Posts Tagged ‘design’

Jade’s Jewels

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

This afternoon I attended a Collection Bites session at the Manchester Museum. Run once a month, these are one hour discussions about items in the museum’s collection. This month it was hosted by Jade Mellor, a jewellery designer based in Manchester who uses natural minerals and stones incorporated into resin rings, pendants and bangles. Jade is inspired by items she has seen in the museum’s collection such as asteroids and ancient stones. I randomly met Jade about a year ago while listening to a talk at the Manchester Art Gallery. She then invited me to the opening of the new space within the Manchester Museum despite only knowing me for half an hour. Jade is one of those people who is just SO NICE. She deserves an award for ‘Being genuinely lovely.”

Jade's jewellery along side the artefacts from the museum that inspired her

Jade’s jewellery along side the artefacts from the museum that inspired her

Jade’s work is just as wonderful as her personality. Her rings are my kind of jewellery – big chunky pieces that fill your fingers and could act as a weapon in desperate times. The way in which she mixes colours and natural materials is organic and seamless – she manages to make large chunks of quartz and pyrite appear naturally embedded in the resin structure. Not normally a fan of shiny things, Jade brought in samples of pyrite and I am now in love with bling. This amazing substance, also known as “Fool’s gold,” naturally forms in cubes (or cuboid crystals according to Wikipedia.). It’s amazing. During the talk we made faux pyrite by sticking gold gift-boxes together. Bee-u-de-fool.

Pyrite is awesome.

Pyrite is awesome.

I am now trying to choose which ring I want to ask Jade to make me for my birthday. Jade’s black resin rings with pyrite are currently top of my list. Yes, that’s a HINT.

Imperial War Museum North

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

I have wanted to go to the Imperial War Museum since I first visited Manchester in 2007 and I finally had the opportunity to go on the Monday bank holiday. The building sits proudly on the edge of Salford Quays competing in an “impressive building battle” across the Manchester Ship Canal with the Lowry theatre. While I do love the Lowry, Daniel Libeskind’s angular structure just excites me a little bit more. Libeskind also designed the Jewish Museum in Berlin, a building that brought me to tears when I visited it in 2007. The design of the Jewish Museum space with high ceilings, sharp cornered rooms and fantastic use of natural light so cleverly emphasises the horrible story of the holocaust and it made a huge impact on me. This emotional reaction instantly returned as I walked into the Imperial War Museum and saw similar design elements repeated in the building. It’s incredible the affect good architecture and design can have.

Imperial War Museum North

Imperial War Museum North

As you walk around looking at the displays, every 15 minutes or so presentations exploring war-based subjects are projected on every wall within the large exhibition space. The room goes dark and the space becomes a multi-screened movie theatre. The quality of the projects was brilliant – none of the images were out of alignment (a personal hate of mine) and you felt like you were part of the show. It was very clever and very well executed.

Exhibition space

Exhibition space

There is a viewing platform at the top of the building that delivers views over Salford Quays. The lift up to the top sounded like it was in need of repair but the space at the top was great – somewhat open to the elements, those with a fear of heights may not appreciate the view through the slits in the floor down to the ground.

A great view from a cage

A great view from a cage

I will definitely be returning to spend some time in one of the best spaces in Manchester. And so should you. Go there. Now.

Exploring Imagination

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

I requested a day off work and spent a long weekend down in London. I took the opportunity to attend one of the free talks organised by the School of Life at Selfridges as part of the Festival of Imagination. This festival comprises a series of talks and workshops that encourage creative thought and exploration of the imagination. The lunch time talk I attended was given by the creative development team, Vitamins, who discussed three of the amazing projects that they have worked on and developed. From a folding wheelchair wheel to a wall calendar, their main focus is solving problems through beautiful and thoughtful design.

My favourite project that they spoke about was a simplified user manual for smart phones. The original brief was from Samsung to find out how to make smart phones more accessible to older users. They developed a beautiful hard covered book which you place the new phone into and that provides you with straightforward, easy to follow instructions on how to install, set up and use the phone. As I watched the talk I imagined my grandmother being presented with this manual and being confident enough to set up her own phone. The research they undertook to get to the final product was fantastic – interviewing and conducting product tests with people of various ages to discover what made smart phones so difficult for older users. The final user manual is beautiful and practical – as all good products should be. You should look at their video for the user manual on their website – genius.

The talk was very inspirational – seeing three young people with such creative ideas and so much enthusiasm for their work was wonderful to see.

Sunday Afternoon Surprises

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

One of the things that I love most about Paris is that you can be walking aimlessly through the city and stumble across things that you never expected. Today I had Japanese Bento for lunch at Le Marché des Enfants Rouges and then walked home, criss-crossing through streets in the Marais. I saw a row of coloured balloons up Rue de Charlot and decided that could only mean good things, so headed towards the large bunch to see what was happening.

Balloons on Rue Charlot

Balloons!

Inside an amazing glass-walled atelier space was a design market, with local designers selling clothes, jewellery and other accessories. I had a wander and saw some bags hanging from a clothes rack. On first sight they looked like nice enough leather bags, but the designer came up and started speaking to me and then I discovered that these were not just your average bag.

Margherita Matticari, a petite and sweet Italian girl, has created the most practical, useful and beautiful bags that I have ever seen. Made from soft Italian leather, the bag can be reversed, zipped, unzipped, with handles, without handles, long, short, everywhich way up. There are pockets for everything and you can drape your jackets through the middle of it. As she showed it to me, my jaw fell to the floor with pure joy and amazement. These bags are hand made in her atelier (beunperfect) and are just BEAUTIFUL.

They come in different sizes and have different variances and different pockets and some can be turned into a ‘going out at night bag’ and others are more for the day time and fit your laptop etc etc. Just pure wow. This bag has amazed me because it fulfils my aesthetic AND my practical requirements. Beautiful bags are usually impractical to use, and practical bags are generally hideous. This ticked all boxes AND it is made by a lovely person!

They are expensive… but fair enough. The quality of the workmanship and the materials PLUS the PURE GENIUS that goes behind them. So if anyone is currently scratching their head trying to think of what to buy me for Christmas, your problem has just been solved. I WANT THIS. Except in red leather. Thank you.

Hello Etsy <--- Said With Dutch Accent

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Last night I returned home from a four day trip to the Netherlands. My travels were dual-purposed:

  1. To attend the Hello Etsy 2012 conference
  2. It was a good excuse to visit my family.

I always feel very at home in the Netherlands – perhaps it is because all of a sudden I am surrounded by people who are tall, blonde and rosy-cheeked like me instead of the short, skinny Frenchies I hang out with these days. I can’t speak Dutch although from growing up listening to my Grandparents speak to one another I seem to have an ear for the language. I can’t tell you exactly what is being said but I can follow very basic conversations. The human brain is an amazing thing.

Maybe it is these red shutters, but I feel at home in Holland

Anyway, I spent most of my time with my family in Gouda (it’s pronounced Gggccchhhh-ow-der not G-oo-da), visiting the city, driving to the apparently mountainous ‘dunes’ (they was slightly raised patches of ground) near the coast, and eating gevulde koek. On Sunday we went to Delft where I didn’t buy any blue and white porcelain but I did watch people sail boats around and around a course in a small area in a canal. My cousin, Judit was one of the organisers of the event and she tried to explain to me the complexities of the event. It certainly looked technically difficult and I definitely couldn’t have done it. Crazy Dutch.

Delft canal

You can’t get more Dutch than this – canal, boats, houses, Vermeer clouds.

On Saturday I woke up very early and caught three trains to Eindhoven for the Hello Etsy 2012 conference – a day of talks by small creative business owners run by the good folk from Etsy. It was linked with Dutch Design Week and there were many interesting events happening in Eindhoven. None of my family could understand WHY it was in Eindhoven, but that’s where it was so that’s where I went.

Hello Etsy

Hi there.

The conference was attended by lots of fellow crafters who sell their products on the Etsy website. There were about 200 of us and we listened to various speakers including Janine Vangool from Uppercase Magazine; Satish Kumar, a former monk who now travels the globe encouraging peace and environmental responsibility (he also walked from India to America via Moscow, London and Paris (yes, walked) carrying boxes of tea to give to the heads of government to encourage them to drink a cup of tea and have a bit of a think before starting nuclear war); and Piet Hein Eek, a Dutch designer whose atelier the conference was being held in.

Piet Hein Eek workshop

The AMAZING workshop at Piet Hein Eek

While all of the speakers had something interesting to say, I gained the most insight from Janine as she spoke about the processes and changes she has gone through throughout her life in order to get to her current position as a magazine and book publisher. It was reassuring to hear that it isn’t an overnight occurrence and that she has changed jobs and directions many times throughout her career to be where she is now. It made me realise that over the past two years I have been telling people about this book I am writing about Paris (yet honestly haven’t really started yet) and am trying to attempt various other projects instead. But the idea of having my words printed in a beautifully bound book with nice typesetting and photographs makes every inch of me tingle with excitement.

Janine provided the advice of doing what you love and the fact that you can’t succeed or fail unless you try. This is a significant pitfall in my current way of doing things – I don’t try. I sit around hoping that some magical fairy will make something happen for me on my behalf instead of getting out there and making things happen. This has to change.

She also said that there is always room for quality which I think was a lovely thing. You can tell from Uppercase that she has a great eye for quality and that the work she produces is made from the heart. This is something I aspire to do.

An overall feeling I gained from all of the speakers was that they were simply following whatever their heart and soul was telling them. Instead of producing products with a specific market in mind, they would make something that they liked, loved, wanted and the market would find a place for it.

Hello Etsy conference

Lots of interested listeners

The most popular speaker of the day was Satish Kumar – a cute, little, 70-something Indian ex-monk who made the hearts of the 90 per cent female crowd go gooey. He is a very impressive man with a strong will, amazing intelligence and a determined agenda to spread the idea of peace. He was also very human and approachable, not preaching to us but presenting the facts and encouraging us to follow our dreams and to focus on making the world a better place. One of the things he said that stuck with me was that everything in life has a place, including fear and doubt. It is just a matter of keeping these things in their place and not allowing them to control us. Very true.

I came away from the conference not having ‘networked’ as much as I set out to do but with a better understanding of creative business. It is a long journey and requires a lot of effort and work, all of which I believe I am capable and willing to do. I just need to get my butt into gear and do it.

Hello Etsy bag

Why, hi!

Paper Cutting Dreams

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

My latest obsession is paper cutting – I have intense desires to learn how to do it and spend hours cutting away at intricate designs. I am currently faced with two problems – I am rubbish at drawing and I cannot visualise how to join all of the little bits of a design together. Which bits do you cut? What do you leave? How do you make sure it doesn’t all fall apart?

I have spent the last few days researching paper cutters and the types of work that is being produced, and nearly all of them talk about how they taught themselves and started paper cutting because you don’t need many materials and the simple yet structurally sound results of paper cutting excited them. These elements are all sitting very close to my heart and I feel a kick of excitement every time I see a paper cut design. I almost cried watching this film of Julie from Famille Summerbelle because I want so badly to be this skilled and to be able to produce pieces of this quality.

My aim is to teach myself how to do this – I figure if everyone else can then why can’t I? Start small and work my way up…

So Beautiful

Monday, March 19th, 2012

I am in love.

With a dress. I ran past a photograph advertising this Chloé design on Saturday morning and had to stop and look closer. What a shame it costs over 2500 Euros and you need to look like these girls in order to wear it. Maybe I will just superimpose my head on them and pretend.

Chloé dress

So beautiful.

Handmade

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

On Friday Tom and I met our friend Phillipa for lunch, shopping and exhibition visiting in the 12 arrondissement of Paris. This area is growing and becoming more and more fashionable with the super cool BoBos of Paris. We had decided to go to a vietnamese restaurant, Hanoi, and joined a long line of cool people in order to eat rather delicious bún bò. By the time we were seated and eating we were starving, but the wait was worth it – it’s nice to have some relatively ‘real’ vietnamese food for once.

Afterwards we wandered around some shops – this area is full of small designer stores and the sales have started in Paris so even Tom was getting into the swing of things, buying some new pants. Remarkable. Our travels led us to the Ateliers de Paris gallery – a gallery space that supports local and emerging artists. This was my Fun Times Count Down item #5.

The current exhibition was a small showcase of fashion made by students from France, Belgium and Quebec. There were only a few items on display and as with most student exhibitions, the quality varied. However there was one stand out piece that was extremely impressive. Made by a student in Montreal, it was a circular web made out of a white twine and safety pins, which had been painted at certain points in order to create a colourful pattern. It was intricate, fragile and stood out as a quality piece of work that was well designed and crafted. You can see the piece in the image below – the first photograph on the wall.

Ateliers Exposition

Very interesting work

It was nice to see a small selection of handmade products made by emerging designers. It is great to see that there is are opportunities for students to showcase their work in a city like Paris.

Inspiration

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

When my brother was visiting me in Paris, we went and saw a Stefan Sagmeister exhibition at the Les Arts Decoratifs gallery. This is one of my favourite galleries in Paris as the exhibitions focus on contemporary movements in fashion, media and art – areas of great interest to me.

Stefan Sagmeister is an Austrian designer who pushes and explores the use of design in some fascinating ways. He has gained a good enough reputation that he is able to really pursue his love for design in ways that many other people dream of doing. He is also a very intelligent and thoughtful guy and has presented numerous times for TED – a series of talks from people of various backgrounds on a wide variety of topics. One of Sagmeister’s talks was about a year-long sabbatical that he took in Bali where he stopped working for a year and focussed purely on idea development and exploring new design concepts. The personal and professional benefits that he gained from this sabbatical are quite amazing and it has made me think about how I am spending my time in Paris.

This past year was a bit of a sabbatical for myself – I didn’t work and I attempted to explore new avenues of creativity. However I ran into a problem that Sagmeister experienced himself; he had taken a sabbatical a few years prior and had felt it a failure as he went into it without a plan. He thought having all of the free time in the world would instantly provide him with the freedom to create new ideas and yet it turned out not to be the case. This is a problem that I have been experiencing and I am thinking of following Sagmeister’s lead and developing a structure for my time so that I actually achieve things in the next year. I am a person who loves structure and boundaries and I think this way of working would suit me well. While I love being able to do things whenever I want, I also find myself craving routine and regularity. Setting myself a timetable for when I focus on writing, when I make sock creatures, when I develop new ideas, would provide me with the basic structure I need to get things done. With this in place, who knows what great things I will develop in 2012. Perhaps that award winning book I keep talking about…