Archives for posts with tag: design
Lizzy House e-book

Lizzy House e-book

Earlier this week I was reading the fabulous True Up blog and saw that fabric designer Lizzy House had released a new e-book called ‘How to Enter the World of Textile Design: For the Quilting Industry’ ($25 US).  I nearly choked on my baked potato (yes, reading blogs while eating lunch – again!).  This is exactly the kind of book I’ve been looking for.  In January I  made a plan to start designing fabrics this year, and while I’m still at the beginning stages, I know that eventually I’ll be trying to design a fabric line that gets taken up by a manufacturer.

I immediately sent myself a reminder email to buy the e-book as soon as I got home… but after about 10 minutes of trying to do work and still thinking about the book, I decided to buy it right away.  Transaction went well, download not so great, thanks to my work computer not having enough memory for anything bigger than 10MB (the e-book is about 275MB, so it takes a while to download and needs a lot of space free).  Extremely frustrated by the piddly amount of memory on my work computer, I emailed Lizzy herself to see whether I could still download it onto a different computer (my own, much more trusty laptop – yeah, the one with six keys that don’t work but which still has never caused me a minute’s trouble with available memory).  Lizzy replied very quickly and assured me that she’d guide me through downloading the e-book at home if I couldn’t do it with the link I’d saved.  As it happened, the link did work and I  managed to download the e-book right away when I got home (after what seemed like an interminable afternoon waiting to get home) – but thanks, Lizzy, for being so willing to help!

The book was everything I’d hoped it would be.  First of all, it looks beautiful – some great photos, lovely colour combinations and nice design – but of course, the content is what’s most important and it really was exactly what it said in the title.  Lizzy gives an account of her own experiences breaking into the textile design market, and then some very clear guidelines about how to put together a fabric collection.  ‘Anatomy of a collection’ was the most useful section for me personally, because I haven’t gotten as far as getting ready to present a collection (another really useful section), but I know that as I continue experimenting with design, I’ll have those points in mind so I know what to work towards.   I was pleased to see that a lot of things I’ve noticed about fabric collections but never really taken the time to analyze fully (especially in the Colour section) were confirmed for me in the e-book – it’s as if Lizzy has written them all down and made very clear.  My only small niggle was a few typos/correctable mistakes.

All in all, though, it’s a winner.  I was so engrossed in my reading that I nearly finished the book in one evening – until I was told very sternly, for about the fifth time, to go to bed!

I’d highly recommend this e-book to anyone who’s interested in knowing how the quilting industry works, and who is planning on submitting their designs to manufacturers.  There’s no design instruction – it’s assumed that you’ve already gotten familiar with that part yourself, which is clear and obvious from the title.  There are plenty of great books about design.  This one’s about the industry, and I’m really glad that someone wrote it, because I don’t think this information is readily available.

I’m really looking forward to referring to Lizzy’s book over and over again.  I’ll certainly be looking at fabric collections with a new eye from now on.  Especially the 200 metres’ worth of fabrics we’ll be using for the V&A’s Patchwork Social, which I’m in the middle of planning right now!  (YES!  I figure that since Sue Prichard has mentioned it in her blog, I’m allowed to talk about it on mine now… sometimes I think I have the best job in the world.  More about the Patchwork Social in a future post.)

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Ponoko ornaments - red tint acrylic

Ponoko ornaments - red tint acrylic

I got my Ponoko ornaments in the mail today!  They took less than 3 weeks to be laser-cut and shipped to me.  I’m really happy with them.  The laser engraving has a pretty interesting texture – I thought it would have been smooth, but it’s got little grooves.  The cutting is extremely high quality.  This is one place where machine production is preferable to handmade.

Ponoko allows you to create your designs on pre-sized pieces of acrylic or wood, so I chose the smallest size, about 7×7 inches.  The ornaments took up less than the total space, so I used some of the extra space to create a few ring shapes that I can use for jewellery sometime.  After seeing the remains (they ship the whole piece to you and you just pop out your laser-cut design), I could have used even more of the space for other stuff.  Lesson learned for next time.

The ornaments are already on the tree – I’ll take a picture when it’s finished.

I stumbled across two awesome do-it-yourself sites in the past week, thanks to some of the great bloggers out there.  The first one is Ponoko, which allows you to do what I’ve always wanted to do: design something and then have someone else laser-cut it for you from wood, Perspex or felt.  When I was making jewellery, I wanted to experiment with creating patterns from wood, but I couldn’t find a maker who would laser-cut them for me.  Problem solved with Ponoko!

The second site is Spoonflower, which allows you to print your own fabric designs.  I squealed with excitement when I saw this one.  My other wish is granted!  I’ve always wanted to create my own fabric, and even took a textile design course, but making the design is more important to me than actually producing the fabric, and although I loved doing it, I was always kind of disappointed with my results.  I wanted something that looked like it had been professionally printed.  I can’t wait to try this out, but I need a few weeks to come up with a good design.  See the Flickr Spoonflower Fabric Design Pool for some great designs by Spoonflower users.

One of my Ponoko Christmas ornaments

One of my Ponoko Christmas ornaments

I placed my first order with Ponoko today – a set of four Christmas ornaments I designed myself.  They’re going to be cut from red-tinted perspex.  I can’t wait to see them!  I had to teach myself Inkscape (an open-source vector drawing program, kind of like Adobe Illustrator) to make them, so the designs are rudimentary, but this is just a practice run for some jewellery designs that I’ll be making.  I’ll be teaching a 2-day course in jewellery design at the V&A in May, and we’ll be producing our designs with Ponoko.  The only disappointing thing is that shipping my ornaments to the UK is going to cost more than producing them – quite a hefty sum.  I think it’s worth trying out the service, though, and if I like the results my challenge will be to work out how to use the greatest amount of surface area in order to keep costs down.  Awesome idea, though – I’ve been waiting for something like this for a long time!

I have the enjoyable affliction of not being able to read only one book at a time.  That means that there is a huge pile of books next to the bed, plus a few more in whichever handbag I’m carrying around.  Right now I’m mentally twitching with excitement about the books I’m currently reading, all of which are in tune with the once-hazy and now beginning-to-materialize idea that I’ve been having for a possible PhD research proposal.

The first book is my eagerly-awaited copy of Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman.  I’m only at the beginning of this one, but so far he’s managed to excite me even more about the two books that are to follow in this three-part series, which also have to do with craft and society.

I’m planning for one of the areas of my research to be about craft and craftsmanship, but I also want technology (especially the Web), learning, meaningfulness, socioeconomics, and culture to play a part.  As a result, I’m also in the middle of reading the following:

I keep flitting from one book to the other in excitement: it’s the grown-up equivalent of holding as many fingers as I can between the pages of a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ story.  I’m rarely so enthralled by so many books at once.  Reviews will follow, once I get through each of them.

Lion Rampant tile

Lion Rampant tile

A few days ago we bought a very small pumpkin and I spent a couple of hours carving it.  I don’t usually like to do faces, so I tried to find a good design that was visually pleasing and semi-Halloween-like, but not using the usual scary face or ghost or haunted house theme.  Last year I picked a stylized design of a wheat sheaf and really loved the result, so this year I wanted to do something similarly stylized.  I chose a gothic revival image of a lion rampant, from a ceramic tile at the V&A.  It’s got a face that’s sort of demon-like, so the Halloween theme is still there, and the claws look pretty fiery and scary.  It was a great design to choose because it only had about 7 different areas to cut out but they all had some visual intricacies so I could really test my skill with the knife.

Inked lion rampant on pumpkin

Inked lion rampant on pumpkin

After inking the picture onto the pumpkin (I did it freehand with just a regular ballpoint pen), I got an X-Acto knife (evidently it’s called a Stanley knife here in the UK) and used only the very tip of the blade, scoring cross-hatches in all the areas I wanted to remove.  Then I used one of my jewellery files (I probably shouldn’t ever use it for jewellery again!) to gouge out the sections I’d scored.  I could have used a vegetable peeler tip, I guess.  The little pieces came out pretty easily and I didn’t gouge too deep – about half a centimetre.  After I finished the carving, I cut off the top of the pumpkin and scraped out the seeds.  Light didn’t show through the design well enough, so I thinned out the wall of the pumpkin from inside with a spoon – much easier than digging deeper into the design.

I did it a few days ago so now it’s starting to wizen a little, but it should still be fine for tomorrow night!

The finished pumpkin - in the daytime

The finished pumpkin - in the daytime

I’ve always been a fan of Jugendstil, the Austrian/German counterpart to art nouveau.  Today at the Vienna Cafe Exhibition at the RCA, I got a good dose of it in a fascinating exhibition curated by our friend Dr. Charlotte Ashby.

Typical Jugendstil was exemplified by the Cafe Heinrichshof, with an interior designed by Otto Prutscher in 1911.  Prutscher was one of the prominent members of the Wiener Werkstatte.  Photos of other Viennese cafes around the turn of the century showed similar art nouveau style design.  Other images charted the progression of the cafes from the 17th century to the 20th, and the role they played in Viennese cultural and social life.

One of the most interesting parts of the exhibition, though, moved away from the heyday of the Viennese cafes and into contemporary art and design, reimagining everyday objects influenced by cafe culture.  A silver spoon that melted and left traces in a teacup gave a new outlook on the everyday action of stirring sugar and milk into a hot drink.

The exhibition included an actual cafe (with cakes imported from Austria), serving some of the same items as were listed on a cafe menu from a century or two before.  The old menu, though, also listed prices for games or game pieces, such as dominoes, chess, and billiards, which patrons could play all day for the price of a cup of coffee.

The exhibition didn’t have a billiard table, but by all accounts the deliciousness of the strudel made up for it.

Yesterday I posted about the Flickr Design Challenge at Designerama!, which is happening this weekend at the V&A.  Alongside that activity, the digital team is also putting on an SMS wall projection with the help of multi-disciplinary artists Troika.

For the SMS projection, we’ll be asking participants to text a response from their mobile phone to finish the following sentence:  ‘If I were a designer, I would design…’  Their responses will be projected onto a wall in the Sackler Centre in an ever-changing formation.

For me there are so many answers I could probably fill up the whole wall:

  • an eco-house in the middle of nowhere
  • a library with built-in bookshelves to hold all our books
  • letterpress greeting cards
  • pretty tablecloths and napkins
  • a transport system that doesn’t break down
  • woodblock prints inspired by Japanese design
  • a handbag with the perfect number of pockets
  • a drop-dead gorgeous evening dress
  • a bed that’s truly comfortable
  • a sustainable and organic garden
  • a cookbook with delicious recipes and photos to salivate over
  • delicate ceramic bowls and cups
  • patterns for fabrics
  • book covers for children’s books

There are so many things I could add to this list!  I’m really looking forward to seeing how visitors respond to this question.  I also hope that they realize that when they text their answer, they do understand that being a designer isn’t a totally unattainable thing.  They’re already designing many parts of their own lives, sometimes without even realizing it.  To imply that they’d have to be a Designer with a capital D in order to create useful and beautiful things will be counter to the whole spirit of the activity.  The outcome we hope for is that texting an answer will inspire someone to actually start to create the thing that they say they would design.

Japanese hair comb, 19th century

Japanese hair comb, 19th century

This weekend, the V&A is hosting Designerama!, an event to celebrate the opening of the new Sackler Centre for arts education.  The digital team (that’s me and two colleagues) are hosting the V&A Flickr Design Challenge.  We’ll be lending digital cameras to museum visitors and asking them to take pictures of their favourite objects that embody good design, then upload them to the Flickr group we’ve created.

I went around the museum today taking pictures of my favourites to upload ahead of time – like this Japanese silk kimono fabric and this short, squat silver teapot by Christopher Dresser.  We’re looking forward to finding out what other people consider the objects that represent good design.  I’m sure there will be countless definitions of what people actually consider good design.  How do you define good design?

Welcome to my new blog, SmaBoutique – Inspired by Design.  SmaBoutique is the name of my new business.  It’s technically not a business yet, but it will be soon – and I’m planning this blog to go along with it.

My new SmaBoutique will be on Etsy, and on it I’ll be selling handcrafted items – mostly jewellery and small sewn items, but there are many other possibilities that may eventually find their way into my shop.  I’ve been selling jewellery on Etsy as Nadia Design Studio, but that business was registered in Canada and now I’m in the UK, so I’ll need to open a new one over here.

I chose the name SmaBoutique because I make small things, but also because SMA stands for Saturday Morning Activities.  That’s usually the time I’m most likely to be crafting, creating, or planning.

I’m inspired by many other blogs about design and craft that deserve recognition, so I’ll be listing them soon.  Here’s to more art, craft, and design in the world!