Design: Make a show of yourself

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The Independent Culture
One minute you're languishing in your studio, the

next you're all over the pages of Wallpaper* magazine.

100% Design's new bursary can help young

designers realise their dreams.

IN FOUR years the contemporary furniture show 100% Design has come a long way. The first show brought together 180 avant-garde designer- makers who had begged and borrowed money for a chance to be catapulted from their dusty workshops into a glossy marquee in Chelsea and beyond by influential shops, interior designers, architects and multinational manufacturers. For the most part, although enthusiasm was high, sales were not. Many important and established manufacturers didn't even visit.

The feeling about the show today is rather different. It is held at Earls Court, and the number of stands and visitors has doubled. Buying is up too. Every home furnishings company is desperate to be associated with 100% Design - according to Ian Rudge, its chief organiser, only half who apply get accepted.

Rudge and his team were worried that 100% Design would lose sight of its original aim - to exhibit the best of modern British design - and become dominated by multinational companies who manufacture reproduction furniture in the Far East.

His response has been to launch a bursary scheme to pay half the cost of an exhibition space. The bursary is open to British-based new talents who have never shown at a trade fair before. "Our advisory panel, which comprises a Crafts Council representative, an architect, the editor of Blueprint and a Heals buyer, have selected 11 designer makers, whose work is capable of being produced in large numbers," explains Rudge.

Janet Stoyel produces metal textiles using photo-laser and ultrasound technology to alter the texture of copper, stainless steel and phosphor bronze and change their metallic hues into brilliant colours. For her, the bursary is a recognition of 30 years of struggle and determination. After leaving school at 16 with no qualifications, she went to work full- time, studying textiles at night school while her husband babysat. Later she completed a City and Guilds fashion course, followed by art school, then a course in textile construction in Birmingham.

Stoyel won a trip to Japan's fabric factories in a knitting competition and became fascinated by their technology. Back home, at a car show, she learnt about laser machines and their manufacturers. One, which built lasers for firing missiles on Challenger tanks, was willing "to let a mad woman stick fabrics under a laser to see what the effect would be". She produced her first collection of polyester silk-mix laser-altered scarves. They were bought by Paul Smith and Paloma Picasso.

For another effect she used an ultrasound machine "like the one you scan babies with" to bombard leather with sound, creating amazing patterns; the results have been sold to Gucci and Donna Karan. At 100% Design Stoyel will show metal wall-cladding given a dose of lasers and ultrasound, along with cushions and curtains made from the finest metals.

By contrast, Bodo Sperlein, who is German-born and England-based, is breathing new life into bone-china at the Thomas Goode factory in Stoke- on-Trent. "When I started doing ceramics at art school, people would say to me that all British porcelain was twee or hippie. I wanted to get away from that and make something clean, modern and elegant. Bone china is much nicer to use than earthenware."

Sperlein must have been doing something right, because he was voted one of eight best newcomers by Wallpaper* magazine last year. He has designed a range of bowls and vases for the fashion store Browns Homeware Collection, and is launching a new ceramic light shade at the show. "The bone china is backed with a fine rubber resin but is still translucent and very heat resistant," he says. "The mix of bone china and rubber resin has amazing potential. You will be able to mould it and make cups in one piece. At present the handle is stuck on later."

Sharon Elphick has a mission "to take something many people consider ugly and make them look at it in a different way". In her case it was the tower blocks of London, Paris, Sao Paulo, New York and Berlin. She photographed them, then screenprinted a collage of the prints on to canvas. Up to now they have been huge wall hangings, but at 100% Design she is producing them as rolls of wallpaper. Already Paul Smith and Jigsaw in Bond Street have decorated their premises with her work.

Michael Sodeau used to be part of Inflate, the acclaimed group whose blow-up chairs, tables, picture frames and eggcups were launched at the first 100% Design. He is now designing on his own, so is eligible for a bursary. He uses luxurious, natural materials: his steel-based side tables have tops veneered in Macassar ebony, a hand-woven rug reflects the colours of wood; lampshades are made from woven cane and dressing table accessories are in white ceramic and rosewood.

Sodeau designed the whole range. "Everything is compatible, so once I had an idea for one piece the others just followed on." Although he admits to watching lots of Sixties science fiction and James Bond films, he denies that they influence his ideas. "I design with my hands, not with my eyes," he says. "Everything in my collection is very sculptural. To me, if it feels good, it looks good."

100% Design is open to the public on Sunday 27 September, 10am-6pm at Earls Court Two, London SW5 (0171-381 2993 for details). Tickets cost pounds 8 in advance, pounds 12 on the door.

Illustrations clockwise from right: inner-city designs by Sharon Elphick who has printed images of towerblocks in Brazil, Germany and Britain on to wallpaper; Bodo Sperlein's modern take on bone china designed for Browns' home collection; luxurious natural materials inspired the geometric `Charlie' rug by Michael Sodeau; a bolt of metal textiles created by using photo-laser and ultrasound technology by Janet Stoyel