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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
These were my pick of the Top Draw show this season, minimal, organic and functional all, but above all exemplary pieces of timeless design.
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!)
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.
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 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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
London’s Chelsea Harbour Design Centre was celebrating London Design week with the crème de la crème of London’s interior textile showrooms launching their new fabric and wallpaper collections to the trade. From an overwhelming array of design inspiration I have picked out some themes that emerged as I made my way through champagne sipping, canapé nibbling, interior designers and buyers in the pristine showrooms!
A return to nature was evident across many collections, including Sanderson where the design studio has been busy out in the countryside sketching woodland plants and creatures for their new ‘Woodland Walk’ collection! Embroidered feathers wafted gently across silk in the Osborne and Little showroom on the King’s Road, as if just shed by a passing bird to form a swirl of plumes, and Manuel Canovas had stylised feathers in their collection too. The delicately painted floral design in the Harlequin showroom, whilst not typically ‘English’ in its flower forms, certainly gives the feel of a soft frosted tangle of wayside flowers.
Cole & Son Wallpapers led the trend for design inspired by mineral surfaces and formations, Their stunning ‘Quartz’ design was inspired by the 2009 Turner prize nominee Roger Hiorns’ crystal encrusted south London Flat, whilst the sequinned embroidery of Sahco Hesslein evokes seams of precious minerals across rich grey silk. Osborne and Little have joined the current trend for rich velvets, producing a sumptuous printed malachite effect which is contrasted by the industrial chic metallic surfaces of Harlequin’s wallpaper collection.
The blowsy florals of the 1950’s are resurfacing with a vengeance in the home furnishings world. Designer’s Guild have launched a new collection of ‘Couture Rose’ designs, comprising of windblown Rose stems, Orchids and Irises. The mid-century glamour is epitomised by the loose brushwork of the Designers Guild signature style. Long recognised as the home of beautiful floral prints, Sanderson has revisited some of it’s classic designs in its ‘Vintage 2 ‘collection, bouquets of Sweet Williams and classic pink roses against a stark black and white stripe, hark back to the classic designs of Sanderson’s origins. Jean-Paul Gaultier has created a floral design inspired by the masters of botanical floral art. The photographic reproduction of old masters are mixed with his signature sailor stripe in a clever envelope cushion design.
On my recent Visit to New York, I had a brief chance to look at The National Museum of the American Indian . It’s a kind of American version of the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, but less chaotic. I was struck by two exhibits, one of a pair of neck collar pieces dating to AD500-1525 called Cocle necklaces, from Panama. One is made from fine hammered gold strips, the other seems to be from carved shards of bone or shell. Both give an impresion of extreme lightness and a feathered effect around the form of the necklace.
Further on in my trail around the museum I came upon this californian dance kilt/apron, made from Condor feathers and knotted twine, dating from the 1920’s -40’s. It’s funny how these things stuck in my head, and I ruminated over how I could incorporate the concept of feathers into my home furnishings collection.
And here is the result; I managed to source some rooster feathers and have used them to make a luxurious trim for the latest in my African inspired cushion collection. Combining hand tie-dyed Nigerian cloth, Yoruba beads and weaving and these lovely feathers has resulted in a real piece of luxury to add to the collection.