Here are a few photos of my work in the pottery over the last few weeks. I've been very focused with my head down and hands at the wheel making lots of pots for a new restaurant. Luca opens on St John Street, London, in November, and is owned by the boys behind The Clove Club. The restaurant will serve Italian food made with a British influence and ingredients, so I've been making pasta bowls, olive bowls and two types of rimmed plate for antipasti. I developed these shapes over the past few months with chef Isaac McHale and I'm excited for them going to their new home. This order is honestly quite large for me and I was worried about managing such quantity, but decided to just pull my socks up and get on with it. Several hundred pieces of pottery later, I'm glad I did.
Hello! It's been over a year since I wrote my last post. I took the blog down for a while because I needed some time to concentrate on making pottery. Now, as part of this new website, the journal is back and I hope to make posting a semi-regular thing. I will be writing about my projects, process and small-time adventures. I also plan to feature inspirational craftspeople (I am some sort of trained journalist after all) and I like to promote the good work of others in any way I can.
Across the website you can see some beautiful new photographs by Daniel Scott. This picture above is from when a passing toad joined us on our shoot. He didn't make the final edit, but I thought he might add a little bit of local character to the journal.
For those of us interested in twentieth century craftsmanship, Dartington Hall in Devon, is a place to be revered and celebrated. Craft tradition at Dartington goes back a long way, the hall was founded in the 1920’s, based on the idea that ‘the arts and craft [are] the foundations of human flourishing’.
Dorothy Elmhirst, the co-founder of Dartington was greatly influenced by William Morris and one of the first artists that she invited to Dartington in 1926 was the potter Bernard Leach (pictured above in his studio at Shinner's Bridge, Dartington). Leach’s former assistant Sylvia Fox-Strangways installed a kiln at Dartington and felt it was her duty to bring art to everyone on the estate from ‘children to bricklayers’.
The Elmhirsts were pioneers and they poured their resources into the “Dartington Experiment” – restoring the estate buildings and setting up a host of farming, forestry and educational projects. Early initiatives included Dartington Hall School, Dartington Tweed Mill and later Dartington Glass. They also commissioned craftspeople to make unique work for the estate, including the beautiful Modernist tapestries by Elizabeth Peacock, still hanging in the Great Hall. Dartington quickly became a magnet for artists, architects, writers, philosophers and musicians from around the world, creating an exceptional centre of creative activity.
The estate has just appointed a new chairman and with his support launched a series of craft courses which hopefully will restore the links between Dartington and craft. The Craft Revolution features a diverse range of courses from furniture making to building a tiny home, brewing beer, dressmaking, cheesemaking and kiln building.
The Spoon Camp with Barn the Spoon sounds particularly good. Barn is an excellent spoon carver and the camp is a whole weekend of spoon and bowl carving for beginners, newcomers and anyone who would like to practice their spoon carving skills. There will be camping in the woods, sourdough pizza, coffee, local ales, cider, films and fresh woodland air… All while learning how to carve spoons, bowls and utensils.
It's a brave move for Dartington but as Bernard Leach said, “with hindsight, the years at Dartington were of thought and exchange of thought and friendships, a time of enrichment and expansion for which I am deeply grateful. […] For me personally, the years there provided a pause in my life, between East and West, during which I had the opportunity to assess its basic values, Dartington was a brave effort, worth all the cost.”
Spoon Camp - A Weekend in the Woods with Barn the Spoon, takes place from Thurs 1st - Sunday 4th October 2015, at North Woods on the Dartington Estate, Devon.
Gnarly Dudes are a collective of five potters: Svend Bayer, Charles Bound, Nic Collins, Jon Fellows and Chuck Schwartz, who first staged an exhibition of their English anagama-style wood-fired work on Dartmoor, Devon, in 1997. Since then, the phrase Gnarly Dudes has come to be used to describe not just the potters, but also as a reference to the style of 'gnarly' pottery that they make. This is a style that I didn't really understand until I moved to the West Country, and began to learn about the traditions of country pottery, and the techniques used in different types of firing. Now though, these are the very pots that inspire me most, and this type of work feels very connected to the area in which I now live. A couple of weeks ago the Gnarly Dudes got together again and held Gnarly Dudes Revisited - a new exhibition of fresh work, made especially for the event. The show celebrated the way each of the men's work has progressed over the past eighteen years (Jon Fellows now works with wood, for instance), and how they all still choose to use techniques and processes that lend themselves to creating extremely rugged and honest pieces. For firing pottery, the Gnarly Dudes favour anagama-style wood-fired kilns, which are based on the medieval Japanese kilns used mostly at Bizen and Shigaraki. The kiln is usually a tunnel and the heat is drawn over the stacked pots, allowing smoke, ash and embers to freely come into contact with them. The pots are minimally decorated before firing, instead letting the smoke, ash and embers interact with the clay to produce beautiful, natural gradations of colour and finish. Placement of the pots in the kiln is critical, as is the selection of wood and clay. At the event I was struck not just by the beautiful and rambling nature of Nic Collins' Barn Pottery, where the exhibition was held, but also by the majestic nature of the pots. They all have highly tactile surfaces that beg to be touched and many different natural colours and patterns pooling on the surface or in the glaze. Pots were displayed indoors and out, and there was also an abundance of pots just strewn about, waiting to be sorted or sold. It was a quiet reminder of just how much practice is required to become adept at this art. Several weeks after seeing this exhibition, I'm still thinking about the work that I saw there a lot. That is probably the mark of a great exhibition, one that continues to influence you, long after you have left it behind. I hope that in some way wood-firing will play a part in my future, and who knows, I might even become just that little bit more gnarly.
Gnarly Dudes Revisited took place at The Barn Pottery, Moretonhampstead on 18th-19th April 2015.
Here is the first in a series of interviews I am featuring from my new book, The Sustainable Design Book. I've chosen to highlight a few of my favourite makers whose work and craftsmanship fits as well on these pages, as on those inside the book. Chelsea Miller makes some of the most beautiful knives I have ever seen and I wrote about her work a couple of years ago here. The knives are created by hand, from repurposed high-carbon steel taken from discarded tools, with handles of local maple, cherry and applewood. The result is incredible knives which are seriously functional with a unique aesthetic.
How did you become a knife maker? I started making knives in my fathers blacksmith shop after having seen a knife my brother had made. I asked him to teach me and by the second or third step I had taken over. I gave that first knife to a close friend of mine and I still use it often. Describe your style? My style is nontraditional, inspired by materials that are not typically used for things beyond their original purpose. I am excited by textures and grain and letting each piece find its final form. How is your work sustainable? My work is sustainable in the sense that I am repurposing old farm and farrier’s tools and milling wood from the living forest where I grew up. It’s fun to imagine someone cutting cooking with what once was a file used to shoe horses, when otherwise they would have never come in contact with such a tool. What tools and materials do you use? I use high carbon steel tools, all made in the US and wood native to my childhood home in the North East Kingdom of Vermont. I cut the desired shape from these tools with a torch, then grind them to the optimal thinness. I heat treat and temper the blades, attach wood handles and many, many hours later chop veggies and grate cheese. What inspires you? My inspiration comes from a need for balance in my life. I live in New York City, I occasionally act in films, knife making gives me the meditative time I need to focus all my energy on creating something very simple in theory yet quite complex in reality. I am also inspired by children and their power to create an imaginary world. I try to spend a lot of time there.
Thank you Chelsea!
I had always thought that the best chopping boards were very simple, angular ones, but Hampson Woods have proved me wrong as I am now hooked on their distinctive handles. Chances are that you've seen the elegant curving wooden handle of a Hampson Woods chopping board in a photoshoot or shop lately. Their work is popping up all over the place, and I love that they have come up with a design that is instantly recognisable as their own, yet still very timeless and classic. Hampson Woods evolved as a pairing of woodworker, Jonty Hampson and artist and designer, Sascha Gravenstein. Together they design and create hand made, small-batch products using wood sourced from their own woodland in Cumbria. This is a rare treat, meaning they can know exactly where each product originally had its roots.
Tell us about what you do? We are small-batch producers of wooden products for the home - serving boards, porridge spoons and hanging racks. All of our work is designed, made by hand and finished in our Hackney workshop. What materials do you use and why? We predominantly work with London Plane, a hardwood with an incredible depth of colour and variation in grain. It has been little used these past decades, and visually always keeps you guessing. As it’s not grown commercially, it is only really available when a tree comes down or has to be removed, so it's not the easiest to source. We also work with Elm, Ash, Oak and Sycamore, all also sourced from within Britain. We only acquire timber if we know its provenance; where it once stood. What is your favourite wood to work with? My current favourite is Ash. It is almost buttery in its consistency, yet so versatile and strong. Sycamore is growing on me too, it finishes like glass and has a real sheen to it. Wood is such a beautiful and giving material. Even years after it stood, it never seems to lose its energy. As it is worked, and especially when oiled, new shades and subtle pleasing variations in colour will appear. As it ages, its texture and character will change, and whatsmore, no two pieces are ever the same. What techniques do you use? The majority of our work is sanding, from shaping right down to finish. We always work with the piece in hand, and with patience, taking it, bit by bit, to a comfortable and smooth form. We're always ensuring a very high quality of finish. What/who inspires you to make your work? The world around us, friends, family, Henry Moore, David Nash. Rebirth of timbers that have ended their previous life and the simple pleasures of working by hand. Can you recommend a good book? I’m an admirer of Ruskin but only in small doses. For reference, The Wood Book and for fun, The Treehouse Book. Where can we buy your work? From several shops across London, and the UK and also from our website. What are your plans/ideas for the future? Collaboration with craftsmen of other materials to see how beautiful timbers and grains can sit alongside other naturally occurring, texturally contrasting materials. Also to take on more hands, and branch out into other parts of the home.
Thank you Jonty!
Workshop photographs by Robin Sinha.
Last year was a busy year for me. I wrote two books, had two very young children, and I generally ran around trying to do far too much. I think I might be still recovering. The nice thing, is that the first book, The Sustainable Design Book, has just come out. Because a good amount of time passes between writing a book and it being printed and available to buy, I had sort of forgotten what I had written. So, it was a pleasant surprise when a couple of copies arrived in the post and I could flick through the pages reading. "It's quite good" I thought. Far better than I had remembered anyway! The book contains profiles and interviews with over 250 designers working in a sustainable way. I've focused on material use and good design, highlighting experimental, natural materials and also a considered use of traditional materials. I'd like to think that there is an excellent range of products in there, hopefully there is something to appeal to everyone, whether they are a design professional or simply a casual reader. I'll be featuring some of the more in-depth interviews from the book on here over the next few weeks. I hope you'll enjoy reading them.
Maker Spaces is a new book which features the homes and studios of creative makers. It includes a variety of styles and disciplines from Donna Wilson's large warehouse in East London, to jewellery designer Teresa Robinson's converted garage in Portland, Oregon. The book looks first at each maker's home and then at their workspace. I found the studios most intriguing, as we rarely have the opportunity to see the places where other people work, as well as their specialised tools and machinery. I'm interested in how a workspace increasingly reflects its owners personality as it evolves into an efficient and well used working environment. My own recent experience of setting up a small pottery has taught me that tools and materials will find their way to the best place through daily use. It seems that only by allowing our working methods to gradually shape our environment, can we create the best, most efficient and uplifting space for ourselves. To see my own maker space, click here for a recent picture on Instagram.
I love the beautiful contrasts in Akiko Hirai's Kohiki ware, it looks strong yet delicate and I was fascinated to learn that it is inspired by face powder. Two worlds collide - make-up and ceramics - I hadn't thought about glaze like that before. Trust me, Akiko's combination of white on black clay is difficult to pull off. It's a look that I've been trying to emulate recently and I've been far off the mark! Perhaps I can pass it off as adolescent experimentation? Akiko's work is available is several great shops and galleries, including The Cold Store, Maud & Mabel, and Mint, and I am delighted that she agreed to be next-up in my series of Q&A's with inspirational makers.
Tell us a little about what you make? I make tableware and large decorative jars that are inspired by antique storage jars. What materials do you use and why? I use coarse stoneware clay. I like the texture and feel of it. I also mix in very coarse grog which appears on the surface of the pots when thrown thinly. What techniques do you use and why? I use white slip on a dark body. It is called Kohiki ware. The direct translation from Japanese is ‘powder blown ware’, the metaphor of women wearing white powder make-up. It has the beauty of ‘whiteness’ but is less harsh than sharp cold white porcelain. That was my intial inspiration and I tested a few materials to create suitable ‘slips’ and then developed it in my own way. I also often use wood ash for the subtle colours and tones on the surface of my pots. How do you fire your work? Most of the pots are fired in my gas kiln for reduction firing to give a feeling of movement on the surface. What/who inspires you to make your work? Mostly antique pots. Some are wood fired and have lots of marks of ‘accidents’. I am also inspired by novels and poems. I like the idea of ‘reading between lines.’ I have been trying to apply this to my pots. How/where do you sell your pieces? Various galleries mostly in the UK, and a few retailers abroad. Please recommend a good book? Linda Bloomfield wrote several good glaze books. These are very practical and contain lots of useful information. I always recommend them to my students. Also, Besstatsu - Taiyo, a Japanese magazine. It no longer published but you can obtain back copies. The editor's selections are excellent and each issue features topics that are very interesting. It also contains many good photos so even you do not understand the Japanese language, you can enjoy looking at these. What are your plans/ideas for the future? I have signed up for the Elle decoration online shop. I have not produced enough work for it yet, but plan to be up and running on there in the near future. I also have solo shows at the New Ashgate Gallery, Oxford Ceramic Gallery, and Slader’s Yard up until March. Each gallery will have something unique and details are on my website. Will you be running any workshops this year? I am doing 3 days masterclass at the beginning of August at Maze Hill Pottery in Greenwich this summer. I am also teaching ceramics at Kensington and Chelsea College. I teach BTEC level 2 and 3 depending on the level of people starting from September. For enquiries or to be added to the waiting list, please email email@example.com
Thank you Akiko!
Catarina Riccabona weaves wonderful, colourful, slubby linen textiles, the kind that call out to be stroked and explored. The cloth is handwoven in small, limited editions with different weave structures and combinations which keep your eyes gently dancing over the fabric. Catarina also has an admirable ecological philosophy, using a lot of undyed, plant-dyed and recycled yarns. She was kind enough to answer a few questions about her work below.
Tell us a little about what you make? I’m a textile designer and hand-weaver. I make functional pieces such as throws and blankets, sometimes also scarves and cushions. But my focus is definitely on throws and blankets. What materials do you use? Linen is practically in every piece I make (there are only a few exceptions). I love to work with it and I love the aesthetic of linen. It tends to become more beautiful with use. My practice is based on an ecological philosophy, so I use a lot of undyed yarns like linen, hemp, wool and alpaca (from the UK and Europe) as well as plant-dyed, second-hand and recycled yarns for colour. What techniques do you use and why? Weaving by hand (as opposed to working with a mill) gives me a great deal of flexibility in terms of weave structure combinations, irregularity and yarn types. I use this fact in my throws that could be described as whole compositions rather than repeat designs. One of my favourite techniques is block threading. During weaving you can separate out certain groups of threads and make them do something different to the rest. I like to play with this kind of juxtaposition of colour and texture. What/who inspires you to make your work? I admire the quality and feel of many tribal textiles. That trace that’s left from the making process by the human hand… small variations, irregularities, imperfections. There is something honest or even innocent about such pieces. Sometimes they seem to have been made quite intuitively. For me it’s a kind of timeless beauty that is also warming and comforting. How/where do you sell your pieces? I sell directly from my studio at Cockpit Arts, Deptford, (by appointment) or during our twice yearly Open Studios. I also sell through places like The New Craftsmen and other independent shops/galleries. From SS15 Liberty will have my work too. And I work to commission. Please recommend a good book? ‘Colour: Travels Through the Paintbox’, by Victoria Finlay. My first year tutor at Central Saint Martins who taught us colour theory recommended it. Each chapter is dedicated to one colour and lots of peculiar facts about it… Any plans/ideas for the future? From 26th to 28th February I will be in residence at ‘Atelier’ run by The New Craftsmen. During London Craft Week I will be weaving in St James’ church (Piccadilly, 7th & 8th May)! I also look forward to the opening of Field Gallery in Bruton, Somerset, in April 2015. In the more distant future there could be a very exciting collaboration project on the horizon but I’m afraid it’s much too early to say anything about it.
Thank you Catarina!
I've featured Bailey's before in this tour of their converted barns in Wales. The shop is a wonderful place and the couple's latest book Imperfect Home, further hones their influential aesthetic. Below is an extract from the new book, a Q & A with Ryuji Mitani, a Japanese maker who creates wooden tableware such as trays, spoons, forks and bowls. Ryuji is passionate about promoting Japanese crafts and also curates exhibitions and writes books on the subject. His home, gallery and studio (pictured above) in the Japanese city of Matsumoto, are testimony to the simple pleasure of handmade things. It is not overfilled with objects, instead you are drawn to the detail of what is on show; the careful chisel marks of a bowl or the patina of a well-worn leather chair. Q&ADo you have your own philosophy of life? I like everyday simplicity and comfort. I can't change the whole world, but I hope that my wooden pieces will bring simplicity and comfort to someone's life. What music do you enjoy listening to? Piano music by Keith Jarrett and Bill Evans. Which authors or books inspire you? Saigo no Shinran (The Last Shinran) by Takaaki Yoshimoto, Mon (The Gate) by Soseki Natsume and Onnatachiyo (Ladies) by Jyuzo Itami. Likes: Carrying the table outside and having lunch in the shade of a tree. Meals with friends. Textiles and baskets woven with care. White porcelain and linen sheets. Well-used wooden vessels and chairs. Do you have any recipes that you like? Yes - pasta with negi (Japanese leeks). You will need olive oil, crushed garlic, thinly sliced leeks and some pasta. Pour a generous amount of olive oil into a pan and add the garlic. Cook over a low heat until soft, then add the thinly sliced leeks and continue to cook gently until they are soft. Bring a pan of water to the boil and add a pinch of salt. Add the pasta to the boiling water. Once the pasta is ready, drain then add to the leek mixture, combine and serve.
Hello and Happy New Year! I hope you are as pleased as me that a new year has begun. I tend to hibernate through December as a reaction to Christmas-mania then emerge in January, looking forward to spring. 2015 has already started well, with a pottery commission that I'm excited about and a general feeling that this will be a fine year. I thought I'd kick-off by introducing The Maker Drawers, an interesting series of curated drawers from one of my favourite companies, The New Craftsmen. Housed in an old plan chest in their shop building, each drawer has been filled by a different maker, telling the story of their work and providing a unique insight into the techniques, materials & processes that they use. Pictured above are drawers by Aimee Betts, Michael Ruh, Gareth Neal, Laura Carlin, Silvia K Ceramics and Katherine May. If you get a chance to visit the shop and see the drawers in person, do! It is probably one of my favourite places to be in London, as all the work is highly skilled and expertly chosen. Otherwise, please enjoy this online rummage and visit their website to see more.
I'm so used to writing about other people's work, that putting pictures of my own things alongside them seems weird. However, since I wrote a post about my clay samples, I feel I should show what I've done with them. I've been experimenting with a few bowl, plate and cup shapes, and it's been good to try out the different clays and see how they respond to glazes and firing. There have been some disasters and a couple of nice surprises, but I'm yet to settle on anything that I'm sure about. In the meantime, it's just fun to play around. I started learning to throw a little over five years ago now, which sounds like quite a long time but realistically I haven't spent nearly as much time at the wheel as I would like. Pottery classes and opportunities have been squeezed around work and looking after babies and toddlers, so my progress has been slow. Finally though, I have my own workshop set up and it feels like it's all beginning to come together. These are a few of the first things to come out of the kiln. Hopefully, I'll be making a lot more in the months to come.
p.s. To see more, follow my Instagram feed. It's pretty much just pots on there these days.
Tomorrow the Crafts Council launches Make: Shift, a conference taking place in London exploring the emerging relationship between crafts and technology. This follows an eventful few months where craft and craftsmanship have been (rightly) making headlines. It all started sometime last year when the UK government's Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) proposed dropping crafts from its list of recognised creative industries. Of course, this is crazy talk and it immediately produced a backlash. New research from the Crafts Council shows that last year craft skills generated £3.4bn for the UK economy, with 150,000 people employed in businesses driven by craft skills, in engineering, science, design, architecture, fashion and film. The figure is far larger than expected and includes the value that craftspeople bring to different industries including science and technology. Examples include the glass artist Matt Durran's work at the Royal Free Hospital to develop glass moulds for growing bio-engineered organs such as noses; and jeweller Lynne Murray’s pioneering work in augmented reality through her company Holition, which develops interfaces through which customers can virtually try on jewellery. So craft is important (I never doubted it anyway!) and just over a week ago the Crafts Council launched their brilliant new manifesto at the House of Commons which aims to reinstate craft skills as a core part of the UK's education curriculum. Making develops creativity, inventiveness, and problem-solving, yet strangely it is gradually being dropped from schools and universities. "Between 2007 and 2012 following changes in educational policies, student participation in craft-related GCSEs fell by 25 per cent," says the Crafts Council. "In higher education, craft courses fell by 46 per cent." This comes at a time when elsewhere around the globe investment in creative education is rising. The Craft Council's manifesto makes five calls for change, including putting craft and making at the heart of education, building more routes into craft careers, bringing the entrepreneurial attitude of makers into education, investing in craft skills throughout careers and promoting higher education and artistic and scientific research in craft. Change is needed - a number of leading education courses for craft skills have faced closure over the past five years. These include the celebrated Harrow Ceramics course, Bucks New University in High Wycombe, whose excellent Furniture Design course focused partially on traditional craft skills and now Falmouth University has just announced that it is closing its Contemporary Crafts degree to make way for Digital Gaming and Business Entrepreneurship. The Contemporary Crafts degree, with historic roots in Cornwall's creative culture, is considered a vital part of the Cornish economy. Living in Cornwall myself, I find it misjudged of them to close this course. Transforming it would be a far better option - and if they want ideas of how - I've got plenty! An online petition has been launched to try and save the Contemporary Crafts degree at Falmouth. You can sign the petition here. As the Crafts Council's manifesto says, "Our future is in the making. It is in our hands".
This week I'd like to share one of my all-time favourite books. It's not new or Modern, but it's bloody good and that's all that counts. The Quilts of Gee's Bend: Masterpieces from a Lost Place, was published in 2002 in association with an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. It profiles the women of Gee's Bend - a small, remote community in Alabama who create incredible quilt masterpieces, carrying forward the fine old tradition of making textiles for the home and family. The designs reference American quilt traditions, however these pieces differ in that they are composed boldly and improvisationally, in geometries that transform recycled work, clothes, dresses, feed sacks and fabric remnants. The geographical isolation of these women enforces a freedom and originality on them that leads to extraordinary combinations of colour and composition. I wonder if this kind of spontaneous originality is even still possible now that we all have the internet in our homes and everybody can see the same things, all of the time? We are having a major book clear-out at the moment, as we have far too many for our small house, but this is one book that I will never part with. If you are interested in textiles and don't already have The Quilts of Gee's Bend, I thoroughly recommend adding it to your library.
Pia Wüstenberg is well known for her mixed-material Stacking Vessels, combining blown glass, ceramic, turned wood and metal. They come in lots of different variations, all with wonderful bloated forms and are a brilliant exercise in mixing different craft skills. Pia recently introduced a new evolution of the Stacking Vessel called Branch Bowls, which pairs a hand-blown glass bowl with a lid formed from a tree branch. There is a great video filmed by James Maiki called A Tale of Two Halves which gives a glimpse into how they are made. The film shows the mesmerising process of the two separate pieces being made and fitted together and highlights the craftsmanship that goes into making the work. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the video, although I confess that I love glass blowing and could happily watch it all day. I interviewed Pia for a book project recently and thought I would include some extracts from the interview here. We were discussing her work and inspirations...
How did you get involved in design? I studied a Foundation in Glass, Metal and Ceramic Design at SIAD in Farnham and a BA in Furniture Design and Craftsmanship at Bucks New University. I chose Furniture Design as I believe it is a versatile product requiring the most technical and material knowledge. Later I studied in London on the MA Design Products course at the Royal College of Arts. I set up my own studio following graduation. How would you describe your style? It is all about contrast. Everything I do is mixed-media, and the process and materiality of each media supports the other. All my work is handmade. I use traditional craft skills and traditional raw materials, such as wood, ceramic, glass and paper. The resulting objects contain the stories of their making and the traces of the materials origin. This makes them objects of desire. What materials and techniques do you use? I work with very raw and pure materials such as glass, ceramic, copper, wood and paper. These are processed using traditional craft techniques. Are there any particular designer/artists/things that inspire you? I really respect the work and philosophy of Kaj Franck and Jurgen Bey. I get inspiration from many things I see, it just depends on the mind frame I am in. What are you working on at the moment and what do you hope to work on in the future? At the moment, I am working on a collection of glass jewellery to hold scent. In the future, I hope to work more with glass, to challenge its application and the ways in which we normally find it used. Have you noticed any particular trends in design lately? I have noticed my friends investing in objects for life, rather than going for cheap, quick solutions. What materials or techniques do you think we'll be seeing more of in the future? I believe there will be a return to pure materials and traditional skills. Mainly because I think we want fewer things, and for the things we do want , we have to be considered and durable. What is your favourite piece of design by another designer? The sewing needle, paperclip, can opener, fork and scissors. There are so many simple, clever things that do not have a shining name or famous designer behind them, and they are the most durable designs that we live with. These are the designs that move something in me, that challenge me to think, innovate and feel desire for objects.
Thank you Pia! www.utopiaandutility.eu
I'm not sure when it became proper practice to refer to hippie tie dye as the rather more fancy sounding shibori, but that I will do. In truth, I think there is a subtle difference; 60's-inspired tie dye tends to be quicker with more immediate and colourful results, whereas shibori is controlled, and looks directly to intricate (and ancient) Japanese binding, stitching and folding techniques. Shibori is often dyed using natural indigo - but by no means always - and the boundaries between the two techniques are definitely faint and blurry! These photographs are from a shibori workshop I went to in the summer, led by textile artist Janice Gunner at the beautiful Cowslip Workshops in Launceston, Cornwall. Cowslip is based in several converted barns on a dairy farm, so while you are at work, you can hear the cows mooing and enjoy the view across bright green fields. I spent two days making samples and trying out different techniques. First stitching, twisting and tying the cloth to create various resist patterns, before immersing the fabrics in buckets of deep indigo and lighter woad. When the indigo-dyed fabric is exposed to air, it is transformed from iridescent scarab beetle green to that perfect shade of deep, deep blue. It is almost a magical process and the reason many people get hooked on blues.
Laura Daza is a colourist who transforms raw materials into pigment. In her project Colour Provenance, she explores the ancient origins of colour, looking at both how it was sourced, crafted and utilised, and how different colours, shades and tints have the power to affect mood and emotion. Laura has recently released a beautiful book based on her findings from the project. Called the DIY Colour Recipe Book, it features a palette of eight ancient colours: whiteshell, saffron, ochre, verdigris, malachite, azurite, mummy brown and lamp black, and explains how to make them. Laura shares her personal methods, secrets and experiences in creating the colours, and describes processes such as making green from malachite, considered to be the first green ever used, or white from ground ostrich eggshells, a technique commonly used by Egyptians. The science of colour is a fascinating subject and this book would be an inspiring guide to anyone who wants to understand and appreciate the origin of everyday colour in a hands-on and authentic way.
The scenic landscape here in North Cornwall is wild, rugged and untamed. Dig beneath the surface and you'll also find that it contains rich seams of natural materials; tin, granite, sandstone, slate and clay, each one as useful as they are beautiful. All good cooks know that a dish is only as good as the ingredients used, and the same goes for woodwork, sewing, weaving and almost any other making activity. It's certainly true of pottery, which is what led me to visit this working clay quarry nearby. Situated on the seaward side of a granite uprising, the quarry is home to two unique raw materials, one a high quality silica sand and the other a much revered clay deposit favoured by many world renowned potters. It was great to be able to visit this small family owned business in person. The backdrop of the wild Atlantic coast and fields full of brassicas made for a beautiful setting, where I saw clay being prepared using simple methods, with materials dug directly from the pits. The clay available varies in shade from milky white through buff, to toasty brown and coal black. Naturally I picked up a few samples, and now begins the journey of transforming it from muddy earth into strong and functional pots.
I'm not sure if anybody still reads this blog but if you do, you'll notice that a few changes have been made. In a bid to simplify and focus more on what I am interested in, I'll be writing more about craftsmanship, materials, people and their processes. In fact, much of it will be very similar to before, just presented in a slightly different way. It turned out that Futurustic wasn't a very good name. Almost everybody read and heard it incorrectly as Futuristic, causing a lot of confusion in emails, social media tags and general conversation. As anyone who knows me will testify, I'm really not very futuristic, so it seemed strange and I got tired of trying to explain a silly name.
I hope that Modern Craft Workshop is a clear and simple title that tells you something about the site's content. I'll be profiling some exceptionally skilled craftspeople, celebrating materials, techniques and good design. I aim to post once a week on a Thursday, because a little bit of routine (but not too much) is good for everyone. I hope you'll enjoy what you see.