Did you miss Paul Cocksedge’s talk at the Powerhouse Museum last Monday? If you did, and if you are interested in innovative and visually striking design with a touch of ‘magic’, I really recommend that you have a glimpse at his products and concepts. Variously referred to by critics as an artist-inventor, contemporary alchemist or design wizard, the multidisciplinary creations of this young London-based designer are truly awe-inspiring.
‘Sapphire & Tonic’ close up from the Blue Room
Photography © Powerhouse Museum, all rights reserved
I first saw his work in 2004 in the Blue Room, an exhibition of the best works from the Bombay Sapphire design glass competition (then in its 4th year) which began its international tour at the Powerhouse, fresh from its launch at the Milan fair. Cocksedge’s intriguing light ‘Sapphire & Tonic’ displayed in its own dark room was a definite highlight – it glowed a most beautiful blue, but had no visible source of electricity. It was a UV light from a nearby source that released the blue hue from the work’s major ingredient: gin and tonic! Only 3 years from London’s Royal College of Art where he studied product design under Ron Arad, Cocksedge was already a winner of the 2003 Bombay Sapphire Prize for his energy-saving ‘NeOns’ filled with natural gas and powered by an electrical current. He was just nominated for the Design Museum’s Designer of the Year (2004) and had displayed his lights in exhibitions by Issey Miyake and that German lighting maestro Ingo Maurer.
‘NeOns’ by Paul Cocksedge
Image courtesy of Design Museum.org
Cocksedge’s fascination with everyday materials as conductors of electricity and his interest in the emotional side of lighting and design resulted in a range of unusual objects from a lamp that conveys the idea of light as ‘breath’, to another lamp that can be turned off by rubbing away a pencil line drawn on attached paper (graphite is an electrical conductor), to my favourite ‘Bulb’, a transparent glass vase with a metal rim and water: when a flower is placed in the vase, water becomes light – caused by electricity flow through it and up the flower stem. ‘Bulb’ makes me think of Fabergé’s exquisite gold and jade dandelion, and the Russian jeweller’s other dewy flowers in rock-crystal vases that ‘magically’ transported their lucky owners to summer gardens during long Russian winters.
‘Bulb’ now produced for Flos under the name ‘Life 01′
Image courtesy of Inhabitat
Among the most recent concepts of the Paul Cocksedge Studio is a sensational umbrella replacement, ‘Rain it in’, that uses static electricity to make water bend away from objects or people, including bike riders. Fascinated by technology, Cocksedge seemlessly merges it with design, constantly pushing boundaries. He talks about design experiences and events rather than products. Not unlike Fabergé’s exquisitely crafted flowers and his famous surprise Easter eggs, his ideas and solutions instil a sense of wonder.
These days Cocksedge’s name appears in exhibitions alongside those of such design masters as Ron Arad, Tom Dixon and Zaha Hadid and he also has an impressive list of clients. When I asked him last week if there had been any decisive moments or breakthrough projects in his career that brought him to where he is now, he said he was “not there yet”. Well, it is only a matter of time! Do check out his work and judge for yourself.
Curator, Decorative Arts and Design