Monday, 29 March 2010

What is Design anyway?

Is design more important than art because we have to live with it and use it everyday?

I have been cracking on with the reading and found a really good book in the library, 'Scandinavian Design Beyond The Myth', it points out that the term Scandinavian was in fact a marketing/trading strategy aimed at the USA and Britain in the 1950's, these countries were grouped together under one banner in order to make design from them more desirable and the Nordic countries quickly took up the label.

I picked up this remnant at a fair and it just made me think of Scandinavian design, although it probably isn't, the simplicity, colour and repetition make me think this.

Jennifer Opie of the V&A, in the book, describes the qualities of Scandinavian design, "a fundamental group including craftsmanship, quality, humanity and restraint combined with a sympathetic respect for the natural materials and concern for their 'proper' use by the designer and consumer".

A pink cashmere Ishbel has whizzed off the needles, began on the flight to Copenhagen it has beads on a couple of the edge rows and was gratefully received, as always.

Owl spotting in London.

Chocolate hunting, London.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Hidden Histories

I got down to some serious work this week before my assistant and I took a trip to London.

I loved the massive mixer in Fortnum's window more than the quilt exhibition that we went down to see at the V&A, the textiles were not as domestic as had been implied.

All was not lost as we managed to squeeze in lunch at the Berkley and Marcus Wareing's famous custard tart did not disapoint.

When we are in Paris the children love to go to Laduree for their famous macaroons, I have umpteen cut out recipes from magazines for these little treats and finally got around to making them at the weekend - my hand was forced when we needed cake but were out of eggs apart from a couple of egg white's stashed in the freezer. We will be having a go at more bright and exotic varieties but started off with a simple chocolate filled with a chocolate ganache, my smallest assistant thought they looked like turds on the baking sheet but had no trouble in wolfing down the finished articles. They were unbelievably easy.

After a discussion at the WI I needed to make some pasties, these are organic mutton from the veg box delivery with whatever root veg was at hand, thrown into the slow cooker for about seven hours, needles to say divine. I think the pastry was the best I have ever made thanks to a tip from Raymond - I think - about rolling out between two sheets of baking parchment, no need for extra flour, easy to handle and get really thin, also works with icing.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Victoria Baths

Yesterday we had a trip out to Manchester to a vintage fair in the Victoria Baths, we had seen it a few years ago on 'Restoration' and it didn't disappoint. The stalls were on top of one covered pool, one was completely covered in scaffolding - I presume to hold up the roof - the one below and I think a fourth possibly that we didn't see.

Much work has been done but it seems only the tip of the iceberg, the stained glass has received much attention and I can see why, every room we went in had a different design in its glass, even small sections over doors were different from one room to another.

In my studies I am interested in craft/workmanship/skill, what it was, what it is, how our ideas of it change through time. For instance I don't say that I am a crafter or I do crafts because in my head I think of that label as something that requires no skill, can be bought in kit form from a hobby shop, I prefer to call myself a maker. Before the 12th Century craft was the superior of what we call fine art - painting and sculpture - but for reasons to do with the church and changes in patronage more naturalist forms took over and the work of the furnace and the forge was devalued.

In the 21st Century we look at these Victorian stained glass windows and think that they are fabulous but they are in fact a very watered down version of what stained glass used to be over 900 years ago, to survive as an art form they have become figurative like paintings. Supernatural qualities were attached to glass and its makers, the work seeming as if created by angels not men.

Medieval craftsmen were early re-cyclers re-using glass from ancient mosaic tesserae, glass was so highly valued not just because of its expense and skill but because it resembled gemstones. By the early 14th Century borders and backgrounds were simplified, figures less complex and colours getting paler in order to be more like painting. A good book for all of this is 'The Culture of Craft' by Peter Dormer.

The baths are covered in tiles, obviously, even the balustrades are a fabulous green ceramic, which meant that with no heating it was absolutely freezing, but easy to imagine it in its heyday. Males first class, males second class, females first class and females second class were all separated and given different standards of decoration as were the committee rooms and Superintendents quarters. In later years much of the decoration was covered with formica and plastics, the new high end, which in fact saved and preserved much of what can be seen today, definitely worth a visit but do wear thermals.

In the 50's and 60's it was used for health and therapy, from the outside this pool looks like a massive milk churn and quite intimidating.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Spring is just around the corner?

The waterways in Copenhagen were mostly frozen resulting in all sorts of interesting footprint trails.

We desperately needed a Hello Kitty cake...

...and a Hello Kitty hair bow. We have been big into the egg blowing, the inhaling has not been so good.

Spring is officially here, Robin was replaced by a little Bluebird we know.

Sadly the Easter Bunny may not make it this year, well the bottom half at least.