Scorched wood and rainbow ceramics: 5 of the hottest craft trends

Baskets woven by Felicity Irons
Baskets woven by Felicity Irons Credit: Charlotte Bland

Gone are the days when the word “crafted” signified knitting circles and wonky crockery. As the slow interiors movement takes hold, emphasising the hand-making techniques behind some of the most luxurious homeware products on the market, craft has never been so cool.

Earlier this month, London Craft Week showcased a host of such skills – some ancient, some modern – along with the makers who are keeping them alive. Here are five of the key craft trends that could be coming to a home near you this summer.

Scorched wood

When it comes to wood, the finish of the moment is dark and dramatic – totally blackened, in fact. Makers spearheading this trend include Eleanor Lakelin, who makes delicate wooden vessels by carving out burrs (growths that form on the tree trunks and branches), some of which she chars to a dramatic black.

Furniture maker Sebastian Cox similarly creates striking furniture, including tables and cabinets, from scorched English ash, while Gareth Neal’s Hack chair is a modern, blackened twist on a classic Georgian design.

Lakelin, Cox and Neal all exhibited during Craft Week at Scorched, a special showcase of work by Western makers given the task of employing the Japanese charring technique of shou-sugi-ban or yakisugi, which dates back to the 18th century. Curator Sarah Myerscough – who will be staging the exhibition again from June 10, at her new gallery in Barnes, south-west London – chose the technique for its ability to highlight “the intrinsic and modest beauty of wood”.

Scorched at Fitzrovia Chapel, the first exhibition by London Craft Week Credit:  Dan Weill

“From a purely aesthetic view, scorching gives the surface of wood a wonderfully deep, dark tone where it has charred, highlighting the grain,” she says. “It is, of course, also rooted in Japanese cultural tradition, but primarily for me it resonates from a sensory perspective through touch, texture and smell.”

Myerscough makes the point that scorched furniture is usually sealed with an oil or wax finish, to ensure the colour does not come off on to clothes. Find other scorched-wood furniture and accessories at Timothy Oulton, where it is mixed with acrylic for a futuristic look, and online at 1stdibs.com.

Sustainable luxury

As sustainability continues to be the dominant concern across the industry, the trick is how to come up with a new product to sell that doesn’t cost the planet. Several designers are currently concerned with turning waste materials into high-end, highly desirable products, including Bethan Gray, whose beautiful new collection of furniture and accessories is made from discarded shells, feathers and stone.

The fashion and homeware brand Toast chooses five emerging makers to support in its stores and online each year under its New Makers label, all of whom rely on naturally sustainable, traditional hand-crafting techniques. Among this year’s highlights, which were showcased in its Shoreditch store during Craft Week and are now available online, were quilts by Julius Arthur, aka House of Quinn, who paints, prints and dyes discarded fabrics and quilts them using ancient Indian kantha and Japanese sashiko techniques.

Upcycling discarded plastic bottles into textileshas become a key trend over the past couple of years, and the resulting fabrics are washable and durable, making them particularly suited to outdoor use over the summer. Weaver Green has expanded its collection this summer with tasselled cushions, and Danish brand Ferm Living has introduced outdoor rugs and cushions is a stylish monochrome palette.

Weaver and textile designer Maria Sigma similarly operates a zero-waste production process by emphasising raw materials and limiting her use of machinery, water and electricity; she also runs workshops that teach how to weave textiles from household waste such as old T-shirts and pillowcases.

Prices for Sigma’s work start from around £380 for a table runner, reflecting the amount of work that goes into making them, but a more accessible option comes from the stationery brand Caran d’Ache. To mark World Recycling Day earlier this month, it launched a new version of its 849 ballpoint pen, made entirely from recycled Nespresso coffee capsules.

Maria Sigma hand-weaving at The Future of Craft, Oxo Tower Wharf Credit: Dan Weill

Rainbow ceramics

Pottery purists who favour tableware with a minimalist white glaze might change their minds in the face of some of the colour-filled ceramics coming to the market. Fashion designer Paul Smith has collaborated with the pottery company 1882 Ltd on a collection of vases displaying his signature multicoloured stripe, each made from a stack of individual plates. These are limited editions, with prices to match (from £1,600) but they are true works of art, and the project has paved the way for a full tableware collection set to launch later in the year.

In an entirely different style, but no less decorative, Kensington boutique Couverture & Garbstore sells pieces by the London-based Japanese artist Miyu Kurihara, who uses traditional painting techniques in a classic blue and white palette. Heal’s is also celebrating Japanese makers working with colour, selling sake sets decorated with patterned washi paper and tableware with an ice-blue glaze.

Beautiful basketry

The trend for woven furniture and accessories is set to continue over the summer, with some chic alternatives to the ubiquitous rattan that has been invading the high street. Felicity Irons, one of the UK’s few remaining bulrush weavers, runs weaving workshops at her studio in Bedfordshire, where she harvests the rushes herself from the River Ouse. Her product collection includes tableware, log baskets, cushions and rugs, as well as beds, headboards and chairs with rush panels and seats.

At the fashion brand Loewe, baskets are currently the focus in its new flagship store, in particular those woven and knotted in leather by California-based mother-daughter duo Shizu Designs.

Rush weaver Felicity Irons harvesting bulrushes from the River Ouse

Woven wall art

Woven textiles are similarly on trend – and on walls. Textile designers are applying their skills to creating wall hangings in a kaleidoscope of colours and styles, tying in with the vogue for hanging fabrics, carpets and quilts on walls in place of paintings, to bring warmth and texture to a room.

The young, self-taught weaver Christabel Balfour makes handwoven tapestries and rugs (for floors or walls) with a simple, pared-back aesthetic, while at the maximalist end of the spectrum in terms of colour, weaver Margo Selby has produced a new collection of 16 individual handwoven ‘tiles’. Each consists of over 5,000 individual threads, woven in blocks of intense green, teal, orange and pink, contrasted with cool white and grey.

Angie Parker is another weaver who deploys saturated colour, in her case inspired by the graffiti near her Bristol studio. Her chosen palette of bright neon shades – which she herself describes as “fabulously gaudy” – are handwoven into geometric patterns using reclaimed wool and traditional Scandinavian techniques.