Easter gift idea – a membership to the Heritage Seed Library…

Before anyone says anything – we are huge fans of chocolate, especially the organic loveliness from Montezumas in Brighton, but we had a thought about what else we would love to give people as a gift this Easter break. With the front of the studio literally springing up before our eyes, the soil warming nicely and the seed packages mounting up, we will be giving the gift of heritage growing – with memberships to the Heritage Seed Library from Garden Organic.

We are very proud to be members, with our annual subs of £18 going towards conserving vegetable types which are not commercially available any more. Some are UK varieties, some from further afield, but the HSL ensures that these varieties are not being lost forever… Plus, as part of our membership – as well as the warm fuzzy feeling of doing something good, we also get to pick six different varieties from the library each December to grow ourselves.

From purple carrots to purple beans and even long lost fruits such as the triffid like Achocha, we have had the joy (and sometimes despair) of growing over the past ten years or so. Plus, there is nothing quite like putting a variety into the summer village show that has not been seen for a few years, if at all.

So, if you have someone that is green fingered and not a huge fan of chocolate, perhaps a membership to the Heritage Seed Library could be in order?

(images via the HSL)

Growing food on waste coffee – the Espresso Mushroom company…

We are big supporters of creating new things from waste, especially as most waste – with a bit of thought – can be redirected into creating new products. This can come in many forms, from buildings that  can be created from waste materials (like the Waste House in Brighton) through to new consumer products (such as truck tarpaulin bags from Freitag). And we predict that this pattern will escalate over the coming years as we start to realise that raw materials are either too scarce or expensive to use. It is a huge opportunity for designers to think in the circular rather than linear. But it is not just products that can be created – what about our food? This is exactly what the Espresso Mushroom Company are doing…

Hot Pink Oyster Mushroom Kitchen Garden Espresso Mushroom Company

Founded in Brighton, the Espresso Mushroom Company grow, and create kits allowing you to grow mushrooms from a substrate based on reclaimed coffee grounds which are gathered by bike from local cafes.

But one of the staggering elements of this project is the sheer scale of the waste coffee grounds that are produced daily – and usually get directed straight into landfill. For instance, the Espresso Mushroom Company puts it into perpective:

‘Less than 1% of the coffee cherry harvested from the coffee tree is in an espresso coffee and over 70 million cups of coffee are drunk every day in the UK.’  That’s a lot of coffee – the grounds of which are currently wasted.

And the kits are simple – open, water, grow, harvest. (and we are planning on getting one for our new studio…)

So – fresh food created from waste. What’s not to love? Check out the main Espresso Mushroom Company website for full details of the kits available…

(images via the Espresso Mushroom Company website)

2014 recap – September – the narrative of the Jerwood…

September and May are always two of the busiest months for us at the studio, with the Brighton Festival and the London Design Festival, but we managed to have a day off – and we went to the Jerwood Gallery in Hastings…

first published 8th September…

Sometimes it is good to do things on the spur of the moment, and yesterday was one such day. The sun was shining – the last hurrah of summer – and so with nothing else planned, a trip was hatched to visit Hastings, and specifically, the Jerwood Gallery which had an exhibition by Quentin Blake – a personal childhood hero.hastings Jerwood 6Even though I had not visited Hastings for a very long while, I remember far back in the depths of my architecture education when I became obsessed with the tall, pitched roofed net houses on the Rock-O-Nore road. There was something about the honesty of their construction, both in terms of orientation, structure and materials that made them incredibly appealing. Like stretched sentinels they stand over the Old Town beach, with the fishing boats and fresh fish huts below. I loved them.

hastings Jerwood 4So when I found out a while back that the Jerwood would stand within touching distance of my beloved net huts I was a little wary. Without a deep connection to this site, the new building could stick out like a very modern and very sore thumb. However, when I saw the resulting building on the pages of architecture blogs and the design press in 2012 I was delighted. The building looked sensitive yet unapologetic and well, fitted.

hastings Jerwood 7But – architecture is something that you experience, not read about. A well composed photograph will tell you so much, but it is not until you are in any space that youdiscover the delights of the building as well as areas which perhaps do not work as well. Noise, smell, light, how the building copes with few people, masses of people. How the building feels in its skin and its surroundings.

I was not disappointed. HAT have created a delightful building. Passing the fading ‘No Jerwood’ signs on Rock-O-Nore Road towards the gallery, it felt a little sad that a few of the local residents felt this way – and enough to keep the signs up well after the gallery’s opening.

hastings Jerwood 2

The immediate appearance blends beautifully with the surrounding net huts – the monolithic building is certainly wider, but being clad in black shimmering iridescent tiles both the literal cues and the poetic cues to the fishing buildings and heritage are apparent.

Hastings Jerwood 1And the building is exceedingly clever. It is always a personal marker of a great building when I become obsessed with the structure and details perhaps a little more than the objects that the building contains. Details and junctions between flooring, the slatted walls looking up towards the rooflights, the cor-ten steel signage, the oak handrails that already feel polished, the shadows cast across the concrete floors…

hastings Jerwood 3But, one of the areas that I was most impressed with was how the building dealt with its location. The net huts surrounding the building are not hidden. They suddenly appear, framed within floor to ceiling windows in galleries – so much so that their height and scale can be fully appreciated in a way that is not possible at ground level. The building at the top of the East cliff lift is also framed and celebrated too, along with the low timber clad fresh fish huts at the rear of the Jerwood.

hastings jerwood 5Even in the courtyard area, the net huts sit nicely above the lowered fence line and talk to the oily Jerwood tiles beside beautifully. Like distant cousins, but with a similar family trait. Pitched rooflights on the top of the Jerwood also mimic the roof lines of the huts, creating another line woven in the contextural success of the building.

The art, is of course, wonderful. Interesting, well displayed and beautifully lit. But for me, the building is the real stunner.

(Photos by claire potter)

december wish list day 13 – conductive paint kit by bare conductive…

We are getting a little bit crafty for our december wish list today, with this fantastic conductive paint kit by award winning bare conductive. It is always great to get something to make each Christmas (if nothing else, to divert our attentions away from the mince pies), and we would be particularly happy if we received one of this sets to create.

So what is conductive paint? Simply put, it is paint that is conductive. You draw a line and the line will conduct electricity, which is like some sort of magic. And to coin a phrase, the possibilities are endless – from creative projects like the flashing card set above to technical applications. It is fantastic to teach children about how electricity and circuits work, and it has many applications in the maker sphere, where it can be teamed up with Raspberry Pi’s and the like.

And like all maker sphere products, there is a fantastic range of projects that people have created and uploaded to share. For us, it feels rather like Sugru, which is another firm studio favourite.

Plus, this magical substance is not expensive – at £15 for the three card kit, or around £7 for the electrical paint on its own, it is a nice stocking filler.

Electrical stockings that is…

(image via Bare Conductive)

SPOTTED – picking our Christmas tree at Wilderness Wood…

We are suckers for a bit of tradition. Especially when it is a nice tradition – and really, we are heading full whack into one of the busiest times of year as far as tradition goes. We apologise in advance for using the C word in November, but hey. Christmas. Someone told me yesterday that there are only six weekends until Christmas. Six. Somehow that put the panic in a little bit, but we are safe in the knowledge that we have already bagged our tree. We went and reserved it at Wilderness Wood…wilderness wood 1

Some of you may know about our traditional trip up to the working wood, Wilderness Wood in Sussex – where every November (second weekend) we head up to get a tag, pay our £10 deposit and choose our tree in the Christmas tree plantation.

This year, was no different. We headed up on a sunny Sunday, boots at the ready, filled with excitement that was tinged with a little bit of apprehension. This was to be the first year that the wood was under new ownership after the Yarrow’s, who had founded the working wood in the 1970’s decided to retire. Would it be the same? Would the pots of tea be as huge, the cake so delicious and the atmosphere so friendly and welcoming?wilderness wood 2

Well, yes. We needn’t have worried. The barn was as packed as usual, the tea and the cake were both huge and delicious and the Christmas tree plantation was as we had expected.wilderness wood 3

With number 232 on our tag, there were lots of families and members who had reserved their trees before us, but there was still loads of selection available. Unfortunately, not the Douglas Fir that we have grown to love for its soft, fragrant, limey green needles, but still lots in the fir and spruce categories. Like the children in the plantation, we scooted up and down the hill, trying to find ‘the one’. There were a few contenders, but we eventually settled on one – a lovely Nordmann Fir – an excellent needle keeper, even when cut. Wilderness Wood has good Blue Spruces this year too, so if you are looking for one of these, ethically produced, then it is a good possibility.wilderness wood 4

Now, many of you will question whether driving to choose, then harvest a tree is perhaps the most ‘eco’ way to get a Christmas tree – and even if a real tree is perhaps the best choice. But we believe that this is not only about the tree, but the tradition of picking one – safe in the knowledge that it has been cared for in the right way. It is as ethical as possible. Plus, as we will compost the tree after, the tree becomes a biological nutrient for our own studio garden.

So. Full of tea, cake and with our tree reserved, we headed home. And we will go back in about a month and cut him down, bring him to the studio for Christmas. Ironically, we have named him Doug.

(go to the Wilderness Wood website for full details of their pick your own Christmas trees. all photos by claire potter)

first eco open houses tour weekend a success…

We have been a little bit quiet over here on the ecospot over the last week or so. There are many reasons for this – for one, we were having a bit of a major design overhaul (and we hope you like the new look!) and as well as having a digital redesign we were working in the physical too – trying to complete our new studio in time for the first Brighton and Hove Eco Open Houses tour weekend on 18th / 19th October. Long days, long nights and lots of goings on. But, we are nearly there on both respects, and it was with delight that we opened our doors to the public for the very first time on Sunday morning…

studio loo front

We are not completely there, but very nearly and there was loads of stuff that we could say about the project to explain to people where we had started from, where we were and where we will be when we open again on Saturday 25th.

studio spider chandelier small

It was fantastic. We had put notes on a lot of the key areas of the rebuild and conversion from old public toilet to design studio and it was not long before our pen had nearly run out. From our Celotex insulation to locally sourced plants, recycled paint from REBORN paints to upcycled cabinets from local charity Emmaus, we spoke about a different side to the eco buildings in the city.

studio plants small

We do not have our solar panels on our roof yet, but our electricity is supplied by Ecotricity and we have used A+ appliances throughout and energy saving bulbs. Plants also feature heavily in the studio to not only create a nice environment but to act as air cleaners – removing the toxins which will be given out by our printer, computers and even as we breathe.

labels on the wall

And despite not being completely finished, we were delighted at the comments that people gave us when they visited. Some people had travelled specifically to see our studio, others were doing as many of the Eco Open Houses as possible and others were just walking along the road and happened upon us. All in all, we had just over 60 visitors, which we were most chuffed about.

reborn paints small

But, as soon as the last visitors had gone, the building materials were back in and we were back at the works, with the flooring, front door and tiling set to be finished off this week. I have the job of putting in the hanging planters that I was speaking to people about as well…

neon green flex. grey and copper

So – if you are about, pop by and say hello this weekend – we are at 201 Portland Road in Hove and will be open on Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th between 10-1 and 2-5. And we can highly recommend the cafe along the road, Pelican on Portland for all things tasty, lovely and delicious.

(all photos by claire potter)


Monday musings – the power of fixing – again…

Today on Monday musings, (and tomorrow as we are splitting what would otherwise be a very long post) we have a little run down of the activities we took part in last week for the wonderful London Design Festival, which unsurprisingly all had a bit of a tilt towards sustainable design and fixing and the circular economy in general. With our Fixperts hat on, we did a whole range of fixes over the week, plus visited a couple of great exhibitions too…

Fixperts and Sugru fixing Party 4First up, on Wednesday evening, we were delighted to be invited to be part of the Sugru ‘Love Your Stuff’ party at Look Mum, No Hands in Hackney. It was great – a celebration of items that people had owned, looked after and loved (which were then drawn on by four fantastic illustrators) and a celebration of fixing.

Fixperts and Sugru fixing Party 5We were there with the purpose of fixing as many things as possible – on the spot with low cost, fast solutions that we could teach others. As with the last Fixperts fix station we ran, we had a great response with many people bringing items that needed a bit of attention, from bike lights to headphones, bowls to a unicorn. We fixed what we could on the spot, and for those things that needed extra care, we sent people happily on their way with a shopping list and instructions for how to fix something. It was great.

Fixperts and Sugru fixing Party 3Plus, we were sitting next to the great Restart Project, which help people fix all things electronic – teaching people how to do it themselves and not just doing it for them. We ended up building bits to help fix the insides of a laptop that had been brought along – nothing electronic, but a few bits of components and supports that had been broken and rendered useless. We sat and thought about it, and with a bit of lateral thinking, helped the guy fix his laptop. This was a common discussion throughout the week – how design is not just there to solve problems, but also to empower people to be able to add to, fix and hack their own products – gaining confidence and ownership of their belongings…

Fixperts and Sugru fixing Party 2

(tomorrow on Monday Musings part 2 we will be looking at the rest of our London Design Festival activities…)

photos by claire potter)

SPOTTED – the London Design Festival Design Districts…

We are a bit late posting today, mostly due to the fact that we are in the thick of building our new studio (more of that next week), and last night we were up with our pals at Sugru, with our Fixperts hat on, fixing things alongside the Restart Project at Sugru’s Love Your Stuff Party. We fixed loads of things for people on the spot, but again – more of that next week… But as we travelled to and from the day at the London Design Festival, it became very apparent just how huge the event has grown. Excellent for variety and interest, but a real dilemma when it comes to planning. Even we skipped to the V&A, then up to Islington, then across to Hackney. But, there is one way to start to organise your trip – look at the Design Districts…

Now, each of these Design Districts has a very distinct feel, character and style, so if there is a particular type of design you are craving, it could be best place to start. Within each of these districts is a curated collection of showrooms, events, talks, workshops, exhibitions and displays, fitting to the area.

Last year we were part of the Brompton Design District (at the Brompton Pitch, with Fixperts) which had a lovely hands on, demonstration feel, with the cultural London Design Festival of the V&A at its heart. This year, there are diverse events such as Global Design Forum and a ‘meet the makers’ event with Brompton Bikes – where you are also able to customise your own bike, see it made and ride it home.

So, if you are a bit stuck as to where to start, choose a district in the London Design Festival, pick up a guide (loads available throughout, but we got ours at the V&A), and get going. Plan in cake too – design is exhausting.

(image via London Design Festival)

SPOTTED – London Design Festival – stamping with Present and Correct…

For the next two weeks on SPOTTED we are looking at some of the great stuff that is going on for the London Design Festival this year and picking out a few that catch our eye. Today we are channelling our inner stationery geeks with Present and Correct

If you are yet to discover Present and Correct, well, you are in for a treat. If you love all things stationery (from graph sheets to old erasers), vintage (like 1960’s paperclips, boxed), or utilitarian (perhaps unused ticket stubs from France), then this is the place for you. With an eclectic collection that drives us wild, the stock at Present and Correct is constantly changing, with a good balance of both new and very old items waiting to be discovered.

But, for the London Design Festival, Present and Correct are having an open studio and encouraging visitors to get stamp happy over new and old ephemera. The stamps are not of the decorative cardmaking style though – oh no – these are graphic, bold and have a nod to the vintage, almost letterpress styles…

We have our eyes on lots of stuff from Present and Correct for our own studio (and stationery collection *ahem*) and we can’t wait to do a bit of stamping. See you there…

(image via London Design Festival)


Monday Musings – what we are doing at the London Design Festival…

Today on Monday Musings we have a couple of little announcements about what we are up to for the London Design Festival – which properly gets underway today. A celebration of all things design, the capital buzzes every September with activities, exhibitions, displays, workshops and talks and this year we are very pleased to be part of two events this week…

First up, this Wednesday evening from 7pm, we will be with the fantastic guys at Sugru for their Love Your Stuff party at ‘Look Mum No Hands’ cycling workshop in Hackney. This is a celebration of having stuff for a long time, so if you also have something that you have loved, fixed and repaired to keep it going, you are encouraged to bring it along and get it illustrated to mark its birthday. We will be running one of the Fixing Stations, and will be there all night offering on the spot fixes for things that may be a little bit broken but still useable, encouraging the whole fixing element of design. We ran a similar workshop last year at the Brompton Pitch outside the V & A and over the course of the day, fixed everything from tote bags to bracelets and key rings. So – come and say hello and bring something that we can fix. We will try our best! Here is a little video about the whole Love Your Stuff concept from Sugru…

Next up, we will be with the wonderful Fixperts, running a workshop at the Saturday Market Project on Saturday 20th September between 2-5, which is part of the Shoreditch Design Triangle and on the ICON Design Trail 2014. We will be showing a few images of the Fixperts fixes we have completed at the studio and with the Product Design students at the University of Sussex, plus running a making workshop for one of the Fixes we designed. So – suffer from nasty, tangled headphone cables and broken wires in your bag? Not any more – book on the free session to build and customise your very own headphone holder from inexpensive, everyday household materials. And then take it away with you…and make them for your friends.

The Saturday Market Project at London Design Festival

This session will be an exercise on how problems of all magnitudes can be solved with a little sideways thinking and a quick, hands-on approach. Design comes in many forms but ultimately, fixing a problem is the crux of all design. If we are able to link back into this hands on, fixing mentality rather than worrying that we shouldn’t or couldn’t fix something then we start to gain a little bit of control over our possessions – and essentially contribute to their life cycles. This drive for repair has already started to feed back to manufacturers who are taking note – and beginning to realise that product value comes not only from the item we buy, but it’s whole life…

So – two events for us at the London Design Festival – both celebrations of the power of fixing in design. Come and say hello…

weekend colour inspiration – neon and grey trainers…

For today’s weekend colour inspiration we are looking very close to home – namely, with my new trainers – a bright vision in neon and grey.

neon and grey trainers

We know that these are not going to be to everyone’s taste, but my goodness we love them. These are the Nike ID version of the Free Run +2’s, which basically means that they are made to your exacting colour specifications throughout. As the only trainers that have really suited my feet for running, these were the ones I needed, but when it came to choosing the colours… well, that took a long time to decide.

But, really, the reasoning that I applied to designing these shoes followed the same logic as we do when we are designing anything in the studio.

First of all, what has the least amount of options, colour wise? For the trainers it was the bases, so I chose the bright neon yellow option. For an interior, this could be the colour of a key piece that needs integrating, such as a sofa or piece of art.

Then, I chose the background colour – which, in all honestly was never going to be any colour apart from grey. This helped to calm down the base and provide a neutral backdrop for the highlight colours above. Think of this like a wall colour – something ‘grounding’ for your space.

Next, came the highlight colours above, so the blue and the green were added. These work well with the yellow neon and grey and add a bit of interest to the shoe. Without the blue, it could have all got a bit disco, so it is supporting the yellow without vying for attention – vital for a secondary colour. Think of the blue and grey as your room highlights, so accessories, throws, even a rug.

Last up were the final details such as the swoosh and laces – which are finished in the neon yellow to unify the base with the rest of the shoe. Think accessories again. The (cjp) on the tongue were a personal touch – this could be something you have made for your space or even something that you have attached a memory to, such as a print, or piece of art. Something that is yours alone.

So – there we have it. How designing a pair of neon and grey trainers follows the same logic as designing a space…

(photo by claire potter)

SPOTTED – the postcard recycling kit…

We do love having a trawl through etsy – you never quite know what you are going to find and more often than not we discover something that is interesting and imaginative. Just like this rather fantastic postcard recycling kit from TangleCrafts.

POSTCARD RECYCLING KIT Looseleaf zine & eco-friendly, upcycled mail art

With a lovely hand printed style, and lovely manilla paper, the kit allows you to affix a new address and message side to any old postcard or card stock of the same size. Now, in the age of emails it could feel that the traditional postcard is a little old hat, but surely we all still get the joy of receiving a postcard from a friend or relative and seeing what they are up to on their hols?

But, with little ongoing use, these postcards are usually recycled after we have got a bit tired of looking at that gorgeous bay that someone else has visited. With the postcard recycling kit however, you can affix a new label and send the joy on to someone else.

It could even start a story – an imaginary trip to the destination on the front (great project for kids this one) with the narrative sent to a friend or relative for a bit of fun. Or perhaps make no bones about it at all and quite plainly say that you had not visited said location and just wanted to say hello and raise a smile. Nothing wrong with that at all.

The postcard recycling kit can help you do all of this and for a bargain price of only £3.50 per kit of eight labels.

Spread a bit of love and get recycling.

(image via TangleCrafts Etsy store)

Monday musings – the power of fixing…

Regular readers of the Ecospot will know that we have a particular passion for all things fixing orientated – how to fix, ensuring that things can be fixed, hacking things and generally the place of fixing and our throwaway culture in general. We even travel about to talk about fixing… Well, this weekend we both undertook a spot of fixing.

sugru fixing

So –  fixing. The seals on washing machines are rather notorious for splitting over time and sure enough, ours had split and was leaking water – dribbling down the front like a toothing infant, creating a puddle on the floor and reducing the performance of the wash.  Options were – new washing machine (not likely), new seal (impossible to find), new fix. We opted for the latter and at the weekend, our trusted Sugru came out the fridge.

For those of you not familiar with Sugru, it is by far the most wonderous material that we have found in recent years. The small packs of self setting, semi rigid air curing silicone rubber are cheap, easy to use and hugely versatile. Keep it in the fridge and it’s use by date extends to about 18 months (even though they new, longer life Sugru will soon be with us…), open the pack, mould it in place, leave it to cure – done.

It can be used to protect things, to bridge gaps between things, to waterproof things – take a look at their website for images of what people have used it for. The seal on our washing machine needed a bit of extra care – we moulded the shape, then covered the Sugru with cling film (so it would not stick to the door) then closed the door. A couple of days later, door opened, cling removed and the seal is as good as new. Perfect.

This took about five minutes to action, a couple of quid of Sugru and a bit of patience. The resulting fix is not only immensely satisfying, it ensures that the washing machine is not losing any water and consequently will be working better. Good all around we think. And if you ever need reminding, check out this Fixers Manifesto too. Stick it on your wall and get fixing. As Sugru quite rightly says – The Future Needs Fixing.

(image by claire potter)

weekend colour inspiration – pink and grey

Today on weekend colour inspiration we are looking at yet another colour combination that includes grey, but we are mixing it up a bit today with a bit of pink. Now, we are not well known for our love of pink. At all. But, in the right context and with the right tones, you could do something rather wonderful.

pink and grey fishNow, this rather lovely fellow is a Red Gurnard – which we caught just off the coast in Brighton last week. And what a handsome fellow he is too – check out those pinky orange tones, plus the blue green in the eye which are echoed in the fins (which you can just see).

Combine these pinky tones with the steely grey of the bucket and you have got a really interesting pairing which has a good balance of the urban industrial and a touch of femininity. With a contrasting pick up tone of the blue or green and you have got a very, very interesting set of colours to play with.

Take this into an exterior scheme with galvanised steel planters, silver foliage and pink / blue flowers, or perhaps a steely bedstead with a shell pink and orange spread and a bright blue lighting cable… Pink and grey with a touch of blue…

Nothing fishy about that combo. (sorry)

(photo by claire potter)


SPOTTED – recycled card mouse mask…

Ok. Yes. This post is as random as it sounds. We were looking for something in particular on Etsy for a client and we came across this rather fantastic print your own mask pattern, so you can create your own recycled card mouse mask. Which is the sort of thing that we would do for an event, so we think it is pretty cool. Especially as you can create it in any card you like…

Mouse mask, need a animal mask? make your own from recycled card.

Created by Steve Wintercroft, this mouse mask is just one of a whole load of patterns which are available to purchase as downloads to create from your own recycled card.

Imagine a whole troop of these for a party, or a shop display perhaps? Absolutely wonderful and a really great idea. Not into a mouse mask? What about a Storm Trooper?

Stormtrooper helmet, make your own stormtrooper helmet from recycled card

Oh dear. Wonder what we are going to the next fancy dress party as?

And actually, we are going to an open air screening of the wonderful Labyrinth in Brighton tomorrow, so perhaps we could alter this mask a bit to be one of the Fireys? Bigger feather frill, bright pink? I think we could…

Fantastic. An eco friendly version to the plastic fancy dress masks that you purchase, plus you also have the satisfaction of knowing that you have made the mask yourself too. And when you are finished with it, you can just stick it in the recycling bin.

(images via Wintercroft on Etsy)