Archives for category: We Like

Over the river, and through the woods, but your scribe isn’t going to grandma’s house. A visit to the British Museum’s African Textiles Today requires perseverance to cross multiple galleries, wend through crowds, until Gallery 90 is reached by fleet feet up four flights. Don’t be flummoxed by In Search of Classical Greece, cross through this exhibition to discover the African textiles exhibition tucked at the back. It’s not big, but it’s bold, bright and informative. And for your scribe it posed a question. Was Roy Lichtenstein influenced by African design?

Samakaka printed cotton, Angola, early 21st century

Samakaka printed cotton, Angola, early 21st century, photograph courtesy of and copyright The Trustees of the British Museum

Concurrent with the British Museum’s African Textiles exhibition is Tate Modern’s blockbuster Lichtenstein exhibition. Pop art’s pow hit the public in 1962. Lichtenstein, Warhol, Wesselmann, Indiana and Rosenquist all had one-man shows. Lichtenstein famously used newspaper comic strips as his compositional and narrative framework although he was also influenced to a lesser degree by other media.

African textiles & Roy Lichtenstein

Comparison of modern African textiles with Roy Lichtenstein’s pop art oeuvre

Have critics considered whether Lichtenstein, like Picasso et al, was influenced by Africa, particularly African textiles? The term “radical chic” arrived in 1970 when Tom Wolfe used it in his New York magazine feature Radical Chic: That Party at Lenny’s to describe the interaction of above Houston Street denizens like conductor Leonard Bernstein with those who lived below Houston (Greenwich Village etc). Did Lichtenstein similarly seek inspiration or kudos from African motifs as secondary supplement to his adaptations of American mass media? Whether yes or no, the compilation image above shows the visual relationship between the two. Your scribe suggests readers cross the Thames both ways to see Lichtenstein on the south bank and African art on the north, and judge for yourselves. DJ

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Chocolate is your scribe’s Achilles heel. Never ever ubiquitous cheap chocolate, but always luxury dark chocolate requiring a mindful journey to the byways of Chelsea and Artisan du Chocolat. Founded by artisan chocolatier Gerard Coleman (famous for his creation of liquid salted caramels), Artisan offer a range of handmade chocolates. They also understand it’s sinful to sling an exquisite gift into any old wrapping paper. Gifts should be beautifully and thoughtfully wrapped in a bespoke furoshiki. Artisan du Chocolat’s limited edition furoshiki is available only at the Chelsea branch. Designed by Zoe Beck, she was commissioned by Hugo Middleton, founder of Evergreen Wrap on behalf of Artisan.

Furoshiki by Zoe Beck for Artisan du Chocolat

Furoshiki by Zoe Beck for Artisan du Chocolat.

Artisan du Chocolat “had quite specific ideas” for the furoshiki pattern says Beck, “a map detailing the journey their chocolate takes from source to production to shop”. Inspired by the British Library’s “Magnificent Maps” exhibition, Beck designed a world map featuring countries of origin and destination as well as “some of the key icons I felt represented them”, she says. The design is reminiscent of mid-twentieth century tourist maps and scarves featuring pictograms and shorthand visuals atop country cartography.

Detail of circa 1950s ndonesian Council for Tourism map

Detail of circa 1950s Indonesian Council for Tourism map

Detail of London icons  from Artisan du Chocolat furoshiki by Zoe Beck

Detail of London icons from Artisan du Chocolat furoshiki by Zoe Beck

Ubiquitous in Japan, furoshiki are reusable textiles used to wrap gifts or to carry objects. Surface designs are traditional or contemporary, and different sizes can be folded and knotted to wrap for example, a bottle of wine, food for a picnic or to make a baby sling. The website of Kyoto Foodie features furoshiki shop Karakusaya. The post explains the history and includes multiple furoshiki video tutorials.

It isn’t just your scribe who loves exquisite chocolate. So too her COVER colleague LU who blogged about Pinaki Studios’ collaboration with Chocolatl. Do chocolate devotees like company of the like minded? Not in this instance. It means the box of chocolates gifted to your scribe by the lovely Anne Weyns, Director of Artisan du Chocolat, must be shared with COVER colleagues at the Christmas lunch next week. “Take one for the team!” your scribe hears her colleagues shouting. And so she will. DJ

“Victory in Europe” day was celebrated 8 May 1945 to mark the end of World War II. A flow of celebratory imagery appeared on ceramics, furnishing and dress fabrics, textiles and rugs. Mermaids and dolphins; putti and roses; swags and urns. Villas and houses were popular too. Colours were clear. But change is rarely singular. Designers hoarded ideas in anticipation of better days to come. New imagery queued up like votives on a wish tree or a hope chest awaiting a wedding. Lana MacKinnon was one of those designers. Classic Textiles, The Glasgow School of Art, have released eight of her joyous postwar designs (1945-1948) as part of their vintage textile retail collection.

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Mermaid, Cherub and Chair by Lana MacKinnon. Linen Union fabric from the Vintage Textiles Collection. Image repeat approximately 53 x 37 cm. Photograph courtesy of Classic Textiles, Centre for Advanced Textiles, The Glasgow School of Art.

MacKinnon appears to have composed “Mermaids” in white gouache on a red ground. Doing so allows areas of lesser opacity to appear pink while creating speckles of white at the edges of her lines which spark like fireworks spray. Roses read like an homage to the Sutherland Rose. Mermaids clasp dolphins whose water spouts are reminiscent of Bernini’s Fountain of the Moro. Her cherubs exhale mighty gusts to signal the winds of change, not unlike “wind heads” found on ancient maps.

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One of the twelve Classical winds in a map by Sebastian Munster, circa 1560

MacKinnon’s design “hope chest” may have been inspired too by Hollywood Regency style, itself an offshoot of Surrealism. Disregard blogs that describe Hollywood Regency as “glitz”. Done well by maître like Dorothy Draper, it was sophisticated elegance with fillips of fun. Scrolls and swags were popular and furniture terminals often curled like fiddlehead ferns. (More text after image break)

Surrealism-inspired 1933 bedroom rope tassel and hands wall display. Image source unknown.

Surrealism-inspired 1933 bedroom rope tassel and hands wall display. Image source unknown.

Compare MacKinnon’s chair to one by Dorothy Draper – note the similar exuberance. (Please remember to click through for larger sizes!)

Lana MacKinnon chair detail (1945-1948) and Dorothy Draper Hollywood Regency chiar circa 1930s.

Lana MacKinnon chair detail (1945-1948) and Dorothy Draper Hollywood Regency chair circa 1930s.

“Villas” by MacKinnon captures the longing for housing and homes felt by many in Britain after the war.

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Villas by Lana MacKinnon. Linen Union fabric from the Vintage Textiles Collection. Image repeat 135cm square tile. Photograph courtesy of Classic Textiles, Centre for Advanced Textiles, The Glasgow School of Art.

MacKinnon’s villas appear cozy, hopeful and happy. The dark sky is lit by pole stars to signpost the way home. Bunting-like swags decorate facades. Small classical urns sit on gateways and remind us that white ceramic urns were popular as “window vases” for several decades. The most famous of these were designed by Constance Spry.

NB: "recently" dates back to circa 2005.

NB: “recently” dates back to circa 2005.

Your scribe’s recent blog about Wendy Bray designs re-issued as wallpaper by Warner Textile Archive is a must read for anyone interested in MacKinnon’s designs. Wendy Bray’s postwar textile “Housescape” will be released January 2013 renamed “Jubilee Square” (wallpaper and furnishing fabric) by Zoffany/Sanderson. Reworking the design some sixty years after the original allowed Bray to add in the Victorian rectory she lived in for 33 years as well as her childhood doll’s house. Similar in age to Lana MacKinnon, Bray’s first person account of the postwar climate gives precious insight into how she and probably MacKinnon too, responded as designers to the great upheaval of war.

MacKinnon and Bray were (and are) remarkable women and remarkable designers. Don’t miss the opportunity to buy their home furnishing designs, as they are joyous signals that bounty inevitably follows austerity, and this is a message we in Britain and across the globe need to remember. DJ

Yael Mer and Shay Alkalay are the Raw-Edges Design Studio. Their TEX Tile ceramic tile collection for Mutina is inspired by the texture of textiles. “Almost every object has its own particular texture, whether it’s a natural or a handmade material”, the duo declare. Their tactile reference library was the springboard for experimenting with plasticine molds on a variety of objects and materials. To their surprise, textiles gave the best results.

TEX Tiles by Raw Edges for Mutina, Italy. Photograph courtesy Mutina.

The tile shape mimics a macro knitted stitch. The rhombus (often found in knitwear) tile pattern is a tessellation of parallelograms (two equilateral triangles), and three rhombi are a hexagon.

TEX Tiles by Raw Edges for Mutina, Italy. Photograph courtesy Mutina.

For the mathematically or games-minded, TEX Tiles are tessellations of hexagons. TEX is available in ten colours (black, blue, brown, cream, grey, olive, white, yellow), each of which has three shades (also inspired by different yarn dye lots). The permutations seem endless. Shades are crucial to the effect, as it is the subtle elements that produce the 3D optical illusion “knit” effect. (More text after the image break.)

TEX Tiles by Raw Edges for Mutina, Italy. Photograph courtesy Mutina.

TEX Tiles by Raw Edges for Mutina, Italy. Photograph courtesy Mutina.

TEX Tiles by Raw Edges for Mutina, Italy. Photograph courtesy Mutina.

TEX Tiles by Raw Edges for Mutina, Italy. Photograph courtesy Mutina.

TEX Tiles by Raw Edges for Mutina, Italy. Photograph courtesy Mutina.

To ensure a bespoke installation for each customer, single colour orders have randomly selected shades in the tile order. Or customers can order predetermined patterns set into a mesh. The natural glaze applied on a white ceramic base creates a slightly irregular effect which adds even more depth and character to each installation. DJ

Edible Surfaces is a collaborative project by London based textile studio Pinaki Studios and Amsterdam’s premium chocolate retailer Chocolátl. The collaboration draws inspiration from the processes of chocolate artisans and textile manipulations such as pleating, creasing and embossing. Arantza Vilas, founder of Pinaki Studios, met Leslie Vanderleeuw and Erik Spande, the partnership behind Chocolatl, and the trio discovered a mutual passion for design, craft, food, materials and chocolate. Vilas explains: “The starting points used for the project were textile experiments on pleated silk crepe dyed with natural rust. The aesthetics of these fabrics were already suggestive of chocolate: they had the grainy qualities that some chocolates have. The result of this investigation is a collection of chocolate and fabric pieces that inform each other, that display similar aesthetic qualities but very different properties.”  LU

Tubular Pleat, chocolate left, textile right

Edible surfaces, textiles

Diamond pleat in chocolate

Cube pleat, chocolate and textile

Guy Fawkes night is past; the crypt is closed on Halloween; Alla helgons dag is no more, and the Day of the Dead is buried. The annual commemoration of failed political skullduggery; the celebration of ghouls, witches and “sexy” Halloween; and remembrances of the dead are over for 2012. Gone too is the Barbican’s production of Maurice Sendak’s “Where The Wild Things Are”. But we are fortunate. It is never too late to celebrate “wild things” if you own a “Monster Skin” rug or chair by Joshua Ben Longo.

Monster Skin rug by Joshua Ben Longo. Photo courtesy of Joshua Ben Longo.


If Longo had not titled his wool upholstered chair and wool rug “Monster Skin”, would we have the same atavistic attraction to them? The design, craftsmanship and superb detailing of the chair’s upholstery is evident, but would we “see” the scaly skin of a monster? Would we remember the “wild things” in Sendak’s book? Or would we see something prosaic like roofing tiles?

Longo’s pieces are not just a superb chair and a whimsical rug, they represent a masterclass in narrative. Titles make a profound difference in the viewer’s perception. Titles can attract or repel the audience, and they can make or break a product. Master colorist Donald Kaufman founded his firm in 1976. Known as the “color guru”, he consulted on the recently renovated American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The paints he manufactures are numbered, not named. As Kaufman explained to Elle Decor (US) magazine, “Color names are extremely dangerous, which is why we use numbers instead. People see color differently because of names. Beige is undervalued because the name has a bad association. Mint sounds like the color of a hospital, but call it ‘faded eucalyptus’ and people love it.”

Longo’s “Monster Skin” title is genius, but it also connects to his legacy of “Longoland”, his mythical monster characters. What child (or your scribe for that matter) would not want to bed into the depths of the “Monster Skin” chair and dream of wild things, fabled islands and mythical beasts? Who wouldn’t want to push their toes through the wooly scales of Longo’s “Monster Skin” rug and imagine heroic adventures? Who indeed? Which is why every home needs a “Monster Skin”. DJ

Editor Ben Evans picked up the Metro on the way to work this morning and discovered crotchetdermy. We love crocheting queen Shauna Richardson’s collection of stuffed animals. So do the V&A who exhibited her work as part of their ‘The Power of Making’ exhibition. Her creations remind me of the old joke: … “Would you like them mounted, Sir?” “No, just holding hands will do.” RW

Crocheted ‘Harry’ by Shauna Richardson


The sumptuous damasks of the illustrious Italian fabric house Rubelli have been teamed with a shoe company equally steeped in tradition to fabulous effect. Masked balls here we come! RW

Sunday sees the sixtieth birthday of Hollywood legend Mickey Rourke, the star of your scribe’s favourite movie – The Wrestler (2008). Rourke was robbed of the Best Actor award at the Oscars, and it’s a mystery why the movie wasn’t nominated for Best Picture, Best Script, Best Director and more. And yes, it’s true, your scribe is a Ring Rat for Rourke.

Ramshead upholstery textile by Bute Fabrics & Timorous Beasties. Photograph courtesy Bute Fabrics

Rourke’s character is an ageing professional wrestler whose Bump Card is notched out. He drives a clapped out Dodge Ram shorty van, lives in a trailer park. carries a torch for a stripper and has a broken relationship with his daughter. A Drawing Power during his 1980s glory days, Randy The Ram – Robinson is a busted flush. But what’s this got to do with carpets and textiles? Read on.

Ramshead upholstery fabric by Bute Fabrics and Timorous Beasties. Photograph courtesy Bute Fabrics

The motif of a ram’s head is central to the character’s ring identity. His signature move is the “Ram Jam” – a swan dive headbutt from the ring ropes, and ram references are laced throughout the film. Rourke and Darren Aronofsky probably have ample memorabilia from the film, but they might want to commemorate their classic by upholstering a few contemporary chairs or sofas in Bute Fabrics’ pure new wool (with 15% nylon) “Ramshead” upholstery fabric.

Woven in Scotland on the Isle of Bute, the world renowned Bute Fabrics is five years older than Rourke. “Ramshead” was designed in collaboration with Timorous Beasties, and was inspired by a ram’s skull found by a member of Bute Fabric’s staff who lives on a livestock farm. The team boiled it in bleach and the spare outline inspired the fabric. While it’s true the design looks a bit Donnie Darko, your scribe prefers to see a sea of discrete repeat homages to Rourke, Randy The Ram and The Wrestler. Happy Birthday Mickey Rourke! DJ

Kay + Stemmer chair upholstered in Ramshead by Bute Fabrics & Timorous Beasties. Photograph courtesy Bute Fabrics

“Give me a beach, something to eat, and a couple of broads, and I can get along without material things.” The Santa Monica bus driver who expressed his basic but base view of the sublime to city sage Reyner Banham (who included it in his 1971 book Los Angeles the architecture of the four ecologies), articulates the 20th century chapbook version of Omar Khayyam’s ubiquitous “A jug of wine, a loaf of bread and thou.” But the sentiments are the same. Happiness is often the byproduct of simple pleasures.

For your scribe, bliss is a glass of Wrotham pinot and a Julie Delpy movie, enjoyed reclining against a Wiener Werkstätte inspired hand-tailored bed rest by Kathe Williams for Neue Galerie. Inspired by Josef Hoffmann’s club chair from his 1913 furniture suite produced by the Austrian family firm Wittman for Villa Gallia on Lake Como, the rest has four slipper-like side pockets, a carrying handle, and is available in four patterns. Your scribe covets a version in Heinz Weingarten’s “Leaf” textile, designed 1912.

WIENER WERKSTÄTTE BED REST; Kathe Williams for Neue Galerie, New York, upholstered in “Leaf”, 1912, by Heinz Weingarten. Photograph courtesy Neue Galerie.

Tropical plant fanciers will recognise “Leaf” as the Anthurium. Your scribe spent happy formative years in Hawai’i. Although not native, the Anthurium is emblematic of the islands. The often vividly coloured heart shaped leaf (spathe) is not the flower, rather the tubular spadix hosts the plant’s tiny “florets”. So although it may puzzle non-specialists, Weingarten’s textile title is correct. A circa 1900 plate from the famous German encyclopedia Meyers grosses Konversations-Lexikon illustrates a species of the Anthurium amongst other “Blattpflanzen” or “Leaf Plants”.

In 1910 the Werkstätte opened salons selling fabrics, fashion and accessories. So popular were they that branches opened in New York, Berlin and Zurich. Did the fashionable set who shopped in the salons know their spathe from their spadix? It doesn’t matter. What they understood and coveted were the fresh, fashionable designs by the Wiener Werkstätte. And thanks to the superlative eye of the Neue Galerie shop, we too can enjoy these classic designs. Scroll down for more pattern designs available for the bed rest. DJ

Butterfly by Dagobert Peche, designed 1913, 100% cotton. Photograph courtesy Neue Galerie, New York

Blue Leaf by Heinz Weingarten, designed 1912, 100% linen. Photograph courtesy Neue Galerie, New York

Red Leaf by Heinz Weingarten, designed 1912, 100% linen. Photograph courtesy Neue Galerie, New York

Beehive by Josef Hoffmann, designed 1907, 100% linen. Photograph Neue Galerie, New York

Rectangles by Josef Hoffmann, designed 1909, 100% linen. Photograph courtesy Neue Galerie, New York

Riva by Josef Hoffmann, designed 1910-13, 100% cotton. Photograph courtesy Neue Galerie, New York