Thursday, November 26, 2009

Crown Jewels

On my recent visit to London I snuck away from the design festival to see Seizure, a sculptural installation by Roger Hiorns.


The work is located in a low-rise development near the Elephant & Castle in South London, a social housing block that was due for demolition after the original exhibition closing date, late 2008.


After the success of the installation and Hiorns' nomination for the Turner Prize, the demolition date was pushed out to 2009 and is now set for 2010.

With just over a week left until the Turner Prize winner is announced, I thought it was high time I dug these photos out and shared this incredible feat of art, science and engineering.


To create this urban crystal cave, Hiorns pumped 75,000 litres of liquid copper sulphate into a derelict flat. What gets me is the preparation involved in filling a flat with liquid anything. The walls and ceilings were reinforced before the space was sealed with a plastic sheeting and the liquid was pumped in through a hole in the top.


I'm not too clear on the chemistry but from what I could gather a shift in temperature encouraged the growth of the crystal forms and when the excess liquid was pumped back out, this sublime and slightly sinister jewel-encrusted space remained.


The winner of the 2009 Turner Prize will be announced at Tate Britain on 7 December 2009. This little local Londoner thinks Hiorns is a sure bet. I hope he's right.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sandra Backlund

Anyone who has been to one of my seminars in the last 18 months would know how I feel about the incredible talent that is Swedish fashion designer, Sandra Backlund. Backlund founded her own label immediately after graduating in 2004 and has since been producing the most incredible sculpted knitwear.

Pool Position, S/S 09

Her last handmade collection, Pool Position, was one of the best examples of traditional techniques in modern fashion that I've ever seen. The formal structures within the sculpted designs are very advanced and intricate and show a true respect for the artisans who developed and mastered these techniques.

"I am interested in almost every traditional handicraft technique. For me it is the absolute challenge. All the levels of skills you have to pass before you can even think about starting to improvise. It is the real thing and everything that the modern fashion industry is not."

Pool Position, S/S 09

The new collection for F/W 09-10, Control-C, marks an ending and a new beginning for Backlund's practice. This collection marks the first collaboration between Backlund and top Italian knitwear manufacturer, Maglificio Miles and a journey beyond her purely bespoke production.

"It was of course a big step for me to go from working alone in my studio, inventing pieces while doing them by hand, to suddenly be a part of a team of experts within a field of knitwear that I never before have had the chance to get to know. I was over whelmed by all the possibilities I saw for this collection and even though I will never give up doing my hand knitted pieces, I now see how to develop my collections in ways that I never thought was possible."

Control-C, F/W 09-10

Control-C, F/W 09-10

Her work was also on show recently at Kunstfort Asperen as part of the Retreat exhibition curated by UNstudio. Go here for more info and images from this exhibition.

Image from the Retreat exhibition courtesy of Katrien Franken

Quotes courtesy of Sandra Backlund.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Form Follows Fun Guy

Recently released by Dinosaur Designs, Fungi is a new collection of jewellery and decorative items inspired by 'the magical and regenerative qualities of fungi'. I've been playing around on their website with their interactive Fungiverse and now have little mushies of my very own!



Magic and fantasy have been playing a fairly substantial role in my recent research and this gorgeous collection is just one of a run of designs that have been inspired by the magic of mushrooms.

Images via Dinosaur Designs

Not new but indicative of this direction is the mushroom floor lamp by Australian designer, Simon Duff.

Image via

Photographed at his recent retrospective at the Pompidou Centre, this design concept for the Notify showroom by Ron Arad is a beautifully literal mimicry of natural form.

Notify showroom concept. Image by New Black

And finally this vase by Des Pots was shown at Maison et Objet earlier this year. Equal parts 'ooooh!' and 'eeewww!', especially with that slimy looking glaze - I love it!

Fungus vase by Des Pots. Image by New Black.

Monday, June 29, 2009

White and Fragile

In light of last week's very sad news, this post goes out in memory of Michael Jackson - an artist, an icon, an inspiration. It can be difficult to remain candid with all the sentiment that comes with loss and grief, especially after he lead such a public and controversial life. Besides which, I'm not a pop columnist. So with these things in mind, let us shift our attention to another artist who's 1988 homage to Michael Jackson was fairly definitive and controversial as well.

Michael Jackson and Bubbles, 1988 by Jeff Koons

I've always been of two minds over Jeff Koons so I won't go into a critique because I'll make myself dizzy. But I think it is appropriate to note that despite the feverish discussions that have surrounded the value of his work as art, Michael Jackson and Bubbles, 1988 piece 3/3 sold in 2001 for $5,615,750, underlining the value of his work as a commodity. Robert Hughes' opinions on the subject are as much of a minefield as the work itself but I think in the context of this artwork and the purpose of this post, they are worth referring to so if you have time, take a read of this old article from the Guardian. Rather than the content itself, it is the irony that is of primary interest to me with Hughes in this instance being to the art world what a gossip columnist is to show business.

"The art world is now so swollen with currency and the vanity of inflated reputation that it is taking on some of the less creditable aspects of showbiz. Hollywood doesn't want critics, it wants PR folk and profile-writers. Showbiz controls journalism by controlling access. The art world hopes to do the same, though on a more piddly level. No other domain of culture would try this one on." That's Showbuisness - Robert Hughes, The Guardian, Wednesday 30 June 2004

We can see now in 2009 that other domains of culture are trying that one on. That and other ways to alter their relationship with media and exposure or question the definitions of private and public, free access and copyright, yours, mine, ours. And if you want to see "the vanity of inflated reputation" on a fairly primary level, just look at a few social networking sites and *eugh hem cough* blogs.

I'm all for contemporary analysis (see: bread and butter) but artists of the 80's, like stars of the 80's, are easy pickings for critics. Just enough distance for clarity of status, plenty of common memory for context, limited loyalty and only speculatory social perspective. So as far as labelling Koons as "a blow-dried Baptist selling swamp acres in Florida", I think Hughes may be blaming it on the boogie to some extent. I don't think we can choose the icons of our era to suit our tastes and values. God knows I shudder at the thought of Paris Hilton as the iconic blonde of this generation (sorry Marilyn, Madonna) but unfortunately the aggressive social trends don't always make you proud. Whether Koons is a commentator or indicator is open for debate. Take a look at Paul McCarthy's work including Michael Jackson (Fucked Up), 2001 before signing on the dotted line.

The intention had been to use Michael Jackson and Bubbles, 1988, as a jumping-off point for discussing some other quite beautiful, strange and often sinister contemporary porcelain design. Having gone off on a completely different and long-winded tangent, let's just leave it with the pictures.


Louise Hindsgavl, photos by New Black Global Trends


The Fantasy Collection by Jaime Hayon for Lladró, photos by New Black Global Trends

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Love Design

At some point over the weekend the name Susan Cohn came up in reference to jewellery design. As a 1st yr arts student I had written a paper on her product design, particularly those pieces picked up by Alessi. One of those pieces was the Cohndom - an elegant little condom holder - the perfect gift for trendy people with an attractive>active sex life (easy tiger - it only holds one).

Cohndom by Susan Cohn, 1995. Image via Panik

In light of all the recent creative work inspired by eroticism, I felt it was time to revisit the Cohndom along with some of the work from the Love Design exhibition, held in Milan at the Salone Internazionale del Mobile. Unlike the more literal designer sex toys of previous seasons (eg Bone by Tom Dixon - also pictured), the Love Design book and exhibition delves into some of the psychological and emotional aspects of eroticism and intimacy.

Bone by Tom Dixon - "
Tom believes that design becomes interesting when you start looking at areas where design has never gone before" ...smirk. Image and quote via Myla

From Love Design - Traces of an Imaginary Affair by Björn Franke. Images via Fast Company

Bedside lamp by Matteo Cibic. Image via Fast Company

Powered by Arik Levy. Image via Fast Company

Hitting the spot with NB is the Waveform collection by Sakurako Shimizu. These peculiarly alluring necklaces and rings are "laser cut in the shape of digital sound waves representing the voice of French actress Jeanne Moreau reading a love poem called “Cet Amour” by Jacques Prévert."

Waveform collection by Sakurako Shimizu. Image and quote via Fast Company

Sakurako Shimizu also offers bespoke wedding rings, created from an audio file of each partner saying "I do".

"I do" Wedding Bands

Too mushy for the blokes? Well then, feast your eyes on her 1981 Atari ring - "a precise cast of the original Atari computer chip out of 18 karat gold".

1981 Atari ring

It may be love after all.

Monday, June 1, 2009


Workedy workedy work. It's Monday. It's cold. And it's a chain-myself-to-the-desk kind of week. So I choose the gorgeous desk from the new range by Belgian designer Maarten De Ceulaer.

images via Maarten De Ceulaer

The desk I am chained to at present is the neat little M2 by Bulo. An interesting and little-known feature of this unique piece of furniture is that it appears to be designed for left-handed people.

Unfortunately I am not left-handed.

Have a look at the picture below. Imagine sitting at this desk, tower in the elegant unit to your left, chair and monitor aligned right, mousepad and mouse on the floor to the far right... You see the problem.

It is modular however so you can change the orientation of the components. Sort of. You can have the tower unit to the back of your workspace and not be able to access your useful unit compartments, usb ports or cd drive. Or you can assemble it so that the unit is to your right and just wear the fact that the door swings in the wrong direction.

I decided on the last option after having my knight-in-shining-armor brother assemble, trial, dismantle and reassemble all options. Without written instructions. What a trouper!

The M2. Ned would love it.
image via Bulo website

Friday, May 29, 2009

Weekend Warmers

5 Days of Blog - Day 5

Firstly, thanks to Thousand Threads for being quote the starter motor to my inspiration machine unquote. I pledge my weekend to some customization in honor of her wonderful teachings so that next week you can learn a little more about who I am, where I hail from and what I'm rabbiting on about.

Apart from doing those all-importants, my weekend will see me taking in the textiles as Tessuti welcome us to their new(ish) Melbourne showroom and Ink & Spindle open up their studio.

I highly recommend you do the same and stock up for all the crafty projects you'll be starting in those winter weekends ahead.

Images via Tessuti

Images via Ink & Spindle