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)

rethinking the way we make things… Studio Swine

Yes. For those eagle eyed people out there – yes – the title of this post has been shamelessly ripped off from the subtitle of the marvellous ‘Cradle to Cradle’ manifesto by Braungart and McDonough. But it is something that we think about a great deal here in the studio. We are designers and makers of spaces, things and experiences – and we need to be fully aware of how we go about that. We continually rethink the way we make things. Because of this rather healthy obsession, we are really interested to see how other people are going about it too…

Now, we have featured the Sea Chair project by the great Studio Swine here on The Ecospot before and it remains firmly one of our very favourite projects of all time. It is elegant and beautiful and speaks very poetically about the waste that is affecting our oceans. But Studio Swine also created a project called Can City, which also deals with similar problems in a very similar way…

Can City by Studio Swine

It is an elegant project – perhaps not replicable in large scales, but with a bit of rethinking – why not? We have so much waste that not only creates problems of disposal, health and contamination, but also we need to realise that this is raw material and resources that are literally being wasted. This on a global scale is not sustainable at all, so this kind of rethinking and recovery are becoming absolutely imperative.

As designers, this is our responsibility to rethink the way we make things.

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)

2015 trend predictions – we give our insights to Terry’s Blinds…

Today, we are continuing our trend predictions and are delighted to report that we have been featured on the Designer Insights section of the Terry’s Blinds blog – talking about our work and five of our top tips for interior design in 2015…

Courtesy of: Terrys Blinds

2014 recap – October – first Eco Open House weekend…

2014 was a big year for us in many ways – including completing the building of our new studio in Brighton, which we have converted from an old public toilet into an industrially styled, eclectic space. And in October, we opened our studio to the first visitors on the Eco Open Houses tour weekend, whilst we were still finishing it up…

first published 21st October 2014…

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)

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)

2014 recap – July – the Ditchling Museum of Arts and Crafts…

We were delighted to visit the beautiful Ditchling Museum of Arts and Crafts in July – both for the type and the architecture…

first published 1st July 2014…

Last week we trotted up to the rather beautiful village of Ditchling, which sits on the northern side of the South Downs just above Brighton to attend a lecture by Simon Garfield about type. As well as looking forward to the lecture, we were also itching to see the buildings of the Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft.

ditchling museum of art and craft We were certainly not disappointed. The architecture was absolutely beautiful with the Grade II listed cart house and original building being stunningly connected with a new addition by Adam Richards Architects. A really sensitive adaptation of the existing in an honest way, using traditional materials has resulted in a space that is not only contemporary in feel but one which also feels very much in respect of both its location and heritage.

ditchling museum of art and craft

Exposed rafters in the cart house, which acts as the entrance, shop and cafe show the original structure of the building beautifully, plus the numbered tour of the elements are a clear and minimal way to engage visitors with the architecture.

ditchling museum of art and craft

The exhibits and collections at the museum are rooted with the artists who are connected with Ditchling, plus there is a substantial type influence, as Eric Gill, the designer of the Gill Sans typeface was a resident of the village. All signage throughout the museum is in the typeface, with both lettering and symbols used to great effect.

ditchling museum of art and craft

There is also a significant amount of both lettering and print based exhibits from all ages, all displayed with sensitivity in a variety of interesting ways.

ditchling museum of art and craft

The Ditchling Museum of Art and Crafts is not a huge affair, but it is bursting with clever architecture, character and heritage, not to mention wonderfully enthusiastic staff and fantastically stocked shop.

Plus, the museum is currently a finalist for the Art Fund Museum of the Year 2014

A must visit for print and architecture junkies alike. Which we are both.

(photos by claire potter)

2014 recap – May – narratives in design…

In May there was lots going on. We spoke at a couple of events, ran a foraging walk in Brighton and visited stacks of Artist’s Open Houses for both ourselves and our clients. It was a busy month, but for our 2014 recap we are looking back to one of the talks we did – all about narratives in design…

first published 12 May 2014…

At the end of last week I was invited to speak at the first Interdisciplinary Narrative Symposium at the University of Sussex, which got me thinking generally about narrative. What do we mean when we talk about narrative as designers? Is everything we do concerned with the narratives of design? What exactly are the narratives of design?

narrative

With speakers from a variety of disciplines, speaking about the different forms of narrative, I was aware that my own application of the term was going to be very different to everyone else, particularly if you then start to think about the theoretical and practical references to the term…

So. I listed a few of the ways that narrative is used in our own studio works. Basically – the stories that we use and the stories we create. Vernacular references are key – ensuring that the projects we create are rooted conceptually in their places, using nods to historical elements, or site stories, or even the materials of the area – like the black tiles and forms of the Jerwood Gallery in Hastings by HAT which references the pitched roofs and blackness of the Old Town fishing net huts, which sit beside. Referenced, but with no pastiche.

Historical narrative is also key in our work, so our designs often are borne out of the fact that they used to be something else, but we try and ensure that this previous life is retained and respected, either within a site or within a product. Repair is championed here in the studio – don’t chuck something that can be repaired – and actually, this repair is an essential part of the process in the life of the product – be it a building or an actual product. It adds to the story.

Re-use is essentially a historical narrative of a previous life that we feel is important and should inform the new. Equally, the materials used in a product have distinct narratives that we use as designers, but are based deeper in the psyche of our own backgrounds and communities. For instance, a product created in wood has a very different feel, associated value and longevity compared to the same form in plastic…

Lastly, I spoke about the power of a strong narrative within a brand. And not just a story that is attached to a brand – a brand that is literally founded on a wonderful and meaningful concept. Microsoft PowerPoint - Design should tell a story - narratives i

Who Made Your Pants was the example that I gave – a wonderful company based in Southampton which reconnects the people who actually are responsible for creating your pants with you, the end user with a little name label in the pants themselves. No sweat shops, no hidden workers – the whole process is beautifully transparent and serves not only to educate us as the wearers of the garments, but helps those who are making them too.

Plus, the fabric that the pants are made from are end of line, past season fabrics that the fashion houses have declared as ‘last season’, but are of course, still completely beautiful and functional. And they are beautiful.

The pants themselves are not only stunning, they are highly finished, very comfortable and a joy to own. But the fact that they are so gorgeous does not a deep brand make. The strength of the ethical story ensures that we ask questions – as I did in the presentation, to a group of mixed age academics and invited guests. Unsurprisingly, I was the only one who could honestly say who had made my pants, which is what I expected. The disconnect between the makers of our products and ourselves is starting to be more of an open issue, which surely can only bring about deeper concern and a heightening call for all workers to be respected, regardless of their locations.

But, in the meantime, it is companies such as Who Made Your Pants who are starting to open our eyes. And how?

By telling stories. The best and foundational in the narratives of design. 

(slides from presentation, pictures on slides via Who Made Your Pants)

2014 recap – March – Mr Popple’s Raw chocolate…

Today on our 2014 recap we are back in the realms of the responsible edibles, with a look at the fantastic Mr Popple’s Raw chocolate…

first published 18 March 2014…

We all know that eating too much chocolate is rather bad for us. It is the essential 4pm sugar hit that we all crave, yet know that really we should eat an apple instead. But, like lots of things in this big old world, not all chocolate is made equal. Some chocolate is, (dare we say it) actually rather good for you. Raw cacao chocolate has stacks of health benefits, including natural stimulants (without the sugar crash) and loads of trace minerals and other loveliness. Mr Popple’s chocolate is not only made from beautiful raw cacao, it has the most wonderful packaging.

popples chocolate 1

This is where the term eating with your eyes really comes into its own – we spotted this beautiful chocolate first by its packaging in hiSbe Food in Brighton (our latest retail design project) and just fell in love with it.

Simple, hairy manilla style brown recycled card, the packaging of Mr Popple’s differentiates each of the delicious flavours with a single, one colour print in the centre of each bar, complete with honest mis-prints and strong logo styles.

popples chocolate 2

We do have a bit of a ‘thing’ for this type of honest and simple packaging and branding as it helps to communicate the honest nature of the brand itself with incredible clarity. A brand using raw ingredients would not really fit a packaging design that is high gloss and multicoloured. It would not work. But get it right, and it really is a powerful tool indeed.

So much so in fact, that we are going to have a bar a week as our treat, not only for the deliciousness of the chocolate itself, but to collect the packaging and drool over that as well. We are, indeed, design geeks.

(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)