Dyslexic Design

A powerful exhibition at London's designjunction explores the link between dyslexia and creativity…


Thought-provoking exhibition ‘Dyslexic Design’, at Kings Cross’s designjunction event, explores the connection between dyslexia and creativity. Showcasing work by 10 dyslexic designers, including established and emerging names, the show encourages us to rethink this so-called disability. Yes, it’s a challenge, but can it also be a gift?

TOP: Handblown borosilicate glass 'Egg' decanter with cork details by Sebastian Bergne
ABOVE: Steam-bent wood 'No 1 Pendant' light by Tom Raffield; crystal 'Gauge' vase by Jim Rokos; 'Markets Royale 1816/2014' limited-edition archival giclée print by Kristjana S Williams

Defined as ‘a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling’, dyslexia affects 10 per cent of the UK population, four per cent severely. The project, in support of the British Dyslexia Association, is one close to designjunction show director Deborah Spencer’s heart. ‘I had dyslexia growing up which led me down the path of art and design. In many ways dyslexia defined me as a person.’

ABOVE'Knot' lamp by Vitamin; 'Surface' table by Terence Woodgate (with John Barnard); 'Hunter Jacket: Gorilla' jacket by Rohan Chhabra, which transforms into the shape of a gorilla

Curated by designer Jim Rokos as part of the London Design Festival, the five-day exhibition aims to disrupt perceptions of dyslexia, highlighting its close ties with design creativity, a positive spin on what can often be a stigmatised condition. Talented designers on board represent diverse disciplines, from industrial and product design to illustration, fashion, fine art, architecture and craft, including Terence Woodgate, Sebastian Bergne, Vitamin, Kristjana S Williams, Tom Raffield, Tina Crawford (aka Tobyboo), Rohan Chhabra, Bethan Laura Wood and Rokos himself. On show are furniture, tableware, lighting, art works, accessories and apparel, all enriched with unexpected perspectives.

‘It is my belief that I am able to design the way I do because of my dyslexia and not despite it,’ says Rokos. ‘I also firmly believe that other dyslexic designers have idiosyncratic styles because of their dyslexia.’ Environmental designer Ab Rogers, who devised the exhibition set, adds, ‘At times dyslexia can be frustrating for those who have it, and those who live with it second-hand, but it should still be celebrated as an asset, not commiserated as a fault.’

ABOVE: Designjunction show director Deborah Spencer; 'Dyslexic Design' exhibition designer Ab Rogers, and founder/curator Jim Rokos

Clearly, the show demonstrates that dyslexia needn’t hold you back in the creative industries, and in fact that seeing things slightly differently, through the lens of a dyslexic mind, could even prove an advantage. It examines the links between dyslexia and lateral, visual and three-dimensional thinking, while also acknowledging the challenges of working with a less common brain structure.

Examples of such innovative lateral thinking include embroidery artist Tina Crawford's detailed thread-drawn illustrations crafted using a sewing machine; jewellery designer Sari Råthel's fingertip rings; and Rohan Chhabra's endangered species series of hunting jackets that fold into a gorilla, elephant, rhino, antelope or tiger.

Don’t miss the panel discussion on ‘How to be Creative and Successful when you are Dyslexic’ (5pm-6pm, Saturday 24 September, The Gallery Room, Kings Place, 90 York Way, N1), bringing together many of the designers involved. Book your spot here. Even the typographic design of the exhibition's title tells a story; its font has been designed by Daniel Britton to take longer for a non-dyslexic person to read, mirroring the frustrations of dyslexia. Now that's creative...
thedesignjunction.co.uk   dyslexicdesign.co.uk

Dyslexic Design is at designjunction from 22-25 September 2016 as part of London Design Festival. Find it at Dyslexic House, No H9 (Fast East Side), Granary Square, King's Cross, N1

Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei


It’s the last chance to catch two modern art greats at Melbourne’s 'Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei' show


Pop Art provocateur Andy Warhol and Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei come together in a celebration of two of contemporary art’s most radical talents. There’s still time to catch ‘Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei’ at Melbourne’s NGV International, with extended hours this weekend before the hit show wraps up Monday on ANZAC Day.

Tickets have been selling like hot bagels/dumplings for this compelling doubleheader, which takes two of the 20th and 21st centuries’ most controversial artists and explores the parallels and contrasts in their work. Developed exclusively by Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria and Pittsburgh’s The Andy Warhol Museum, the exhibition follows on from Weiwei’s recent headline-grabbing shows at London's Royal Academy and Copenhagen's Faurschou Foundation. Over 300 works are on display, spanning painting, sculpture, photography, film, publishing and social media.

ABOVE: A young Ai Weiwei imitates Warhol's pose: 'At the Museum of Modern Art', 1987, silver gelatin photo from the 'New York Photographs' series 1983-93, Ai Weiwei Studio
ABOVE RIGHT: Ai Weiwei at the current National Gallery of Victoria exhibition 'Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei', with his room installation featuring Australian advocates of human rights, photo by John Gollings
BELOW FROM LEFT: Andy Warhol's 'Mao', 1972, acrylic and silkscreen ink on linen; 'Andy Warhol in Tiananmen Square', 1982, photo by Christopher Makos, makostudio.com

Pop Art protagonist Warhol, who died in 1987, represents the ‘American century’, with his bold explorations of consumer culture, capitalism and celebrity (including its dark side, from car crashes to state executions). Artist and social activist Weiwei, born in 1957, is one of the most visible faces of the current ‘Chinese century’, with Asia’s superpower dominating global commerce. There are many crossovers between the pair though, with Weiwei living in the States from 1981 to 1993 where he was inspired by Warhol’s conceptual approach. Weiwei’s interdisciplinary practice also mirrors The Factory, Warhol’s famously bohemian studio, using collaboration and social media to broaden the reach of his art. The exhibition presents more than 200 of Warhol’s iconic works, including his famous ‘Mao’ portrait; Warhol visited China and was intrigued by its iconography and politics. Up for grabs are more than 120 works by Weiwei, making this Australia's most comprehensive retrospective of his output to date.

BELOW: Ai Weiwei goes potty!: 'Coloured Vases', 2006, Neolithic vases (5000-3000 BC) and industrial paint; 'Neolithic Pottery with Coca Cola Logo', 2007, paint, Neolithic ceramic urn; two installation views of the Melbourne 'Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei' exhibition showing Andy Warhol artworks and Ai Weiwei pots, photos by Brooke Holm

ABOVE: 'Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn', 1995, three silver gelatin photographs, Ai Weiwei Studio

We love Weiwei’s jaw-dropping pot pieces, including his vibrant ‘Coloured Vases’ cluster, splattering ancient vases with industrial paint, and culture-clash work ‘Neolithic Pottery with Coca Cola Logo’. Both take an ancient art form and reinvent it for the modern era, offering similar shock tactics to that of British potter Grayson Perry

New commissions include a bespoke installation from Weiwei’s ongoing ‘Forever Bicycles’ series forming an arch at the exhibition entrance. It incorporates 1,400 readymade bicycles, a recurring motif in Weiwei's photos, but here detached from their function in a blur of mesmerising repetition; the individual melds into the multitude. Also new is a major five-metre-tall work from his crystal ‘Chandelier’ series, shaped like an antique Han Dynasty tomb lamp, ‘Blossom 2015’ featuring a bed of delicate porcelain flowers, and the playful 'Caonima (Grass Mud Horse) Balloons and Bird Balloons', a floating inflatable work influenced by Warhol's 'Silver Clouds' 1966.

ABOVE: Installation view of 'Forever Bicycles' by Ai Weiwei at Melbourne's 'Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei' exhibition, photo by Brooke Holm; Ai Weiwei at the show snapping his 2015 'Caonima Balloons and Bird Balloons' kinetic installation, photo by John Gollings

Don’t miss 'Studio Cats' in the NGV Kids section, which celebrates both artists’ love affair with cats, depicted on wallpaper, film, photos and paper works. In the Fifties Warhol lived with a herd of Siamese cats, and created ink-blot drawings, photos and pictures of them in his early career. More than 30 cats enjoy free reign in Weiwei’s studio, popping up in cameo roles in his social media posts. Weiwei rates felines for their independence, freedom and aloofness, embracing their 21st-century Instagram status. It seems these two cool art cats had a lot in common...

BELOW FROM TOP: 'Ai Weiwei with cat, @aiww, Instagram', 2006, Ai Weiwei Studio; 'Andy Warhol with Siamese Cat', c. 1957, gelatin silver photograph, by Edward Wallowitch

'Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei' is at NGV International, 180 St Kilda Road, Melbourne, until 5pm Monday 25 April 2016; extended hours apply including 24-hour opening from 10pm Saturday 23-10pm Sunday 24 April, and a special performance by Robert Forster (The Go-Betweens). It transfers to The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, USA, from 4 June to 28 August 2016.

Milan Furniture Fair 2016

It's all aboard for the madness of the annual Milan Furniture Fair, the design industry's equivalent of Fashion Week. Just make sure you've packed comfortable shoes and lots of energy!


It’s that time of year again when the design compass points squarely at Milan, as the northern Italian city prepares to host the world’s largest and most prestigious design gathering, the Milan Furniture Fair. From the biggest international players to small independent designers and graduates, everyone comes together to launch their new collections and to see and be seen.

The Salone del Mobile fair itself, that vast behemoth of halls and walkways on the outskirts of town, is where the big boys tend to set up home but Milan’s design districts – Brera, San Babila, Ventura Lambrate, Cinque Vie, San Gregorio Docet and Tortona – also host a plethora of showrooms, pop-up events and parties celebrating the most important week in the design calendar. There’s change afoot though as a big hole has been left by major British exhibitor designjunction deciding not to show this year and UK talent Lee Broom dramatically downsizing his installation. Usually two of the most anticipated shows during the Fiera, we hope they’ll be back next year in their full glory.

With so much furniture, lighting and accessories to see in a short space of time, it’s impossible to catch everything. Here’s a sneak peek at who we’ll definitely be checking out this year...

ABOVE: 'Fade' polycarbonate lights by Tom Dixon


ABOVE: 'Printed' crystal vases and bowls by Raw Edges; Crystalline nut bowls from the 'Luxe Orbit' tableware collection by Tord Boontje; 'Prism' square and round prismatic trays by Tomas Alonso

We have fond memories of Swarovski's theatrical warehouse installations of the Noughties when we were dazzled by enormous chandeliers by the likes of Lenny Kravitz and Yves Behar. After a spell in the heart of the Salone, the Austrian crystal brand is now stepping back out onto the street again to unveil Atelier Swarovski Home, a new collection of sparkling accessories for the home. Nadja Swarovski has gathered together a stellar line-up of designers including Raw Edges, Fredrikson Stallard, Ron Arad and Tord Boontje and charged them with using Swarovski crystal to create unique pieces in their own inimitable style. We've got our eyes on Raw Edges' beautiful faceted printed crystal vases and bowls, Tomas Alonso's prismatic trays and Tord Boontje's glittering 'Luxe Orbit' tableware.

Atelier Swarovski Home, Via Cusani 5


If you want to grab a bite to eat and still get your design fix, Brit star Tom Dixon has collaborated with Caesarstone to create immersive eatery The Restaurant within a deconsecrated church to launch new lighting collections 'Curve', 'Fade' and 'Flask Oil'. Throughout the week four composite quartz kitchens will serve up tasty treats to Dixon devotees in specially designed dining halls dedicated to the themes of Luminosity, Materiality and Texture. Each explores the type of materials that are core to Dixon's products. The four kitchens, dubbed Earth, Water, Fire and Air, will dish up one course each, with food design studio Arabeschi di Latte curating the offerings.

'Curve' uses thin sheet etched metal to create a glistening geometric lantern, 'Fade' rocks the ombré effect in polycarbonate and 'Flask Oil', inspired by laboratory glassware, explores the allure of iridescence in shimmering glass shades. Also on show will be updated versions of last year's 'Melt' lights and 'Offcut', Dixon's DIY furniture range. Now can someone pass the menu please?
tomdixon.net   caesarstone.com

The Restaurant by Caesarstone x Tom Dixon, La Rotonda della Besana, Via Enrico Besana 12


Italian tilemeister Bisazza has once again harnessed the neo-gothic anarchy of Job Smeets and Nynke Tynagel, aka Studio Job, to create a set of striking mosaics with a digitised contemporary feel. Three new highly decorative designs reference fossilised remains, the Industrial Revolution and random everyday objects.

TOP: 'Industry Amber', 'Silhouette Turquoise', 'Perished', glass mosaics, 100mm x 100mm
ABOVE: 'Festoon', glass mosaic, 200mm x 200mm

‘Industry Amber’ harks back to Britain’s golden age of heavy manufacturing, steam trains and construction. Spacemen, birds, animals, helicopters and ocean liners are artfully collaged together in ’Silhouette Turquoise' and Fizz fave 'Perished’ is a graphic arrangement of human and animal skeletons locked in an eternal dance of death (we love the blue colourway). Accompanied by ‘Festoon’, a swirling display of gold and silver ribbons, this collection of bold mosaics brings the art of storytelling back into our homes. We are suitably entranced…
bisazza.com  studiojob.be

Bisazza, Via Senato 2


ABOVE: Light up with 'Vent', by Diesel Living x Foscarini. Available in luxe brass effect and pristine white

Diesel Living’s fresh, slightly off-the-wall approach to product design never fails to capture our attention. From the cog-like ceramics of the ‘Machine’ tablewares for Seletti to the multi-faceted ‘Rock’ light for Foscarini, this witty take on interiors is why we look forward to their new collections each year.

The interiors arm of fashion brand Diesel, they’ve joined forces with Foscarini again to transform the humble air vent into a seductive wall lamp. Part of the 2016 collection of lighting, furniture and accessories, the 'Vent' lamp brings a touch of industrial style into the home. We’re loving the opulent brass version, which when activated becomes a blazing halo of golden light.
diesel.com   foscarini.com

Diesel Living x Foscarini, Salone Del Mobile, Milan Fairgrounds, Rho, Hall 16, Stand A35, B28


UK designer Lee Broom has surprised everyone with the announcement that this year's show will take place in the back of a van. Cheekily called the 'Salone del Automobile', Broom's delivery van will rock up at key design destinations each day, including Spazio Rossana Orlandi, to show just one new collection of lighting. Inspired by Op Art, the 'Optical' range consists of stark black and white pendant, standard and table lamps that also reference Eighties graphics and early nineties minimalism. The inside of the van will be decked out in neo-classical style in Broom's signature grey but the question on our minds is just how the teeming crowds in town for the Milan Furniture Fair will fit into such a small space. We'll just have to wait and see...

Lee Broom's 'Salone del Automobile' can be tracked at leebroom.com 

The Milan Furniture Fair and Salone del Mobile run from 12-17 April 2016

LDF 2015 – Eight Must-sees at Tent and Super Brands

Group shows Tent and Super Brands bring hot design talent to East London. Here are our eight FizzPicks...


London Design Festival 2015 is in full swing, but there's still time to cut a slice of the action. Twin shows Tent and Super Brands are at East London's cavernous Truman Brewery until Sunday 27 September, offering a smorgasbord of talent just a skip from Shoreditch Design Triangle.

Featuring more than 440 designers, from crafts names to bold brands from 29 countries, there's a bewildering amount to see. The exhibition is divided into independent, emerging talents at Tent, more established global labels at Super Brands, and national and craft exhibitions at Galleries and Country Showcases, from the Australian International Pavilion to Etsy UK: Four Corners of Craft. There's also a compact tech zone, Techable, and Super Talks 2015, including debates on colour trends and 2016's World Design Capital Taipei.

So, grab your pals, some comfy trainers and our guide to eight must-sees for design hunters... 

&New, Super Brands (S48, Hall SBL)
UK/Finnish contemporary furniture duo &New – aka Jo Wilton and Mirka Grohn – design vibrant, skinny steel furniture that throws great shapes. Think side tables, desks, consoles and clothes rails in pretty pastels and punchy primaries, manufactured in Blighty in small batches.

Glassmania Bohemian Glass Masters, Gallery Events (SC10, Hall T2 2nd Floor)
We're taken with these reinvented tiffin containers in cut crystal with leather straps by Daniela Chodilova for Astera Glass, adding a luxurious touch to an everyday item. Czech glass is rightly famous, so swing by 'Glassmania' for a showcase of true Bohemian talent.

Poiat, Super Brands (S16)
When it comes to sleek wooden seating, you've got to hand it to the Finns. Poiat is sharing its award-winning, shapely, moulded plywood 'Lavitta' chair collection, designed to slot into each other for striking storage. Also look out for group show 'Finnish Form', which presents 18 of the country's future-forward designers, brands and manufacturers, including the vibrant modern textiles and tableware of Jonna Saarinen (Hall T1, First Floor, Tent main building).

Constancy and Change in Korean Traditional Craft, Gallery Events (T4, Hall A)
There's something strangely irresistible about these tactile paper vases by Lee Young Soon. Part of the 'Constancy and Change in Korean Traditional Craft' exhibit, presented by KCDF (Korean Craft and Design Foundation), they embody the theme of 'Su-Su, Deom-Deom, Eun-Eun' or 'Simple, Calm, Subtle.' There's 193 pieces of work by 23 artists in six craft categories covering metal, ceramics. lacquer, bamboo, paper and textiles, teaming tradition with modern grace.

100% Norway, Gallery Events (Hall G4, Ground Floor)
100% Norway has added a twist to its curation, selecting prototypes and contemporary products from young Norwegian designers set against iconic mid-century and classic designs. We like the graphic 'Fauna' bookends by Hallgeir Homstvedt, formed from Nordic rock in the shape of a native fox, bullfinch, puffin and hedgehog. Slimline 'Duplé' tables and seats from Alexander Åsgård also get our vote, along with Siv Lier's oak-and-brass 'Spring' trays with arty disc-shaped mirrors and Andreas Bergsaker's covetable 'Blossom' accessories trays including two mirrors and a light. From the classics, don't miss the graphic 'Dokka' pendants by Birger Dahl for Northern Lighting and the white and sky-blue 'Hold' pots by Kristine Bjaadal for Magnor Glassverk. Touchy-feely treats.

What Goes Behind... Contemporary Polish Ceramic Design, Gallery Events (C21, Hall T2)
Last year we were impressed by Tent's round-up of Polish graphic and product design, including retro-font-toting 'Mamsam' cups by Full Metal Jacket; this year, Contemporary Polish Ceramic Design is enjoying exposure. There's kooky, graphic work by Magdalena Lapinska, dreamy aqua 'Weeds' plates by Karina Marusinska and striking blue squiggly 'Oko' vases by Malwina Konopacka.

Maoli, Super Brands (S15)
Madagascan brand Maoli is showing off its architectural 'inConcrete' collection, including super-thin tables. Available in white, grey, rust and charcoal, the furniture and accessories can be used inside or out. Legs for the tall 'Jòto Bè' table detach for easier transport.

Sue Pryke, Tent London (F08, Hall T1)
Simple, contemporary and oh-so-shapely, the handcrafted ceramic tableware on Sue Pryke's stall will have you reaching for your chequebook at 'Hello!' Her slipcase terracotta cups and jugs may be familiar, combining white tin glaze over red earth clay, but there are some seductive new colours and forms on offer too, including gorgeous charcoal-grey vases. We love the indigo milk pourer and 'Mr & Mrs' water carafe, both in vitrified earthenware, and the 'Mr & Mrs' teaspoons.

Lead photo and select others for 100% Norway by Siren Lauvdal.

Tent London and Super Brands London run until Sunday 27 September 2015 at Old Truman Brewery, Hanbury Street, London E1. Open 10am to 8pm; 11am to 6pm Sunday. Last entry 45 minutes before closing. Tickets available online or on the door; tentlondon.co.uk