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!
I do love to pop in to my local galleries on a completely random basis, (often to grab a coffee in addition to cultural input, it must be admitted!) The South London Gallery is a haven of the Camberwell/Peckham culture scene, and in addition to having a great cafe next door, shows pioneering contemporary British and international artists as part of its mission to “bring art to the people of south London”.
The current exhibition of Slovakian artist Roman Ondak in the main gallery has uncovered the original Walter Crane marquetry panel inset into the gallery floor, and he uses the quote in the panel as his exhibition title; “The source of art is in the life of a people”. The exhibition lasts for one hundred days and a significant element of the work is an oak tree trunk sawn into one hundred disks, the disks have each been marked around one of its rings to represent a key historical event that happened in that year of the tree’s life. each day a new slice is mounted on the gallery wall and tracks the passage of time, demarcated by Ondak’s selection of significant events. it is fascinating to ‘read’ this timeline as it evolves through the show period, and realise that each of us has a different perspective of what we consider to be ‘significant’ historical events.
Roman Ondak has invited local young people to get involved in the creation of his work ‘Awesome Rules of Language’ where he has taken illustrations from a 1960’s textbook and recreated them on the walls of the gallery. The illustrations have been drawn over by the adolescent collaborators and these doodles and comments have given a quirky contemporary twist as a commentary on social and educational norms.
Still in the theme of education, Ondak has salvaged four large school blackboards from his native Slovenia, entitled ‘Four Moon Phases’ a bowl of a ladle is inserted into each of the boards, symbolising the four phases of the moon, referring again to the passage of time and the transition between past and present that informs our existence.
I will certainly be popping back periodically to check what has happenned next in Ondak’s ‘tree of history’.
Our beautiful crop of sunflowers was decimated this year by a rogue squirrel that invaded the garden. Despite the best efforts of our resident squirrel family to intimidate him, the intrepid invader returned systematically to decapitate our prize blooms. Feats of acrobatics, inventiveness and sheer audacity notwithstanding the little beast managed to destroy all the sunflowers one by one leaving a confetti of seed shells scattered at the base of the stems each day. Loathed to tear up the remains of the crop, we left the headless stems amongst the other plants and lo and behold, new little buds have sprouted!
Too late for a glorious summer show these mini blooms are intense in their autumn colour and herald the glorious slip into fall colours and crisp mornings. I thought I would share the ‘fallen’ sunflowers’ triumph over squirrel adversity…
The current blockbuster show at the V&A museum was a must see this week, it runs into the new year so you still have plenty of time to visit.
Put aside at least a couple of hours for this mammoth collection of 6o’s and 70’s memorabilia, from Twiggy, The Beatles and Sam Cooke right through to the final 1970’speace movement, Vietnam war and a massive Woodstock festival experience.
Imagine taking the ‘Acid test’ and be absorbed by the musical timeline that cleverly takes you through the show on the headsets provided.
There was so much to take in, and so much to listen to, I could have done with a second visit, which, as a friend of the V&A I can do, but one day ticket holders are not so lucky and really have to immerse themselves in a head swirling cacophony of images, memories and music, which are, I suppose quite in keeping with the surreal hedonism portrayed in the exhibition!
The portrayal of optimism, and faith in the power of youth sails through the sixties, and comes crashing down as you enter the era of the Vietnam war, and the Black power struggle in the seventies. The quote that sticks in my mind is that of a young aamerican soldier being interviewed about the casualties of the war; the interviewer asks;
“And the children?”
“And the children”
Struggle against authority becomes the focus of youth and the era of festivals and the peace movement takes us into Woodstock, where we experience the music and fashions of Hendrix, Baez and The Who. The optimism of youth emerges once more and the naive optimism abounds amongst the music and naturalism of the moment.
Of course as we progress to the final room of the exhibition we are faced with the story in film of cynical consumerism, war and politics all overlaid with the soundtracks to CocaCola adverts.
I left the exhibition with an overwhelming sense of the rollercoaster of emotions I had experienced through the show, optimism, hope, idealism and freedom, juxtaposed with disillusionment, futility and brutality. John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ is playing in our ears as we leave the show, epitomising all these emotions in one poignant moment.
Notably in the lighting displays wood is being used in innovative ways, bringing a natural element to contemporary lighting.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I revisited one of my favourite art venues this weekend in the Cotswold town of Cirencester. The Brewery Arts Centre was one of the pioneers in encouraging designer makers to set up workshops and studios in their purpose built hub.For the past 40 years the Cirencester Workshops’ aim has been to ‘give the public good quality crafts, provide craftspeople with a fair rent and encourage them to produce creative work of a high standard, and to put the enterprise on a sound financial basis’. I have been priveleged to witness the evolution of this centre over the years and have always enjoyed popping in to see what’s on in the gallery or peep into the workshops to witness some really stunning works being created. (Not to mention the fab coffee!)
The current exhibition, “How does your garden grow?” has been curated by garden designer Geoff Carr. He has created an indoor garden design which features ceramics, sculpture, garden furniture and tools. Although I was not a great fan of the synthetic lino ’tiling’ which didn’t really do the works sitting upon it justice, I thoroughly approve of the concept behind the show. So often, garden design elements are shoved to the background, overshadowed by showy plants and flowers, but this exhibition gives us the opportunity to see gardening staples, such as terracotta flowerpots, trowels and bird boxes in a new light as bona-fide pieces of craft in their own right.
The sculptural qualities of woven willow are more apparent in a gallery setting, before they have been overgrown with the plants they are destined to support. The ceramic forms of Nigel Edmonson incorporate ‘landscape based abstraction that responds to the Lakeland fells’ that lie on his doorstep.
Karen Edwards also works in clay , exploring her interest in plants and landscape. The pieces are hand formed, using various techniques to create individual pieces which are then embellished, embossed or polished and glazed.
The palatial clay birdboxes created by Peter Garrard are a fantastical journey into his world of fascination with Chinese, Medieval and Pre-Renaissance artefacts. Lavishly decorated and glazed these dwellings would be for the most discerning of feathered property tycoons!
A row of beach hut striped teracotta pots spans the width of the gallery and I love the idea of these colourful elements added to the simplest form of garden pottery. The humble flowerpot has been given special treatment by potter Simon Hulbert who works in Haye-on-Wye. Simon says;”My work has always been varied in scale and complexity- from the humble plant pot, simply thrown, through to the larger one-off pieces which are often monumental in scale.” I am so pleased that he has treated us to this display of ‘humble’ pots.
I seem to have focussed on the ceramic elements in my photographs but there was a range of other mediums on show, including some stunning steamed wood baskets from Jane Crisp
And just in case you feel the need to get your hands dirty and actually plant something in your garden here are some really splendid bespoke tools from Implementations to adorn your garden shed walls!