Labour’s of love…

I have been periodically revisiting this beautiful vintage needlepoint tapestry of wild birds over the past few months, adding my hand beaded embellishment, and searching for the perfect reverse cloth for the cushion. Thankfully the Guy Goodfellow Collection has just launched a new emerald courway of their popular Fez Weave which coordinates perfectly, so at last the cushion is finished!

Textiles in the Archives

I was recently invited to attend a lovely evening hosted by Poppy Szaybo, a textile artist and archivist at the London Metropolitan Archives near Mount Pleasant.

In all the many years I have lived in London, I am ashamed to admit having never visited the Archives before, and was delighted to find such a fantastic resource for historians, researchers and genaeologists, not to mention artists, who often neglect their intellectual stimulus in favour of practicalities of producing new artwork!

The theme of the evening was ‘Fancy costume – the art of dressing up” and the talk was given by Charlotte Hopkins who works for the archive. We were a small group of creative people all with a common interest in textiles and history.

The lecture took a long and sometimes sideways look at the fascinating subject of ‘dressing up’ and it’s traditions in European and English society, from the Pleasure Gardens of Vauxhall to photographs taken by students at the London College of Fashion in the 1970’s.

One of our primeval instincts, completely acceptable in childhood, but modified and subverted in adult life is the need to ‘dress-up’ or take on another transient identity for the pleasure of ‘pretend play’. The escapism and anonymity of dressing up burgeoned in the 17th and 18th centuries, becoming part of upper class social life, and often viewed at the time as a pathway to depraved behaviour. Aristocracy and high society families spent large sums on having beautiful costumes created, and there was a large industry of costume and mask makers in London. The lower and working classes were more inventive in their creations for dressing up opportunities,

The Lord Mayor of London hosted masquerade balls for the children of the professional classes, and no expense was spared in the creation of their children’s costumes.

The London Metropolitan picture archive’s online resource ‘Collage’ allows free access to thousands of the documents and images in the collection, and is a fascinating resource for historians and artists alike. Tiny snippets from historic documents are available to view on request, old newspapers, photographs and illustrations are a rich resource of inspiration and a little window into lives led in another era. 


I loved the tiny catalogues of prices and business cards that had been taken out for us to handle, listing prices for ‘ladies undergarments’ and necessities !

We were lucky enough to be shown into the strong rooms of the archive, deep in the building. 

Long corridors filled with shelves and files, all housed in custom made archival boxes, with one member of staff purely responsible for creating these custom made boxes! The wonderful aroma of ancient documents and slightly musty books pervades the space. What look like really old bound books are stacked on some shelves, but on closer inspection date back only to the 1950’s, maybe the mere fact of them being in this environment has given us a preconception of their antiquity!

London coroner’s court records are stored here, with files containing both the mundane and the macabre details of lives prematurely reaching their end. A sobering view as we peer into the corridors of files. Illustrations of dress design and fashions were displayed for us to see, and I was delighted to find plates of Leon Baskt illustrations amongst the pages of the London Illustrated News from 1913. Radical costumes for the time, unstructured and body hugging in comparison with contemporary fashions.

I could happily return (and probably will!) To explore more of this fantastic free resource, but leave you to explore either through the virtual portal of  ‘Collage‘ or in person, do let me know if you find a treasure!

Through rose tinted…

Having spent the last couple of weeks looking at various design exhibitions I couldn’t help but notice a predominance of Pink in the new launches this autumn.Not that ‘Barbie pink’ we all love to hate, but a fluctuation between soft dusty pink and what I always think of as a hot ‘Indian pink’.

There are so many preconceptions about the colour pink, but it has recently come to the fore of home furnishing palettes as a sophisticated and fresh tone within the home. Despite today’s misconception that “pink is for girls’, historically the colour has had masculine associations, notably in Japan, where the coloured pink-blossomed cherry trees are seen as representing the young Samuraii who fell in battle in their prime.The flowers took on a similar meaning during the second World war, when they were painted on the side of Japanese kamikaze warplanes

The city of Jaipur in India is known as the ‘Pink City’some say that the Raja Jawai Singh had the city painted pink to welcome the Prince of Wales on an official visit, and the colour has become part of the reatition of the city  with new constructions taking on the colour to this day. As Diana Vreeland said; “Pink is the navy blue of India”

This dusty pink plays a part in the current colour trend, adding a subdued tone to the pink palette. Icons of Denmark have used this soft tone in the upholstery of their contemporary chairs as seen at Design Junction last month.

Icons of Denmark pink upholstered chair
Icons-of-Denmark

Chanel’s iconic pink tweed has been re-invented over and over in their collections, this season it ranges from the original soft pink through to hot “Shiaparelli” pink.

In the home textile collections launched at this season’s Focus show at Chelsea design Centre several companies reference this pink tweed, for example ‘Cestino Flamenceo’from Harlequin, which from a distance, gives a softly undulating pink tone.  Villa Nova also introduce their design Koji geranium; a  warm, dusty pink, textured weave from their Hana Weave collection.

Harlequin fabrics, Celestino pink tweed fabric
Harlequin-fabrics

Whilst Romo have created a new tiny geometric weave using the same tones of soft pink.

Don’t be concerned by today’s prejudices against pink as only being ‘for girls’,  This is a relatively new phenomenon.  For centuries, according to Jean Heifetz (When Blue Meant Yellow: How Colors Got Their Names . Henry Holt, 1994), European children were dressed in blue because the color was associated with the Virgin Mary. The use of pink and blue emerged at the turn of the century, the rule being pink for boys, blue for girls. Since pink was a stronger color it was best suited for boys; blue was more delicate and dainty and best for girls. And in 1921, the Women’s Institute for Domestic Science in Pennsylvania endorsed pink for boys, blue for girls. It is a matter of debate as to when the colour pink became tagged as being only for girls ( I blame Barbie, but am probably wrong!)

Pink is generally known as a colour of happiness and innocence and it has been shown to have significant effects on our psycological state.

  • It has been used in prison cells to effectively modify agressive or erratic mood swings in inmates.
  • Pink is a symbol of joy in Catholicism
  • The color pink is thought to have a tranquilizing effect. Sometimes sport’s teams use pink to paint the opposing team’s changing room!
  • Pink encourages friendliness while discouraging aggression and ill-will.
  • Male weightlifters performance has been diminished when surrounded by pink, whereas female weightlifters performance was enhanced!

The Portugese luxury interior design company Jetclass presented a sumptuous interior display at 100% design, with soft pink furnishings and contemporary accessories.

Of course The Pink House By Rebecca Cole collection is right on trend with our “Love Walk”  hand printed cushion design too!

Love Walk cushion
Love Walk. Rooted in SE5. 45x45cm cushion

Brighter pinks are youthful, fun, and exciting, while vibrant pinks have the same high energy as red; they are sensual and passionate without being too aggressive. This is on show in Mauel Canovas’ Indian inspired embroidered linen, Clermont Pivoine  which lifts the spirit in the true tradtition of pink design. Brighter pinks are stimulating, energising and can increase the blood pressure, respiration, heartbeat, and pulse rate.They also encourage action and confidence. So we will keep an eye open for this positivity in seasons to come!

Manuel Canovas Clermont pivoine embroidered linen fabric
Manuel-Canovas

 

 

Wooden it be lovely

Design Junction 2016  is one of my favourite mainstream shows of the annual London Design Festival. Contemporary design is presented within changing locations each year, all of which have some link with industry. This year’s Design junction is held at the newly revamped Kings Cross Granary Square, also home of the iconic Central St Martins School of art. Rather than attempting to give an overview of the show I have picked one theme which caught my eye as I was browsing the myriad of exhibits this morning: the trend for incorporating wooden elements into products that are more often seen using industrial, shiny or synthetic substrates.

 Notably in the lighting displays wood is being used in innovative ways, bringing a natural element to contemporary lighting.

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A.S design
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Another Studio design

Another Studio have developed new techniques for working with wood: taking sheet veneer and cutting and folding  it into dynamic shapes. The mix of machine and handmade processes serve to craft these beautiful forms.  The wooden sheets are backed with a fabric which adds colour to the inside of the lampshades.

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Tamasine Osher Design
Tamasine Osher has created a collection of wooden ‘cupola’ light forms that are from hand-turned wood with the beauty of the grain enhanced by the polished surfaces of the bowls which balance delicately within graphic steel and brass bases. The glow emanating from these wooden bowls has an ethereal quality that I love, and can envisage warming a cosy corner one winter’s evening.
Dinesen created an imposing backdrop to the entrance hall for the show. A giant wooden ‘tent’ structure served to showcase their range of stained Douglas fir and Oak flooring, setting the style for the strong wooden trend in this year’s show.
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Tala

The juxtaposition of industrial and natural was subtly used on the Tala lighting exhibit. This company has an ethos for sustainable design and have established a pledge to plant ten native trees in the UK for every 200 units sold within Europe. These lights have the aesthetic look of the traditional filament bulb whilst receiving all of the technical and energy saving capabilities of the LED. The bases or ‘knuckes’ of the lights are from turned wood, and soften the post industrial look.

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Geoffrey Fisher

The wooden home accessories of Geoffrey Fisher have all those wonderful tactile qualities of natural wood. The natural forms found in woodlands  make beautiful and sustainable products, Geoffrey transforms twigs and branches into products ranging from hooks and tabletop dustpan and brushes to whistles, catapults and skipping ropes.Retaining the bark and juxtaposing it with perfectly smooth surfaces gives this range an honesty that is both comforting and pleasing to hold.

In the spirit of sustainability, Design House Stockholm present the Atelier 2+ greenhouse. Essentially an architectural design, this mini greenhaouse is made of laquered solid Ash, with toughened glass panes. and a galvanised metal planting tray. it is designed to be a freestanding interior ornament, and brings my perusal of all things wooden to a natural close.

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Design House Stockholm

Top Drawer

As each season of new products approaches, I look forward to visiting the Top Drawer Show in London. This is in the knowledge of course, that after so many years of trend spotting, I am extremely difficult to please, and find it hard to be ‘wowed’ by the products launched by the multitudinous companies that show their wares to the trade buyers at these shows.  However, I am the eternal optimist and turn up every time looking for that wonderful object, design or personal ‘click’ that makes me feel warm inside!

I am of course always drawn to the textile products, as that is my background, and this week chanced upon the stand of Peaceable Kingdom. The Peaceable Kingdom cushion collections came about through the artist designer Hugh Dunford Wood creating an image of a cat for his daughter and subsequently grew into a range of lino block printed cushions.

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Peaceable Kingdom cushions

The random qualities of hand block printing lend an individual element that I love to these simple and striking designs, and I feel that they embody the pared-down and simplistic feel of the current trend for naturally produced, bespoke furnishings.

peaceable-kingdom-cushions28

Mon Amie are a couple of florists from Leicestershire who have designed a simple work apron that is deliciously stylish, just the kind of thing I can imagine Vita Sackville-West donning to collect fully blown roses in her Sissinghurst garden! I was initially attracted by the sumptuous colour of their stand, a combination of soft slate, earth and warm mustard aprons simply hanging and folded in unassuming piles.

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Mon Amie Aprons

Again I was drawn to the organic simplicity of the presentation and products from this duo, and love that they have been brave enough to make a limited colour statement for the launch of these linen aprons. Mon Amie living has a gentle and restrained sense of style that so many of us aspire to, but are not often brave enough to make that statement.

Moving from garden to kitchen in a smooth transition, the understated luxury of The Silver Duck cutlery collection is an example of form and function pared down to a beautiful simplicity. Charlotte Anne Duckworth ihas refined the craft of silversmithing to forge light and elegant pieces of silver cutlery, combining this luxurious metal with the pale wood of holly  for the handles. I personally can’t resist a lovely wooden box, and Charlotte has presented her pieces in simple presentation boxes, with the pieces of cutlery nestled amongst wood shavings. These little cabinets of curiosity are beautiful in themselves, but don’t be fooled into thinking that the utensils can’t be used, they are perfectly functional and Charlotte provides a litttle bottle of oil and a soft cloth for us to maintain the holly wood after it has been washed!

olive-fork-270-imbyou-vallari-harshwal

These were my pick of the Top Draw show this season, minimal, organic and functional all, but above all exemplary pieces of timeless design.

New designs at Pulse

If you have ever been to a product design trade fair you will know the feeling of walking in to face interminable corridors of small booths filled with hopeful business owners. The weight of responsibility sometimes outweighs the pleasure of discovering new talent! Having spent many years of filtering the wheat from the chaff at shows, and having been on both sides of the counter I have developed a speedy approach to trade show visits; it takes something quite special to catch my eye these days, I whizz up and down aisles waiting to be wowed rather than actively looking in each stand.

This season’s Pulse show at Olympia showcased new interior design products and grouped new designers and products into distinct sections of the show. So, my habitual zig-zag up and down the aisles went out of the window!! The ‘Launchpad’ section of the show featured young businesses launching their products into the marketplace, many of whom were exhibiting for the first time. A fleeting glance around the exhibition highlighted the fact that the most activity in the show seemed to be taking place in this and the Raw / UALnow  areas. New design is the key to the future of retailing and it is essential that these up-and-coming designers are encouraged. They have invested in their products emotionally and financially, taking them to market is one of the bravest things a designer can do.

I am showing a selection of the products that caught my eye, they may not be to everyone’s taste, but that’s the joy of new discoveries!

(Please do click on the links to see more of these lovely things!)

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Sevak Zargarian. Ceramics

 

Melina Xenaki ceramics
Melina Xenaki ceramics
Sam Wilson
Sam Wilson
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Anna Hayman Designs
ShoeLicks
ShoeLicks

 

Emma Ware, Leather and recycled silver body pieces

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Cox and Brauch. Textile designers

 

Glosters pottery
Glosters Pottery

Arty East Dulwich

East Dulwich is now renowned as one of London’s up and coming areas, this formerly dowdy corner of South East London boasts broad leafy streeets and burgeoning high streets. Property prices are rising a higher rate here than anywhere else in London and this ‘gentrification’ bemoaned by some old timers, has resulted in an upsurge of trendy restaurants, design-led shops and personal trainers in every green space. Of course, the past inhabitants of East Dulwich (formerly known to many as part of ‘Peckham’) were those drawn to a cheap area of London to live in, and voila, a community of creatives emerged. The Camberwell and Goldsmith’s Schools of Art are within easy reach, so many ex-art students have remained in the area, growing careers and families in this leafy corner of South East London. ‘Incomers’ have been attracted by great transport links to the City, Docklands and the West End, bringing a whole new demographic to the area.

Jeannie Avent gallery
Jeannie Avent Gallery

 

The Dulwich festival incorporates the Artists’ Open House event, two weekends when the local artists literally open their homes and studios to the public, and this is a fantastic opportunity to see how artists work and live. As an artist, I know how much pleasure comes from the opportunity of meeting like-minded people, getting face to face reaction and feedback to new work, and chatting about art and design. This melting pot of artists and designers spreads over the ‘Dulwich’ corner of South East London and I love the opportunity of seeing, not only what these creative souls have been working on over the past year, but taking a sneaky look behind the facades of the Georgian and Victorian streets into other people’s homes! A stroll around the back streets is punctuated by the Artists’ Open House signs posted outside the participating properties, some front doors are left open, (Something unimaginable in this area twenty years ago!) some doorbells need to be rung, but in either case a warm welcome, often with the offer of a glass of wine, and snacks is always to be had, so don’t be shy, go out there and see what there is on offer!

This weekend we made the most of a blisteringly hot day to visit a few of the open houses around the Lordship Lane and Bellenden Road area, and the artists have kindly agreed to me sharing a few images of their work, of course this is only the tip of the iceberg as there are in all over 150 homes or studios open for the event, which runs over next weekend, the 14 – 15th May.

Tig Sutton, fine art prints
Tig Sutton

Tig Sutton Has been working on expressive brush marks, gloriously free in their movement, the subtleties of colour have been enhanced in their translation ito fine art prints, this is a bold move forward from his monochromatic prints of fine linear expressive drawings last year.

Ceramicist Sacha Tanyar ( Twitter handle @bansheeplum) is showing her gorgeous ceramics with friends illustrator Angus Robertson and painter Louise Hardy. A little foray into the back yard unveils cute hand painted bird boxes created by Sacha’s partner too; a real family affair!

bird box
hand painted bird box
David Hopkins
David Hopkins. Portraits

The home of David Hopkins is that of the archetypal artist, canvasses stacked against the walls, paintings covering every surface, portraits gazing around every corner, and occasional lighthearted looks at patisserie and foodstuffs. It was a delight to talk with the softly spoken David, who explained that his portrait subjects’rarely look directly at the viewer as he finds it disconcerting, and sees this as a tribute to Velazquez who also avoided the direct gaze of his subjects.

Sarah Kier
Sarah Kier

Scenic artist, Sarah Kier has been working on a series of paintings exploring the maps showing bomb damage to streets in the Blitz. The maps have been stencilled onto canvas and painted using scene painting techniques that she has used in her work for shows such as War Horse. Sarah is currently working with the National Theatre.

Ellen Hanceri
Ellen Hanceri 

Printmaker Ellen Hanceri has translated her block printed designs onto textiles, ceramics and homeware. Simple printed images tessellate in a style reminiscent of the woodcut designs of the 1940’s. Ellen is showing her work alongside ceramicist Ben Swift who has recently been developing a body of work that explores the torus form. I, however was instantly captivated by a display of his mini ceramic animals and a mantlepiece crammed with small cylindrical vessels before looking around the front room with the beautiful collection of suspended torus’ (or should that be torii?) along the walls!

Staying with the Liliputian theme, my next visit was to the front room of Stephane Godec who works under the label NoBookEnds. Stephan creates fantastical worlds from cut and folded paper using vintage books. He transports us from the city to the seaside with his little row of beach huts emerging from an old book, and his meticulous paper cuts are also shown as framed pieces of multi layered collages.

No Book Ends
No Book Ends. Intricate paper cuts from vintage books by Stephane Godec 

My final visit this weekend was to the workshop of Richard Wood who makes bespoke furniture. Richard’s pieces are refined, simple and elegant with a lightness of touch that is truly contemporary, the aroma of wood shavings permeates the workshop, and instantly transported me to my childhood, watching my grandfather turning wooden bowls on his lathe in the garage – happy days!!

If you happen to have the opportunity of wandering the streets of Dulwich next weekend, I would thoroughly recommend it, you never know what treasures you might find behind those front doors!