Stormy Weather, Stop by at Etsy

With a Winter storm forecast here for tomorrow, I’ve turned all festive here at unifiedspace and I am unashamedly going to give my etsy shop a little plug…

Tjornin Mug

Tjornin Mug

Tjornin tea towel

Tjornin tea towel

cotton fennel bag

cotton fennel bag

Two tone tjornin mugs

Two tone tjornin mugs

funky apple cushion

funky apple cushion

urban tea towels

urban tea towels

Night Fennel silk scarf

Night Fennel silk scarf

Summer Fennel silk scarf

Summer Fennel silk scarf

…and there is plenty more on the shop and free shipping to uk addresses.

Meanwhile I’m off to listen to Eddi Reader’s beautiful new song I heard her sing here in Edinburgh’s Usher Hall on Saturday night, ‘Snowflakes in the Sun’.

What are your favourite festive tunes?

Flowers From A Painter

I was given some flowers yesterday by a wonderful family of painters. They obviously spent ages choosing them (they mix their own paint colours for their interior work) and Narcissus Flowers (a flower shop on Edinburgh’s Broughton Street) tied them into a stunning bunch but the individual flowers are so perfect that I have spent the morning carefully pulling out single stems to look at in isolation. The colours, some sharp, some smudged are mouth watering but I’ve also been transfixed by their shapes. I hope you enjoy the images below.

 

When Inspiration Deserts You

It’s been a while since I last posted and that’s because something rather strange happened to me. To put it bluntly, my inspiration evaporated, vanished, dried up (partly due to a rather long bout of labyrinthitis) . Oh dear, I know on social media we are all meant to be oozing with creativity and positive energy but for one day only I will break the unspoken ‘bubbly’ rule. However, I am delighted to report, that finally I am back on track and raring to go. Phew, about time!

orange hull, violet below.

orange hull, violet below.

I mentioned previously that I am working on some woven textiles using blended colours and with this in mind  I photographed some of the huge ships docked at Leith, Edinburgh’s commercial quay this morning. I hope you enjoy the colour blends and shapes which were boosted by the glorious sunshine we have here today.

blue stripes, red overall

blue stripes, red overall

orange hull and below
metal stripes

metal stripes

orange hull, blue tape

orange hull, blue tape

sun through containers

sun through containers

I enjoy reading great blogs and comments from jewellers, cooks, artists, poets, writers and dress makers and all your posts come thick and fast. Does inspiration ever evade you? And if so, what do you do?

January = Creative Time

So, here we are in January scuttering back to work but oddly enough it’s one of my favourite months. Being the first month of a brand new year, January gives me renewed focus and an excuse to try out new techniques (in other words a month where I feel no guilt about spending more time on creative projects and less time on administrative and business tasks!)

clay men by Lawrence Epps

Clay Commuting Men by Lawrence Epps

For those of us living in Edinburgh, another bonus about January is that the National Galleries of Scotland  mount a beautiful Turner exhibition. The extensive collection of paintings was bequeathed to the Gallery with instructions that they must be ‘exhibited to the public all at one time, free of charge, during the month of January’ and this has been faithfully adhered to for over 100 years.

As its normally abstract expressionism that inspires me, I find visiting the Turner exhibition each year a great way of shifting my ‘normal’ way of thinking to considering other ideas.

Butting blocks of solid flat colour against each other is something I will never tire of as the energy that is created between two sparring colours or indeed the harmonious marriage of related colours discovering each other is an infinite source of enjoyment for me. However, the pure romanticism of the Turner paintings with their semi-transparent colour washes capturing stunning moods across the paper, or as Johannes Itten described as “a psychio-expressive medium to lend mood to a landscape” made me think about translucent colours and colour gradation.

air colour gradation

As you know, colour gradation has been a popular trend over the last year and  Danish brand Hay have designed stunning textiles using this technique. You will probably have noticed shop windows filled with clothes in colour gradations and teenagers adorning ‘dip dyed’ hair.

Shop window, London So with this in mind and with the plan to have some textiles woven by one of our  fabulous mills in Scotland (and there are many with incredible craft men and woman producing staggeringly high quality textiles), I am currently working on designs with gradients punctuated by solid beams of colour. It’s early days and I am still at a messy creative stage in the process but that’s what January is all about.

My etsy shop is now up and running as is unifiedspace on facebook and pinterest and I have an alternative blog, nikispace, for those short on time and  just looking for a picture rather than words – I told you I was having fun in January!

Photo taken in the Rolf Sachs 'Journey of an Ink Drop' exhibition

Photo taken in the Rolf Sachs ‘Journey of an Ink Drop’ exhibition

Hunt, Gather, Design

Design shows are important events in the calendar and the big ones are very often held in London. When attending these shows I am often asked how designers keep current and in touch while living and working four hundred miles north of The Big Smoke. 

Well, walk this way…

We have a collection of secret weapons up here in Scotland. Weapons that fuse together and do the majority of the work for us; our landscape, our light and our space. Without exception, every single design I have produced has stemmed from a walk outdoors. Not necessarily a traverse across rugged moor or a walk on one of our many wild beaches, even the most mundane of walks will produce results. It’s simply a case of looking rather than just seeing. I hunt for shapes, gather what I see and turn them into designs.

Shapes in the city

I shall demonstrate the power of the landscape with the help of the bute fabrics collection. A quick flick through the binder and I come across several fabrics that appear to be a direct abstraction from nature. Intentional or subliminal, the designers are clearly demonstrating a raw and visceral connection to the environment.

Pitted sand and ‘Iona’, fine worsted marl

The fabric of our landscape is literally weaving itself into the very heart of designs emerging from Scotland.

Protruding rock veins and ‘Kilmory’ cloth

Natural materials but a man made wall – look how its structure emerges as an architectural weave.

Stone wall and ‘Braemar’ cloth

Busy docks have long been one of my richest sources of inspiration. I can’t help but notice a similarity of colour and form in my dockland montage with that of bute’s special yarn effect cloth, ‘Skye’. A clean, contemporary cloth that I am keen to specify.

Docklands montage and ‘Skye’ cloth

Blue panels of Hebridean water are reproduced in the interior of this room – the positioning of the ‘Turnberry’ throw on the sandy coloured  felt wool chair looks pleasing because it is a direct translation of a natural landscape. In other words, it  gains an instant authenticity.

Panels of blue sea and Bute’s ‘Turnberry’ throw

Look at the dark Lewisian Gneiss sharply contrasting with the adjacent white sand – a powerful combination. The organic form of the white DSR Eames Chair  is heightened by the dark grey back drop. Our design instincts are influenced by the natural world yet again.

A colour combination in nature emerges in an interior

A detail from an artist’s oil painting and a set of colours and shapes I see at the harbour.

Colours from a harbour and detail from an unrelated oil painting.

So no matter where we live, I am certain we are all deeply affected by the space around us. I am quite sure a primal force exists within us that connects us to the land and appears consciously and unconsciously time after time in the products we are designing.  Nature is the touchstone for truthful design and is one of the many good reasons designers continue to live and work  successfully in Scotland.

And it’s not just the landscape that inspires us, don’t forget about the local flora and fauna. After curing this locally caught salmon in beetroot and vodka, I was spell bound by the colour palette that lay on my kitchen work top.

But I will leave you with a montage of textures and patterns I collected from a recent walk. Textures I plan to work on to produce some new work – not a difficult task when surround by this…

natural textures and patterns

Unifiedspace at Stockbridge Market This Sunday

I am very excited to tell you that unifiedspace will be at the fabulous Stockbridge Market, Edinburgh this Sunday 9th December 10am – 5pm. I have made lots of Christmas Gift Packs and greetings cards so come along, choose your colour combo and get your Christmas shopping sorted!

Christmas bird card

mug range

detail from linen union tea towel

twigs linen union tea towel

St.Andrew’s Day and the Winner is…

It’s St.Andrew’s Day and as promised I will announce the winner of the gift pack competition, well two winners actually because my ice cold sleepy fingers pulled two names from the hat this morning.

Saltire and Union flag

I am delighted to tell you that Claire from Make Me a Frock and Sandra from The Colour of Ideas have both won their chosen gift pack. Thank you to everyone who entered and for all the ‘likes’ on my new Facebook page.

And talking of Facebook, have you ever wondered why Facebook’s page is blue? Reporter Jose Antonio Vargas asked founder Mark Zuckerberg that very question and Zuckerberg  explained he suffers from  a red-green colour blindness and that “blue is the richest colour for me — I can see all of blue.”

That’s a good practical reason to choose blue but colour perception is also based on memory of a colour. Consider how you felt as a child when your teacher marked big red crosses on wrong answers (I have real issues using red, perhaps I had rather a lot of wrong answers…) or how  you feel when you watch a red fire engine career towards a dangerous fire. Then think about a clear blue sky and you can understand why blue is such a cherished calm colour and red may stir an alert reaction in us. Of course many other factors play a role in colour perception including the colour’s wavelength and the process our brains go through to decode the wavelength into colour (red being the longest and most difficult wavelength to decode, which probably contributes to our increased heart rate when surrounded by red). life ring

Blue sky, blue sea, red and urgent looking life ring
But back to blue and I would like to wish everyone across Britain and beyond a happy St.Andrew’s Day from a beautiful clear and very cold day here in Edinburgh where there are many Creative Events taking place – I am looking forward to Karine Polwart’s concert at Queens Hall tonight, especially listening to her song, Cover Your Eyes which I first heard while watching the shocking documentary, You’ve Been Trumped a film I mentioned in Sand, Grasses and a Golf Resort.
Have a great weekend and everyone is welcome to drop in to a Christmas Open Studio Event at Red Leaf Studio, Boness this Sunday 12:00 – 4:30pm, it would be great to see you!
gull and blue sky

Connected, Globally, Locally and by the World’s Favourite Colour, Blue

I’ve been unplugged. Computer off, no blogging, no commenting, no texting. Effectively, I have been back in time. I’ve even tried to use cash rather than cards and it has been interesting. It was a conscious decision, a choice I made.

Why, you may well ask?

Unison pastel, hand rolled in Northumberland National Park

I was worried about the number of small shops closing down, shops who can’t compete with the internet. So I set myself a challenge of buying all my Christmas presents from a shop/fair/market/gallery rather than on line and only buying presents which are made in Britain. And guess what? Its easy and extremely enjoyable.

I love the internet, but its ease of use can sometimes let me forget what’s on my doorstep. I have some fantastic cyber friends – a journalist, Caitlin Broadside blog, Sandra, an artist  The Colour of Ideas, Elizabeth, a colour consultant EB Color Consultants, Betsy a jeweller betsy bensen jewellery , Claire, a poet and seamstress Make Me a Frock  all unbelievably talented people who genuinely inspire me whom I would never have met without the internet. However, I don’t want to forget about my friends around the block, none of which are bloggers – apart from Kellie at Food to Glow who writes a staggeringly informative and delicious food blog.

The internet also brings me work. I’ve just finished some photographic work for AGI magazine to illustrate an article on ultramarine written by art historian Alexandra Loske, an interesting academic who I connected with in cyberspace. I think I just want to make sure both worlds, cyber and tangible and more equally weighted.

And now to colour. I guess you know that the worlds favourite colour is blue?

It’s hardly a surprise considering three quarters of our planet is covered in sea and we look up to a seemingly endless blue sky (occasionally). From this perhaps we can deduce that we like familiarity. But familiarity is not what you get on the internet. For me, its the constantly new, unseen, unfamiliar images and snips of pristine information that draw my attention. That’s all good and I am quite sure we are all super- informed beings but I just want to make sure I don’t loose track of familiar things, local places, local friends, my micro world that needs supported more than the web machine which seems to generate its own immense energy. I needed to spend more time in the familiar world and its been a nice coincidence that I have been working with that wonderfully familiar colour blue.
I have also decided to take part in my first ever Craft Fair. I will have a stand at Market Tree Events Fair this Saturday 10th November in Cafe Camino just next to John Lewis. I am really looking forward to meeting the people who buy my designs as I never normally get the chance to meet them in person.
So here’s to staying connected in our parallel worlds, local and global both working successfully and all connected by the worlds favourite colour, blue.

Timberyard, a Stunning New Restaurant Slides Open its Big Red Door

There is little more uplifting than watching a derelict building being saved, clawed back from the brink and allowed to breath again and I’ve been lucky enough to witness the Radford Family do just that over the last year (you may remember the post What Colour For a Salvaged Interior  where ideas were discussed for this very project).

The building formerly, the old Lawson’s Timber Yard (many Edinburgh residents have visited at some point over the years to pick up a chunk of 3 x 2 timber for a DIY project) is on Lady Lawson Street in the heart of Edinburgh and the Radfords have transformed it into a stunning space which perfectly reflects their style of cooking – sustainable, artistic, local and often foraged.

Timberyard has notched up several great food reviews already but it’s the interior (and exterior) that interests me in this post.

What the Radfords have made is a restaurant packed with character, quirky details and peppered with design classics (great before, during and after photos here.)  It’s a space which has stories to tell and such a relaxing vibe it makes it hard to leave. They have created something which can be lacking in high end interiors. We all know the sort of characterless spaces I am thinking of – the kind where a high budget has done no favours to the interior because the perfectly executed design configured in a swanky design studio could in fact belong anywhere from Dubai to Barcelona. But Timberyard has been lovingly and very personally restored on a minimal budget which has dictated that virtually everything has been salvaged and it has given the restaurant a sense of place.

Take the clear suspension lights illuminating the entrance – formerly used to light up chicken runs. Or the beautifully pared down metal external cylindrical wall lights, salvaged from a post office building about to be demolished. And the bulkhead lights, robust and perfectly engineered in a factory in Glasgow decades before and rediscovered on ebay.

The furniture tells of a similar story – early Wimbledon Tennis Club chairs in the courtyard, tables constructed from old railway sleepers, Gubi chairs reused from their last project (Atrium & Blue restaurant) and radiators heading to extinction. Saved.

The history and conversations absorbed in the old walls gives instant integrity and warmth to this restaurant. It’s as if the walls can talk and sometimes old walls do…

The Lammermuir Festival currently taking place in East Lothian has a motto that great music shall be played in great venues. Last night in the pitch dark and near freezing conditions several hundred spectators sat under the clear starry sky at the relatively remote ruins of Tantallon Castle to witness a spectacular music and light display, Tantallon! These Lands, this Wall. The great stone curtain walls of Tantallon spoke of what they had witnessed, felt and absorbed over the centuries – a fourteenth century construction which has witnessed sieges, coastal storms and countless sagas.

I’ve started looking around me at the walls I see every day and I like to imagine what they have witnessed. It gets you thinking…

Inside the Mill at Bute Fabrics

Do you find that every once in a while a day comes along that blows your mind?

I am glad to say this happened to me last week when Bute Fabrics kindly invited me to see their mill on the Isle of Bute. It has to be said that arriving at the beautiful Victorian railway station at Wemyss Bay and walking onto the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry to sail over to Bute is a pretty good way to start to the day.

As I mentioned in my last post, production is something I find completely intriguing and walking into the mill at Bute fabrics was no exception. The mill has a similar feel to a whisky distillery in that it is made up of a series of long low buildings and the tour involves dashing outside from one building to another between wind, rain and the odd deer. However, there is no disguising the fact that this mill is making miles and miles of crafted fabric because the constant clack clack of the looms emanates around the site.

A quick glance around and you ask the question, how on earth does this complex set of odd looking machinery mean anything to anyone? How on earth does a single piece of yarn fed in at one end become a bale of highly prized designer cloth at the other? But cloth woven in this very room on this small Scottish island is being shipped off to customers such as Bank of America, Chap Lek Hok airport Hong Kong, the Sheraton Hotel in Moscow and Royal Festival Hall, London. Well the process can happen because the mill employs passionate people who have real skills. There was a tangible feeling of pride and heritage amongst the people I spoke to. Quite simply, they know they are producing something very good indeed and they are proud of it.

For me, discovering that Bute not only have their own range of cloth but can weave bespoke cloth in virtually any Pantone colour was the icing on the cake (I hope to visit the dyers in the Scottish Borders next). Can you imagine the possibilities this can open up? I firmly believe that designing home wares with a high quality raw material one needs to add very little embellishment at all. A simple form in the perfect colour in a natural material is hard beat.  Finding the perfect ingredients and then setting out to design something with it, in my mind is a pretty exciting way to start a project. Good raw materials speak for themselves.

This mill is only two hours away from where I work, which is quite far in Scottish terms but in reality is ridiculously close. The point I would like to make in this post is to encourage anyone reading this to find out what is being produced in their own area (and sometimes its not always very obvious) and just think of the opportunities it could offer. Embracing what we do well locally I am quite sure will help restore national pride. I for one am very proud to be from a country with mills such as Bute fabrics. What does your country or area produce that makes you feel proud?