It makes me feel a little like I am back in high school doing an essay plan but I LOVE Mind Maps. I believe I may even have used them to plan parties and holidays.
They are an effective and visual way to see the whole of a problem on one page and work on a solution organically in the same space. Mine tend to be fairly basic, but they can be complex and beautiful like this one from Tim Brown, the CEO of IDEO.
This was an amazing project from Dunne & Raby. A set of robots that we can relate to in different ways, asking questions about the roll that such machines might play in our future.
You can read more here
I first came across Tilleke Schwartz work in Selvedge magazine. I don't know much about the embroidery world but it seems that she is quite an established practitioner. She descibes her work as 'visual poetry', Her pieces remind me of Grayson Perry's Vases, observations and musings on life in word and picture - although much of her work predates his so I guess now he should remind me of her!
It is delicate and bold, all handstiched but in a mixture of stitches. It has beautiful textures and a depth that I imagine is achieved by working and overworking the piece - she does not work from a predesigned plan. I haven't seen a piece in real life, but I like to imagine that the fabric (which is mostly reused) might show the marks its previous life and the marks you would make when handling it for such a prolonged period whilst working on it.
The space in the pieces is important as is the text. It feels like it has been made by a woman, a strong woman with some fragile thoughts.
These stunning bags are made of New Zealand Flax and other native grasses. They are kete (Maori for basket) and are embodied with the spiritual beliefs and values of the Maori people.They can be incredibly intricate and made in all shapes and sizes. I think the delicate balance between the handle and the body of the kete, along with the slim shape make them especially pleasing.
They are often passed down through generations.
This is an amazing project. Rekindle take dumped wood and turn it into beautiful furniture You can find out more about it here
For me, one of these chairs would satisfy all my requirements of an ensouled object. It has integrity, a backstory, craftsmenship and is functional.
I visited the Bauhaus Exhibition at The Barbican a few weeks ago and came out much happier than I thought I'd be.
The Bauhaus has pretty much loomed over me since I set foot in an art school . Big, patriarchal and so filled with historical gravitas - I almost felt quite faint at the thought of how they would present it in the Barbican - a building that has a similar enveloping feel to me. So I was pleased that the overwhelming message that took away from this visit was that The Bauhaus was a school.A place with young people who were doing the same things that design and art students do the world over, experimenting, making mistakes and having quite a few parties. Of course, the influence that The Bauhaus had on subsequent generations is important, but understanding the environment that this style evolved in has added another dimension to my reading of it.
There was also a really beautiful copy of Kadinsky's triangle, square , circle questionnaire that someone had coloured in, but sadly I could not photograph it.
Also - note to self - there was a man who I followed for about 20 mins as he was filling a notebook with writing about a mm tall. It was incredible. I wish I had asked him about it.
Whenever someone complains about how expensive a piece of handcrafted work is, I feel my hackles rise. This is usually followed by my unsuspecting victim being treated to my lecture about gallery commission and how long xyz takes to makes and if you're buying it somewhere else for a fiver a CHILD probably made it . . . and it goes on. It normally ends up with me trying to justify my existence, but that's how it is when you work in the creative industries. For many of us, especially when you are newly graduated, even vaguest of acquaintances think nothing of asking you to 'take a few photos', design a wedding invitation or make their child's birthday cake. None of these people would dream of asking their plumber friend to do a two day job for free or their neighbour, the accountant, to do their tax return. But us 'artistic' people - well - we ENJOY doing it don't we - and anyway - they always add - you can put it in your porfolio. BLESS!
See - hackles rising. I would also add that my quick straw poll of 5 men and 5 women has informed me that this is more likely to happen to women - because - you know - we have more spare time.
I could continue in this vein for a while longer, but it's not healthy and besides, my neighbour's aunt has asked me to edit her holiday photos . . .
Saved by Doog
I'm pretty sure I have previously written about and definitely talked a lot about, the Dutch Designer Studio droog . They work with a host of designers to produce a range of lighting, furniture, accessories and homewares that have a very strong droog family feel to them - whimsical, but not cliched.
Back in 2010 they bought over 5000 items from liquidation auction in the Netherlands and set about asking designers to create new futures for these objects.
In their words
A pragmatic starting point with surprising outcomes, the presentation celebrates the re-use potential of leftovers as a valid approach to product design and development. All items were immediately available for sale in editions dictated by the limited liquidation lot quantities.
My favourite - the salt and pepper shakers turned into roll-on perfume bottles . . .
This is the kind of project that excites me - working within the tight parameters of the physical material, but with no limits to the final outcome.
The salt and pepper shakers were designed by Eric Klarenbeek.
Just before I started the second half of this course I went to The Geffrye Museum to see At Home in Japan: Beyond the Minimal House. I was reminded of it as I recently went to see JAPAN: Kingdom of Characters at the SCVA (more about that later)
It was a tiny, but beautiful exhibition, based around the mock up of a typical flat, that sought to show a different type of Japanese home, one that was not at all minimalist - one that had STUFF in it. A lot of stuff. I feel that most people would already have recognised that Japanese people do not all live in Zen-like abodes with just a tatami mat and perfect flower arrangements for company - but still, it was an insightful tour through Japanese knick -knacks and ephemera.
And of course, this exhibition had a special poignancy as it followed the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan last year.It was especially moving to wander through a mock up of a Japanese home, knowing that so many were homeless or had to leave all their belongings inside the radioactive zone.
It made me think about how I collect objects. How I categorise what I keep and how I store things. How I place value on possessions and the hierachy give these in the physical environment of my home.
Since beginning my MA the question of methodology and research has bothered me. I have read the recommended books, learnt how to place my own work in the correct methodology, but always whilst feeling uncomfortable. We are taught how it is an evolving area, that we are finding our way, but it all seemed so vague. I have previously completed quantitative research for a BSc and it was water-tight in all areas, all the variables accounted for. In research for the visual arts, however, it seems okay to borrow from which ever methodology seems to fit the type of outcome we require. Rigorous, it is not.
So, I was excited to find this film. I know it doesn't necessarily apply to design (she appears to be talking from a fine art position) but she pretty much expresses my views on the subject of research in the Visual Arts, particularly when she talks about not becoming amateur anthropologists or amateur sociologists. If we want to continue to formalise the use of research in the arts then we really have to find our own, strong voice in which to discuss our own methodologies.
When I was designing the bench, my biggest dilemma was how I was going to produce it. I knew that I did not have the neccessary skill set but also that I needed someone to help me who was capable of replicating exactly what I had designed. Then I remembered Derrick, an award winning furniture and cabinet maker whose studio I had stumbled upon a year or so ago when looking for something completely different. It was not his usual kind of job - he makes far finer furniture - and I am grateful for him for taking it on.
You can see what he normally creates here.
I plan to write a blog entry of working with makers at some point soon.
I can't remember where I first saw this piece of work, but I do know that I didn't see it in the flesh and I wish I had. In her words . . .
Consciousness/Conscience is a ceramic installation that comprises several thousand hollow unfired Bone China tiles laid out on the floor of the gallery space. The work is installed so that visitors to the exhibition need to cross the work to encounter other parts of the exhibition. By walking across the work they effectively destroy the floor to gain access to other works. The floor tiles record their path within the space. Consciousness/Conscience is conceptually linked with ideas of human interaction, social convention and appropriateness.
I am really interested in how people interact with the space around them, how they use familiar and 'designed' paths around public space, and how this is manipulated. I wonder how I would walk around this installation, I wonder how many would walk around the edge. I started a small game with myself where I go to a familiar place, I shut my eyes and open them again and pretend I 've never been there before. Then I try to do the opposite of what I would normally do. For example - I don't think I'd ever walked down the right hand side of St Giles St (Norwich) in the 20 odd years that I have lived near or in Norwich. I did and it's darker than the left but a much quieter pavement.
The sound of this installation is also amazing.
1. To endow with a soul.
2. To place, receive, or cherish in the soul.
Ensouled objects are the special things in your life.
They are well cared for and valued. An ensouled object may be as simple as a well worn wooden spoon and as complex as a family heirloom. They may have precious memories attached to them or simply be indispensable in your everyday life.
I am collecting and archiving images of ensouled or special objects as part of my research for my Masters Project. I am really interested in what makes you keep something.
If you would like to share (and please, please do! ) you can do one of several things . . .
:: Check out my Flickr Group here and add your own image directly to the group.
:: Email me your image to firstname.lastname@example.org - straight from your phone is fine - and I will upload it to Flickr.
And please remember to leave a few words explaining why it means what it does to you.
And the shoe at the top? That's one of my ensouled objects, made to fit my extra wide feet exactly by a talented shoe maker, by the beach, in New Zealand. The soles made from reclaimed hardwood sourced from fallen down houses. Really.
I keep them because of the memories, but mostly because they fit.
After much messing around and ummming and ahhing and all that stuff - I have decided to to steer my Masters project along a different route. Actually, it wasn't so much a change of direction - more a massive 'bugger, I've forgotten something really important and I'm going to have to go home, lose loads of time and start my trip all over again' sort of a moment. However, like turning back to check you've unplugged the iron, it was necessary.
You see, I'd designed this bench, and with the help of a wonderful local cabinet maker, I'd produced it. It's real and beautiful and it would seem that everything was going to plan. After all, my project was about the way people sit and I'd fulfilled one of my aims - made a seat. But the seating aspect was not what was really interesting me.
I was interested in the wood, about it being a design that I loved, about the size being right for me and my family. In short - I was interested in it's qualities as a bespoke, personalised object - more than I was interested in the fact it was a bench. I was interested in what made it special. And so a new body of work starts. Thank goodness the bench is still relevant.
Apparently this was made to be shown in Indian Cinemas before the main feature. It was an attempt to make the process of engaging in the National Anthem inclusive. Although performed by children using sign language, it is not just a comment on disability. India has countless languages and these languages often serve to distinguish or highlight divide.
Apparently 14 Million Indians go to the cinema EVERY DAY (according to my quick Google search !) What an incredible vehicle for communication that is.
I had one of those irritating moments tonight when I thought I had found that someone had already produced what was a vague idea in my head. It turns out not - quite. Remember these simple lanterns that you'd make as a child? I thought they might be interesting made in carved porcelain. That's what I thought these were - but turns out they're card.
The website I found them on - Radiance - has some beautiful work by designer /makers.
I've seen this in a few sustainable design texts . . .
Ash Lampshade by Tom Raffield
I love unlikely partnerships.
A bit of a plug - but also a bit of good design! Shift.ms is a charity that Simon is involved with - it aims to foster a dynamic online community of people with a diagnosis of MS (multiple sclerosis).
Designers have to look forward and start making products that will sit well in all our futures, but we must do this with humility. We must be mindful that as the population swells and ages, we do not have all the answers at our fingertips. We need to reach out into the world a little more, be a little more enquiring. Instead of imposing ideas upon people from our studios, we need to go into our communities and have some of those ideas imposed upon us. I believe that involving other people is probably the only way to achieve true sustainability because if people are invested in a project they will place a higher value on it. Redstrom said “People, not users, inhabit the world. A ‘user’ is something that designers create’’ Like a post-it note at a brain storming session, the term ‘users’ implies that some kind of vague background research has been undertaken. It would be of more value to be honest about the origins of a design, to acknowledge past influences, make it – and move on. Using more of a multidisciplinary approach to design can only be beneficial to the final outcome.
Doshi Levian were commissioned by Swarovski to design this chair - and I really like the way they sit there and say they've tried to make it easier to live with crystals around you - because 'Swarovski is sometimes difficult to live with'. I have to say that one of those chairs is the only way a bit of Swarovski would get past my front door.
This week we had to reflect on one object from of a list of iconic pieces of design. I chose the post- it note.
Then we had to reinvent it.
So - you can't really see but it says Jess. My attempt at a permanent post -it to replace the ones I write twice a week to make sure I don't forget to pick up my daughter's friend Jess for school. I think there are about 42 weeks in a school year so I am saving 84 post-it notes a year - 588 over their time at primary school.
David Trubridge has redesigned several of his lights as kitsets reducing packaging and greatly reducing transport costs. Good for the environment and good for his business. He calls it his Seed System and this is how he describes it :
Why fill a truck with one tree,
when the cost to the Earth is reduced
by packing in boxes of seed?
You receive the seed of a lightshade,
and have fun and satisfaction
making it grow yourself.
Your tree fills into the space;
the patterns of its leaves
calm with their shade.
It nourishes with its fruit,
and keeps the balance of life.
The idea ripples out
and spreads to the world,
which becomes a brighter place
Beautiful type by Anna Garforth
Zeer pots have been used for thousands of years and today are still helping people keep food fresh in the heat of saharan and sub-saharan Africa. They are made up of two earthenware pots of different sizes, placed one inside the other. You fill the space between the pots with damp sand and keep it moist by adding water - you fill the smaller pot with food. The top is covered over with a damp cloth and as the water in the sand evaporates the temperature of the pot is lowered from the ambient temperature by several degrees. A zeer pot can keep 10kg of food fresh for about 20 days.
I have seen Omani air coolers that work on a similar principle - clay pots filled with water and hung up in windows where the water evaporates and cools the surrounding air.
Clever, frugal and beautiful.
This week we were asked to respond, in any way, to a newspaper story. I chose a headline from The Guardian Online about the Jewish festival of Sukkot and the way it invites us to think about those for whom transient living is normal.
I am interested in the idea of a transient lifestyle and the way in which it requires that some things or people remain still. If you are, or choose to be, always moving you often rely on hospitality. For those who are called on to be hospitable, the question of space can be an issue. I would like to invite people to stay with us, but we have no place for them to sleep. My children have a corner of the living room in which to play, but no seating. I have tried to address these issues and have designed an object that is both a bed and low level seating with play potential.
In 'bed' mode
In 'play' mode
In 'seat' mode
I'm sure I've blogged about this before, but now my children are a little older I have realised Voluskrin's real play potential - whereas previously I just looked at it in its box and thought how lucky my children were to have Aunties that bought them such stylish toys.
It's basically a set of resin bones that, traditionally, Icelandic children would use to represent animals - you can read more about it here. They've really taken to it and I think it has a lot to do with how tactile it is. Just goes to show how little children really need. Next step - real bones . . .
Alex Steffen: Worldchanging, Revised and Updated Edition: A User's Guide for the 21st Century
A kind of rambling journey through projects, models, critiques,reviews, opinions,ideas and ideals, on topics that range from women's health and education to the environment and, well, everything really. As one of the main texts for my MA I tried reading it from cover to cover, but that wasn't the way to do it. It's a 'chunk' book - best read in small pieces so you can properly absorb and reflect on what you've just read.
Donald A. Norman: Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things
It does feel a bit dated, but only because the world is so fast now and this is not a new book. But it all makes sense and reinforces the reasons why we 'want' objects.
Jon Wozencroft: The Graphic Language of Neville Brody
As I don't read a lot about Graphic designers I found this fascinating. I grew up reading The Face and I didn't know much about Magazine design back - I just knew I liked it because I felt it was different - and it was! There is a chapter where Brody is talking about students that he teaches and how he wishes that when they had an idea they would just do it and move onto the next one, instead of picking it to pieces. I have taken this on as a piece of good advice.
Shigeki Nakamura: Pattern Sourcebook: Nature: 250 Patterns for Projects and Designs (v. 1)
Pretty pictures/pattern research