Clerkenwell Design Week 2016 once again brought together the design community in a now well-established annual festival celebrating the best and brightest in the creative industry. Now in its seventh year, 2016 was the biggest since its launch, covering a larger area and connected by almost twice the number of exhibitors and workshops than last year.
Clerkenwell itself is steeped in centuries of tradition in arts and crafts and is still home to some of the best-known and well-established furniture brands and designers. The neighbourhood also claims to house more creative businesses and architects per square mile than anywhere else in the world.
One of the pleasures of CDW is that visitors can hear directly from the creators themselves; the stories behind the inception and realisation of each piece. These narratives were a constant reminder of the extent to which the artisan’s input is vital in the production process.
This constant interaction between visitor and exhibitor enhances the overall experience giving the visitor the opportunity to speak with, and listen to the designers behind the exhibitions; providing a richer context and therefore a higher appreciation of the work on display.
Installation pieces – ‘Billboards’ – made of thousands of handcrafted metallic glass tiles by Gilles Miller Design adorned the streets and beautifully guided visitors through this years extended site, notably featuring a space dedicated to showcasing lighting, furniture and product design from home-grown talent, the British Collection.
Renault, the headline sponsor of CDW 2016 provided a bespoke showcase for work by the finalists of a competition run in partnership with Central Saint Martins. Tapping into the growing trend of collaborative working, and recognising the modern consumer’s desire to co-create products with the brands they buy into, Renault asked students from the Central Saint Martins’ Industrial Design Masters course for submissions on how they imagine the emergence of autonomous driving will impact on the car’s interior environments with some surprising and unexpected results – from the psychedelic to the scientific.
Another highlight this year was ‘The Church’, which marked Tom Dixon’s return to the event after years of absence, setting Dixon’s pieces against the historic backdrop of the 17th century church and its religious imagery. While providing a spectacular setting for the exhibition, perhaps more meaningfully, this partnership will live on in the venue beyond the exhibition and many of the products on display will be donated to charity.
At ‘Platform’, the atmospheric setting of an old Victorian subterranean House of Detention provided some of the worlds most exciting up and coming talent the opportunity to display their uber-contemporary creations against this gritty backdrop.
One of the most exciting pieces at CDW was Benjamin Hubert’s ‘GO’, the world’s first 3D printed wheelchair. ‘GO’ is personalised, built entirely around each individual user’s needs, to fit their own specific body measurements.
Although much has been written recently about the imminent death of ‘craft’, the ideal of the craftsman could be seen everywhere at the festival this year. CDW was, above everything else, a celebration of the artisan, even when the craftsmanship displayed had been augmented by technology – the interesting stuff is happening at the intersection where the maker meets the machine.