Tales from the Underground - Design Bureau

Light Well Table. Site-specific installation designed by Pernilla Ohrstedt and Permanent Waver

Metamorphsis — Explorations of recast hand crochet designed by Raquel Damas

Negress Chaise and Mammy Table designed by Simone Brewster

Stacking Vessels by Pia Wüstenberg 

Tales from the Underground

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

by Sarah Handelman

A basement is no place to display your grandmother’s delicate needlework, but the designers who’ve taken up residency in a derelict underground exhibition space in West London seem to think otherwise. Re-imagined lace doilies are just the beginning of Tell Stories, a collection that explores narrative through displays of research, prototypes, and finished products developed by London-based design studio Flock. Below street level, design is no longer a commodity; it’s a story waiting to be told, and this exhibit exudes the allure of true raconteurs.

Ethnic and artistic character studies drive the plot of Simone Brewster’s Negress Lounge and Mammy Table. The onyx pieces maintain a low profile, but a closer look reveals a compelling autobiography of Brewster’s Caribbean heritage and London life through referential layers to African sculpture and cubism.

But not every story here is complete. Heritage is also explored through insightful drafts or prototypes. Portuguese designer Racquel Damas’ porcelain recastings of her grandmother’s delicate hand-crochet serve as a moving and experimental reissue of the past.

The stacking vessels of Pia Wüstenberg read as if craft itself could speak. Wüstenberg employed a trio of traditional wood, glass, and ceramic techniques to produce these mixed-media “sculptures for the home.” While each component maintains its voice, together, these functional vessels are the sum of their parts. And this idea is what makes Tell Stories as a whole so compelling.

Although the stories here embody and exude the distinct narratives of their makers, the exhibition is a natural venue for more tales to link and develop. Craft is undoubtedly the buzzword du jour of design, and while much of Flock’s exhibition references historical ideas and concepts, within this space is an unshakeable feeling that these designers are laying the groundwork for new traditions. That’s a page worth turning.

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