I Can’t Draw…

September 1st 2012

My Lovely friend Hannah Tofts kindly gave me a copy of her new book I Can’t Draw Ways Of Looking


Ways Of Looking

I’ve known Hannah since my Brighton Art college days, she has always been on the look out for found objects, scurrying through ones waste bins in search for discarded plastic bottle tops to fruit packaging. Now living on the beautiful West Coast of Scotland, apart from all her other illustrative projects to keep her busy Hannah has been running art classes to the locals, specially designed to break the mantra of  the “ I can’t draw “ brigade. An amazing and truly inspirational project, her creative zest and positive thinking dribbles from  the pages and always leaves me open mouthed at her energy to create and more importantly to share the buzz!

Hannah's Book

Hannah's Book

All Washed Up Project

Also check out her wonderful animated character ZZebbra


and her blog

Hannah's Blog



Posted in art, books, colour, design, graphic design, handmade

Home is where the art is

May 18th 2011

It’s Brighton and Hove Artist Open House time, a unique experience for people to drop in on the lives of artists’ homes and studios.

I managed to visit The Old Forge in South Heighton just the other side of Newhaven in East Sussex. It’s a beautiful flintstone house and a wonderful wild garden setting for the outdoor sculpture of the owner Christian Funnell. Inside the house there are paintings by Sarah Young and Guy Funnell (who I loved) textiles by Wallace Sewell and Cressida Bell to name just a few. If you’re feeling peckish they have got the most scrumptious cupcakes, buns and cups of tea.

The garden at The Old Forge

The garden at The Old Forge. Image courtesy of theoldforge.blogspot.com

After leaving The Old Forge I walked down the lane and stumbled across the most amazing place. South Heighton Pottery is celebrating the 60th Anniversary of Ursula and Norman Mommens work and life where they lived. It’s another beautiful Sussex house and studio with pottery buildings and like The Old Forge has a remarkable garden setting,  perfect for displaying sculptural pots and garden seats by the potters Chris Lewis and Chris Ford, and collages by Jane Robbins which you come to first in the studio barn.

South Heighton Pottery

South Heighton Pottery

The garden at South Heighton Pottery

The garden at South Heighton Pottery

A bench in the garden by Chris Lewis

Small figurine

Small figurine

I hadn’t heard of the work of Ursula Mommens before so I was very happy when entering the house to discover a retrospective show of her and her husband’s work including pottery, paintings and sculpture. Ursula was a direct descendent of another famous potter, Josiah Wedgwood and a great granddaughter of Charles Darwin.  She trained at the Central School of Art in London and then at the Royal College of Art in the 1920s and here you’ll see pieces that stretch from these very early days to others made to celebrate the Festival of Britain.

Ursula believed in making pots that people could use on a daily basis; their shape and forms are soft and flowing, taking on the roles of every day objects, jugs, plates, cups and bowls with a subtle, understated beauty. Many of the pots on show in the house are earthenware using a clay body she developed herself with ash glaze.

A display of pots by Ursula Mommens

A display of pots by Ursula Mommens

There are chalky and natural clay feeling vessels with some of the plates on display having dark tan and black hues illustrated with cobalt and iron brushwork. Ursula shared her pottery with Chris Lewis (who also curated this beautiful show) in the later years thus enabling her to work well into her 90’s and she lived to the grand age of 101!

Older Ursula working

An older Ursula still at work

There are also more delicious teas and cakes here all served in wonderful ceramics. If you’re in the area please pop in you will really enjoy it! The exhibition is on every weekend til the end of May and you can find it at:

South Heighton Pottery
East Sussex, BN9 0HL
Tel. 07754814067

Posted in art, design, handmade, review

Swedish style

March 11th 2011

A few days ago I was in snowy Stockholm for only my second ever visit to the city. Luckily I had quite a bit of time to wander around and also squeezed in a visit to Mariefred and its castle, which is about 1 hour away.


Mariefred Castle

The magnificent castle in Mariefred

The old houses of Mariefred

It was -20 degrees and very snowy!

Back in the city, I have been a huge fan of architect, designer and artist Josef Frank since my degree days at Camberwell and so a visit to Svenskt Tenn was a ‘must do’. This time was better than ever as they have temporarily re-located whilst renovating their original store and currently running a pop-up shop in an old Art Deco cinema , the Astoria which is amazing!


Astoria Cinema - exterior

The exterior of the Astoria Cinema

Astoria interior

Interior which has made a feature of the original screen

The Astoria is a great setting for all the products; the stage houses some huge sofas upholstered in the newly launched Josef Frank ‘Marble’ velvets, influenced by the work of Jackson Pollock which he first saw in New York. Have a look at this animation of the Marble 4420 print:


Marble 4420 by Josef Frank

Marble 4420 by Josef Frank. Motion graphic designer Mika Pollack

Where the audience seats used be has been left pretty much as it was (but with the seats removed obviously!) and is eclectically styled. You have to keep reminding yourself that Joseph and Esrid Ericson produced these pieces over 50 years ago because it looks so of the moment right now.

Astoria - main space

Astoria main space and staircase

As you can tell I really, really loved this current shop. It seems to have transformed the Svensk Tenn look, generating a younger feel. I hope they keep it alongside the newly refurbished store. And can we have one in London please?!

Another totally awesome visit was the Nordiska Museum housing Swedish trends and traditions.

I could have spent all day here and will definitely visit again. The folk art rooms are lovely, an artform that blossomed in Sweden during the 18th and 19th centuries. They have everything from knitted socks to beautiful Swedish furniture on display.


Nordiska - Folk art detail

A detail of decorative folk art

Folk art socks

Hand knitted socks

Elsewhere is the Nordiska’s interiors section with room sets of each Swedish home setting rather like a cross between our V&A and the Geffrye Museum

One of my favourites was the Table Settings exhibition which is really beautifully put together in little room sets featuring settings from 16th century to 1950’s Here I have taken a few snaps (as they are behind glass they are a bit blurred but some how that makes them look more authentic I think!)–highlighting food and drink and the customs and traditions linked to meals .

Room set at the Nordiska

Table setting at the Nordiska

Posted in architecture, art, design, handmade, interior design, pattern, textiles


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

Heretic Printmakers at the Anti-Design Festival

September 30th 2010

Not far from Tent, on Redchurch Street, the Heretic Printmakers temporarily set up shop to create off-beat, fine art screen prints. Squeezed into the MEN gallery’s tiny space, they looked like they were having a lot of fun.

Freshly made prints at Heretic

You can read more about what they got up to at their blog.

Posted in art, handmade, printing, review

The work of Peggy Angus

September 13th 2010

Eric Ravilious’ ‘Furlongs’, a wonderful painting of his friend Peggy Angus’ house revived my interest in her work, which I hadn’t seen since my student days at Camberwell when we were introduced to lino cutting and mono prints. Her house featured in ‘Furlongs’ was often full with artist friends such as Ravilious, Edward Bawden and John Piper to name but a few. It was just down the road from the Omega group’s Charleston Farmhouse and although apparently the two groups didn’t mix it’s amazing to think of that many artists within a 5-mile proximity, both exploring the South Downs as inspiration for work.

Eric Ravilious, Furlongs (1934), Image courtesy of The Bookroom Art Press

Peggy Angus’ work explored the repeating tile pattern. Using potato and lino, she made designs that combined modernity with traditional methods, the results were both beautifully simplistic and yet current in shape and form.

Peggy Angus, Ceramic Tile, 1950s

Peggy Angus, Ceramic Tile Design, 1950s

A student with Ravilious and Edward Bawden at the Royal College of Art, she was influenced by her tutor Paul Nash who encouraged to explore a range of techniques such as lino and wood engraving. I would recommend looking at Peggy’s tile designs many of which were designed for new schools during the 50’s. It’s also worth noting that working with Carter’s of Poole, she developed a new process of silkscreen printing onto tiles.

Illustration: Peggy Angus. Ceramic tile design 1951

Peggy Angus, Ceramic Tile Design 1951

Peggy Angus also produced bespoke, hand printed wallpapers, which were printed with lino blocks onto wallpaper lining paper using household emulsion paint (which, by the way, is still a really cheap and quick way of making a print! I have done this in the past for my Leaf and Lily wallpapers). She won Sanderson’s competition to mark the company’s centenary both Cole & Son and the Wall Paper Manufacturers Ltd bought her. Ideally though, Angus preferred to produce her own work as she felt that the art of making and the effects that the “hand” made were irreplaceable.

Sadly, her Camden studio and house, which was adorned in her wallpapers and prints, were pulled down by the council. It would have made a wonderful public research and reference library, something that is lacking in the textile world. Instead, there is plenty of information at Middlesex University’s Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture.

Posted in art, design, handmade, interior design, pattern, printing, review, wallpaper

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

Elephants in town

May 11th 2010

At the weekend I popped into town to have a look at some of the 250 elephants that have been painted by well known designers and artists which are scattered all over London for WWF. It’s worth looking at the Elephant map there is an awful lot of them!!!.

I like this one by artist Patrice Moor called Josephine she looks beautiful wrapped up in a coat of flowers, you can spot her at Sloane Square.

Patrice Moor’s elephant ‘Josephine’

But if you miss seeing them in situ you can see the entire herd at the Royal Hospital Chelsea from 24th June – 4th July.

Posted in art, colour, design, fashion, handmade, pattern

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.”



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