Friday 3 August 2012

Why I haven’t been blogging of late

Three weeks ago I launched my first business.

The build up to which has keep me busy for the past three months, and will more than likely continue to do so.

Creative-Bloc is an online members club, directory and portal that unites freelance writers and prospective employers under one roof; sharing industry tips, news and global job opportunities.

Not only is Creative-Bloc unique because it bridges the gap between writers and prospective employers, it is also the only networking membership platform targeted to this niche sector with a global reach, offering numerous resources and job opportunities at Writer Members’ fingertips.

Creative-Bloc is aimed at two primary audiences; writers and employers. Writers can be working in any field and have any job role from bloggers, proofreaders and translators to speech writers, playwrights and poets – everyone is welcome. Employers vary from print and online magazines to publishers, charities and niche brands.

If you’d like to join drop me a line and I’ll give you a year’s free membership!

Wednesday 27 June 2012

Thursday 10 May 2012

SENSPA LUXURY in the BRITISH Countryside (written for SIX Magazine)

A couple of weeks ago I was invited down to the heart of the New Forest in Hampshire to experience the tranquillity of SenSpa, a Thai luxury retreat that fuses traditional Eastern and Western philosophies of holistic wellbeing.

Named 'Sen', which in Thai translates as ‘energy meridians in the body’, and 'forest' in Chinese, SenSpa offers the perfect union of the rural British landscape and the healing properties of contemporary Eastern therapy.

Not one to turn down some clean country air and a day of pampering, myself and a guest arrived amid a downpour that was to last the whole weekend. Not dampening our spirits, our first impressions of the Careys Manor Hotel in quaint Brockenhurst were as you’d expect from a luxury four-star country house; grand and stately.

Less than a five minute drive from the train station (Brokenhurst is approximately an hour and a half south-west of Waterloo), Careys Manor and SenSpa are set back from the main road in 14 acre grounds, with all windows providing unrivalled views of lush greenery.

Emphasising a balance of mind, body and spirit, the spa facilities are second to none. If you’re not indulging in a treatment (it would be a shame not to, as they are so good), the hydrotherapy facilities are enough to calm even the tensest of visitors, and are well worth the trip.

Float in the large Hydrotherapy or Ozone swimming pool; sweat out toxins in the herbal sauna and the amethyst crystal steam room and cool down in the ice room – an experience like no other; super cool with crushed ice on tap and energising strobe lighting.

Experience showers, with ‘tropical’, ‘sea’ and’ ice storm’ themes, offer an interesting way to cool down or warm up; featuring an array of jets that hit different regions of the body in strong and short refreshing bursts which work to tone, cleanse and brighten. If you opt for the ‘ice storm’ theme, don’t be scared by the thunder and lightning effects, this is all part of the fun.

Conversely, if you’d prefer to avoid special effects, health showers offer a calming alternative. Enjoy stimulating overhead and side water jets which boost circulation, while aromas of eucalyptus and peppermint work to further relax both body and mind.

With several other facilities designed for optimum relaxation such as tepidarium; a relaxation room with heated loungers and hypnotic twinkling lights that resemble stars in a night sky and laconicum; a gentle thermal room which is less intense than a sauna and offers a gentle heat meaning you can stay for longer. If this wasn’t enough, there is also a room where oriental music is played, and one without, where guests are welcome to indulge in some quality alone time.

For those who prefer to do something more than simply let their stresses drift away, the fully-equipped gymnasium is great for working up a sweat. And then there are the treatments!

With Thai-trained therapists at the helm of SenSpa, the range of authentic treatments on offer is extensive. Seriously spoilt for choice, whether you’re looking for a facial (there are nine to choose from – each lasting between a quarter of an hour and an hour), a body wrap (choose between seven that utilise combinations of aloe vera, brown rice, lemongrass and Himalayan rock salt), a water treatment (three are available, each incorporating various elements such as Rhassoul mud and a variety of massage techniques) or massage (including traditional Thai, relaxing and revitalising); whatever results you’re looking to achieve there is a chemical-free natural remedy designed for the job.
Wanting to combine and experience as many techniques as possible, I opted for the hour-long Nam, Water Relaxer treatment which involved a deep body scrub, Vichy shower and a back, shoulder, neck and head massage.

Held in a Vichy room (one of 17 treatment rooms in the facility), I lay on a gently heated Hammam slab where a mixture of Himalayan rock salt and organic aloe vera was polished into my skin. With even pressure and a circular massage technique, my therapist exfoliated all over and paid particular attention to my heels, knees, elbows and back, ensuring she reached all the places that many find hard to access adequately at home.

Next came the Vichy shower, whereby the seven shower heads directly above me were activated, and warm water jets targeted my spine and ran across my back working to sooth and release tension. Much more comfortable than I had envisaged this was, surprisingly, the best part of the session for me as I wasn’t sure what to expect from the water, but was more than pleasantly surprised.

As the jets washed away the exfoliant, the therapy suite became a wet room, with my therapist paddling around the Hammam slab to massage my back, shoulders and neck, moisturising in the process. Finishing with a head massage which used ancient Ayurvedic techniques, all the stresses I’d arrived at SenSpa with genuinely stopped whirring around my head and I felt calm.

After a good, solid hour had passed my skin felt silky smooth, I was deeply relaxed, having almost fallen asleep on a couple of occasions, and didn’t want to leave. The perfect mix of relaxation and reinvigoration, this treatment targeted all my problem areas (dry skin, tense shoulders and a stiff neck).

No matter which treatment you are having or if you have any problem areas you’d specifically like targeted, the staff have such a way about them whereby you feel completely at ease in their care. My therapist consistently made sure I was comfortable and talked through each stage of my treatment so I knew exactly what to expect.

Exclusively using natural and organic products from the SenSpa Organic Therapy range in treatments; all skincare products use only natural, chemical-free ingredients, made in England and certified organic by the Soil Association. All packaging is designed to be as compact as possible and uses recycled materials, so you need not feel guilty about buying products in order to recreate your favourite treatments at home.

A place where you can easily while away a weekend, let alone a few precious hours, SenSpa and indeed Careys Manor are the ideal destination for relaxing, recuperating or pampering yourself for a few stolen hours. Expect warm, friendly staff and a relaxed atmosphere; you can wear your bathrobe across the hotel and spa (including the Zen Garden Thai Restaurant), however, there is a smart casual dress code in the award winning two AA Rosette Manor Restaurant.

Whilst there are a few pubs and other amenities located in the village of Brockenhurst, there is genuinely no need to leave Careys Manor, due to the on-site facilities. Choose between restaurants (Manor and Zen Garden Thai); the latter of which uses local, free-range and organic ingredients wherever possible, a cocktail bar and a boutique – just in case you lose your swimsuit!

Tearing myself away from the spa, some 20 hours after we checked in, I left feeling energised, revitalised and eager to come back and do it all over again. I never really thought I was a spa person, but it turns out I am, provided the atmosphere and surroundings are as tranquil as this, and the facilities as varied and innovative.

Treatment prices begin at £20 for an Anti-ageing eye treatment, rising to £105 for the Saboo, Deep Cleanse.

*Special thanks to Jane at Scarlett PR!*

Friday 4 May 2012

Friday 27 April 2012

Marks and Spencer encourage the nation to go 'Shwopping'

Yesterday the beautiful Joanna Lumley launched a new initiative from high-street superstore Marks and Spencer, entitled Shwopping. The retailer’s new permanent nationwide sustainable fashion and clothes recycling initiative will enable all customers to hand in any old or unwanted item of clothing, from any brand, when they buy a garment in store. Donated items can then be reused, resold or recycled through campaign partner Oxfam.

To grab some headlines and get the campaign off to a good start, East London's Brick Lane was swathed in almost 10,000 items of clothing to symbolise the amount of clothes thrown into UK landfill every five minutes.

Interestingly the photo opportunity also revealed that Joanna Lumley will be the face of the campaign and the retailer’s new and first ever global eco and ethical ambassador. One small step for the British high street, one giant leap for mankind!

Images courtesy of Unity.

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Why doing good always works (written for SIX Magazine)

A company that SIX has been eager to write about for a while is Good Work(s) Make A Difference®, who spread a message of humanitarianism and good will through their striking range of products. Committed to donating 25% of net profits to good causes that inspire, empower, and give hope to people around the world, never has accessorising felt so good!

One of Good Work(s)’s most popular product ranges is the wrap around bracelet, available in a plethora of bright and interesting colours such as teal, magenta, gold and silver. With several options including length, finish and stud detailing, customers have several options when it comes to customising. ‘Live in unity’, ‘sow love’, ‘speak kindness’, ‘forgive’ and ‘make a difference’ are just some of the wise and motivational words that come inscribed on the outside edge, promoting essential virtues and wisdom.

Read the article in full on the SIX Magazine website.

Thursday 19 April 2012

Scrapbook: Intriguing Architecture

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Art-iculate: Shami Chakrabarti by Gillian Wearing at the NPG

Shami Chakrabarti by Gillian Wearing, 2011 © National Portrait Gallery, London; commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery with the support of J.P. Morgan through the Fund for New Commissions.

Today my favourite modern political figure (and heroine) is immortalised in a portrait to go on display in the National Portrait Gallery’s collection.

In a commission by British Turner Prize-winning artist Gillian Wearing, Shami Chakrabarti, Director of campaign group Liberty, is depicted in a black and white photograph holding a wax mask of herself hanging from a ribbon.
The notion of the ‘mask’ has previously occupied Wearing, but for this commission the idea was initially prompted by Chakrabarti who commented to Wearing that her public persona is mask-like, often interpreted as ‘grim’, ‘worthy’ and ‘strident’.

Chakrabarti first sat for the portrait in September 2010, when she was digitally scanned for the wax mask – preferable to a plaster life-cast as it does not distort features. The mask was carefully sculpted and coloured, and includes glass eyes. Chakrabarti then returned to Gillian’s studio in April 2011 to be photographed with the mask.

A common thread that runs throughout Wearing’s work, some of which is currently exhibited at the Whitechapel Gallery, is the disparity between public and private life and between individual and collective experience. This is particularly potent in the portrayal of Chakrabarti, a public figure whose work consistently raises issues relating to privacy and identity.

Shami Chakrabati is on display from 18 - 22 April 2012 in the National Portrait Gallery’s Contemporary Galleries (Room 40). The portrait will then go on display again from Wednesday 27th June.

Friday 13 April 2012

Thursday 12 April 2012

The other No. 10 (Bermondsey Street)

Wednesday 11 April 2012

Trends: Prints (written for Style Card)

One of the biggest trends of last year set to continue its dominance in SS12 is that of the humble print. Worn in any way, this spring prints are designed to clash. Whether you’re brave enough to go head-to-toe in either matching or clashing, or would prefer to ease yourself into the trend, print can be worked into the most basic of outfits through accessories as subtle as a skinny belt or Alice band.

The most popular prints to grace the SS12 catwalks of the likes of Mary Katrantzou, Anna Sui, Christopher Kane and Ashish were flora and fauna, the most visceral representation of spring and vitality possible. Be advised, oversized florals are tricky to pull off on curvy silhouettes, however ditsy prints work for all heights and body shapes, and are for all intents and purposes, the safe bet. Smudged florals are also proving popular.

For playful prints look to Dries Van Noten’s tropical palm trees and Marc by Marc Jacobs and Giles for a plethora of birds. Other nature-inspired prints have proved to be huge hits on the Hollywood red carpets; think reptile skins as favoured by Angelina Jolie and Jessica Alba. To take the look one step further opt for a leopard print or tiger striped manicure.

Read the full article at StyleCard.

I've Forgotten What I Am Supposed To Be Advertising...

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Introducing Reem Juan

Launching her eponymous label in November 2010, Reem Juan is a relatively new designer creating a stir with a unique take on opulent luxury. Flirty, feminine, subtle and sexy, ‘50s hourglass silhouettes are a mainstay of signature pieces, with Reem referencing the exquisite beauty of classic Hollywood actresses such as Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly.

Fusing a melting pot of influences, fairytales are a starting point: white peacocks, unicorns and secret gardens are deftly mixed with bohemian lace and embroidered shawls of traditional gypsies. Further still, the Ballet Russe informs this love affair of decadent fabrics and glamorous nostalgia.

Born and raised in Abu Dhabi, and educated in London, Juan cites her design aesthetic as a fusion between east and western cultures, symbolising high end luxury at its finest. Seductive garments are the perfect combination of classic and timeless silhouettes with superior cuts and detailing.

*Images throughout courtesy of Goodley PR.

Friday 6 April 2012

Creative Idle on Surgery PR website

Just been checking out the new Surgery PR website and found myself in a video. Didn't know it was going on the website, but hey, I love Surgery, so it's fine! #Cringe

Wednesday 4 April 2012

Art-iculate: Damien Hirst (the retrospective)

Today is a special day on the British art calendar. The long awaited first major ‘survey’ of YBA Damien Hirst’s work in the UK is about to open at Tate Modern. Featuring over 70 seminal works, Damien Hirst (the retrospective) pulls together the controversial artist’s most recognisable works in an exhibition that forms part of the Cultural Olympiad.

In many ways flying the flag for British art over the past 25 years, love him or loathe him, Hirst embodies a space in time, much like a musician of the ‘90s, when boundaries were there to be broken by the young modernizers, critics were at the whim of shock and awe tactics and gallerists and collectors were falling all over themselves for a piece of ‘it’.

One of the most notorious artists of modern time, a lot has been written about Hirst: if you Google his name you’ll find an astonishing 23,900,000 entries as of (10 am) this morning. Most recently, curator Julian Spalding spoke of his work as being ‘worthless’, encouraging owners to ‘sell before the market realises’ it holds no value. Whether this admonishment, a mere week before the most important exhibition of Hirst’s life opens, falls into the category of ‘all publicity is good publicity’, or is simply an unmasked scathing attack to be taken at face value, remains to be seen. What will indubitably be decided is whether the British public happen to agree.

Generally speaking, when Damien Hirst’s name crops up in a conversation, in a pub per se, on the whole the response is rather tepid, with many lamenting and admonishing, saying they do not understand his work, or worse still that these is no substance behind his ‘brand’ of art. It seems that in spite of Hirst’s long and accomplished career to date, being widely regarded as the most successful contemporary artist of his generation, he is yet to win over the hearts and minds of the ‘average Joe’.

I am an ardent fan of Hirst for three reasons. Firstly, his thought processes are genius (naysayers should delve a little deeper at the inquisitiveness behind the persona, which is in essence what propels all artists to ‘create’). Secondly, Hirst’s ability to build a brand synonymous with polka dots and create an artistic legacy deserves some credit. Lastly, I, on the whole, like to be shocked from time to time, and to feel as though the art world has advanced rather than stagnated at a crossroads of passivity and insipidity.

I feel that Hirst pushes the buttons that at times keeps the mechanism of modern art moving, with the millions of column inches dedicated to the artist providing the oil to keep, perhaps one of our most overlooked of British exports, modern art, ticking over.

Opening with work Hirst created while studying for his BA at Goldsmith’s College, Damien Hirst (the retrospective) starts, for all intents and purposes, at the very beginning. Like any great back-catalogue, it is with awe that you can walk through a series of rooms chronicling the career highs and lows of someone’s life so astutely, and Hirst’s life’s work spanning almost a quarter of a century is no exception.

As visitors enter the exhibition they’re met with several works dating back to Freeze, the exhibition Hirst conceived and curated while studying in 1988, famously attended by Charles Saatchi.

With Dead Head, 1991

When looking at Hirst’s work through the years it is easy to surmise that a clear rhyme to the artist’s work is morbid curiosity and the transient nature of life, giving voice to prevalent dualities. It is this very curiosity depicted in the 1991 image With Dead Head that so early on informed the best part of a life’s work. In this photograph we see the artist as a teenager posing with a specimen from the anatomy department of Leeds University, where the inspiration for much of his work derives.

In the group of works that can be described as ‘The Natural History’ series: pickled sheep, cows and doves, the butterflies, the flies or the fish (arranged on shelves and appear to be floating within their final resting place), Hirst likes to experiment with death and extinction, at times applying these basic lessons of life to the inanimate object, displaying them as specimens; shells, glasses, surgical equipment and, most notably and recurrently, cigarettes.
Damien Hirst, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, 1991 (Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2012)
With cigarettes Hirst can go deeper. Preserving and suspending a shark in formaldehyde for the 1991 work The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living was groundbreaking and original, however it was and always will be a literal representation of an idea, perfectly capitulating to his museological and scientific interests.

Wanting to engage the viewer’s primal fear, when developing the idea for The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living Hirst thought to himself, ‘if I can get one in a big enough space, actually in liquid, big enough to frighten you, you will feel like you’re in there with it, feel that it could eat you’, which works on many levels.

In Crematorium, 1996, Hirst constructed a giant disproportionate fibreglass ashtray (large enough to be a super Jacuzzi), and filled it with a lifetime’s accumulation of cigarettes. Ash is used as a powerful metaphor for human remains, and signifies the very end, creating a contemporary ‘memento mori’ which is a stark reminder of the inevitability and finality of death.

Earlier in 1991, Hirst produced many cigarette inspired works such as The Acquired Inability to Escape and In and Out of Love, which effectively preserve the inane in life and examine the possibility that extinguishing a cigarette can be much like the extinction of a species.

In Dead Ends Died Out, Examined, 1993 Hirst presents cigarette butts lined along the shelves of a cabinet. By cataloguing and displaying discarded cigarettes as he would later go on to do with fish and butterflies (and much later diamonds), Hirst is preserving his artefacts and subjects much like a historian would for a history exhibit.

Damien Hirst, Pharmacy, 1992 (Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2012)
Pharmacy, 1992 is yet another seminal work that plays into this theme. Meticulously collecting and arranging thousands of boxes and jars, Hirst’s Pharmacy resembles an old apothecary and is probably better stocked than my local chemist: I’ve always wondered if real out-of-date drugs are concealed within the respective jars, sealed within this vast display for eternity.

In the first medicine cabinet he created, Sinner, 1988 Hirst incorporated the personal prescriptions of his deceased grandmother. The resulting cabinets inspired by this early work represent an oblique way of visualising the body, with each of the medicines in view signifying different ailments, making the viewer think of particular organs and parts of the body.

Damien Hirst, Lullaby, the Seasons, 2002 [detail] (© Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved. DACS 2012. Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates)
Next up in 1994 came Doubt and Still which displayed iconography of medical science beyond the pharmaceutical. A collection of stainless steel, nickel and brass instruments, displayed in towering stainless steel cabinets; essentially these works simply display a long list of equipment one would find in an operating theatre suggesting a sterility, while insinuated undercurrents of the invasive procedures that oversized scissors, pincers, pliers, hand-saws and Vernier gauges are used for bubble in the background.

A theme later revisited in 2006’s Lapdancer and the 2009 work Invasion, it is the ingenuity of 2000’s Trinity – Pharmacology, Physiology, Pathology that is the crowning glory of this series. Deftly bringing together three branches of medicine in resonance of the Holy Trinity, Hirst draws parallels between science and religion throughout his career’s work, but perhaps never as directly as this. Trinity – Pharmacology, Physiology, Pathology directly examines the core values and belief systems of both religion and science, whilst highlighting the conflicts, through a display of medical teaching objects and demonstration aids.

In 2005, Hirst said of Trinity – Pharmacology, Physiology, Pathology; “There [are] four important things in life: religion, life, art and science. At their best, they’re all tools to help you find a path through the darkness. None of them really work that well… Of them all science seems to be the one… like religion it provides the glimmer of hope that maybe it will be all right in the end…”

Evident in many of Hirst work’s which are preserved behind glass, is the inspiration of Francis Bacon. Hirst says: “Bacon’s like: ‘It’s a doorway, it’s a window, it’s two dimensional, it’s three dimensional, he’s thinking about the glass reflecting’”.

A Thousand Years made in 1990 is the first of Hirst’s works where an arrangement of components are enclosed within a glass vitrine. Within its confines the entire lifecycle, of which Hirst has a vested interest, is played out for the viewer in a combination of beauty and horror. Maggots hatch inside a minimal white box, develop into flies, then feed on a severed cow’s head, which is been placed on the floor of the vitrine.

Those unfamiliar with the work may not at first understand what it is. On first inspection all you see is the hundreds, if not thousands, of flies flying around their enclosure. In another section of the vitrine lies an insect-o-cutor, which prematurely ends the lives of many flies, while the rest are spared to complete the life cycle and keep the installation alive.

This work is pivotal in the progression of Hirst’s later works and thought processes as it is the first instance where he attempts to recreate the enactment of birth, death and decay. Of this work Hirst says: “It was the first time I had ever made something that had a life of its own… something that I had no control over.”

Juxtaposed in with the more macabre and sombre works are the more playful works such as Loving in a world of Desire, 1996 which comprises a giant beach ball hovering above a coloured box. Suspended above a jet of air, the sphere flutters over the structure in an interplay of precariousness and balance. This is perhaps one of the few works in Damien Hirst (the retrospective), that shows Hirst’s light-hearted approach and utilises elements of physics more than chemistry and biology.

Among his most recognisable works are the 'Spot Paintings' which emerged from Hirst’s attempts to find ‘a structure where I could lay [colour] down, be in control of it, rather than it controlling me’. What is perhaps most interesting about these works that appear so simple on the surface is the scientific approach Hirst applies to everything, including painting: each spot is painted a different colour, is a uniform size – equal to the size of the spaces between each dot – and is meticulously arranged on a white grid-like structure.

Damien Hirst, In and Out of Love (White Paintings and Live Butterflies) - installation view, 1991 (Private Collection, courtesy White Cube Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2012)
Perhaps the most spectacular work on display is the 1991 installation, In and Out of Love, reconstructed for the first time in 21 years. Displayed alongside the monochrome canvases adorned with dead butterflies and overflowing ashtrays, in an adjacent room visitors are invited into a semi-sealed humid environment. Large white canvases adorn the walls and are embedded with pupae. Butterflies hatch from the ‘paintings’ and are left to fly freely around the room feeding on sugar water and flowers, mating and laying eggs in Hirst’s most ambitious and interactive installation to date. Whilst undeniably beautiful, I didn’t linger.

What is great about this exhibition is the concentration on the early half of Hirst’s career, delving deep into the creative genius that, whilst controversial, is unlike any other practising artist in the UK. What is apparent when following the exhibition path laid out in the guide, is the lack of impact the most recent works have, coming across in the most extreme cases as a tad gimmicky and perhaps not progressive enough (Judgement Day, 2009; Beautiful Inside My Head Forever, 2007 and For the Love of God, 2007).

Damien Hirst, Sympathy in White Major - Absolution II, 2006 [Detail] (© Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved. DACS 2012. Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates)
Some latter works, however, such as 2007’s Doorways to the Kingdom of Heaven inspire. In this beautiful and fragile triptych butterflies are arranged into complex patterns reminiscent of medieval stained glass church windows, affixed to arch shaped canvases.

2004’s Black Sun is mesmerising and repulsive all at once. With a surface densely covered in clusters of dead flies, Black Sun provides a dark contrast to the beauty of the butterfly paintings, perhaps one of Hirst’s most sombre and repulsive literal representations of death and decay.

The final exhibit The Incomplete Truth, 2006 is serene in its simplicity; a dove is suspended in formaldehyde as if in mid-flight. Brimming with symbolic associations (a messenger of hope, the bodily form of the Holy Spirit in Christian iconography and a secular symbol of peace), the title is equivocal and perfectly sums up Hirst’s entire body of work – truth resides, not in absolutes, but in dualities and the continual push and pull between polar opposites, with the most obvious example being life and death.

Even if you don’t like Damien Hirst I encourage as many people as possible to see this grand celebration of an exhibition, if only so you can formulate an astute argument next time we meet at the pub!

Damien Hirst (the retrospective) is showing at Tate Modern until 9 September.

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Art-iculate: Designing Women, post-war British textiles

Last week I visited the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey to view the new exhibition, Designing Women: post-war British textiles.
At the forefront of international textile design during the 1950s and 1960s three women in particular spearheaded a movement seeing art combine with manufacturing to revolutionise the landscape of the design industry as we know it today; Lucienne Day, Jacqueline Groag and Marian Mahler.
With the bulk of the exhibition space devoted to these three inspirational and ground-breaking women I was in textile and female trailblazer heaven. Renowned for their fresh and provocative designs, recognisable by bold pattern and saturated colour, this new wave of bold textile designers helped to bring the influences of the art world, in refreshing and largely abstract forms, into the contemporary home on a mass scale.
By partnering with progressive textile manufacturers and wholesale firms (like Heal’s + Son and David Whitehead Ltd), Day, Groag and Mahler were central in maintaining Britain’s preeminent position in textile design. The introduction of new technologies juxtaposed with inventive design helped these companies transform the home furnishing market by inspiring new product lines that are elegant yet artistic, and most importantly affordable.
Leaving a lasting impression on the state of contemporary domestic interiors in the UK, the legacy of Day in particular is staggering. Widely regarded as one of the most prolific British textile designers of the last century, I remember being at school, studying textiles for GCSE and not realising for quite some time that the imminent Lucienne Day was in fact a woman (something I look back on now as a good thing – her gender didn’t detract from her ability).
Day ('Calyx' pictured left)
Perhaps Day’s most recognisable work, which propelled her signature style into the global consciousness as a bold example of British avant-garde is ‘Calyx’, which was presented at the 1951 Festival of Britain. A milestone in 20th Century design, ‘Calyx’ in particular heralded a turning point in textile production, fusing fine art and fabric for the first time on a grand scale.

Of her work Day said: “I was very interested in modern painting, although I did not want to be a painter. I put my inspiration from painting into my textiles”.

‘Calyx’ was so well received at home and abroad that it went on to embody the period of innovation in British textile design, and became something war-weary Britons could take as a symbol for a bright optimistic future.

Specialising in home furnishings such as wallpaper, carpets and ceramics, Day worked extensively with Heal’s for decades and they are still to this day the go-to manufacturer for consumers looking to incorporate (retro) contemporary design elements into their interior décor.
Another fantastic designer of this era is Marian Mahler who made the use of roller-painting processes mainstream, enabling print designs to be produced quickly on rayon and cotton. Deftly combining the artistry of illustration with the technicalities of textile design in the early 1950s, Austrian-born Mahler created delicate, whimsical figures and modern abstract forms, which each have a beautiful graphic quality that elevates the resulting prints from mere fabrics to elegant textile art.
With a knack for creating affordable textiles with good, sophisticated design, Mahler was snapped up by manufacturer David Whitehead LTD, whom she designed exclusively for over several years, utilising domestic objects in a consciously modern way.
One of my favourite textile prints on display in Designing Women: post-war British textiles is Mahler’s 1952 design ‘Untitled (mobiles)’. Inspired by modernist painters and sculptors this textile reflects Mahler’s affinity to my favourite abstract artist Alexander Calder. Geometric shapes are arranged in rhythmical patterns to create an avant-garde fabric that can enliven any modern interior.
Last but not least, the third designer currently under the spotlight at the Fashion and Textile Museum is Jacqueline Groag who worked across multiple design disciplines from furnishing textiles and dress fabric to wallpaper and carpets.
Highly regarded for introducing a new genre of abstract, often whimsical patterns that appealed to consumers eager to abandon wartime austerity and strictures, before moving to London in 1939 Groag worked in Paris creating dress fabrics for revered brands such as Chanel.
Other revolutionary textile artists exhibited are Paule Vézelay, Mary Warren and Mary White.
Paule Vézelay started out as a figurative painter in the 1920s before working as an abstract artist, and became the first female British artist to refer to her work as ‘pure abstraction’. Inspired by surrealist artists such as Jean Arp and Andre Masson, Vézelay’s work frequently features floating shapes and partially biomorphic forms.
Influenced by the naturalistic patterns of William Morris and the flowers and fields of her childhood, Mary White produced stunning textile designs for Liberty’s and Heal’s. Unfortunately not much is documented about the life of Mary Warren; however her ground-breaking textile designs became synonymous with the elegance and fluency of manufacturers such as Heal’s.
Whatever you do and wherever you’re going this spring, Designing Women: post-war British textiles is a must-see exhibition that everyone who has an interest in design, interiors, fashion and British industry at large should explore.

Designing Women: post-war British textiles is showing until 16th June.

Friday 16 March 2012

Aldo 'Stay Cool' for SS12

A brand that always runs playful and eye-catching advertising campaigns is Canadian-based footwear giant Aldo.
Last summer they had Lily Donaldson playing with beach inflatables and this season sees legendary photographer Terry Richardson back behind the camera and international models Anais Pouliot and Mat Gordon taking centre stage.
Entitled ‘Stay Cool’, the SS12 video is directed by the established Barnaby Roper and viewed in conjunction with the iconic print campaign perfectly captures the spirit of summer.
*Imagery throughout courtesy of Surgery PR

Thursday 15 March 2012

Wednesday 14 March 2012

Lu Flux: A-Lu-Ha

As spring approaches Lu Flux’s fantastical Hawaiian prints seem fitting and mix two of the hottest macro and micro trends for SS12; pastels and patchwork.

Wednesday 7 March 2012