Proper design professionals will know that this week is a very important week in the annual design calendar - it's Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan, otherwise known as Milan Design Week, the biggest design fair in the world.
I've only been to Milan Design week once, way back in 2010. It can be a little overwhelming for newbies, so I was lucky during my trip to hook up with fellow Australian and Milan-first-timer Sarah King - affectionately known by friends and colleagues as Sarah K!
Sarah K was the perfect Milan buddy – we became great pals whilst navigating the exhausting Salone circuit together. We also ventured out to 'Ventura Lambrate' together - a post-industrial borough of Milan which was then being touted as the 'next big thing'. Ventura Lambrate is essentially a satellite show of various design exhibits by emerging designers from across the globe, set against the striking industrial backdrop of disused factories. In the four years that have passed since then, Ventura Lambrate has become a key player in Milan's design week festivities, attracting over 80,000 visitors last year.
Originally from Sydney, Sarah K is an architect, designer, big ideas person and indefatigable do-er. I distinctly remember during our time in Milan, Sarah had this 'lightbulb moment' where she came up with the crazy idea of curating an Australian design exhibition and taking it to Milan to exhibit at Ventura Lambrate. The very next year, she did it!
'After visiting Ventura Lambrate in its first year and being inspired by the thoughtful presentation of works compared to the other busy areas of Milan Design Week, I contacted the event curators, Margriet Vollenberg and Margo Konings, to talk about contributing an exhibition of work from Australia'. Sarah's first show, entitled The Other Hemisphere, was exhibited the very next year in 2011, and she's been exhibiting every year since.
This week in Milan, The Other Hemisphere brings together a considered edit of design prototypes by 12 Australian and New Zealand based designers, each of whom have responded to the theme of ‘simplified’. Whether simple in form, simple to produce, and/or linked by a common goal of simplifying life in some way, the resulting work is a sleek, contemporary collection of beautiful, functional products designed by some of Australia's most promising designers and creative thinkers, including Sydney's Henry Wilson and Melbourne collective Groupwork amongst others. Almost all the pieces are prototypes or experiments - 'I want to encourage the idea of The Other Hemisphere as a place for designers to test new ideas - and contribute to a dialogue of the future of the way we live with things' say Sarah.
'I think it just fell into place' says Sarah when asked how she fell into this important role of championing Australian design on the world stage. 'I realised I can play a part in helping other designers put their best foot forward - and give an opportunity for their work to be presented to the world. My own work as a designer is also enhanced by working with other people like this.'
'There are so many opportunities' Sarah explains, when asked what benefits The Other Hemisphere participants gain from inclusion in the show. 'The international profile of all the designers involved is lifted immensely, but I think the greatest benefit might be the one of being valued at home.'
Sydney readers will be able to see The Other Hemisphere 2014 exhibition on home soil next month, when DesignEx brings the show to their new venue at Glebe Island from May 28th. There is unfortunately no current plan to bring the show to Melbourne, but do check out all the work which is beautifully presented on The Other Hemisphere website, designed by Melbourne lads Paul Fuog and Uriah Gray of U-P. There is also a brilliant edit of exclusive limited edition products available to buy online too. I already bought two things... whoops!
The Other Hemisphere 2014