October design news: moon art, forest crayons, celebrating second hand

·7 min read

Award-winning work sounds elitist, but outside the Turner or the Oscars or Emmys there are many prizes which rarely make the mainstream news. This month you could visit the award show for Koestler Arts, a charity which has rewarded the artistic efforts of creatives in the criminal justice system since 1962. Or you could go to Scotland and view the Cordis Prize shortlist show in Edinburgh. The prize is the largest award for tapestry in the world. Excellence comes in many shapes and sizes. You just have to know where to look.

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Tapestry triumphs at the Cordis Prize

If you had to guess the author who funds the world’s largest tapestry prize, Ian Rankin may not immediately spring to mind. But the Scottish crime writer is a huge fan of the craft, and co-founded the £8,000 Cordis Prize with his wife, Miranda Harvey, in 2015 to celebrate Edinburgh as a centre of excellence for tapestry.

This year’s shortlist for the Cordis Prize shows how versatile the craft form can be. There are pieces that could only have been made in current times, such as To Me You Are Valuable, by Swedish artist Anna Olsson taken from selfies of failed asylum seekers in her homeland and British weaver Fiona Hutchinson’s work Wall of Water which incorporates ocean plastic. Others took shape when weavers were furloughed at home during lockdown. Others feel gloriously timeless. The winning artist is Orkney-based Louise Martin whose work Lifetime won for its remarkable construction from silk, linen, cotton and paper warp and weft.

“Woven tapestry occupies a fascinating place in the world of fine art,” says Harvey. “It’s loved for its tactile, accessible, familiarity, close kin to the fabric we live with everyday. It’s also the most refined, luxurious of art forms, an expression of artistic vision on a par with opera and ballet. The shortlisted entries for the Cordis Prize inhabit both these worlds. There are themes from the most banal (brushing your teeth) to the most profound (how can we sustain love in a fissured world?). Some artists had no access to studio or materials and had to adapt using makeshift looms and recycled fibres. Others hand-dyed their yarns or literally wove their work to suit their environment. They amazed and delighted the judges.”

The shortlisted works are on show at Inverleith House, Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh until 12 December

Artek celebrates its second-hand store

Finnish furniture brand Artek celebrates 10 years of selling its designs second-hand this year. Originally founded in Helsinki in 1935 by Alvar and Aino Aalto, Maire Gullichsen, and Nils-Gustav Hahl, Artek’s aim was always to “promote modern culture”, as well as to sell furniture. By setting up a second-hand shop in Helsinki to prolong the life of their designs, they certainly showed forward thinking.

Artek 2nd Cycle is the company’s platform for pre-loved design and buying and selling rediscovered furniture and lighting. To mark a decade of this conscious consumption, Artek is holding an exhibition called TEN, which features 10 second-hand products that have been chosen to represent the brand’s best-loved designs and some of their favourite collaborations. Exhibits (which are all for sale) include the company’s classics, such as Stool 60 and Armchair 40 – both created by company co-founder Alvar Aalto and frequently in stock on 2nd Cycle – but there are also works by designers who collaborated with Artek, such as Yrjö Kukkapuro’s A509 rocking chair from 1986 and a pair of table lamps made with designer Paavo Tynell in 1950.

TEN is on show at Artek Helsinki and also at the 2nd Cycle store until 6 November or visit the Artek 2nd Cycle digital pop-up shop online

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Inmates’ award-winning artworks

The annual exhibition of art entered for the Koestler Arts awards launches this week at London’s Southbank Centre. The prize - which has been called the Turner Prize of the prison system – rewards art made by inmates, detainees, probationers, secure patients and even Britons incarcerated abroad.

The charity was founded by author Arthur Koestler in 1962. He spent three months incarcerated during the Spanish civil war and found that writing was the only thing that got him through his term.

This year’s exhibition featuring over 200 works is curated by designer Camille Walala (previous curators include Sarah Lucas and Anthony Gormley). The awards help people in the criminal justice system engage with the arts and give them a creative voice. Many works are also just plain ingenious: sculptures carved from prison-issue soap, collage using grains of rice and matchstick designs which show talent and creativity, despite limited resources.

The show also inclues writing from the third volume of Koestler Voices, a poetry anthology written by those in criminal justice settings during the past two years with a foreword by poet Jackie Kay.

Walala said: “I was so grateful to see the amazing pieces from these artists. I found them all quite emotional and inspiring. All the ones we selected give us a strong feeling – these artworks will make you laugh, cry and smile, sometimes all at once.”

This year’s Koestler Arts Award show, The I and the We, curated by Camille Walala and Sarah Ihler-Meyer, runs 29 October–5 December. Koestler Arts also runs a mentoring scheme for former prisoners


Wooden crayons inspired by trees

About two-thirds of Japan is covered completely with trees. While the forests are beautiful, decreasing timber import costs mean they are not being properly maintained. The Japanese Forestry Agency has asked for ideas to change the perception of the national woods, and Tokyo- based design studio Playfool has come up with a sustainable set of crayons. Playfool Studio is co-founded by Daniel and Saki Coppen and brings a play-based approach to design and engineering. They often create products for children, and the Forest Crayons they’ve created to celebrate Japanese wood are the latest example.

Forest Crayons are made by grinding down wood to powder and combining it with natural wax from the hazenoki tree. The crayon is then formed with a silicone mould. The idea is to celebrate the amazing variety of colours found naturally in the Japanese forests and use a playful, creative way to introduce the next generation to the beauty of this natural resource. Crayon production is also sustainable and responsible.

“From the light green of magnolia to the deep turquoise of fungus-stained wood, each crayon has a distinct colour, determined not only by the species of tree but also the conditions in which it is grown,” says Daniel Coppen. “Any piece of wood from the lumber yard can be transformed into a crayon, embracing the natural inconsistencies of the material to make each set of Forest Crayons truly unique.”

For more information on Forest Crayons, go to the Playfool website

Countdown to a trip to the moon

Dr Nelly Ben Hayoun has many possible job titles – artist, filmmaker – but designer of experiences seems the most apt. Her work includes founding a tuition-free university, founding Nasa’s International Space Orchestra, collaborating with Kid Cudi and creating a documentary about disasters.

Now she’s looking for new talent. Her latest project, Tour de Moon, has been commissioned for Unboxed, a 2022 festival celebrating creativity in the UK. For this project she’s offering bursaries to support new work by creatives involved with nightlife. Any artists, scientists, musicians and writers aged 18 to 25 who are inspired by the moon, nightlife and night-time culture can apply for financial support to make films, digital content, live events or art projects.

The Tour de Moon will include live events in Leicester, Newcastle and Southampton, locations chosen using deprivation indices, diversity profiles, nightlife locations and accessibility to industrial or academic Steam expertise. “Tour de Moon travels with the night, seeking new beginnings, to empower others to create, to initiate, to innovate,” says Ben Hayoun. “We are an after-party of immersive experiences, new technologies and science innovation which supports decolonial practices, and showcases and celebrates the creativity of night-time workers and young people.”

Apply for bursaries at tourdemoon.com until 6 January 2022. The Tour de Moon HQ is available to answer any questions about applying and the advisory board will hold online classes to help applicants in December


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