Design*Sponge interview

March 17th 2011

I’m excited to say that the lovely online design magazine Design*Sponge has just published an interview with me as part of the ‘What’s in your toolbox?’ series. This is a peek behind-the-scenes, giving readers an insight into the likes and inspirations of a particular designers. Click here to read my contribution

Thanks so much to Design*Sponge for the feature.

Something_From_the_toolbox

Something from my toolbox!

Posted in books, botanical, colour, craft, design, interior design, pattern, printing, textiles, trends, vintage, wallpaper

Brrrrrr!

November 27th 2010

Jack Frost has definitely come to visit and it looks like he’s staying for a while so, it’s time to get cosy. Over the last few years, knitting has really taken off, near our studio in East London you can easily stubble across knitting circles in cafes and pubs and there are a number of trendy knitting shops around the country, plus countless blogs.

I love Wool and the Gang, based in New York. They make gorgeously packaged knitting kits and the website contains loads of inspiration, encouragement and online video tutorials. It’s so cold right now so please let me finish my lovely Wool and the Gang scarf whilst the snow is here.

Wool and the gang scarf

Here's my scarf, nearly there!

Posted in craft, fashion, handmade, textiles, trends

Having a textiles moment

September 10th 2010

As we’re gearing up towards production of our own fabrics I’m even more tuned in to trends in handmade textiles – knitting and lace are noticeable. Having just missed Studio Tord Boontje’s exhibition The Lacemaker I next came across the work of a Danish designer/artist called Isabel Berglunds. She’s made a knitted universe, which is great and you can see it here:

Isabel Berglund’s knit universe

Isabel Berglund’s knit universe

Speaking of Scandinavians….

Posted in craft, design, handmade, textiles, trends

Trends from I Saloni

May 27th 2010

Less is more was the order of the day at this year’s Milan furniture fair. Visitors and press alike wondered ‘does the world need more chairs?’ So in tune with leaner economic times and a greater social and environmental conscience, the newly launched products had a pared down feel. Designers focused on how things are made, exposed construction methods and celebrated traditional craftsmanship skills. The natural state and shape of materials was shown off.

This simplified feel calls to my mind the landscape designer Jacques Wirtz. He might be in his 80s but he’s so relevant, creating clean, beautiful sculptural forms that are refreshing and highly in step with what’s being produced by younger designers across interiors, furniture and product. It’d be great to see him create something for Milan one year.

Jaques Wirtz hedges, private garden

Jaques Wirtz hedges, private garden

Jacques Wirtz, private garden

Jacques Wirtz hedges, private garden

Trade fairs are still an essential part of doing business in this industry but these events are expensive, short-lived and incredibly wasteful, really taking their toll on the world’s resources. Not in keeping with current thinking around environmental issues. Saved by Droog’ picked up on our desire to take better care of our planet, inviting a range of designers (nicknamed ‘revivers’) to recycle and upcycle over 5000 items rescued from liquidation sales.

At Moroso there was talk in emotional tones, new designs were developed around words such as ‘memory’, ‘wellbeing’ and ‘intimacy’. In their showroom, the company presented ‘Tumbleweed’, an installation by two artists Francesco Simeti and Andrea Sala that juxtaposed the prevailing trend for plain, angular furniture with large-scale prints inspired by travel and journeys – both real and imagined – to invigorate the overall space.  Similarly at Poliform a blowsy, bold print by Ken Scott was used to upholster sharp, modern pieces.

Moroso, Tumbleweed by artists Francesco Simeti and Andrea Sala

Poliform, Ken Scott print

Posted in art, craft, design, interior design, product design, trends

Quilts 1700 – 2010

April 30th 2010

Lovingly hand made, full of stories and life celebrations documented with tender stitches, Quilts, the exhibition at the V&A is a really wide source of interesting culture studies. As I’m working on a new range of textiles, going to see this was great timing in terms of getting me really fired up!

The amount of beautiful printed fabrics dating way back acts like a documentary of the fashions and fabrics available at the time. It’s fascinating to see how fabrics were saved and stored, perhaps expectantly watched whilst being worn in the hope that one day that they (the quilters) could get their scissors and needles out to fashion the item into a bedcover. In fact, I could have studied the prints in each of the early quilts for hours, so amazing is the amount of pattern and colour that was used, some of the pieces were made up of 15 or 20 different prints. And even though they have aged, you can sort of feel the crispness of the prints on the cottons.

Bishops Court quilt, Unknown, 1690-1700. Museum no. T.201-1984

Calico and cotton lawns, pale blues with brown, typical 1800s seaweed designs mixed with tiny dotted paisleys, yellows with soft purple circles… I was enthralled by the intricacy, effort and detail, by the tiny circles and smallness of some of the patches but then patience isn’t my virtue!

It was interesting to see the reverse of a quilt so you could see the newspaper pattern pieces which are still in place, you can even make out some of the old newsprint.

I have always admired Sonia Delaunay’s quilt she made for her son Charles, it’s such a personal celebration for a child’s birth that can handed down the generations.

Sonia Delaunay baby quilt for Charles, 'Couverture' 1911

This is what I love most about quilts; they are such an emotional and human product, so non-commercial and genuine in their purpose.

The early historical pieces from the 1700 and 1800s and the war quilts were particular fascinating but the exhibition also includes work by contemporary artists including Nina Saunders and Grayson Perry’s incredible ‘Right to Life’. They show how what is such a homely, cosy product can be appropriated for political and sociological messages; the AIDS Memorial quilt is perhaps the best-known example of this.

Radiant Dark 2010: Assets & Values, Exhibition Toronto January 2010

Grant Heap, Garden Chairs, Radiant Dark 2010: Assets & Values, Exhibition Toronto

Tracey Emin’s bed with quilts and embroidered cushions seems to relate to the comfort, security and warmth that bedcovers and quilts bring, again using specially saved fabrics and compiling them together with stitch and verse. Canadian artist Grant Heaps’ work isn’t included in this exhibition but naturally, the show reminded me of him, I love his quilts and the ‘quilt chairs’ are bang on the hand-made/folklore/crafted trend.

The exhibition also features quilts that were made for use in hospitals with biblical verse stitched in for the patients to read. I could see this idea being used today’s digital world. Wouldn’t it be great to read your book actually in the bedcovers, or to read little relaxing messages before you sleep?

The current trend and popularity for all things handmade and homemade, especially knitting, sewing, ceramics and so on, fits very well with the quilts from the past. In North America quilting is a much celebrated and loved craft (as proven by the sheer number of exhibitions devoted to the subject and huge number of active quilters). I’m half expecting quilting groups to spring up like those pub knitting groups – social gatherings that are such cooperative experiences.

There’s a lot to see and the exhibition is so beautifully and thoughtfully organised so I’m definitely going to go back to see this again.

Posted in craft, handmade, interior design, review, textiles

The magnificent Mrs Delany

March 5th 2010

At the Sir John Soane’s Museum in London Lincoln’s Inn Fields there’s a lovely exhibition of the work of Mrs Delany, née Mary Granville.

Born in 1700, in the days when embroidery and art showing pretty flowers was considered charming but not taken seriously because being female then, creating such things was regarded as a hobby. However, Mrs Delany’s is a considerable body of work in its own right, combining such a high level of skills, dedication and passion. Working at least 100 years before Marianne North of Kew Gardens fame, during her lifetime Mrs Delany built up a strong relationship with Kew Gardens who gave her plant specimens.

She started off with embroidery and sketching and then at the age of 72, she began her remarkable series of 1000 flower collages, Flora Delanica, now owned by the British Museum.

Portlandia Grandiflora, © The Trustees of the British Museum

She managed to get hold of glossy black and vibrantly coloured papers to make collages which, looking at them now, feel current, appealing and never twee.

I found it quite up lifting to see a woman’s work from this era held up in such high esteem and not just considered something to pass the time. She went about her work in a very methodical manner, organising her household to store the materials she would use to make her collages and embroideries. The collection of her sketchbooks depicting gardens scenes and delicate graphite fauna left me scraping my jaw off the floor! Through her visual style, techniques and by proving that a woman could be considered a serious artist, in many ways Mrs Delany was way ahead of her time.

Everybody should go to see this exhibition it’s free and at the wonderful Sir John Soane Museum where one should never need an excuse to visit the fantastic yellow room!

‘Mrs Delany’ and Her Circle is on until 1st May.

Posted in art, botanical, craft, handmade, review, vintage

Craft Luxe

October 30th 2009

For a while, I’ve been pondering the renewal in interest of hand-made, artisan goods. It’s a trend that has filtered down into everyday life, including food. But reading recently that Hermés is continuing to thrive during these economically challenging times, and Goyard just opening a store in London, again made me wonder about issues of craft, quality and desirability at the top end of the market.

In the mind of the consumer, genuinely luxurious goods are increasingly perceived as such through the knowledge they have been carefully hand-crafted, with a great deal of time and dedication by only a small number of individuals and in limited quantities. With this process comes an inherent one-offness, a quirk, difference or personalisation that the next piece from the same workshop won’t have. And it’s this resulting combination of uniqueness and subtlety is what distinguishes them as ‘luxe’.

The hospitality business and network Rough Luxe sums up the current mood and goes a step further; “Rough Luxe… is a new way of looking at luxury as part of time and not just as an object of consumption. Luxury should be an enriching personal experience and not simply the ownership or utilisation of an expensive object.”

THE ROUGH LUXE HOTEL LONDON

THE ROUGH LUXE HOTEL LONDON

In my own industry there are a number of companies that are offering hand-painted papers and interior products. Others are re-creating the hand-made feel using machine and digital prints. It’s great that new technologies mean that quality and beauty are more widely available but there is an enduring respect and desire for craft.

Posted in craft, design, handmade, interior design, trends, vintage, wallpaper

Frieze art fair #2

October 21st 2009

Elsewhere at Frieze here are the most memorable pieces I saw:

Conrad Shawcross’ ‘Slow Arc in a Cube II’ at the Victoria Miro stand. The transience of the patterns that it created were mesmerising and reminded one of the impermanence of imagery, ironic within an art fair.

Slow Arc Inside a Cube by Conran Shawcross

Slow Arc Inside a Cube by Conran Shawcross

Slow Arc Inside a Cube by Conran Shawcross

Interesting shadows on the wall.

A silver bird in a tray by Irish artist Dorothy Cross, show by the Frith Street Gallery. Equally transfixing.

Dorothy Cross Bird Bowl Frieze 2009

Dorothy Cross Bird Bowl Frieze 2009

Raqib Shaw at White Cube  elements of traditional handpainting.

Shaw’s work combines a number of traditional techniques from applied arts and crafts such as fabric handpainting, ‘cloisonné’.

Raqib Shaw Freize 2009

Raqib Shaw Freize 2009

Rudolf Stingel
He creates very textural, wallpaper-like images. His work looks like the canvas has been molded with a flock wallpaper or even block printed on top of plaster to give indentations / reliefs. Seeing him again at Frieze reminded me of his silver foil room installation at the Whitney in New York in 2007.

Posted in art, craft, review