The Bloomsbury Group continues to inspire

August 4th 2011

I had a very ‘Bloomsbury’ weekend recently. I took a friend to Charleston Farmhouse in East Sussex and as I haven’t been for quite a few years I was completely bowled over again at the sheer creative endeavour that flowed from this house; writing, painting, ceramics, textiles, furniture, cooking, gardening, sculpture…. the list is endless.

Artists Vanessa Bell and Clive Bell had a very open marriage, both taking lovers throughout their lives. Vanessa had affairs with artist and critic Roger Fry and with the painter Duncan Grant who also moved to Sussex with their unconventional household. Over the following half century Charleston became the country meeting place for this group of artists, writers and intellectuals now known as the Bloomsbury Set. You can only see the house by taking an official tour but it’s a very informative guide that fills you in on the anecdotes behind each piece in the rooms. I loved the artist’s studio for its roughly painted burnt umber walls and (of course!) the lovely grey wallpapers and hand painted textiles and furniture. I was unable to take photos in the house so tried to capture a few from the garden…

The farmhouse from the front garden

Ceramic pots in the garden

I loved these ceramic pots in the garden, also available to purchase!

The gorgeous garden

The gorgeous garden

If you in the area you must also visit another Bloomsbury group home, Monks House which is where Virginia Woolf and her husband Leonard lived and wrote. I visited on the same summery day as Charleston so it was washed in beautiful sunlight. The house is decorated and furnished with Virginia’s sister Vanessa Bell’s work; everything from textiles, beautiful painted tables and chairs to ceramics. Here you can walk around at your own leisure, making it much less formal experience than at Charleston. I loved the particular green Virginia insisted on using:

The green fireplace

The green fireplace

More of Virginia's lovely green

More of Virginia's lovely green

The gardens are wonderful and have remained pretty much how both Leonard and Virginia planted them.

A stunning poppy

A stunning poppy

The writer’s hut lies to one side of the garden, tucked under a tree and is where Virginia wrote Mrs Dalloway and To the Lighthouse. There is no access to the inside but you can peer in through the windows and imagine her sitting at the table with her typewriter.

The writer's hut - a room of one's own

There are also plenty of black and white photographs of the couple and their literary friends including T. S. Eliot, E. M. Forster, Roger Fry and Lytton Strachey who came to stay at Monks House.

TS Eliot, Virginia and Mrs Eliot

TS Eliot, Virginia and Mrs Eliot who is on the right - fascinating body language!

One of the reasons for buying this house was its amazing views of Mount Caburn…

The view towards Mount Caburn

The view towards Mount Caburn

On the way back - Mount Caburn from Firle, close to Monks House and Charleston

On the way back - Mount Caburn from Firle, close to Monks House and Charleston

Posted in art, interior design, review

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

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

Elizabeth Magill at Towner

March 29th 2011

Towner is always lovely so when I had a bit of time to kill in Eastbourne at the weekend I popped in and came across an exhibition by Elizabeth Magill

At around 30cm x 30cm – a real departure for Magill who usually works on a much bigger scale – the small pictures were hung in a huge room. But instead of feeling dwarfed, the contrast in scale actually made it easier to focus on the details in the paintings and they took on a slightly mystical quality. A lovely show!

Casement by Elizabeth Magill

Casement. 2009 - 2010. Oil on canvas. (c) Elizabeth Magill

Elizabeth Magill, ‘Green Light Wanes…’ is on until 19th June
Devonshire Park
College Road
Eastbourne, BN21 4JJ
Tel 01323 434660


Posted in art, review

Robin and Lucienne Day – Design and the Modern Interior

March 29th 2011
Robin and Lucienne Day

Robin and Lucienne Day. Image courtesy of Robin Day

A new exhibition of Robin and Lucienne Day’s work has just opened at Pallant House. As Chichester was the couple’s hometown, this is a perfect place for the exhibition, which draws heavily on a collection of their work owned by H Kirk Brown III and Jill A Wiltse from Denver, USA.

Seeing such big pieces of original fabrics is great. You can really feel the quality of the cottons and linens which in those days were less heavily treated. Being left in a more raw state, the fabrics seem more substantial than ours nowadays. In terms of the size of her repeat patterns, Lucienne worked at a much larger-scale than her forbears and I think that’s what gives her designs their modernity. Looking at them this weekend they appeared as crisp and fresh as in the ‘50s and ‘60s. All the greats are in there, including Rock Rose, Runic, Linden (which my mum and dad had in our house when I was growing up!) and Flotilla, the pattern that Lucienne apparently thought came closest pattern to a painting.

Flotilla by Lucienne Day

Flotilla, 1952, Screenprinted cotton, rayon and linen. Image courtesy of Classic Textiles

Small Hours by Lucienne Day, 1951

Small Hours, 1951. A lovely navy and salmon pink screenprinted cotton. Courtesy of the collection of Jill A. Wiltse and H. Kirk Brown III


The exhibition also features Robin Day’s timeless furniture and his brilliant radios including the 1108 for Pye, which won a Design Centre Award in 1966.

Robin Day sideboard for Hille, 1949

Robin Day sideboard for Hille, 1949. Courtesy of Target Gallery, London

Model 1108 radio for Pye by Robin Day

Model 1108 radio for Pye by Robin Day. Image courtesy of the Science Museum

Hand-in-hand with the Day exhibition is A Tonic to the Nation: The Festival of Britain in Pallant House’s De’Longhi Print Room. It marks the 60th anniversary of the Festival that the Days’ were heavily involved with. It features souvenirs, posters and memorabilia.

A Tonic to the Nation is on until 8th May and Robin and Lucienne have taken up residence until 26th June.

Posted in design, interior design, pattern, product design, review, textiles

Future Style – a round-up from Premiere Vision Spring-Summer 2012

March 11th 2011

Returning from Paris laden down with brochures, swatches and info packs it’s taken a little to digest but here’s my take on last month’s Premiere Vision show.

Florals were a strong presence again, described as ‘bucolic’ at times, other times they were more painterly. There was a dominance of tropical motifs (either palm trees or parrots!), tribal/ethnographic prints and geometric patterns.  In terms of colour, there were loads of really modern-feeling warm brights, sometimes perhaps inspired by Pop Art and Jackson Pollock. Edges of fabrics were often frayed, scalloped or laser cut in ways to deliberately enhance the qualities of the material.

Fruit has been an emerging trend recently (see Stella McCartney’s lemon print dress below) and featured again, mostly lemons, strawberries and cherries but sadly on fabric, these don’t count towards your 5-a-day.


Citrus print dress by Stella McCartney

Citrus print dress by Stella McCartney.

Another growing trend that we’ll still be seeing a lot of this winter and next spring is sequins. Prada featured them in its forthcoming winter collection, large and like fish scales!


Prada's large sequins

Extra-large sequins featured in Prada's Autumn/Winter 2011-12 show. Image from

At Premiere Vision there was a real sense that fabric manufacturers are continuing to experiment with sequins even more in terms of how they are applied and the possibilities of combining them with other techniques and materials.

The best thing about Premiere Vision is that it’s an opportunity to see first-hand what the very best manufacturers are doing and check out the newest innovations and creative technologies. My favourite of the show was Jakob Schlaepfer. Two of their fabrics particularly caught my eye. One was a layered piece with a butterfly print layered onto chiffon with scalloped sequined edges.


Sketches at Premiere Vision

Trying to capture the intricate and delicate Jakob Schlaepfer fabric in my sketchbook!

The other was covered in white sequins that were reversible by touch. On the back they were digitally printed with a floral pattern. It’s hard to describe but it was really amazing. Here are a few images:


Sequinned reverse fabric by Jakob Schlaepfer

Visitors to Premiere Vision play with the reverse print sequin fabric. Image (c) Jakob Schlaepfer

Intricate fabric by Jakob Schlaepfer

Detail of one of Jakob Schlaepfer's intricate fabrics. Image (c) Jakob Schlaepfer

Intricate Fabric by Jakob Schlaepfer

Another 'haute' fabric by Jakob Schlaepfer. Image (c) Jakob Schlaepfer

Posted in colour, pattern, printing, review, textiles, trends

Turning the World Upside Down

March 1st 2011

Having been put off by chilly weather a number of times, I’d been waiting for the perfect day to visit Kensington Gardens. But, realising that there are only 2 more weeks to go, a visit to Anish Kapoor’s installation ‘Turning the World Upside Down’ became a priority. As long as wellies are donned and scarves tied tight, it’s a great experience.

There are 4 large-scale stainless steel sculptures located around the park, which can be found using the handy map opposite the Serpentine Gallery. However half the fun is stumbling across the pieces by accident as they glimmer from behind a tree or peek at you across a path or a lake.

Sky Mirror by Anish Kapoor

Sky Mirror, 2006 by Anish Kapoor. Copyright, the artist

Once up close, you can see how they distort and play with their surroundings, the mirror-like surfaces forcing you to look at your relationship to the landscape in a new way.

C-Curve by Anish Kapoor

C-Curve, 2007 by Anish Kapoor. Copyright, the artist

It’s the first time these major works have been installed in London so this is a real treat and can be yours until March 13th.

Posted in art, review

A quick trip to the Whitechapel

February 21st 2011

I popped into the Whitechapel Gallery to have a look at the John Stezaker exhibition -a really great show based on his collages which he makes from taking classic movie stills and vintage postcards.

Image copyright John Stezaker

Whilst there, I also checked out the Richard Wentworth piece which is an interesting cabinet of curiosity and another piece in Gallery 6 called ‘A Confiscation of String’. Wentworth plays with perceptions of volume and length, mis- judgements and misperceptions, raising questions such as ‘how long is a piece of string?’ The work, orange string threaded through nails to make vertical lines on a white wall is very nice and graphic.

John Stezaker is on until March 18th and Richard Wentworth: Three Guesses ’til March 6th.

Posted in art, review

The visual treats of Spitalfields

February 11th 2011

Reading the paper a couple of days ago I came across a story about Spitalfields, the area in which our studio is based. Yesterday saw the opening of the first Spitalfields Life photo show dotted across 3  local venues (The Golden Heart in Commercial St, Agnes B and Rough Trade East on Dray Walk), which includes portraits by Jeremy Freedman of the personalities behind the weekly antiques market.

He’s a contributor to the amazing blog, Spitalfields Life which is a great read. Whilst you’re online it’s well worth having a look at the fascinating entry on historic wallpapers in one of those lovely Fournier Street houses, such as this from the 1820s:

A fragment of wallpaper from the 1820s. Image courtesy of Spitalfields Life

Jeremy Freedman’s photos will be up until the 10th March.

Posted in art, review, wallpaper

Royal Academy Art Fashion Identity

January 10th 2011

I popped into the Royal Academy to see Art Fashion Identity, part of the GSK Contemporary season. It was really interesting and far much bigger than I was expecting. Exhibiting work, are artists and designers that have used fashion and clothing as a means for exploring our identities.

I was initially attracted because I wanted to see ‘Say Goodbye’, Helen Storey’s evaporating dress. A really beautiful piece, this bio-degradable enzyme dress slowly dissolves over time as it is dipped into a huge Perspex bowl of water, making the comment on society’s desire to buy clothing all of the time.

'Say Goodbye'. Image courtesy of the Royal Academy, (c) Helen Storey

The exhibition website also includes a film about her project.

But aside from Storey’s work, there was so much more I enjoyed seeing including films by Cindy Sherman, Yoko Ono, Marina Abramovic, Gillian Wearing and a mesmerising installation by Hussein Chalayan. I also particularly liked the layout and display of work by Marie-Ange Guilleminot, inspired by a visit to the Hiroshima Peace memorial museum. Her huge pink kimono with the cut –out stencil print really stood out.

Posted in art, fashion, review

Shadow Catchers

January 10th 2011

Also whilst at the V&A make sure you see the fabulous Shadow Catchers a show of camera-less photography, using processes such as C-type prints, dye destruction print, gelatine – silver print and my favourite is photogram and of course Cyanotype which I have mentioned before

Artists Pierre Cordier, Laszlo Moholy- Nagy, Floris Neususs, Gary Fabian Miller, Susan Derges and Adam Fuss give an insight into their world of making pictures that come from the soul and are focused in catching the “moment of life”.

Photogram by Floris Neususs, image courtesy of Flickr

From the series of My Ghost. Courtesy of Thomas Paul Fine Art, (c) Adam Fuss

Daguerrotype by Adam Fuss

Daguerrotype by Adam Fuss. Image courtesy of The Independent

There’s also a good selection of artist’s videos on the V&A site here:

Totally awe inspiring!

Posted in art, printing, review

Dancing shoes

January 10th 2011

If you haven’t seen it yet then there are only a few days left to visit the V&A’s enormous Diaghilev exhibition showing the work of the Ballet Russe, created over a century ago. This show is a monster and will truly inspire.  It includes costumes and set designs from drawings to films to actual Picasso scenery backdrops for Le Train Bleu

Looking around, I could see some trend directions for spring-summer 2012, such as bold coloured prints and use of satin and metallics… mmmh very Mui Mui!

Posted in art, review, trends

Louise Bourgeois: The Fabric Works

November 22nd 2010

Another exhibition looking at the links between artists and applied crafts is Louise Bourgeois: The Fabric Works at the Hauser & Wirth gallery on Savile Row. Her textile art reflects how important a role fabric played in Bourgeois’s life, having grown up surrounded by the textiles of her parents’ tapestry restoration workshop. Her work in this area was quite prolific but I’ve managed to select 3 of my favourites!

Untitled, 2006 (c) Louise Bourgeois courtesy of Hauser & Wirth

titled, 2006 (c) Louise Bourgeois courtesy of Hauser & Wirth

titled, 2008 (c) Louise Bourgeois courtesy of Hauser & Wirth

Hauser & Wirth has quickly settled in to its great new space designed by Annabelle Selldorf so if you’re popping into town for some Christmas shopping, it’s worth popping by. The exhibition is on until December 18th.

Posted in art, review, textiles

Contemporary Eye Crossovers

November 22nd 2010

Once again Pallant House is staging a brilliant exhibition. ‘Contemporary Eye Crossovers’ explores the relationships between artists and crafts with work from Grayson Perry, Jeff Koons, Tracey Emin and Polly Morgan. Here are a couple of my favourites, ‘Georgie and Orchids’ by Gary Hume and Damien Hirst’s butterfly wallpaper

Georgie and Orchids by Gary Hume image courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery © Gary Hume

Butterfly wallpaper by Damien Hirst © Damien Hirst

Posted in art, design, review

London Design Festival

September 30th 2010

With around 250 events under the London Design Festival umbrella but with not much time to spare, I did a mad dash around East London then hopped over to Earl’s Court to catch 100% Design.

This was The Tramshed’s first year and it was great. Our friend’s BCMH were showing within the Them There section. They’ve recently completed the graphics for ‘Speed and Light: Edward Gordon Craig’, a new show at the V&A.

Them There also included Cristian Zuzunaga who is building up a reputation for exciting collaborations (with Kvadrat, Ligne Roset and Hästens amongst many others) and particularly for his brightly coloured, giant pixel prints. They’ve been applied to bags, scarves and even a sofa, which was produced with Moroso:

(c) Zuzunaga and Moroso

Elsewhere in the Tramshed I spotted Luke Pearson giving a talk, Michelle Mullins’ gorgeous cushions and Rare’s ‘digitally crafted surfaces’ lovely textures created for wall panels. Furniture makers Benchmark practically re-located to London and installed a functioning workshop:

The Benchmark craftsmen hard at work

Posted in design, graphic design, interior design, pattern, review

100% Design

September 30th 2010

At Earl’s Court, 100% is the biggest interiors trade fair taking place during the festival. In the main hall, I really liked Something From Us – who showed beautiful parquet topped tables with different coloured legs.

I then checked out 100% Futures which was nicely done. For me, Stephen Johnson stood out. I loved his new range called ‘Happy Happy’ and his interpretation of kitsch ornaments which made up the collection ‘Now Isn’t That Lovely’:

Ornaments dressed as gifts! From the range 'Happy Happy' courtesty of Stephen Johnson

Posted in design, interior design, review