Few and Far

Today I went to a design shop called Few and Far, which was hosting an exhibition of handcrafted wooden chairs and tables. Near the door they had a pile of blank white papers and a net hanging from the ceiling. Visitors were asked to write their wishes on the blank page, fold it into a plane and make it fly into the net. I wished for hypoallergenic kittens.

Paul Cocksedge: a gust of wind

Last night I was at the V&A museum, at an amazing, completely free event with music, art installations, lectures and all sorts of fun things. I walked away with a limited edition work of design art, and my taking it home with me was part of the art installation. I can’t wait to see what is in store at next month’s friday late event.

The thing I went home with was one of the ‘bits of paper’ that made up Paul Cocksedge’s installation, ‘A gust of wind.’ 300 pieces of Corian, moulded into the shape of curved papers blown by the wind, were hung from the ceiling to look like a moment frozen in time: a moment of graceful flight, or alternatively a moment of chaotic disaster as your cherished work is blown away from you. At the end of the evening, each piece was given to a visitor to use as an tray for unfiled, ‘wandering’ papers to gather. They are imprinted with the words, ‘ideas tray,’ so it’s also a place where wandering ideas that might have become lost can be kept safe. Perhaps so that possibilities can be captured and processed into creative work. Although the trays are a way of collecting scattered things, they are themselves scattered pieces of what was once an art installation, as their curvaceous, asymmetrical form reminds you.

The future that never was

Photographer Mariela Paz Izurieta
A while ago, during a very inspiring day in which I finished painting my furniture (except for one little square that I forgot) and met a friend who I hadn’t seen in years, I picked up a copy of a new magazine called Oh Comely. I’m not usually attracted to magazines, but this one had a huge amount of white space on the cover, some grey cursive handwriting and a little portrait photograph of an artist on the cover, so I thought it looked promising. Sure enough, it turned out to be like a lifestyle magazine for cheapskate dreamer types like myself, with an article on balancing the need to make money with the need to pursue your creative projects, another on a chinese dance group who try to embody calligraphic designs, and one in which illustrators were asked to draw something about loss. ‘Loss’ took on a range of meanings, from the disintegration of personality and cognition in Alzheimer’s sufferers, to imaginary curator-elves who collect all the objects that the illustrator loses in her lifetime.

I felt like all three of these articles took on an extra layer of meaning simply by virtue of being printed with such wide margins of white space. The first one is a bit obvious I suppose – that sense of spaciousness that you have to cultivate in order to balance a busy life and still feel emotionally fulfilled, illustrated very well by a gorgeous accompanying photograph of a girl relaxing on a couch. The second two were connected for me. I’m not a calligraphy expert by any means, but I feel like when you’re faced with a blank page, brush in hand, the white space almost vibrates with possibility. My eye picks out among the imperfections in the paper the impressions of strokes that could have been painted. Actually drawing a character on the page brutally closes down infinite possibilities, but even after the character is finished, the fact that the white space doesn’t disappear makes the piece more alive and real, because the memory of a future that never was haunts it.

The chinese dance group draw a similarity between calligraphic characters and human characters. Although a character is static and inanimate, a well-drawn character appears fluid and dynamic, as though the smooth, breathless movements of the calligrapher were being repeated each time someone’s eye passes over the result. It is the impression left behind by the painting process, a process that continues as reading. In the same way, although a personality is a dynamic process, a movement of thoughts and feelings that pass so quickly that most of them are disregarded and unrecognised, society forces us to take on an identity, to give an impression left by our mental processes and our behaviours. A chinese character can be drawn in countless different ways, and the same goes for our social identities. Yet we have to give some consistency, other wise we, like calligraphy, are illegible. But like white space behind black ink, all of the things we haven’t said, all of the people we could have been and all of the things we chose not to do, haunt our memory and vibrate with possibility.

The fulfillment will be ours

‘…And we made our way sadly round the showcases, ashamed of our impotence. Every epoch had its own style, and ours alone should be denied one? By style people meant ornamentation. But I said, “Do not weep. Do you not see the greatness of our age resides in our very inability to create new ornament? We have gone beyond ornament, we have achieved plain, undecorated simplicity. Behold, the time is at hand, fulfillment awaits us. Soon the streets of the cities will shine like white walls! Like Zion, the Holy City, Heaven’s Capital. The fulfillment will be ours.”‘ -Adolf Loos, Ornament and Crime, 1908

London room: furniture before and after

My room is getting close to completion now. Photos of the whole room will come when I’m finished mounting art on the walls and when I have a nice divan sheet (I know the perfect one is out there, so I’m still holding out). For now, shots of the furniture! My Mum found most of the furniture in a second-hand shop, except for the bookcase which was a hand-me-down from a family friend.

First of all, the dressing table had a blotchy stain on it, so needed repainting anyway. Also, I’m really not into the antique-effect pine look. Finally, the cabinet was pretty revolting: with the random hovering cupboard and ill thought-out s-shaped transition from large lower section to small upper section, the tudor-effect window right next to the flowery panels and the fact that it was covered in knots and holes, it really needed some TLC.

Here’s the after:

So, the first thing to get out of the way: the bookcase fits almost perfectly on top of the chest of drawers, so that seemed like an obvious decision. I promise that by the time I show photos of my room again I will not only use a better quality camera, I will also have reorganised these shelves so they look less messy! Never mind. One important point is that the bookcase and the mirror unit for the dressing table both have furniture pads underneath them to limit damage to my paint work. Definitely a necessity.

I was going to go for full-on 2009 colour of the year Pantone-style turquoise, but my Mum talked me down and had me go for this colour, which Dulux call ‘inky pool.’ She was completely right to do so – it’s much more relaxing and looks particularly lush on the curvy legs of the dressing table and buffet. I went for a bright, snowy cream because glossy, pure white would look too cold against the turquoise, but a more yellowish shade of cream might have clashed with the walls. I’ll write a post about what went right and what went wrong with my painting methods later on.

Aside from paint colours, I also had to choose a new fabric to recover the buffet. I didn’t have a major problem with the yellow cover from before, but I absolutely love the reupholstery jobs featured on blogs like Design*Sponge that involve dramatic prints and I wanted to try my hand at something similar. In the end I didn’t go for a print with contrasting colours, but I’m still very chuffed with this big, leafy design on soft, cream fabric that almost matches the paint.

Finally, the cabinet. I knocked out the small cupboard from the top and replaced it with glass shelves, which look much less fussy. In the process of getting rid of the cupboard some of the flowery panels were removed, but I’ve kept others because they actually look kind of sweet in cream. I knew all along that I was going to put that massive, red book in front of one of the s-curves, but I didn’t know that the cabinet would fit so well in the corner of the room that the curtain would conceal the other curve – that was a massive stroke of luck. Finally, I put some little wicker baskets on top (they don’t really show in the photo) to use more the height of the room for storage. Now the parts of my teapot collection that are not in daily use can sit proudly in the corner of my bedroom!


A bumper crop of posts are coming soon. In the meanwhile here’s a bit of strange 1am musing

I had just been reading Ennui by Sylvia Plath alongside her annotated page of the Great Gatsby (above) when an email from Groupon came into my inbox. I quickly learned that advertising is much more entertaining after a good dose of poetry. Try reading the following aloud in a dark room, in near-perfect RP with a strong drink in hand:

Drink, dine and dance
at the Best New Bar
of this year,
with an amazing selection

of blended beverages and tasty
nibbles. Enjoy the amazing
Chargrilled Beef Burger
with delicious handcut chips

or deep fried goats
cheese with cranberry
Not just another bar,
Aquum focuses on quality

and giving you
a fantastic individual

Obviously Drink, dine and dance is about the way that materialism dehumanises us, strips us of our individuality and is the root cause of the paralysis experienced by young people faced with too many options to choose from.

This is what happens when you study humanities.

Bountiful harvest!

My Mum and I have been gathering plums in our garden. We have one big plum tree and one ‘sucker’ (that’s the word my Mum uses, I’m not sure what she means). We gathered everything two short people could reach with a big pole, and left lots of high-hanging fruits for the birds. We couldn’t believe it when we walked away with three full baskets!

London Room: Bedsets I can’t afford

Very soon I’ll be moving into a bedroom in London to do my MA degree, so I’m planning how to decorate the room as beautifully as possible for as little money as possible. My Mum scored some amazingly cheap second-hand furniture for me, which I’ll be blogging about as I repaint them. For now I’m thinking about colours and textiles as a nice kind of brain candy.

Right now I’m thinking about bedsets. While I’m not going to go for the cheapest option available, I still have a very tight budget. Sadly, as I look on the internet I find a huge variety of beautiful bedsets that fit the style and colour palette I have in mind perfectly that I simply cannot allow myself to spend the money on. To assuage the pain, I thought I’d dump a few of them here to feel like even if I don’t own them, they’re making their mark on my territory in some way.

The Seaside Savvy quilt by Le Attiser is $139, and is handcrafted using traditional block printing methods from the Thar Desert of Rajasthan in India. I’m happily jumping on the big turquoise bandwagon, but since my bed is next to the window I want it to be dressed in white to reflect the light into the room, so this pretty turqoise on white pattern is perfect.

Anthropologie’s Crowned Crane bedding set would have also been perfect for me in that the origami folds would be a great contribution to the ‘big, fluffy cloud’ effect I’m hoping for. Unfortunately, the duvet alone is £148. Maybe in another life.

Devon seersucker bedlinen from the White Company is also a very tempting option for me, especially since now that it has 30% off it’s almost within my budget at £42 for a duvet cover. I love love love seersucker, whenever I see it I want to reach out and touch it (this is sometimes awkward when it’s in a man’s shirt).

The Perch Pillow is of course only a pillow and not a full bedset, but I think the colouring and style suit me really well. Unfortunately it’s $100 plus shipping, so I’m going to have to let this one fly away.

5 lovelinesses in Israel

I’m about to leave Israel after spending most of my summer vacation here, mostly relaxing but also, as a stroke of luck, volunteering at the Design Museum I wrote a post about a while back. I’d like to make a habit of keeping track of the good things about a place, especially somewhere like Israel that is not entirely unjustifiably stereotyped as being a land full of crazy angry people yelling at each other all the time. So I thought I’d list some of the nice places where I’ve enjoyed sending my time. I’ve definitely forgotten something (and I’ve omitted a wonderful wedding I attended) but here’s a quick rundown off the top of my head.

Jaffa Station Compound used to be a train station in the Ottoman era (apparently that’s when the Turks had a lot of land, not when large swathes of the middle east were covered in plush fabric buffets). Recently it was renovated into a shopping and eating complex, and the beautiful old architecture has attracted some wonderful shops. My boyfriend’s super sciency family were enthralled by the shop full of puzzles and toys, and I was incredibly delighted to find a charming antique shop full of old academic-looking doodads and vintage Eames and Le Corbusier chairs (one day I’ll have great photos of it to show you as my boyfriend’s ridiculously amazing photographer sister was there).

Tazza D’Oro coffee house in Neve Tsedek is a really cute, charming and homely coffee place with pretty good food. I’ve been there twice and the second time my boyfriend was disappointed with his meal, but I got the risotto balls and I … dare I say it … I had a ball. Ouch. Sorry about that one. Anyway, the Neve Tsedek neighborhood is really lovely, and is only going to get better the more it is renovated. It’s such a breath of fresh air when you’re in Tel Aviv to suddenly step out of the maze of high rises into an area full of eclectic stone buildings. It’s sort of like stepping back into the real world after the virtual reality of bauhaus. Being from Yorkshire, I like a good trip to a scenic place to involve food or drink in some way, so Tazza D’oro made me very happy indeed.

Holon Design Museum is as nice as I was expecting it to be and more. I had a great time volunteering there, the gallery staff are almost all students of design so they have great insights about the exhibits, and the exhibits themselves are wonderful. The current exhibition, senseware, is a beautiful, futuristic white space filled with experimental designs using advanced artificial fibers. It gives you an image of a future where the personality and intimacy of craft is present in mass-manufactured goods through innovative use of charmingly tactile materials. Particularly amazing is the Fukitorimushi, which Engadget wrote about during the Milan incarnation of the exhibition. I want to take it home!

Mineral beach: the web link really doesn’t do it justice. Every time I come to Israel I have to go to the Dead Sea. I love travelling through the cinematic scenery of the desert, and being able to just lie back and relax looking at the blue sky and golden hills. I’ve never been to another part of the Dead Sea but apparently Mineral Beach is pretty unique and something of a hidden treasure. I’m told that to experience the Dead Sea you usually have to lie in a separate, designated pool, because most of the sea is being used for mineral extraction. At Mineral Beach there is no sign of industry, and somehow it’s always deeply quiet even though there are other people milling about. They also have massage and a hot sulphur pool, which makes it all the better.

Onami: I’ve been staying in an apartment in the centre of Tel Aviv, a stone’s throw away from Haarba’a street, which is home to a large selection of extremely good restaurants. Of the ones I’ve tried, Onami is by far my favourite. Tel Aviv has a huge number of Japanese restaurants, but Onami is the only one that really tastes Japanese. On the sushi menu they have the usual nigiri and hosomaki and temaki, but also chirashizushi and inari, which are both delicious and homely dishes that seem to me to be unfairly overlooked by other restaurants who probably take their lead from the Californian model of Japanese food. Their miso soup is made with red miso paste, which is always a way to win my affection, and they serve kanpyo, which isn’t always available elsewhere. Details like this make the place wonderful for vegetarians and fish eaters alike, and I’ve loved popping over there for midnight supper a couple of times.