticed this little fella wandering up our window the other night so we snapped him for our Weekend Words poster this week. Because of course, direction is more important than speed…

direction is more important than speed

(photo / graphics by claire potter design)

*** SPECIAL REPORT *** Ford showcases design innovation in Milan…

A few of you noticed that it was a little quiet here on The Ecospot these last couple of days – this is because we have just returned from a trip to Milan to see how Ford is pushing design innovation, and exactly how they fit into the Salone del Mobile festival…Ford GT stand 2 And this is an interesting point. Traditionally, the Salone del Mobile has been described as ‘the global benchmark for the home furnishing sector’, which does not really fit with the automotive sector. However, as we all know, design is multi-faceted and many areas flow into the next – including inspiration.

Ford stand

So, it was very interesting to see how Ford, who were the first automotive company to exhibit at Salone del Mobile in 2013, approach the subject of design philosophy and product design.

Of course, any car is the sum of multiple designers, iterations and decisions, but could the general philosophy of the design be applied to completely new sectors? This is the challenge that Ford set their global design teams. ‘Create an object with thought, not just styling that can be delivered with an efficient use of materials – using the philosophy of the new Ford GT interior design as inspiration’.

All-New Ford GT

126 proposals were returned from the in-house Ford Design team, ranging from a sandwich to a guitar – 10 of which were selected to be shown at the 2015 Salone del Mobile exhibition in Milan.Ford GT stand 3

So – why is this an important and interesting exhibition? As Moray Callum, Global Vice President of Design at Ford explained ‘we are not permitted to show the new Ford GT on the stand, but we are showing how stretchy and creative our designers are, along with an insight into the depth of design work that goes into creating any product’

Ford GT guitar

This refreshing and alternative way of representing the design thinking and concepts is also shown in the beautiful Ford FAVILLA installation that we will be featuring on The Ecospot later this week.

Back on the FORD stand, it was interesting to see the similarities in the designs themselves – although each piece was distinctly different, there was a common ‘thread’ that tied them all together. This could be described as the ‘design language’, but each piece had clearly been developed from the same philosophy. Clean, balanced, functional, highly detailed and in some cases, specialist.

Ford GT sailing yacht

This is why the collection, which ranged from the guitar to an LED clock (our personal favourite piece), a Foosball table to a chair, a racing yacht to a racing helmet were so successful…

In the question session, we asked the Ford Design team about whether any surprises were discovered within the submitted designs:

‘even though we will not be actually making these products in real life, we have discovered more about the passions of our designers and the breadth of their creativity, which will certainly feed into how Ford designers, design in the future’ explained Moray Callum.

Ford GT LED clock

And this is key. Design without passion is just not right. Something does not quite fit – and we are all becoming more and more sensitive to those types of design that are a little bit ‘designing for designs sake’. But, design with passion and real creativity? That is always clear – and there are great examples of how passionate designers think on the Ford stand this year.

***see the Ford Stand at Salone del Mobile – Fiera Milano Rho, Euroluce Pav. 13 until 19th April 2015***

(all photos by Claire Potter – video and GT interior courtesy of Ford)