Exhibiting talent

What do an award-winning graduate, a Cornish furniture company and a pair of Norwegian designers have in common? They’re all exhibiting at 100% Design. Trish Lorenz profiles three of this year’s most intriging entrants

David J Irwin
One Year On winner

WITTY, classical and inherently functional, David Irwin’s first collection is evidence of a talent in the making. The winner of this year’s One Year On award (which recognises the achievements of graduates in the difficult first year after leaving university), Irwin is both focused and commercially aware. ‘I like to create things that people use in their everyday life, items where the functionality is based on problem-solving with a little bit of humour,’ he says.

His graduation project – a family of dining chairs each quirkily different – is typical of his approach. One features a double back, another has a built-in dog bowl, a third – with extra-wide legroom – is called Elbow Room. ‘I was investigating how people interact with dining chairs and came up with the idea by watching my own family,’ says Irwin. ‘My dad hangs his coat on the back of the chair, my sister feeds the dog at the table and my brother and I are always scrapping for elbow room.’

Irwin graduated from Northumbria University with a degree in 3D Design in 2007 and is now part of the Designers in Residence programme at the university, where promising graduates can take advantage of two years’ free studio space. He has used the space to focus on creating his own brand, David J Irwin.

‘At the moment I’m working on prototypes that I hope to sell to manufacturers,’ he says. ‘I’m focusing on commercially viable designs that still incorporate problem-solving elements.’ Habitat has already bought one of his designs, the Jed dining chair, which launches in September. This features an upholstered seat and charming coat-style straps that add visual interest and enable the pad to be removed for easy cleaning. Irwin will also exhibit a new stacking chair at 100% Design and is working on a lighting range.

Stokke Austad
Norwegian furniture and industrial designer

Jonas Stokke and Øystein Austad met while doing an MA in Industrial Design at Oslo’s School of Architecture and Design. The pair promptly began working together before they’d graduated, showing pieces in Milan in 2005 and 2006, and formally launching Stokke Austad in January 2007. Since then, it’s been all go and the duo has embraced a variety of projects across multiple disciplines. Currently, the group is creating the Cologne furniture fair exhibition stand for the Norwegian Furniture Council, is completing various interiors projects and is part of the team – with Norplan and architect Narud Stokke Wiig – to design and roll out road signage throughout Abu Dhabi. ‘It’s a really exciting contract for us,’ says Austad. ‘We’re working on the product design and it’s a much more technical job than furniture design. We’re learning all about the practical elements of the roll-out and dealing with the design challenges.’

At 100% Design, Stokke Austad will show as part of 100% Norway and will launch three new products: a simple trestle table, an upholstered chair and a calendar featuring 365 plastic pieces in 12 different colours, each of which can be individually attached to the wall to allow users to style the shape and layout of their calendar. ‘Everyone has a different way of looking at the year, so this calendar is designed to be your personal visualisation of the year ahead. Each day you remove a piece; the idea is to illustrate that once a day is gone you don’t get it back,’ says Austad.

The group is working on more furniture and lighting projects, too – a dining table for Norwegian manufacturer Nora launches in October and one of Britain’s leading furniture retailers will feature a Stokke Austad light in its 2009 autumn/winter collection.

Cornwall-based furniture company

Start-up furniture company Mark, the brainchild of designers Anna Hart and John Miller, is hoping to put Cornwall on the map for more than just surfing. All of the company’s products are inspired by the county’s seaside vibe and will be manufactured locally. Hart and Miller say they consider the county ‘the third partner in the business’. ‘People like the idea of living in places like Cornwall and Mark products aim to capture the essence of that, while at the same time making Cornwall more sustainable, a more viable place to live and work,’ says Miller. Four local manufacturers have been brought on board: surfboard manufacturer Homeblown, which will work on glass fibre pieces; wooden furniture specialist Rozen Furniture; contract furniture manufacturer Zoeftig, which works on metal-based designs; and Perham Upholstery.

Design is at the heart of Mark’s ethos. Its first collection, which launches at 100% Design in September, includes pieces by Tomoko Azumi, Sam Johnson, Richard Shed, Dylan Freeth and Kay & Stemmer. Designers were briefed to use Cornwall as their inspiration and the collection features a predominance of wood and gentle lines, with Freeth’s Six-coat stand and Shed’s Void lights among the more urban interpretations.

Hart and Miller have also created pieces – a change for Miller who has spent the past three years as director of design at University College Falmouth. Prior to that, he set up Furniture Works in London, launching projects including Time:Frame and the Isos Collection. He’s keen to stress that Mark is a different beast – commercial, and not simply a vehicle for student development.

Hart studied furniture design at Leeds Metropolitan University before working with Coexistence and DEGW London, and then moved to Cornwall in 2004, where she created interiors for Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant. She’ll be bringing her contract furniture experience to the brand – the launch collection targets the contract sector as squarely as the consumer market.

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