Watch this space: stars of the PAD fair

As international design fair PAD descends on London, three of the UK’s brightest new talents invite Holly Williams into the studios where they find their inspiration

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The Independent Online

This is the sixth year that the rather swanky PAD London fair has hit our capital – and for 2012, a new prize, with Moët Hennessy as patron, identifies five young designers under 35, working in the UK, whose work is particularly creative and inventive.

All the nominees will exhibit at the Mayfair show, and the winner will be decided by a jury, which features luminaries including Zaha Hadid, Tom Dixon and Jasper Conran, on 8 October.

“It’s very important that PAD reflects the freshest and most talented people in the design world,” says the jury’s president, the architect and designer Nigel Coates. “Normally PAD is able to show work only if a gallery picks it up – we thought this would feed a new level of talent into the fair.”

Those on the shortlist are certainly inventive: alongside those profiled here, there’s Kieren Jones, who crafts eggcups out of the ground-up bones of neighbour’s chickens (“It’s not as macabre as it sounds,” he insists), and Yuri Suzuki’s sound art installation, featuring a globeshaped vinyl record player. All seem concerned not just with the product, but in the experience it facilitates, the environment it exists within, or the making process itself. “Most, if not all, have a storytelling approach,” says Coates, “which is a broader phenomenon among [young] designers.”

Lola Lely, 33

As a final project for her MA in Design Products, Lely created a “fictitious community restaurant”. She persuaded strangers to come into the Royal College of Art and sit on portable stools, before she wheeled out a tall stack of pots, full of food. This was the “Potluck Restaurant”, and she’s creating a new version for PAD.

Lely, born in Vietnam but brought up in London, explains: “When we moved to Hackney, the way [my family] integrated into the community was this convivial culture they brought from Vietnam. My grandmother used to knock on her neighbours’ doors and bring food over.” The restaurant is Lely’s attempt to recreate that spirit through shared engagement with first food, and then each others’ stories. “All the objects I designed were devices to get people to interact. Everything is about getting involved; the spoons are very long, so it’s more comfortable to serve others.”

Collective experience is all well and good, but after graduating, Lely realised making furniture at home wasn’t going to please her housemates; now she has a studio space in Haggerston, east London. She can drill, saw and sand out in the yard; inside, moodboards of mounted materials provide inspiration. It ought to help with work-life balance, but Lely just can’t keep away: “I’m here seven days a week and I don’t leave till midnight. If there was a bed I’d probably sleep here.”

Will Shannon, 31

Will Shannon doesn’t just want to make a nice piece of furniture; “I’m also interested in where and how we get things made,” he says. Although he often exhibits these processes alongside the product – creating a portable potter’s hut with a working kiln, or a mobile Cabinet Maker, a bike with tools for constructing papier-mâché furniture – he also has his own workshop in Dalston. “It is a friend’s garden shed, but I like the man-in-the-shed vibe.”

At PAD, he’s exhibiting his Lunar Table, which is, he says, “basically found, leftover concrete dyed black for a table-top, with papier-mâché legs to make it look as though it has been carved from rock.” Illuminating it will be his pendant light – inspired by the location he sources its materials from. As planning restrictions prevent people in some areas of north London from building extensions, he explains, “A lot of people go down, digging out posh basements.”

This means excavating the London clay beds – and the clay that gets dug and dumped in a skip is, for Shannon, a material ripe for reinvention. “Locally sourced” may be the ultimate buzzphrase, but Shannon is interested in what exactly it means if you live in a city like London: “It is mainly the found, discarded, unwanted – old furniture left on street corners, or old materials.”

Kim Thome, 31

When photographed, what is most immediately eye-catching about Kim Thome’s Reflection range are those neon colours. But Thome insists he is “definitely not nu-rave” – they’re serving a functional purpose, highlighting his main material: semi-reflective, two-way glass. “Two-way mirrors and smoked glass creates two spaces, behind and the front, which made me want to play around with quite strong graphics, bringing them together in the space which [is] the reflection. This material makes you question what you’re seeing.”

At PAD he is exhibiting a table, mirror and a shelf, but these individual pieces grew out of an installation at Shopwork, a gallery in Peckham, south London. “It was really looking at interiors and spaces and our environment,” he says. “I’m excited about installations, not it just being an object or product; you broaden out and fill the space.”

Thome shares an office (with a chair of his own design to perch on while coming up with his next) with other designers at Mentmore Studios, a converted Victorian factory in London Fields. He also has a studio next door, where he does most of his work; when developing new items, it “needs to be full scale – it’s re-trying, re-trying, re-trying. I’m not too much of a delicate sketcher, it’s very much full-sized models.”

PAD London is at Berkeley Square, London W1, from 10 to 14 October (