Details from the design for The Pea Stool, an upholstered piano stool commission. Not quite complete, with leaf and other elements to introduce. The image will then be screenprinted onto a similar linen to The Point Chair.

The stool is intended to be seasonal, referring to the time at which it is made. At the moment we are picking peas and the poppies have dropped. A key pictorial step has been to use linework in order to ask Sally, in the embroidery, to describe the twisting, crumpled surface of particularly the decaying petals. To date we have tended to fill areas without acknowledging how various stitches might follow form.

The working step here was to track a deliberate route through direct, unmediated observation and into synthesis of each form. Wanted to use this post to show the route, with stages here that I haven't normally shown. I feel quite challenged by the use of familiar things. With each thing I want to start again and look at it hard enough so that it becomes unfamiliar again. Here I place kindred, made objects next to the pea pod in order to find incremental and useable points between something naturalistic and something synthetic.

Drying the peas (and holding them up against the light) helped to see the full armature, with the sense that in this form the silhouette, the skin, is determined by what is happening within.

The plant itself is complex, moving in many directions, so I picked enough of one to then be able to crudely cut it down to flatland. I've looked before at fractal diagrams of growth and also Munari's lovely book on how to draw a tree but again here wanted to find a sort of 'born yesterday' surprise in how it works. 

Botanicals, in their motive to explain all moments and permutations, interest me in the way everything is looking at you (see the upper and lower sides of the leaf revealed through a 'natural' twist). Also the indiscriminate breaking of picture space and ending of a form where it becomes unnecessary.

The poppies are dying and this was important; to capture a phase beyond the optimum. This I know will be ongoing; a kind of phorensic acknowledgment of the non-moment. The time when things are beyond archetype and when they cannot be described as an harmonius whole. Each one goes its own way.

Amongst the screen-drawn-studies, there are elements not used which will be in a subsequent chair. For example, the cone-like form is describing the overnight moment when the petals unfurl themselves out of the head.

These studies are very clean; too clean in their line. But they are this way because of the clarity needed in order to translate well to stitch. It is Sally's stitch which gives the line its life back. The forms do begin by hand (as seen below) and end by hand.

An accompanying activity is to see things which parallel the natural forms and help to tease out how edits and formulae might be applied.

So, sketchbook. Not shown this stage before, perhaps because they are speaking just to me. But I think they are useful to see because all of the spaces between the seen and the synthesized are filled here. This is where the majority of the working-out takes place, whether that be composition (out of sketchbook, scale 1:1) or form.

I waste a lot of paper. I keep it all. Old drawings become useful later on. The drawings themselves have a certain sloppiness because they are purely a means to an end. Sometimes the colour is conscious, often more a case of what is to hand.

The key is a loose, manual thinking taking place. No pressure. Lots of paper. So that surprises can occur.

So these happen before and during the drawings happening on screen, where then they start to inform one another. I'm in Berlin, photographing, analysing the space at Direktorenhaus. Next post will concern the spaces and early ideas.


Landfill Editions and Toilet Services

This is my contribution to an upcoming publication by Landfill Editions. The premise was to work in response to The Gilbert Collection, originally housed at Somerset House and now at the V&A. Initially I looked online, where the collection is quite well represented, with some extraordinary snuffboxes, for example.

This, a "jewelled mother of pearl snuffbox, commissioned by Frederick the Great of Prussia, (probably made by) Daniel Baudesson (in) Germany (about 1775, comprising) mother of pearl, multi-coloured gold, cut diamonds, foil, citrine, amethyst, quartz and rubies".

Decided to go and draw, to get beyond the web edit and connect more with a functional root, however submerged by ornament. Given the luxurious premise, many of the objects' purpose is linked by a lack of human necessity. So, bonbonnières, index card holders, glove stretchers and so on. I also liked the concept of the Schatzkammer and its correlation with ongoing interests in the Wunderkammer and the Gesamtkunstwerk. This, above, became the focus; a 26 piece Toilet Service by Tobias Baur, c.1695.

A nice account of the Toilet Service here, including this contemporaneous verse, 'Mundus Muliebris: or the ladies dressing-room unlock'd and her toilette spread' by John Evelyn: 

A new Scene to us next presents, 
The Dressing-Room and Implements, 
Of Toilet Plate Gilt, and Emboss'd, 
And several other things of Cost, 

The Table Miroir, one Glue Pot, 
One for Pomatum, and whatnot? 
Of Washes Unguents and Cosmeticks, 
A pair of Silver Candlesticks; 

Snuffers and Snuff-dish, 
Boxes more, For Powders, Patches, Water Store, 
In silver Flasks, or Bottles, 
Cups Cover'd or open to wash chaps.

I like the nowaday vulgar downshift in connotation of the term 'toilet'. Certainly the miscellany of the components. Then considered the parallel oddness of contemporary toilet cabinet kit.

The overwrought wind tunnel design brought to bear on disposable toothbrushes, hi-octane gender archetyped shavers,... Also each objects' intimate morphology. Proximity to the interiorexterior body. Pharmecutical and fleshy. So this production line opulence is spliced with historical items.

Another long-held reference has been a piece by Neil Cummings and Marysia Lewandowska, seen at the Hayward Gallery's Material Culture exhibition back in 1998. I recall a photograph of a bathroom shelf, comprising twinned equivalents of typical ingredients such as deodorant, toothbrush, floss, brush, etc. A doubling-up of two lives in the same space, as if two occupants' use of the shelf years apart had been double-exposed. Or, as they put it, " two pairs of lives at either end of the century have been laid over one another, the similarities and differences can be found in the stored chaos of material possessions".

So I wanted to span this collection from 1695 to here and now. One bathroom as a locus of multiple ablutions.

Since discovered this Victorian hairwork on the very interesting and inspiring Ann Marie's Greenererpast blog. It appears to be linked to a process of mourning but need to read more.

The image will be Risographed in two colours, I think a flourescent pink and a teal (as above; fleshy and pharmecutical). Hugh is a great designer so will look forward to seeing the way in which he brings the contributed images together.