At the moment its very much about having a look that ignites a mood, the resurgence of wallpaper way back in 2000 has made it the catalyst for the pattern boom we are seeing today it started on the walls and has spread right across fashion to furniture to ceramics. People are more connected to pattern now in this country, which means they can more easily digest and relate to it in their homes.
Flowers and plants of all sorts are still really powerful in print, they offer a form of beauty that with the right colourway and printing process can create a mood of tranquility and calm even if the repeat size is on the larger scale. I think ( from a designers point of view) that scanners, digital photography / digital printing has revolutionized the way we look at nature “enlarged” and “close up” dissecting images into pixelated abstracts; very much like when photography first hit the art scene when you had photographers such as Karl Blossfeldt taking purposely styled studies of plants. It made people look up close at texture and form, the same has happened now with designers using new technology, you get the chance to get in close to you subjects and this means you can form a closer relationship, generating a different mood.
The colour and tone you can alter at a click of the mouse has revolutionised design and I think the wallpaper and print we see now on the high street possesses some of the finest design and print qualities for a long time. Considering most of these are designed and manufactured in the UK we should be very proud.
A nice, summery Friday afternoon is just the time to share a little bit of news. We have been beavering away on a brand new collection of wallpaper and the forever lovely website Designsponge has just posted a sneak preview.
Two of our new papers, ‘Dandy’ and ‘Lace’ have been produced using surface printing, one of the oldest methods around and the one that most closely resembles block printing – the favourite method of William Morris. Surface printing leaves a wonderful hand painterly feel to the paper, adding a richness and depth which can’t be achieved by any other form of production.
For ‘Wisteria’, another new addition to the wallpapers, we are using gravure, another of my favourite printing techniques. It enables us to create a look which is simlutaneously hand-painted and photographic. Clever stuff!
Colour themes for ‘Dandy’, ‘Lace’ and ‘Wisteria’ follow trend directions, think eclectic lemony yellows, turquoise and pinks, shadowy tones for blacks, silver and relaxing blues and a luxurious gun metals. We look forward to showing you more in the next few weeks.
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…
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 gardens are wonderful and have remained pretty much how both Leonard and Virginia planted them.
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.
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.
One of the reasons for buying this house was its amazing views of Mount Caburn…
Here are some snap shots of our recently launched fabric collection stocked in Terrain (owned by Urban Outfitters and sister of Anthropologie), a home and garden lifestyle store in the US. We love these pieces, very stylish with a play on the traditional giving them a quirky, homely feel. If you are Stateside do pop in, they have a great array of plants and lifestyle goodies to be inspired by.
Hot-footing it from Clerkenwell to Chelsea I popped into see my friend Donald Smith at the Chelsea Space a great gallery in the same court yard as the Chelsea College of Art & Design and just opposite the Tate.
They always have really interesting shows and help to support up coming curators. The exhibition at the moment is called ‘Aftermath: Objects from Projects’ and is a collection of work that looks at what remains as an art object in the artists head once the project or installation has finished. Matthew Harrison’s ‘Air de Paris’, a bicycle wheel from a cycle trip to Paris fully pumped with air is displayed Marcel Duchamp-style on a wooden crate. David Tremlett’s piece is a map of his travels across the counties of United England mapping his recording of the ambient noise of the wind, birds and motorways that soundtracked his journeys. Well worth a visit if you visiting the area, there’s a nice coffee shop and quiet courtyard.
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The Clerkenwell Design Week can pass you by if your not careful so this year I was really glad to attend the debate at the Knoll showroom on whether there are too many designers. It was, as usual a very popular event with the likes of Luke Pearson (Pearson Lloyd) Emily Campbell (Director of Design at the RSA) Asif Khan (Asif Khan Ltd) , Rab Bennetts (Bennetts Associates)debating their knowledge on the matter under the directorship of the chair Kieran Long. They covered issues on design education, design overload, value of design, design thinking, design past /design future and a lot more. Generally it was very interesting to hear that the feeling of a dumbing down on design can be felt in architecture, furniture as well as design theory. Also discussed was the way design is taught in schools and art schools, how computers are predominating as ‘tutor’ replacements that has led to over subscribed courses and virtually (quite literally) fewer tutors. Has the word ‘design ‘ become a USP? Unfortunately I think it has.
But there is tomorrow to still visit the exhibition in the Farmiloe Building on St Johns Street. Dating from the 1860′s, the building is often used for films including Batman, Sherlock Homes, Marple and Poirot and this week has been transformed by designers for the festival. Here you can see Swedese, a Swedish furniture company, product designer Lee Broom at Deadgood, Moooi, Anglepoise, Ella Doran and Timorous Beasties amongst many others so that should be good !
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It is very sad to hear the news that Susan Collier tragically died just a few weeks ago before the opening of their retrospective at The National Theatre and just ahead of the re-launch of the Collier Campbell brand. The textile diva sisters Susan Collier and Sarah Campbell had worked together for 50 years producing textile designs for Habitat, Yves Saint Laurent, Cacheral, Liberty, Marks and Spencer, Jaeger to mention just a few of the top names the duo worked for.
During the 80’s when I was studying textiles at Camberwell their work was thought of as some of the best around as it portrayed a painterly style that was so very lacking in the majority of prints available on the high street, distinctive for its large brush strokes and thoughtful mark making with accentuated textures all beautifully executed into flowing repeats.
As is quite often the case with textile designers their names are not known to many but most of their work would be widely recognisable and commonly found in the British household, from duvet covers and curtains to make up bags and scarves, a Collier Campbell print is iconoclastic of that time.
Do pop down to the South Bank and check out more. The exhibition is on until July 3rd but if you can’t make, have a listen to the interview about their work on Radio 4 Women’s Hour.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
The most important event in the furniture design calendar, the Salone in Milan, ended recently. There’s always so much news that comes out of it but now I’ve had a chance to go through everything I thought I’d pick out one thing in particular that caught my eye, the ever wise Li Edelkoort’s exhibition Talking Textiles held at the Spazio Gianfranco Ferré.
When Edelkoort gave a guided tour to Domus magazine she made some interesting comments that compare the upsurge in the use of textiles in the home nowadays – “a full-on textile tsunami” to the 70s when the world had fallen in love with plastic. Thank heavens! Let’s hope this continues as she does sound a word of caution that if the textiles trend doesn’t continue we’re in danger of seeing the end of the industry. And we wouldn’t want that!
You can click on the photograph above to watch the video and designboom has a great selection of images too.
I read the Designersforjapan blog today and thought it was really uplifting that designers are working collectively together to raise funds and awareness for Japan, all proceeds go to The British Red Cross Japan appeal.
This post tells just how daunting the situation is:
Toru Yoshikawa on daily life in Tokyo
I’ve heard that many art exhibitions have been canceled. France have decided to stop shipping art works to japan. Some museums’ yearly budget was cut for affected area restoration. Now I really feel that we must think intensively and fundamentally of 3 years future from now. And I believe it will determine 10 years future of this country.
Everything has been affected by the disaster in Japan and how the aftershock is still carrying on in the lives of the Japanese.
Also, as part of the initiative, there is an interesting launch at next week’s Milan Furniture Fair with the Michael Sodeau & Suikosha/Anything at Zegna in Milan stationery range the proceeds of which will going to the disaster fund.
The area in which our studio is based wouldn’t be what it is without Kay Jordan MBE who sadly passed away just before Christmas. At her memorial service last week we were reminded of what a remarkable woman she was.
Kay trained at the Architectural Association which is where her interest in industrial workspaces and housing was developed. She worked tirelessly for the local area, helping to nurture small creative businesses (including ours) by providing an affordable home via her organisation the Spitalfields Small Business Association (SSBA). The SSBA was a pioneer in the 1980s, renovating of many of the derelict old local workshops and commercial spaces and attracting creative people to East London. Her genuine commitment to the neighbourhood was shown through social welfare and community projects and by campaigning against the threats to the area such as CrossRail. She will be missed enormously.
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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!
Elizabeth Magill, ‘Green Light Wanes…’ is on until 19th June
Eastbourne, BN21 4JJ
Tel 01323 434660
Redchurch Street’s reinvention as the area’s best shopping street seems unstoppable, both APC and Labour and Wait have moved in to join Aesop, Sunspel and Caravan. A.P.C is at number 5a and Labour and Wait further down at number 85.
5a Redchurch Street, London, E2 7DJ
T +44 (0)207 729 7727
Labour and Wait
85 Redchurch Street, London E2 7DJ
Telephone +44 (0)20 7729 6253
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.
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.
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.