Karen Cunningham & Mandi King
Karen Cunningham (b. 1978) & Mandi King (b. 1982)
For years Karen Cunningham and Mandy King have worked and lived side by side, both in their formal training as glass blowers at JamFactory in Adelaide, South Australia, and also as neighbours in the surrounding foothills. In that time they naturally developed a strong chemistry, bonding over common visions in our craft as well as lifestyle. In February, 2010 they decided to combine their talents into a special collaborative project called illumini to develop hand-made products that reflected those ideals.
The focus of their residency is to undertake concentrated research to inform the creation of new bodies of handmade functional objects reflecting the spirit of egalitarianism unique to Scandinavian and Nordic culture.
The artists will be documenting innovative examples of sustainable design encountered in Helsinki and Stockholm and analysing their relationship to observed cultural attitudes towards the environment and society. Themes they will be paying close attention to include the connections of craft production and use to collectivism, recycling systems of post-consumer materials, uses of low-impact craft, manufacturing, and building techniques, and design for positive environmental outcomes. Towards the end of the residency, they will begin translating these observations into their own socially and environmentally progressive models for making and using craft in Australia.
At present, Karen Cunningham’s creative practice combines the making of her own lines of functional and decorative glassware with the collaborative sustainable design project illumini.
Starting from a scientific background Cunningham transferred her fascination with the physical world to her artistic practice. When she was introduced to hot glass making during her Visual Arts degree the medium instantly captivated her and became her sole focus.
Two pivotal professional development opportunities came in 2007 and 2009: first, a design Masterclass with Gijs Bakker, founder of Droog; next, winning a SOYA award and mentorship with Marc Newson in London. These experiences introduced new influences, which greatly broadened her scope and encouraged her to expand to designing beyond just the one material.
In 2009 she joined Blue Pony, a co-operative glass studio, and began incorporating these stimuli into her practice. There, bonding over shared interests in design, handmaking, and sustainability, Mandi King and her founded illumini.
As Creative Director of JamFactory Glass Studio Cunningham continues to be motivated by the qualities and interplay of materials. She collaborates with fellow Studio Heads of Furniture, Metal and Ceramics to design shared studio products. During her residency in Helsinki, immersed in Scandinavia’s rich design culture and sustainable considerations, she will further shape and progress her practice.
Currently, Mandi King’s personal creative practice sits between the crossroads of emerging glass craftsperson and early-career researcher and designer. The thrust of her new direction comes from a deep desire to better understand the philosophical connections between the production of craft and the creation of sustainable cultures.
After completing her Bachelor of Fine Arts in New York in 2006, King moved to Adelaide to train as a glassmaker at JamFactory Craft and Design Centre. Though her original intent was to eventually travel to Scandinavia to pursue a career as a factory glass designer, the intimate connection of mind, body, and material plus ethics of small batch production learned from her craft training kept her in Adelaide. Upon completing the program, she moved into the Blue Pony co-operative glass to begin her solo practice.
Unsatisfied with the environmental implications of making purely decorative glass objects, and wanting to create new markets for local craftspeople, King created the collaborative craft design project illuminiwith Karen Cunningham in 2010. Their first offering, the illumini decanter was an attempt to marry Adelaide’s unique artisan glass and wine making cultures and replace mass-produced overseas imports in our cellar doors. The decanter won the LaunchPad In:design award in 2010, and in 2011 exhibited in both Prototyping:Making Ideas at JamFactory and at London Design Week.
Growing out of the “project” stage, illumini has since moved into its own studio and expanded its range to include a series of plywood clocks and lights made from waste material from local furniture studios.