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Textiles designer Suki Cheema studied printmaking at Central St Martin’s before going on to live in New York where he designed textiles for the likes of Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren and Diane Von Furstenberg.  He launched his own brand in 2010, we asked him about his wonderful world of colour, pattern and embroidery…

When did you know you wanted to be a textile designer? I inherited my love of textiles and design from my creative parents and nana.  When I was a child my parents owned a textile factory in the Midlands. One of my fondest memories is when I first went through my mother’s dowry.  I played with the colourful fabrics and sharis and loved the patterns and embroidery on the sharis,  my most cherished item was a blanket, which was handwoven for her by my nana.  This is where my love affair with textiles started.


What are you most proud of in your work? The vast majority of our production is done in India.  We use ancient embroidery and printing techniques and combine them with bright colours and modern prints. I am proud to be creating what I love most while honouring and protecting the validity of these centuries-old crafts in the modern world of design.


Which other textile designers do you admire? I have great respect and admiration for the innovators of textile and print design.  While in school at Central Saint Martins, I was particularly fond of the work of William Morris and F. Gregory Brown.  I still find myself referencing these two greats when doing research for my new collections


Which place has inspired you most in your work? It is hard to name just one place!  Each collection that I design is inspired by a different location around the world, whether Masai paintings and jewellery, Incan cave drawings, or the cobblestone streets of London, I find inspiration everywhere.  That said, I do find myself often drawn to India.  The vibrant hues and wonderful fabrics are so varied that there is always more to be influenced by.


You worked with Diane Von Furstenberg, what did you learn from her? Early in my days at DVF, Diane walked into the design studio with a napkin that was soaked in beetroot juice and said, “THIS is the colour that I want.”  She was so specific about what she was looking for that it has stuck with me ever since.  I learned about the importance of each shade of a colour.  Not only was she a strong leader, but she also taught us the importance of following our dreams.


Which textile technique do you love to work with most? Hand silk screening and Aari work, which is thread work done as a chain stitch. You’ll find both of these techniques mixed a great deal in my textiles. I loved the added dimension and texture that it brings.

What are you working on now? I have just finished designing our Africa and Safari-inpired Spring 2013 collection, which includes bags and scarves. In 10 years time, we would like to be a well rounded lifestyle brand that is a household name.


 Sophie Smallhorn is a London based artist who’s work sits somewhere between art and design. Known for the strong use of colour within her work and her specific colour palettes, Sophie was commissioned to create a very special work for the Olympics that involved wrapping the gargantuan Olympic stadium in a riot of colour. Inspired by the colours associated with the Olympic rings and the flags of the 204 countries participating, Sophie has transformed the monochrome structure into a dynamic piece of architecture. Here she tells us about her work, inspirations, and what it was like working on such a large scale project.

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
I made furniture at college and was definitely on the design path but the sculptural pieces started to evolve initially made from offcuts from the furniture projects. I certainly didn’t set out to be an artist but it’s a very good place to be now.

Was colour something you were always fascinated by?
My mum was a textile designer so I was brought up with quite a lot of colour around and ever since college my work has centered around colour. I like the endless possibilities of it and the idea that you can make a seemingly ‘difficult’ colour work within a piece; In fact it’s essential to work with the tricky colours otherwise a composition can just be too safe.

What are you most proud of in your work?
I am very proud of the Olympic project because of the scale and idea that the colour will influence the way in which visitors will interact with the building. Apart from that I just feel proud and very lucky to be working and making a living from creating things.

Which designer or artist do you admire most for their colour sensibility?
I think Sauerbruch + Hutton architects have created some amazing buildings using colour ingeniously. And Japanese textile designer Mina Perhonen whose books I dip into often

Where would you like to apply your work next? 
I am currently working on a glass canopy which will be installed in Victoria in London. It uses glass enamel screen printed colours and I hope will create a beautiful covered public space. I am also starting out on a commission to make a large hanging mobile which I am particularly excited about.

What was the biggest challenge about the Olympic project?
The biggest challenge was dealing with the politics involved in this type of project. One of the best parts was watching the stadium being built and working with Populous the architects because they allowed me a lot of freedom to play.

See more of Sophie’s work here.

We love Sonya Winner‘s rugs – graphic, exciting and splendidly colourful. We’ll tell her so in person tomorrow at Tent London, but until then, let’s find out all about her wonderful world of tufts and knots… 

When did you know that you wanted to design? I knew that I wanted to work with my creativity from a very early age, but it wasn’t until I did a foundation course at Chelsea School of Art that I really understood what design was all about. I had some inspirational teachers and I very quickly realised that for me designing was the most interesting and satisfying way to express my creativity. There is something really exciting about creating something that people respond positively to and chose to incorporate into their lives.

What are you most proud of in your work? I feel happiest about designing when I get genuine positive feedback. When a client loves one of my designs that they understand what I was trying to create. One of my clients recently sent me a text when she received her rug saying: ‘Love it love it love it – the room is alive’. That did make me feel proud!

What kind of material do you think has great possibilities? I’m fascinated by exploring the design possibilities of knotting and tufting with wool. There are so many ways to create original pieces working with texture, pile height, weaving techniques, wool quality and shape – it’s very exciting.

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Kitty And Dude is ceramicist Cosima Sempill and is based in Edinburgh at Coburg House Art Studios. All pieces are designed by Cosima, and majority of them are handmade by her in studio in Edinburgh. Her designs have a feeling of nostalgia and sentimentality, and are a little tongue-in-cheek. She’ll be showcasing new designs for Kitty & Dude’s tableware range at Tent London. But until then, she tells us all about her love of design and her hatred of mushrooms.

When did you know that you wanted to design? From a very early age. There was no discussion about University, it was straight off to Art School and then straight into making for me. Creativity/self employment has always run in the family. My Mother ran her own successful interiors business for many years, so majority of weekends where filled with renovating furniture or creating mood boards. She is a tour-de-force and a great source of inspiration and support.

What are you most proud of in your work? My ability to combine contrasting ideas. I design products that focus on delighting both the aesthetic and intellectual senses. I also love seeing peoples reaction to the products, the works aims to ignite feeling of nostalgia and sentimentality, so it’s fantastic when people immediately engage with the products.

What kind of material do you think has great possibilities? I think that there is a plethora of possibilities with digital decals. The freedom they give to ceramicists who want to adorn the surfaces of their work is endless. Translating your designs, drawings or photographs directly onto the clay body is an exciting process and the quality of the decals just keeps getting better.

Which product would you redesign if you could? Hmmm, quite a tricky one…. not sure I’m quite arrogant enough to redesign someone else’s work but I do think that Mushrooms should be banned.

Which designer has inspired your work? Eric Ravilious is a huge inspiration to me. I adore his etchings and I wish I had designed his collection of Commemorative mugs that he created for Wedgewood in 1939. A wonderfully modern collaboration at the time; it was brimming with optimism and unashamed forward thinking. Bravery like that symbolises what I think is great about British design.

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Where some folks see scrap wood, metal or rusty old bike parts, The Rag and Bone Man sees a whole world of potential. He finds those unloved bits of something else and transforms them into wonderfully evocative Art Deco/Machine Age-inspired lighting, each one unique. He’ll be at Tent London, but luckily enough for us, he’s here on our blog first…

When did you know that you wanted to design? I grew up in a family of makers, so design was definitely in my genes, however The Rag and Bone Man was gradually built on my love of metal and that mainly came from tinkering with bikes when I was younger.

What are you most proud of in your work? My proudest moments are when I have completed a new piece. Each item is unique and fitted with a small metal plaque, which includes the date of completion and individual serial numbers for everything I make.


What kind of material do you think has great possibilities? I like to think that any material has potential, especially scrap! It’s where I get my inspiration. Looking at the way objects or component parts are originally designed and applying new ideas and functions to them.

Which product would you redesign if you could? In a sense each of my designs is a redesign of the scrap parts that I source. I regularly use components from old Push and Motorbikes in my lamps which has given me a new way of looking at bike design as a whole but ultimately I want keep on pushing my lamp and furniture designs further and further.

Which designer has inspired your work? I am inspired by urban environments and love living and working in London. The Lloyds building in the City of London designed by Architect Richard Rogers inspires me every time I see it. I love the way he externalized all of the fundamental elements of the building such as the lifts and the staircases.

What designers you know should we watch out for? I really love the wooden Washi Tables designed and made by Adam Connolly and Matt Copeland with Family Tree London. I believe they are also exhibiting a new series of tables this year at Tent London.

What are you looking forward to about being at Tent? Launching The Rag and Bone Man – it’s the first time I have had a stand and am looking forward to meeting other designers, the public and anyone who would like to know more about what I do.

What’s your next grand plan? I would be really interested to start collaborating more with interior designers on case by case projects, making lighting, furniture and fittings. I love to personalize the pieces I make so fabricating for individual clients would be a natural addition to making the lamps.

What do you get up when not being a brilliant, cutting-edge designer? Describe your perfect day off… I have too many bicycles so I would probably get out of the studio and discover a new part of London on two wheels.

Tell us a secret. Ornamental Conifer

Hungarian designers Attila F Kovacs and Zsuzsa Megyesi joined forces in 2009 to create the rather brilliant A+Z Design, they’ll be launching their completely charming new Pillhead lamps at Tent London in a couple of weeks, but first, they’ve popped by to talk passion for design, never taking a day off and Zsuzsa’s irrepressible love of flamenco.

When did you know that you wanted to design? (Atilla) When I received a nice serviette from my uncle from LA with a hyper-modern living room image on it. I was amazed, and asked my mother, ‘who does such a great thing?’ and she said the architect and the designer, so I decided to be architect and designer at age of 12. (Z) First as little child in my grandfather’s carpenter’s workshop, second when I met Attila.

What are you most proud of in your work? (A) To create something unique which has never existed before,  like I did with the Hungarian House of Terror museum facade [see it after the leap], to create a shield, an overhanging roof with cut out letters to project the word TERROR on to the facade by the sun. When the sun hits it just right, the cutout in the metal overhang casts a sobering reminder of the building’s history upon its facade. Design is like an invention. (Z) That our products always have a narrative behind them, and that they speak both to your eyes and your soul.

What kind of material do you think has great possibilities? (A) I like aluminium. If you anodized it it has a deepness on the surface. It used to be called ‘Clay Silver’ and in our history in Fifties in my childhood it was called ‘Hungarian Silver’, it can be strong or soft, flexible and it has a light weight. (Z) I prefer warm materials. I see great potential in new materials such as newspaper, liquid wood and recycled textile.

Which product would you redesign if you could? (A) Citroen SM/CX (Z) Lexon Tykho Rubber Radio.

Which designer has inspired your work? (A) Prouve, Eames (both of them), Breuer (we come from the same home town, Pecs), Opron (designer of Citroen SM/CX) (Z) Eames, Nelson, Saarinen, Eva Zeisel, Stuart Haygarth.

What are you looking forward to about being at Tent? It is a gateway from a former Eastern country to show your capability and talent to the world, and it is a great fun to spread all around the world with the help of the Tent PR and PR- Girl. If we can do some business that’s fine, but passion is first, and also we are looking for a manufacturer. It’s great to inspire and get inspired by like minded people.

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Room39 is a London-based design brand and online shop owned by lingerie designer Petra Grmek-Green, and it brings together an eclectic mix of luxury textiles and artisan furniture and accessories, sourced from around the world. All of which are ‘heirlooms for the future’. The shop will be showing its delightful wares at Tent London in a couple of weeks, but until then, Petra is going to tell us about loving design, the Wizard of Oz and alternative realities… 

When did you know that you wanted to design? I have a vague memory of wanting to be a creative from a very early age, not that I was particularly artistic as a child. I didn’t draw or paint much but I did like to fantasise – imagining alternative realities (lies as others would call them) and I did once make quite an elaborate palace out of several cardboard boxes for a stray cat. The cat didn’t like it, though. In short, I was called strange a lot as a child and than I heard artists are strange, so I put two and two together and stuck with it.

What are you most proud of in your work? I never asked myself this question, because I don’t really look back. What I’ve done, whom I’ve been and what I’ve achieved in the past is in my mind never as good as what is yet to come. But saying that, I do feel very proud when someone says they’ve been inspired by my work or that they enjoy working with me.

What kind of material do you think has great possibilities? I’m currently working a lot with wool felt and I’m still excited by it and its variety of applications. I think linen and hemp for their sustainability and centuries-long manufacturing tradition in Europe, are going to be more prominent in our linen cupboards. In more broader terms creating commodities out of waste is the future.

Which product would you redesign if you could? If I could? Imagination knows no limitations. I don’t like the car shape of the moment, they look like eggs on wheels. I crave for a more rectangular shape, more car-like such as a child would draw.

Which designer has inspired your work? Not any designer in particular but rather certain objects, buildings, technologies even, like the womb chair by Eero Saarinen, Centre Pompidou in Paris , the saturated palette of the 1939 Wizard of Oz film, old-fashioned butchers shops to name but the first few that spring to mind. I do however find myself lusting after most of the works from the Bouroullec brothers.

What designers you know should we watch out for? Reinhard Dienes from Germany, Nicola Staubli from Switzerland, Max Frommeld, Supafrank and Jonna Saarinen from London, RIJADA from Latvia, Dokter and Misses from South Africa, Ana Kras from Serbia and my Slovenian compatriot Nika Zupanc.

What are you looking forward to about being at Tent London? Put my self and my work forward and see what happens.

What’s your next grand plan? Relocate into my new studio and get myself organised- harder than it sounds.

What do you get up when not being a brilliant, cutting-edge designer? Describe your perfect day off… Well, my perfect day would be spent being a brilliant cutting-edge designer, with my five-year-old quietly occupied by some instructive activity, my 15-month old serenely playing with something other than a electric apparatus and my husband gently playing his violin in the background.

Tell us a secret… I never stopped imagining alternative realities.

Sebastian Cox (right) and Liam Treanor are We Have Furniture, and they do, look! And, it is beautiful furniture, which is good for us types who love that sort of thing. Their work is quite different (Liam’s is the top two images, Sebastian’s afterwards), but they share a passion for wood, design, craftsmanship and pastry (that’s just Liam, actually). Our kind of guys. They’re showing at this year’s Tent London, but until then, let’s meet them…

When did you know that you wanted to design? (SC) I suppose before I knew what design was. I wanted to be an inventor from a very young age, and made things from anything I could find. (LT) At cabinet making college I studied the great Marcel Breuer. His work made me realise there is so much more to a successful product than pretty joints and extravagant decoration.

What are you most proud of in your work? (SC) I’m most proud of my ethos of design through making. When I develop a new product I rarely sit at a computer designing on CAD. I do use CAD for working our scale and proportions, but most of the details and working elements I develop in the workshop through trial and error. I believe that having this engagement with making produces stronger pieces. (LT) Embodying everything I have found influential in design; but in a unique and fresh style.

What kind of material do you think has great possibilities? (SC) I think that coppiced hazel has so much potential. I’ve been working with it for a couple of years and I’d love to see it used more widely. (LT) I’m going to go for wood as a whole; I don’t really like moving away from it. It’s the texture it holds and patina it gains, other materials just can’t compare.

Which product would you redesign if you could? (SC) I’d probably re-design the M25. It’s one of the UK’s biggest headaches. (LT) I would like to design a 21st century Cona coffee maker, I wonder if I could redesign it with similar success to what Abram Games achieved when it was his job to do so.

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Milan-born designer Rodolfo Dordoni is a very busy man. Among others, he has designed with – deep breath – Vistosi, Barovier & Toso, Moroso, Foscarini, Brosis, Cidue, Ferlea, Halifax, Imel, Tisettanta, Artemide, De Sede, Driade, Crasseveig. Montina, Acerbis, Arteluce, Casakit, Sarila, Venini, Flos, Lema, FontanaArte, Schopenhauer, Minotti, Flou, Molteni, Jab and Dornbracht. You can see his beautiful new Set kitchen for Molteni&C Dada in the September issue of Livingetc, but let’s meet the man himself…

What was your first experience of ‘design’? My first experience of design was as 13 year old trying to decide what kind of secondary school I would attend. The natural choice for me was to go to design school, the Academy of Brera in Milan.

When did you realize that this could be your life and career? At 13 I didn’t know what a designer was. However when I went on to study architecture, the option became apparent because all designers were architects. All I wanted to do was draw.

Were you an academic or rule-breaking student? I was a real rule-breaker at secondary school but once I went on to study architecture I loved drawing so much that it consumed me. I wanted to create beautiful art.

You studied architecture, how does this practice influence your product design work? My architecture study is a reference, its character that influences me most.

Which design movement do you most associate with? I identify most with the rationalist movement. This is a period where the relationship between project and technology were really connected. Now concept leads projects and is more influential.

How can people recognize a Rodolfo Dordoni design? I try to do something that is consistent. I like to pay attention to detail and quality. I produce quire design. It is discreet. I also like to imprint my sense of proportion onto my products Read the rest of this entry »

Black + Blum are two london-based designers, Martin Blum and Dan Black, specialising in taking the most mundane of products and turning it into an object of lust – their High & Dry dishrack is almost sculptural in its appearance, while the Heavy-Weight tape dispenser is industrial chic at its best. Their latest product is the Hot-Pot BBQ, an ingenious take on a summer staple that we might not want to have on show at all times – with Black + Blum’s version, the grill part is cleverly disguised like a plant pot, with herbs growing on the top…

What was the thinking behind the Hot-Pot? We wanted a solution that fits into urban outside spaces like roof terraces. The English summer is notoriously short, so we wanted a BBQ that looked good and blended in with its surroundings when not in use. We also stuck to very strong, durable materials that won’t rust – unlike most BBQs.Barbecuing can be a very alpha male activity.

If you fire up the Hot-Pot at Black+Blum HQ in Oxo Tower, who takes charge? The inner pot that holds the charcoal is purposely shaped so you don’t need to be a boy scout to light it. There is no need for the usual puffing and blowing.

Any quick-fix recipes for a day around the coals? As the grill surface is made from a thick gauge perforated stainless steel, it’s far more versatile. You can grill any size food without having to worry that it will drop between the usual wire rods. It’s even easy to grill stuffed peppers or a fragile fish fillet!

Tell us about the new products you’re planning to launch? As most londoners without daily access to cars, the shopping trolley sounds particularly great! Our shopping trolley design is only one of many we are working on. The aim is to come up with a bag that can be carried like a tote bag, squeezed under your arm when empty. When you start filling it up you can wheel it. We want it to become an accessory that you are not ashamed of wheeling around – male or female, young or young at heart. Read the rest of this entry »

As the team behind Livingetc, the UK’s leading magazine for modern interiors, we’re always out and about, scouting for inspiration. And when we see something that makes our design minds flutter with joy, we’ll share it with you here. To purchase the digital version of the magazine, click here.

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