How a 1960’s Children’s TV Show Shaped My Life

For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated with factories and more specifically, production. Oddly enough this stems from a 1960’s children’s television programme.

More than forty years on, I can vividly recall scene by scene the Mary, Mungo and Midge series. At the risk of  sounding over dramatic, I would categorically say that one episode alone, The Crane (it’s on u tube) has shaped my life. The episode involves the characters watching a crane on a building site construct a new tower. Very simple but watching something being  made, produced,  built felt incredibly exciting, exotic and full of infinite possibilities.

Couple that with images of the Bunglebung Bridge in the crazy landscapes of Dr.Seuss books, countless children’s documentaries showing the inside of factories with production lines and conveyor belts… (flash back to a moving belt full of glass milk bottles having their foil caps attached by a machine), followed by the arrival in 1971, of the film, Willy Wonkas Chocolate Factory and you have a very powerful set of reasons to want to produce something in a factory.

Fast forward to 2009 and I was being shown around the Tikkurila paint factory in Helsinki. Pure heaven. A place where colour is made. Pigments are blown from machines which could be straight from the pages of Seussville. It’s a building filled with conveyor belts carrying empty cans queueing up for their fill of paint. Ingredients in one end and a finished product at the other. Fantastic.

So, 2011, I take the decision to produce something. Instead of designing something and then looking for a manufacturer, I decided to go about the task the way I cook. I decide what I’m going to cook after I’ve looked to see what ingredients look tasty in the shops. In other words, I buy ingredients then decide what to cook (unless I am lured by a delicious recipe from Food To Glow which uses seasonal ingredients).

What I discovered well and truly opened my eyes. Unknown to me (and bear in mind I have spent 20 years in the interiors industry) we have mills on our doorsteps producing world class products. I really didn’t know this and I think if you ask fifty random people in the street to name a Scottish textile mill I doubt if they could name one either. But we do have them and the worlds top designers know this. Just like our best shell fish which is swifty taken abroad, it seems that products from our world class cashmere and textile mills are being snapped up designers in New York, Tokyo and Milan.

Recently events such as Scotland re designed have been showcasing these mills and Scottish designers such as Timorous Beasties and Belinda Robertson are using them to great effect with their high quality contemporary designs. I think if you ask the same question in ten years time, many people will be able to name these mills.

You only need to watch the short film on the MYB Textiles site (please do watch, it’s incredible) to see the deep rooted passion, skill and heritage that exists in these places.

If you want the softest cashmere, look what Begg Scotland can make for you. I have samples from them and the quality is staggering. This is why I want to design and make. It might be a ‘back to front’ way of designing but going out to see what’s possible and then designing something is intoxicatingly exciting.

I haven’t added cashmere or woven products to my range yet (although my designs are well under way) as I am starting with small products which I shall  slowly build upon. However,  I did receive my brand new range of botanical linen yesterday which I will be showing you on my next post .

I am also having a tour of Bute Fabrics, a mill on the Isle of Bute, next week so I hope to have some images from that too.

If anyone reading this shares my love of cranes,(?!) you will be interested to know that sound artist Bill Fontana is currently recording of the sounds of the Finneston Crane which he will showcase along with images in 2013 – I for one cannot wait!

….and one last thing, my favourite book which contains stunning illustrations must get a mention here, surprise, surprise it’s called The Crane which is about a man who loves his job.

Have you been influence by any childhood TV programmes or books? I would love to know what has shaped your career.