Sunday, 31 July 2011


Margaret Howell talks about 'the skill and expertise often found in British heritage products' in an interview for Liberty

Tom Whipple of The Times does a quick round up of London's blossoming brewing scene, including Meantime, Sambrook's and Fuller's, amongst others

Alicia White of The Telegraph writes about some British made clothing brands, including Cherchbi, Private White VC and Peregrine

Picture of Margaret Howell from here

Wednesday, 27 July 2011


A couple of weeks ago we visited Islay, off the west coast of Scotland. Home to several famous whisky distilleries, the island is a fascinating mix of windswept beauty and small industry. Whilst there we visited Bowmore and Laphroaig. First up was Bowmore.

Unlike previous visits, this one was purely for tourists so a full write up is unnecessary as the information we acquired is readily available on the distillery website. One of the most impressive aspects of the visit was how geared up the distilleries were for tours, providing a great level of detail alongside showing the full process of making the product.

Apologies for poor quality photos, taken on phone. Expect a marked improvement in the Laphroaig installment.

Sunday, 24 July 2011


Just a couple of links this week concerning designing, making and saving skills in the UK.

A mix of famous talking heads (including James Dyson and Paul Smith) and teachers argue for the importance of design and technology in education in this video from Seymourpowell.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011


A retrospective of the work of Kenneth Grange opens tomorrow (20th July) at the Design Museum in London.

The exhibition is full of Grange's work for the likes of Kenwood and British Rail. It is evident that he has maintained an impressive work rate over his lengthy career.

From the stripped back clock and barometer designs for the likes of Short and Mason (pictured above) to the ubiquitous Platignum pens - you can't help wonder just how many of us have come into contact with his work.

The show also serves as a great documentation of the boom period in which he worked. How many of the companies that he produced designs for exist today? A cursory search shows that only Henry Hope & Sons and Venner (who Grange designed the parking meter for, top of page) are no longer in business. Therefore Kodak, Wilkinson Sword, Henry Milward & Sons, AJ Binns, Parker, Morphy Richards, Stanley Garden Tools and B&W Loudspeakers have all remained resilient and adapted to change. More positive than some might expect.

But back to the design. Compared to the praise heaped on the work of Dieter Rams it would seem Grange has not been championed enough. As you wander around the neatly curated show you realise how the Pentagram co-founder's ideas were for the masses rather than the cognoscenti. Perhaps this stems from his commitment to undertaking design research himself - he mentions talking to shopkeepers about teapots in an interview from Design magazine in 1983. That's commitment.

Making Britain Modern gives a great overview of Grange's career but does suffer from certain products lacking context. This is not the case with the InterCity 125 or Wilkinson Sword razors - the former is illustrated with original models and drawings, the latter has a display of his prototypes - a nice way of showing the development of the work.

Prototyping is vital to Grange - since working on the Chef mixer for Kenwood in 1960 he has never presented without a model. "You're a fool if you romp into production without being as informed as possible," he says.

Overall its dedication to making his designs as good as they can be for the user that shines through. Grange's proximity to all aspects of the process is admirable - as one piece of text states in the show, 'through his relationships with a range of major manufacturers and their experienced and talented technicians, Grange learnt about production costs and the economic use of materials.'


Making Britain Modern is at the Design Museum from 20th July - 30th October. The exhibition is designed by James Irvine and Jasper Morrison, with graphics from Graphic Thought Facility

Sunday, 10 July 2011


The week's manufacturing, designing and making stories of note:

MPs of Britain this week revealed their favourite products made in the UK. Sadly the interactive map got some locations wrong

A short preview of Kenneth Grange's forthcoming retrospective at the Design Museum (opens 20th July)

Speaking of Grange, he tells RIBA Journal that he's working on a chair for use in residential homes and that he would love to work on bus design

An interview with lingerie maker Ayten Gasson touches on her commitment to manufacture in Britain

And finally, there's a nice interview on Style Salvage with Becky French, the lady behind UK tie maker Marwood

Image of Grange on his Edith chair for Hitch Mylius from the company website

Saturday, 9 July 2011


There's a great article on John Smedley by (the excellently surnamed) Leanne Cloudsdale in the latest issue of Inventory magazine. Here's a couple of select quotes from the interview she conducted with Dawne Stubbs, creative director of the Derbyshire knitwear manufacturer:

"Up until 2003 we had our own spinning division here, spinning for ourselves and for a number of other big British manufacturers like Marks & Spencer. When those companies no longer needed our services, it became more commercially viable for us to move the spinning activities overseas. We now use the world's leading fine yarn spinners - Zegna Baruffa in Italy."

"When it arrives back here in the raw ecru state, it is washed and conditioned. It is only then, at the top stage, that we apply the dyes. This is why our colours are so vibrant and rarely fade. The water we use in the factory procedures is gravity fed from the underground springs, and our continued use of this spring water has definitely helped us to attain and maintain that super-soft handle."

"We might sit here in our lovely old mill, but in reality no Smedley has ever rested on their laurels. The family business strategy has always remained the same. We are insistent on moving on, evolving and continuously investing in the company's future."

Tuesday, 5 July 2011


On Craftsmanship covers impressive ground over its short 144 pages. Christopher Frayling was in charge of the Arts Council from 2005-2009 and his inherent knowledge of art and design makes this book a joy to read.

A key battle that Frayling fights throughout is that of rethinking the meaning of craft - an 'over-used and much abused term'. Some of this abuse comes from brands - he mentions recent campaigns from Levi's and Camper that use the well soiled word.

However, advertising and branding tends to tap into the current feeling and Frayling acknowledges from the off that craftsmanship has 'again become fashionable'. He cites Richard Sennett's 2009 book The Craftsman as 'timely and even urgent'.

Frayling's eductional background (he taught History at the University of Bath) gives On Craftsmanship some decent weight but never alienates the reader with it. Instead, it couples references to the past with an eye very much on the future. For instance, George Sturt's The Wheelwright's Shop, is lauded (it describes events in a wheelwright's in late 1800s Farnham, Surrey) as 'of considerable interest to anyone who seeks to write about the practice of a particular craft, from an historical or a contemporary point of view'.

According to Frayling hand-work and mass-production existed side by side into the late nineteenth century. 'The specifically English experience of industrialisation involved a close interaction of the two... it was not simply a matter of industry taking over from craft, but of craft within industry'. Frayling returns to this point with the contemporary example of smaller workshops in Italy working together and keeping stable through periods of economic turmoil due to their flexibility. He goes on to write of the possible future for this kind of making: 'Industries of a few people, creating local networks with new kinds of tools, maybe linking with larger networks'.

In one chapter that documents a public dialogue with David Pye (a craftsman, teacher and writer) Frayling talks of the crafts 'edging rapidly... in the direction of abstract art'. Originality over all else seems to be his concern. He finishes the talk with a quote from the poem 'Things Men Have Made' by DH Lawrence that is worthy of sharing and neatly sums up the importance of making:

Things men have made with wakened hands,
and put soft life into are awake through years with
transferred touch,
and go on glowing for long years.
And for this reason, some old things are lovely
warm still with the life of forgotten men who made

The final chapter of the book is entitled 'The New Bauhaus' (which is also part of the subtitle of the book) and is a fantastic blueprint for the future of design education. Let's hope Vince Cable et al read it.

Thanks to George at Oberon for sending a copy of the book, it is much appreciated.

Sunday, 3 July 2011


The week's stories on manufacturing, design and making:

Nice interview with Jonathan from Designed Made, a company that 'has a desire to support British manufacturers and utilise their knowledge and expertise'

Vince Cable calls for 'change of culture' as part of See Inside Manufacturing, a government scheme to encourage youngsters to consider a future in engineering