Botanic Lights, Edinburgh

Lots going on at unifiedspace right now but first I want to share an experience I had at the Royal Botanic Gardens with you.

Portal

Portal

Entering the Botanics in the dark is unusual enough – Edinburgh residents are accustomed to spending many hours wondering around the fabulous grounds but always during the hours of daylight so it immediately felt really special even be allowed in after dark. We were to enter via a Portal in the famous beech hedge where lighting artist Malcolm Innes and colleague Euan Winton wanted us to “leave the city behind, and begin to consider our relationship with nature”.

Galaxy of Bits

Galaxy of Bits

Passing twisted bark and dappled shade we found, The Galaxy of Bits, an installation representing the vast amount of scientific work that is undertaken in the Botanics.

Butterfly Ball

Butterfly Ball

Down at the pond, the many different environments available to flora and fauna at the Botanics are celebrated with a spectacular sweeping light show which dances across the land and the water to music created by jazz musician Haftor Medboe (who I was lucky enough to hear at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival and am now fairly obsessed by his album Places and Spaces) where it would not overly surprise you if you saw wildlife performing balletic poses.

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Back on the path, normally so familiar but now strangely disorientating we are attracted by random red tubes which lie like lava leaking from the ground.

red lights

On up to Inverleith House which is transformed by William Morris inspired projections on its normally formal and sober stone facade tricking us into thinking we are now inside a great ballroom rather than outside on a cold Edinburgh night. It plays with the idea that despite wanting to shelter inside buildings, humans very often surround themselves with plant imagery on wallpaper and paintings and have ‘house plants’ in our homes as we crave that connection to nature.  Inside Out, instead,  brings the inside, outside.

Inside Out

Inside Out

 

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Having had our visual feast, we leave the garden via the Pool of Serenity, a quiet, calm and truly beautiful installation.

Pool of Serenity

 

So as our hours of daylight diminish, I think the Royal Botanic Gardens and Malcolm Innes have truly made our Winter darkness a celebration and I for one very much hope they run this magical event again next year.

 

 

The Isle of Lewis, Scotland

On a remote beach on the Isle of Lewis why bother with words, or order, or classification, for there is no chaos here.

One beach, different times of the day. It could render even the most wordy person speechless.

The Sea Turns Mauve

The Sea Turns Mauve

Inky Tide

Inky Tide

Violet Edge

Violet Edge

Luminous Aqua at Dusk

Luminous Aqua at Dusk

A Rain Cloud Passes

A Rain Cloud Passes

A Fresh Wind

A Fresh Wind

This is for Michele who was telling me the winter landscape inspires her to paint more than the summer one – but then added, “unless I am in the Outer Hebrides”

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.