Relaxing With a Felt Pen

A single pen has been the catalyst to a series of new designs. It all happened a few months ago while walking down Queens Street in Glasgow. pen drawing

I stopped at a shop window full of paper and carefully stacked pens and the smell of freshly sharpened pencils wafted towards me – irresistible.

Pencil Sharpens

I had stumbled across Cass Art , a shop similar in feel to an Apple store, but instead of selling tech, it’s full of art materials. I’m quite sure it could coax anyone into becoming artistically inclined.

At this point I must tell you I am a total sucker for felt pens. I adore coloured pencils too (so long as they are waxy  – Caran D’Ashe  being my favourite). I could literally spend hours choosing a unison pastel from a drawer (in that choosing a patisserie sort of way) but there is something about felt pens that strikes straight to my core. It’s a childhood thing. I’m sure it will be the same for many of you.

You probably know that felt pens were invented in the 1960’s by Yukio Horie. He worked for the Tokyo Stationary Company at the time but went on to set up his own company Pentel – as in a ‘pen can tell a story’. I feel so indebted to this man and his invention – can you imagine a childhood without felt pens? I would like to go to Tokyo one day and buy a Pentel right there in Pentel HQ.

I had a treasured pack of 5 – blue, green, red, yellow and black. My friend however had a long transparent floppy case with a white popper stud. It contained 24 heart stopping colours. She was good at sharing. Of course we had our favourite well used colours and when they ran dry, we would spit on their tips to squeeze a little more ‘juice’ from them. When that failed, we would pull them apart and squeeze the cuboid felty innards to coax some more fabulous colour out onto our drawings. Inevitably our afternoons ended with us sporting gaudy coloured lips and fingers. Knowing now what chemicals these early pens contained, it’s a miracle we are both still here. Oddly enough the only parental instruction I recall was not to get the pen on my friends white round dining table, felt pen lips apparently no big deal…

I could go on for pages about felt pens and childhood – the joy of putting them away and in which order to slot them on their plastic cradles, the design of the lids (which for no particular reason I suctioned onto the end of my tongue rather a lot) and the ones that came with artificial smells like apple and bubble gum, again, rather a worry with hindsight :/

Anyway, fast forward 2016.

I bought a Tombow  pen and armed with a lot of blank paper, I literally ‘let go’ of any plans and allowed the pen tell a story. That’s harder than you think by the way. I asked a friend to do the same and she said she felt shy and inhibited and the pen bumped and crashed in a stumbly line and stopped. I however found the exercise liberating (I was alone, that helps) and couldn’t stop making lines. It fascinated me watching what shapes were forming in front of my eyes. I was producing nice shapes without any conscious thought. My hand had its own mind and I was the audience. I got through a lot of paper that week.

Have you heard of the stress busting exercise of going to an empty Scottish Glen (or any other vast empty space) and shouting at the top of your voice? Just allowing yourself to make whatever noise you want but as loud as possible? That’s pretty hard too – it really takes courage, believe me. Well, my pen drawings gave me a similar sensation. It’s all about letting go. But lucky for me, I found the shapes rather pleasing and after working on them more cognitively, I have created a new set of designs which will soon appear as silk scarves – no spoilers, I will show you them when they are finished 🙂

Do you have felt pen memories? 

 

 

 

 

 

New Designs and Their Subliminal Roots

I’ve just finished some new designs and was asked ‘why pears?’ The answer is easy, the simple organic shape of a pear is beautiful and a perfect form to celebrate a simple line of colour. No fuss, no interference, just a very pleasing shape. I hope you agree.

Red Pear Mug

Pear Mug in Red designed by Niki Fulton.

 

But it has just dawned on me that I was heavily influenced. I’ve been living underneath an enormous pear tree for the last twenty years. It produces clouds of white blossom in Spring which literally stops people in their tracks.

 

pear blossom

By September hundreds of small green pears fall from a great height (thirty metres or so) smashing into pulp on impact with the tarmac below attracting rabbles (had to look that collective noun up) of butterflies. The pears are small and hard and gather such a speed that it actually becomes quite treacherous reaching my front door!

Pear Mug Green

Pear Mug in Green. Design by Niki Fulton

 

So walking underneath a pear tree every day seems to have seeped into my psyche and appeared in my designs. So that’s where it came from.

The pears have also made their way onto Fife Linen which can be ordered by the metre from Printed & Co , an exciting new venture which fully launches on the thirteenth of February at the Kalopsia Collective Gallery with a taster on show this Friday at the launch of The Facility .

Pear Drops, tan

‘Pear Drops, Tan’ on Fife Linen. Design by Niki Fulton. Available from Printed & Co.

Pear Drops

Pear Drops on Fife Linen. Design by Niki Fulton. Available from Printed & Co.

 

So realising quite how influenced by our surroundings we obviously are, I had a closer look at a design I’m currently working on called ‘Vaki Rocks‘.

This was a purely spontaneous random design… or so I thought.

I have a stunning piece of Lewisian Gneiss in my bathroom. In my eyes it’s one of the most beautiful things I have and the fact that the rock is over three billion years old and has therefore been around for longer than any animal, it’s pretty mind blowing. I look at my ‘random’ design and there I spot my beloved rock. I certainly didn’t set out to paint a rock, I just went with the flow.

Gneiss & linen

Chair & rock

Vaki Rock Collage

‘Vaki Rocks’ print on Fife Linen design by Niki Fulton

This revelation also backs up my theory that children’s toys should be beautiful/interesting objects because between the ages of 0-5 our brains are even more receptive and children often handle toys for hours and hours, turning them over in their hands, feeling them, and viewing them from every possible angle. I doubt great lumps of mass produced plastic are ever going to have such long term positive influences on us as a beautifully carved timber toy or a piece of nature found on a walk. Timber toys last for generations and need not be an expensive option as they can be small, beautiful, robust and more importantly, kept. Surely if our surroundings are having such a big impact on us we should pay attention to what we use, even if it’s an every day object. This is one reason why good design is so important. But over to you,

Can you spot any subliminal influences in your creations?

 

 

A Fresh Year and I’m Thinking Circles

I look forward to January – the opportunity to start afresh, clear the desk and create some new designs is enticing, and this year, I’m finding geometry, strong shapes and most of all circles of particular interest.

Surely the circle must be the worlds most perfect shape? It’s inclusive, timeless and whole, with an infinite perimeter which also suggests movement – it may simply roll away. I looked around my house and discovered I have inadvertantly been collecting circles for a long time – and I still can’t walk past my Yves Klein poster, Blue Disk bought from the wonderful (and sadly no longer) Habitat store in Edinburgh’s West end, without pausing at the possibilities it extends to anyone who cares to look.

Green Blob

But its obvious isn’t it. We are all drawn towards the circle because it’s one of the first things we see in the sky each day or night.  We are imprinted to love the circle, just as we are with blue, the world’s favourite and most abundant colour. So, I’m thinking, surely the best logo would be a blue circle?! But then I don’t suppose we could all have that…

niki logo

 

Ok, enough about me and my love of blue circles. Do you have a favourite shape and why? 

 

New Homes for Vintage Designs

We chuck more, we buy more, and we keep making more, me (unifiedspace) included. The planet is literally awash with homewares. This poses a real dilemma for someone like me who loves designing and producing new ranges, so, in an attempt to rebalance my own input into this mass overindulgence, can I introduce you to, Vintage Nik’s

Having recently been searching for a 1960’s,  Norwegian coffee cup to add to a depleted collection I had inherited I was blown over when I came across a brilliant vintage site called Danish Mood. The knowledgable art historian running the site had the cup I was searching for. I duly bought it and completed my set. Easy as that. The ‘orphaned’ cup in Denmark now has a new home and future here in Edinburgh. Satisfying is not a powerful enough word to describe how enriching the experience was and it set me thinking. I wanted to find homes for more unwanted beautiful designs. Perhaps this is how ’empty nest syndrome’ is going to manifest itself with me (eldest leaving home later this summer) but whatever the reason, I can assure you it’s soothing my guilt about producing new ranges and feeding my desire to nurture.

I am specifically looking out for mid century British and Scandinavian homewares, both utilitarian and decorative, purely because that’s what I like. I’ve found some great treasures already including a prized Stig Lindberg saucier, a 1942 Royal Copenhagen vase, some Phoenix glass, and several stunning pieces of ceramics from Britains finest potteries. I’m only looking for pieces in near perfect condition that I would be happy to find space for in my own house. And it’s staggering looking at the quality of the pieces, especially the bone china  produced in Stoke on Trent in the 1950’s. Really wonderful.

So I look forward to producing more of my own work (lots of textiles on the way) and finding homes for unwanted, thoughtfully designed objects from the past. A good balance I think.

Do you collect vintage designs and if so what is your favourite era or style?

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.

 

Colour Theory Tested

I’ve been keen to produce some designs while experimenting with colour theory.

Pear Drops and Toffee Apples are both designs where I chose analogous colours, i.e hues adjacent to each other on the colour wheel, red and pink for Toffee Apples and green and blue for Pear Drops. As I like simple flat designs, I outlined some of the shapes in black to act as a fence to contain the colours from spreading. You will see where I haven’t done this, the green and blue on the pears blend together and reinforce their similar hue parentage.

Having been blown over by the movement that Sol Le Witt created in his Wall Drawing 1136 I was determined to design something where some physical energy might appear. So for Funky Apple, I butted up complimentary colours i.e opposites on the colour wheel because these are groups of colours that spar beside each other and reinforce their differences causing a perceived vibration which in turn can give a design some energy and movement. As the colour bands are almost circular, I hope your eye will be taken on a journey around the apple.

Before I get too theoretical, there is always a danger in applying theory directly into designs, and almost always a bad idea getting too theoretical when selecting interior paint colours as there are far too many other factors to consider in a space, my final design is simply because I like vegetation and I was keen to see it on a natural linen back ground.

The cushions are all 40 cm square and printed with pigment inks onto a linen cotton blend and will be appearing in my etsy shop soon.

It’s a fabulous sunny bank holiday weekend here in Edinburgh so I’m off to prepare a picnic, with plenty cushions to sit on…

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?

What do You Collect?

I am pretty sure most of us like to collect something. Perhaps its vinyl, volcanic rocks or paint colour charts? Well, I have to admit that I am a serial lighting collector. It’s not a fad, no, no, it’s taken thirty years to get this far and although it may seem rather extravagant I would sooner shuffle around in a pair ancient clogs (actually I do) if it means I have more to spend on lighting.

In my mind a classic is only a classic if it stays with me occupying my thoughts year on year. It should have a presence and charisma that adds energy to a space. It should also be practical and perform an excellent job. It should have a story behind it and it will often be inspired from something ordinary that has given the designer that initial spark. It should be well made, crafted and every detail tweaked.

Take Achille Castiglioni  who along with his brother Pier designed the iconic Arco floor light in 1962 after being inspired by the every day street lamp. Arco is a practical solution to allow overhead light in a room without the hassle of wiring a ceiling. But it isn’t just practical. The heavy Carrera marble base stabilises the long slender arm that sweeps up and out into the room. And the circular holes in the stainless steel shade allows the heat from the bulb to dissipate but also sends beautiful soft smudgy circular shadows up onto the ceiling. A well thought out solution to an every day need. Perfect.

All the lights I have bought over the years still give me immense pleasure. What’s more they still do their job and I haven’t ‘gone off’ any of them. And when a part does eventually perish, they can be repaired – not thrown out! I have two Fresnel lights designed by Joe Colombo in 1966 lighting up my front door. Lately a rubber seal preventing rain water from getting inside the fitting perished. I contacted the manufacturer, Oluce, they e mail me a diagram of parts, I identify the little piece I needed and it arrives shortly afterward through the post and my light is set for another decade of Scottish weather. That’s how it should be. My lights may have been fairly expensive but they don’t need replacing so actually it’s not such a bad habit after all…

What do you collect?

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