21st March 2013 is International Colour Day!

Did you know it is International Colour Day this Thursday 21st March?

Logo designed by Hosanna Yau

Logo designed by Hosanna Yau

President of the Association International de la Coleur (AIC), Berit Bergström explains very well in this extract why we should celebrate this day.

An international colour day has been considered as appropriate since colour is, thanks to sight, one of the most influential phenomena in people’s lives and also one of the channels that most greatly contributes to the perception of reality. All around the world memorable colour activities are developed during the same day.
The proposal to establish this international colour day is spread throughout our international network and has been supported by its members. AIC is today represented by 38 different nations and I hope that you all will start your preparations for celebrating March 21st 2013!
The adoption of an international day of colour and light was proposed in 2008 by Maria Joao Durao, the Portuguese Association. Light and colour are inseparable. Colour is always connected with light, without light no colour therefore an international colour day will also celebrate the light.
Few things affect us as much as colour. It plays a vital part in our surroundings, whether at work, in public spaces or in our homes. Colour and light seem to interest everybody and are such a common component of our existence that we don’t give it a thought, in spite of all vision. All surfaces are coloured.  Colour has an outstanding role in our society and tells us much about different cultures as a crucial aspect in defining our identity.
WHY MARCH 21ST?
March 21st, every year the “equinox” – aequus (equal) and nox (night).
Around the equinox, the night and day are approximately equally long, symbolically relating to the complementary nature of light and darkness, light and shadow expressed in all human cultures.
Many different colour activities can be arranged worldwide in such a day. Here are some of the activities and events that could be unfolded on the International Colour Day:
•       Arts exhibitions, architectural projects, design, decoration, fashion….
•       Meetings, debates, scientific events…..
•       Workshops on the use of colour and light for both adults and children.
•       Contests on colour and light design.
•       Decide your identity colour, and wear it and use it during this day!
•       Start discussions…..
 
I realise it will be difficult to think more than usual about colour on Thursday because I   analyse colour and colour combinations all the time, every single day. I find it impossible to go anywhere without giving the colours around me a lot of thought. It’s a habit that can on occasion be quite tiring because I find it almost impossible to stop analysing and have a clear or empty head. I was attempting to explain this to a friend last week to find out if she did this too. I have come to the conclusion that we all look for different things despite looking at exactly the same view. I tend to immediately get rid of the detail and pull the view into simplistic flat blocks of colour. I didn’t think it was an odd habit until I started talking about it! I expect some people will be more interested in intricate details and be inspired by ornamentation or light and shadow. I think perhaps it is because I get confused when I am surrounded by too much detail and I therefore automatically start simplifying my surroundings.
How do you look at things?
I have tried to demonstrate in the photos below what I tend to do, let me know if you do this too!
Primary blocks
Teal, white grey
Red, white and blue
pink roses, deep door
On  Colour Day this year, I have decided to do a quick tally on what colour interior magazines are using on their front cover titles – should be a fun task and interesting to see what they think we are currently responding too.
How will you celebrate it?

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

London Design Festival – Trend Two and Three

I mentioned in my last post that I could see three distinct trends emerge from  London Design Festival – a colour, a shape and a material  – so here are the final two trends that I promised.

Looking at form, many designs were oval, circular with marine like quality, almost ethereal and organic looking.

To further soften the shapes, some of the designs were finished in a soft rubberised, ultra matt finish which blurred the edges into a soft and tactile product.

In my mind, the best product from the entire festival, which slots into this circular trend, was the M lamp designed by David Irwin for Juniper. Irwin was inspired by British 19th century miner’s lamps such as the Georgie, Davy and Carbide lamps. Pared down, simple and practical, the M lamp is a wireless (powered by a lithium iron phosphate rechargeable battery) easily transportable, beautiful object. I am certainly coveting one for a bedside lamp – it also dims – but I can visualise it in countless positions around my house.

As you will know, lace has been a dominant force in the design world recently and it’s a theme that is set to continue. It was evident that many designers have looked at the qualities of lace and have used other materials which are semi- transparent, cut-out, and mesh like.

The final theme was extremely prevalent – the use of pale timber. Having been to most of the venues in the festival I don’t recall seeing any dark woods at all. Pale oak, ash and birch were however almost exclusively pared with blocks of fresh vibrant colour whether painted like many of Lermont Hupton pieces or used with coloured felt like Barnby and Day‘s felt and ash stool.

Most of these trends rely on contrast – soft wool next to hard timber, a burst of urgent red in an otherwise white room, a gentle organic form giving a solid and practical solution. But the display of Mimicry chairs from the Japanese design studio Nendo in the Victoria and Albert’s tapestry room has left the longest impression with me due to its seemingly very stark contrast with its surrounding.

At first glance it looks to be in complete contrast to its surrounding – a modern, light, sharp design placed within a dimly lit room filled with ancient two dimensional soft tapestries. A total contrast surely? But no, the Mimicry was designed to mimic its surrounding. The huge frame rising from the chair I guess represents the shape of the massive tapestries, the seemingly never ending perspective again mimicking the almost life- like scenes depicted in the textiles or representing the endless corridors in the castles these tapestries are normally found in? The position of a chair to the side of the artwork exactly where an antique chair would be found next to a tapestry – there are probably more similarities, you may well spot some so let me know if you do. It took me a while to register this play on design but it reminded me to look carefully and think about what I see. Something Charles Eames asked his potential employees in interviews – ‘if you can see and you can think, I can work with you’

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…

Borrowing Themes From The Catwalk

Just in case you thought I had abandoned ship, (I was just distracted by the Olympics and  The International Edinburgh Festival) I thought I would share my photographs from the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition at the de Young Museum, San Francisco taken in July.

As I am not a fashion writer, I will not attempt to elaborate on the various themes and ideas behind Jean Paul Gaultier’s designs over the decades apart from to say that he is highly influenced by his grandmother whom he idolised and her collection of cloths. His designs celebrate the female form, sometimes with humorous undertones but always in ways to project inherent powers and strengths he sees in women.

As we all know, interior trends are deeply entwined with fashion trends and while looking at Gaultier’s mannequins  (which incidentally and quite unnervingly start speaking when you approach them) I enjoyed visualising potential interior projects with the colours, forms and themes Gaultier uses in his spectacular designs.

I am thinking Nautical boathouse fused with the 2012 trend for lace detailing – something Scottish lace mill MYB Textiles has been at the forefront of.

And the opulent and dominant boudoir interior…

and the current paint trend for David Oliver’s metallic mix of gold and silver for which he coined the term ‘gilver’. Celebrating the ‘hedonistic exuberance of the 1920’s ….associated with drama, power and wealth…but equally it can be simple, understated and quietly bewitching’,  David Oliver from Paint & Paper, A Master Class in Colour and Light.

with a nod to the current native interior references,

and tribal chic a predominant interior trend in 2012 where skins have been used extensively over many forms of seating –  more frequently sheepskins and deer skins draped over classic mid twentieth century Scandinavian designs.

Okay, so my parallels are a little tenuous but nevertheless they are all themes which have played a part in recent interior projects including this next image fusing punk, biker -rock, street with tartan, probably more in bars than domestic interiors but a strong influence for sure.

Talking of trends and themes, the most talked about colour for Winter 2012/13 appears to be Ox Blood, not a description I hugely cherish, perhaps an earthy beetroot cordial sounds more appealing but as it’s colour combinations that interest me I am paring the Ox blood with some squid ink (!) and I can suddenly see how this rich palette could make a big impact this Autumn.

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?