Clerkenwell Design Week 2019: on the streets

Chris Fordham wanders the romantic streets of Clerkenwell on behalf of The Light Review. “When in this area of London, and whilst walking around the streets for Clerkenwell Design Week, I often reminisce on Clerkenwell workshops, which I first came across in 2003 whilst visiting a friends design practice (Temple Works). With oily overalls hung on doors, lathes, and tea stained mugs aplenty, the place seemed to be a world away from what was going on outside, the last vestige of old world trades; and a throw back to the time when Clerkenwell was a place for craft, watchmaking and jewellery.”

Whilst these industries are mainly a thing of the past, the area still retains its creative edge, with a plethora of renowned architects, interior designers and furniture showrooms.

This mix lends itself to a more nuanced presentation and selection of the lighting on show, as opposed to the large trade show on offer elsewhere.

At Clerkenwell, we’re not bombarded by brighter and brighter lights, (yes we get it, LEDs are a lot more efficient and outputs are higher nowadays) but something more subtle, something perhaps more considerate to our needs.

The simplicity of ‘Inviting from Faro is a great example of this. Available as a desk light, wall light and clip light, it was Designed by Bohman & Folenius, and was the winner of a red dot award in 2019.  The luminaires can be adjusted both in their horizontal and vertical axis, and also allow for the user to change intensity and colour temperature, by use of a large round disk mounted on the back of the head. Available in three different colours, the tactility of the product invites you to play with it, making it suitable in a number of different environments, be it office, residential or retail. A 6W COB led gives you a colour temperature range of between 2700 -4800K.

London-based Small Rabbit Design had an offering that seemed just at home in Fabric (where the light show was being held), as it could be at a well-heeled Chelsea residence, or a beach terrace in the south of France (an IP-rated product is in the pipeline).

A floor-standing light, available in three different variants and offering various heights of up to 2m, Stathis Lagoudakis, artist and CEO, developed them to be ‘ lights with sculptural properties’. Finding his inspiration through architecture, his Lloyds Tower variant is where this theme is most clearly evident.

The products are dimmable, finished in white, and have the ability to change through 20 different colours. They come with a perspex linear element available in three colours, red, white or warm yellow, although personally I prefer the cleanliness of the all-white finish.

When colour changing is involved, there is a fine line between when a product becomes Kitsch and when it adds value, and for me this product finds the right balance, due to the way that the  cuts of light on the finish provide clean and appealing highlights when illuminated.

The ‘Tower’ lights are made of highly tear-resistant, colour fast, waterproof folded white paper, sourced originally (Stathis tells me) from Germany, where it was used for id cards. This, and the internal perspex led tube, allows for a very homogeneous light. The product shown is the Stylite version.

Sometimes a product piques your curiosity and forces a second look. This floor-standing light has an elegant thin wooden stand, that at first glance looks as though it has been impossibly bent, or just grew that way naturally.  Then there is the shade itself, which seems to be impossibly fragile, and bears resemblance to a fine white chocolate honeycomb, should such a thing exist.

In tandem these two elements make up the Abalon Light, and are a combination of works from two different design houses, Abalon UK (Ana Alonso) and Lomas. (Rodney Lomas). The wood started its design life as a rocker for a chair, but this has been re-purposed as the light stand. The shade which provides a beautiful speckled light when illuminated was created from a manufacturing process involving cola to create the bubbles visible in the porcelain shade !

Away from mass produced products, it is great to see design with an ethos closer to the Arts and Crafts movement, where you can appreciate not just how the product looks, but also the time, craft and effort into how it was made. Boasting a 100% sustainable, eco-friendly ethos, (wood from sustainable sources) the piece ‘asks us to find beauty in the unusual’.

Appartement Bordeaux

Another example of a product that relies on the human touch, and new for ‘Light’ at Clerkenwell, is that of ‘Perles’ from Optelma. A selection of hand crafted plaster lights, the designer Fabrice Berrux drew inspiration from women’s jewellery, drawing a parallel between choosing a light that decorates a dining table, an office, to that of a man or woman who accessorizes there attire with a bracelet, ring or brooch.

Wanting to provide a little more softness into spaces and architecture, the plaster gives this product a crisp finish, which enhances the contrast between the lamp and ball forms. It is hard to work on first glance out whether the ‘spheres’ are almost fully complete or hollowed out half moons, which adds to the pleasing aesthetic.

The circular pendant is available in three different diameters 60cm, 80cm, 100cm, the floor standing versions is 1.8m and wall version 63cm. All products are Dali dimmable, and with a choice of 15 different finishes as standard, Raphael Prokter (the director of marketing) also informs me that they will happily consider any colours the customer may require, let’s hope he informs the factory as well!

The main floor of Light at Fabric gave way to an impressive installation of Haberdashery’s ‘Dawn To Dusk’ floor and table light. Emulating in product form the transition of the sun from dawn till dusk, the colour temperature is increased or decreased by manually adjusting the height of the Ø210mm diameter ‘circular light source, thus giving the full range of hues available during the day.

Haberdashery – ‘Dawn To Dusk’

The product is tactile, and has been designed to encourage interaction with light, as is emphasised by how the product is turned on, which is described by Nathanael Hunt (the product designer) as ‘lifting the sun over the horizon’. 

The product uses a custom LED array, with 4 different colour tones which fade between the states, deep red, amber, 95Cri warm white and 95cri cool white. Winner of red dot award 2019, the lumen output is between 0 -2000 lumens, the colour temperature range is between 1000K and 4000K, and the head can be rotated to aim where you wish.

Grok was exhibiting a product relatively new to their range at Clerkenwell this year, the ‘Circular’. No prizes for guessing what shape it is! Speaking to Mireia Merida from LEDS C4 Group, she kindly took me through the product, and what for her made this offering unique.

‘Circular’ is available in diameters of 600mm, 1.2m, 2m and 3m, with an additional 900mm version in development and soon to be available. Colour temperatures on offer range from 2500K, 2700K, 3000K and 4000K. It also comes with either 1-10V or Dali, dimming.

Grok – ‘Circular’

The product has the visual appearance of being very slim, not as ‘chunky’ as other lights on the market, since the light actually has a triangular profile. Each ring can be used as a singular luminaire, or as part of a twin, triple, quadruple or five ring pendant. Standard finishes are black and white, with a gold version in development. The company also offer any RAL colour finish as a special should you require.

I can see this used in lobbies, offices break out spaces, restaurants and residential homes. With the light surface able to be mounted either on the inside or outside of the ring, this makes for a visually interesting element, especially when used in combination with different ring sizes. Considered a ‘standard product’ with a good lead time, its price (I am told) also reflects this. Flexibility was the word used in reference to that which was on offer. 

Clerkenwell Design Week, in its 10th year, is an opportunity to see not only products; but attend talks, and visit design-led businesses – collectively described as ‘cultural industries’ in their places of work, as they open their doors to the public. The only product offerings I was unable to see and therefore couldn’t cover, were those from atelje-lyktan, who had an ‘event‘ on at the time I was there. A word to the good, if you want the press to report on your products, it doesn’t help if you deny them access, regardless of whether they have pre-registered or not.

It is great to see that, although not on the same scale of Milan, this show holds as much relevance, and as the organiser, Alex Howard, from media 10 put it – ‘When I leave Milan I always feel that I have missed out on something, whereas here so much is condensed together in one spot, It feels much more manageable!’

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