One of the regular features in the London calendar is the London Design Festival, which this year ran from 14-23 September. Two big exhibitions form the cornerstones of the festival, at opposite ends of the Circle Line: 100% Design London at Earl’s Court, and Tent London at the Truman Brewery in Brick Lane. And given Korea’s emergence as a design nation (Seoul was World Design City in 2010), and also given the large number of Korean art and design students in London, it’s hardly surprising that there’s a strong Korean representation at both exhibitions.
LKL’s post from 13 September contained all the details of the exhibitors in the official country pavilion sponsored by the Korea Institute of Design Promotion. But as usual, there are Korean designers who exhibit at this show who are independent of the pavilion. This year there was The Haki, beeeen company and JiB Design Studio.
The Haki (www.thehaki.com), a company based in Gangnam, were exhibiting a range of paper-based products including an assortment of photo frames. Their stand-out design was a clock for your desk with space for notes which could be made with a wipeable marker pen. The product won them an honourable mention in the Red Dot design awards in 2009.
Je-Uk Kim of JIB Design Studio (www.jibds.com) was one of the designers picked out by The Observer in their feature on this year’s London Design Festival. Collaborating with ceramicist Sun Kim he has created a rather beautiful sideboard which doubles as a planter.
Been Kim, founder of Beeeen & Company (www.beeeen.com) was the final independent Korean designer at Earls Court. On display at her stall were some beautifully crafted hanji objects – dancheong-inspired wall decorations and brooches, and interesting slipper-like desk tidies or planters. Hanji is a versatile material, but I never thought you could make soap out of it. But the resin from the trees from which hanji is made also gives a masculine eucalyptus-like scent to some hand-made soap that Kim had for sale. Also on show from Beeeen & Company were their practical DrinKlip, and across town at the Super Brands exhibition at Tent London, their chair made of rice straw. I was assured by the designer that it was supremely comfortable, but we were not allowed to try it out.
Back at the main Korea Design pavilion there were some established designers as well as some selected by the KIDP as “Next Generation Design Leaders”. Among the latter were:
- Kwon Seonyoung, who was exhibiting her range of soft furnishings and clothing based on cut felt, which looked very homely and comforting;
- Roh Ilhoon (www.ilhoon.com), who brings Gaudi-inspired architecture into his organically-shaped tables, made by stretching fabric into the desired shape before sealing it with plastics;
- Mars Hwasung YOO (www.luna-seo.com) who produces fun hat-shaped lampshades;
- Jaekyoung KIM (www.kam-kam.org), who produces fabric-clothed furniture;
- Kiseung Lee (www.leekiseung.com), based in Helsinki, who brings pale Scandinavian colours to his lampshades which are cut out of a single piece of plywood.
Some of these Next Generation Design Leaders also had exhibition space across town at Tent London in the Truman Brewery. Other Korean exhibitors were
- Rabito (www.heyrabito.com), whose cutesy mobile phone accessories are more designed for the Asian market
- HoosDesign (www.hoosdesign.com), who produce some fun clocks and some soothing children’s nightlights, but whose unfortunately-named Nipple needs a better strapline and a problem to solve.
But most encouraging of all, the Korean design students at Goldsmiths (www.i-kdm.net) had taken over a stall together.
There was almost too much to look at here, and I certainly didn’t have time to do justice to all twelve design projects. Refreshingly, as I walked past the various booths, I thought to myself: “Yes, that’s a good idea. I actually want one of those.” Which sadly I did not find myself thinking at some of the other stalls I had seen throughout the day. I’m sorry not to be able to mention all of the projects, but the ones that really caught my eye were a stylish set of tea infusers based on the carved wooden birds you sometimes see in Korean folk museums, and three ideas particularly suited to the British summer: a cap which folds out into a waterproof poncho; some easy-to-pocket waterproof overshoes nicely named the Splash Spat – they would have been handy at the Thames Festival this year – as would the picnicking bag of London: a waterproof picnic mat which folds up, pojagi-style, into a handy bag, the lining of which is printed with a map of Central London parks together with relevant bus routes. Practical and imaginative.
So, if the Goldsmiths talent represents the future of Korean design, the Korean Pavilion over at Earls Court is going to be well-supplied with quality designers for a few years to come.
(Click on any of the below images for a slideshow. The gallery contains some shots of 100% Design London which are not embedded in the article above)