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 – ball fairy lights from Cable and Cotton…

Today on Weekend Colour Inspiration we have something a little different for you. Usually we have an inspirational image, scheme or colour combination that can be used and interpreted in your own way, regardless of what sort of space you have, but today, we are looking at a product that can bring a real smattering of colour – in a completely customisable way. The coloured fairy light sets from fellow Brightonian company Cable and Cotton are just fantastic. They are bright, you can be creative with combinations and they are made ethically by craftswomen in Thailand. Three ticks.

cable and cotton mojito 1

Available in different lengths (20, 32, or 50 lights), Cable and Cotton also offer two different versions of their lights – a pick your own, where you can choose your own combination from the 47 different round, handmade cotton shades, or one of 13 pre-selected colour sets – chosen by the team at Cable and Cotton in complimentary colours.

We plumped for the Mojito (no judging please, but it is Friday…), which is a gorgeous mix of Oatmeal, Ivory and Pale Grey with a bright injection of Turquoise and Anais Green – a lovely combination of some of our favourite colours.

cable and cotton mojito 2

The lights were very well packaged and very simple to put together – just simply tease open the cut slot in each of the handmade cotton balls and push in a fairy light. A small rubber grommet holds the light in place and within minutes we had the string completed in the studio.

Well, we say minutes, but of course, this was only the first combination of colours. As the cotton balls can be placed wherever you like on the string, we went though a few iterations until we plumped on the final sequence. Which we changed again when we put it up…

cable and cotton mojito 3

The cable on the Cable and Cotton lights was plenty long enough to wind happily around our old antlers, and being transparent, blended into the pale wall quite well. The colours also picked up the colours in both paintings that sit around the antlers, which worked perfectly.

cable and cotton mojito 4

But as well as creating a delightful bauble style effect when switched off, the lights really come into their own when they are switched on at night.

The antlers were transformed into a festooned centrepiece for the studio – bright and cheery in the dark stairwell. They were fun and made us smile.

cable and cotton mojito 5

And this is the lovely thing about the lights from Cable and Cotton – they are fun. Choose your colours (warning – this could take a while), or choose one of the brilliant colour sets to suit your own style, stick up up somewhere obvious and have a smile.

We put ours on the stairs, but what about a hallway or entranceway? In a nursery? Around a room for a party or event… there are as many possibilities as there are colour combinations available. Plus, you can swap the coloured cotton balls about a bit, as you can also buy replacements, in sets of 5…

So, as the Cable and Cotton box says, Get Creative.

(photos by claire potter, lights courtesy of Cable and Cotton)

monday musings – the contextual narrative of the Jerwood…

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)

Wednesday walls – a hexagon facade…

Regular readers of The Ecospot will know how much of an obsession we have with all things hexagonal. We have written about the lovely hexagon here, here and here and my own watch is the white hexagonal Kisai Spider. So, we are always delighted when we see the joy of hex spreading around a little. These wonderful offices by Format Elf Architekten in Germany are certainly spreading the hexagon about – all around the single storey building in fact.

hexagonal facade

But even though the pattern is delightful, it serves not only as a decorative treatment, but as a solar gain control screen which has been computer generated. The perforated hexagonal facade relates to the natural shading components, ie, the trees, and has larger openings where shade is already existing. Where the facade is more open, the shading perforations have been adjusted accordingly.

This change in the hexagonal facade allows for a gentle ebb and flow of pattern across the building, but in a way which is completely linked to it’s surroundings – not an aesthetic treatment alone.

The choice to use aluminium is also closely linked to the previous activities in the town, which used to house a major aluminium manufacturing plant.

A really lovely example of how design can be aesthetically beautiful and also be contextually driven also – one should not be divorced from the other.

(photo by Bettina Kirmeier)

SPOTTED – The Butterfly Project at Kings Framers, Lewes…

Last weekend we had to travel over to Lewes to pick up a few bits for the new studio, so took the time to have a bit of a wander around. We always head to Kings Framers as they invariably have a lovely shop window to tempt us with prints, but we were very pleasantly surprised when we discovered The Butterfly Project by local artist Jamie White.

the Butterfly Project

The whole of the front window had been transformed into a gallery of framed butterflies, moths and beetles – all beautifully set in white mounts and frames to best show off their incredible colours and forms, including my personal favourite, our native Elephant Hawkmoth.

the butterfly project

Now, framed butterflies do tend to divide people – is is a celebration of their beauty, or is it macabre and sad? A lot of these judgements are based around where the specimens are sourced (and at what point in the life cycle), but The Butterfly Project is certainly different – each of the bugs and butterflies were sourced from non-profit breeding programmes which supports research into habitat protection and ecology through localised education programmes.

the butterfly project

No endangered species from the wild was collected, and the sales of The Butterfly Project going towards helping the survival and conservation of the species in both the UK and farther afield.

So, the beautiful results of The Butterfly Project area not only stunning, they are as ethical as you can get for a real specimen.

(photos by claire potter)

Monday musings – the power of materials in design…

It has been quite marvellous just how many excellent programmes have been on the gogglebox recently about design, the context of design and the design process. And very interesting programmes too – we have had an insight into the linking of psychology and design with The Men Who Made Us Spend and last week saw the culmination of another great mini series on BBC 4 – Everyday Miracles – the genius of sofas, stockings and scanners, which looked at the links between design, designers and materials.

toolbox materials Of course, it seems rather a given that designers can only create real stuff within the realms of what exists to build it from, but this programme showed exactly how much of a difference material advances had on designers and subsequently, design and engineering.

The invention of better quality steel has resulted in bridges that are more elegant, whilst the advancement of manufacturing processes has allowed designers to engineer and design ever more delicate looking structures with incredible structural integrity.

As well as aesthetic alterations, the continued advancement of materials has created huge social changes too. The invention of the pneumatic tyre in 1888 by Dunlop (after advancements in rubber manufacture) allowed the hard rimmed bicycles to be updated, increasing their speed, manoeuvrability and essentially, rideability, opening up travel to women and allowing people to ride longer distances, faster. No longer was travel restricted to those with the upper classes.

Now, of course, it is material advancements that have allowed us to build lighter, faster bicycles for racing – a bike built for speed in anything other than carbon fibre is almost inconceivable. The invention of the material is so ideally suited to the cause that we tend to forget that it is a relatively new invention.

But this will always be the way. Every week there are new, advanced, experimental materials created which inevitably will become the standard for products and experiences of the future. Without the partnership between new products, designers and new materials we would never create anything truly groundbreaking.


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 – recycled plastic taxidermy light…

When creating a modern, eclectic interior, there are a few ingredients which are rather popular. Mismatched furniture unified with one colour, raw materials (timber and metal in particular) and for some, a piece of taxidermy or a skull or two. We have a pair of antlers that were inherited from a relative plus a goats skull I found whilst walking in Scotland, but for those who are uncomfortable or just do not want to have the real thing, there are other options. You can go for cardboard taxidermy, metal taxidermy or even a piece of recycled plastic taxidermy, like this fantastic light we spotted on Etsy…

recycled plastic taxidermy light (Boki by KraalD)

Created by studio KraalD, the eco taxidermy style Boki light is constructed from a variety of recycled plastic bottles, containers and lids with an energy saving bulb and braided cable, all in the form of antlered creatures.

The Boki light would be great for a child’s room, or perhaps in a hallway against a dark wall – raising a smile whenever you come into the house.

Plus, due to the fact that the light is created from recycled plastic bottles, you are safe in the knowledge that you are saving a little bit from landfill – and that the light will be completely individual. KraalD also offer a bespoke option where you can choose the colours of the antlers – red, blue or green.

We think this variation on the standard taxidermy light is a great alternative – plus a very sustainable option too – and only £74 or so for a bespoke, handmade light…

(image via KraalD etsy shop)

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 Men Who Made Us Spend…

We work as designers. We create new stuff for the world for all sorts of clients with all sorts of budgets in all sorts of styles. However, we work firmly within the ‘green design / eco design / sustainable design’ sphere, which is just where we think everyone should be designing from, regardless of who / what  /where you design. And we get rather incensed by the larger corporations who have the biggest clout and yet, sometimes the lowest regards for responsibility. The bigger you are the harder it can be to create a fully responsible design chain, but it is not impossible.   So it was also rather timely that we noticed the new series on BBC 2, which started last week – ‘The Men Who Made Us Spend’.

the men who made us spend

From the outset, this was – by far – one of the most interesting and engaging programmes to have been produced for a long while that tackled the complicated issues of consumer spending and the psychology of why we want the newest, better thing.

These are issues that designers of all spheres work with on a daily basis, and we all know that not everyone within our industries are working within the sustainability bubbles that we inhabit, but it made compelling watching. The decisions made by industries to include planned obsolescence within their products to promote further purchases, the tricks included in products to keep us – the owners – from getting inside and repairing them ourselves. Even the fact that battery packs on some products are deliberately sealed making a perfectly good product useless (unless you pay a large replacement fee) in as little as 18 months.

Even with product reclamation and material recycling increasing worldwide, the actual psychological and design decisions that are imposed on us are worrying and need changing. An interesting comparison was made with the IKEA ‘chuck out your chintz’ campaign and the fact that they are championing sustainability. It was wonderful watching and we highly recommend looking it up on the BBC iPlayer.

But really, this does show the two faces of products and repair – on one hand we have manufacturers creating products that are deliberately ‘disposable’ and ‘fast fashion’ we have the ground roots backlash of individuals and independent companies such as Sugru, Fixers cafes and designers who are not accepting that this is the way we should be creating. This is the camp that we firmly sit within and I am proud to say that I also sit on the British Standard Committee of  BS8887  – MADE, which relates to Design for Manufacture, Assembly, Disassembly and End of use processing, which sets out guidelines for processes for a more sustainable future…

Which is where we should all be heading.

(image via BBC 2)