The Grass is Greener

I start a new job tomorrow. It’s a six week project but may turn into a full-time actual job. This is tremendously exciting, so I wonder why am I day dreaming about this: An embroidered depiction of unemployment by Melissa Calderon.




Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Embroidery, Unemployment

Square is Blue

Or I thought I knew Bauhaus but I didn’t know Jack

Or Travels with my design connoisseur friend Kevin and a hangover.

The Bauhaus Archiv in Berlin is housed in a small building of unexpected charm. I’d anticipated something stern, but just look at this:

The museum was designed in the 1960’s by Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus movement, and posthumously constructed between 1976 and ’79 proving controversial even within the Bauhaus group, with Max Bill calling it “a screwed-up old man’s design”.

It is idiosyncratic. It’s a small museum, capable of displaying only a third of the archive at any time. Despite its modest scale however it seems pretty comprehensive, covering chairs and lighting, larger pieces of furniture, architectural models, ceramics and (having done no advance reading about Bauhaus before I visited I was also surprised to discover) a lot of carpets and tapestry.

In his 1919 Bauhaus Manifesto Gropius stated, “There is no essential difference between the artist and the artisan.” The tension between art, craft and the machine-made is evident in the Museum’s juxtaposition of tubular steel furniture and wicker (wicker!), horsehair or hand-woven textiles.

The official Bauhaus website (A collaboration between Berlin, Weimar and Dessau)  says “The outcome of Gropius’ approach was not established from the start but was to be discovered in the spirit of research and experimentation, which he called “fundamental research” applied to all the disciplines and their products, from the high-rise to the tea infuser.”  In other words the Bauhaus was as much an ongoing debate as an ideology.

I think this is why the museum is quite text-heavy, each section having what looked like a lengthy written introduction. To be honest I barely skimmed the writings although Wassily Kandinsky’s quote “Square is Red” did jump out. (Kevin and I stood in front of this for a few moments going “Uhhh…”)

In the visitors book on the way out we noticed someone had written “Personally, I always felt Square is Blue”

Kevin’s Model B3 chair – also known as the Wassily chair, after Wassily Kandinsky – designed by Marcel Breuer.

Photos 1,3 & 4 by Oliver Lins, Olex,where you’ll find lots of beautiful photography, and more about Bauhaus

Photo 2 from Bauhaus Archiv Berlin

Photos 5 &6  show two designs by Anni Albers from What I Do

Photo 7 shows Mies Van Der Rohe’s Cane Chair from here

and Photo 8 came from here

1 Comment

Filed under Bauhaus, Design, Museum, Weaving

Cross Stitch & Digression

My new toy these days is Cross Stitch, which I’ve found to be as addictive as Angry Birds except instead of ending up with RSI you end up with RSI and a thing!

In these stitchin’ and bitchin’ days I find it odd how difficult it is to find a cross-stitched thing I’d actually want though. Possibly there is a community of cross stitchin’ punks out there, and please leave a comment if you know of any.

To date I’ve found these, which are great but for the fact that they don’t give you the right amount of thread in the kits – I’ve way too much green, nowhere near enough grey and they didn’t  put in any thread for the sky. Also in retrospect it might have been a tad ambitious to take this on as my first ever project given that the image isn’t printed on the fabric – you have to count each coloured stitch. Each stitch is about 1 millimetre across. So when I say they’re great…

Anyway. A bit about Battersea Power Station, now half-owned by the Irish people, via NAMA the National Assets Management Agency.

photo by Reuters

I lived in London briefly in the ‘90’s and would see the power station most days on my way into work. I was very fond of it. I vaguely remeber seeing the Pink Floyd album Animals at home, my sister was a fan, but I think I responded more to the aesthetic of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s great brick cathedral, described as “A Temple of Power”.

Funnily enough, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott also designed the iconic K2 red telephone box. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, To design one London landmark may be regarded as luck, to design two looks like talent.

Photo by Steven Dalton, from the 1996 Thames and Hudson book, London Minimum by Herbert Ypma.

Work started on Battersea Power Station in 1929, with Sir Giles Gilbert Scott brought in a little later to assuage public worries that the station, which occupies a 15 acre (61,000m sq) site, would be an eyesore. In fact it has had an enduring popularity.

In 1975 the A station was closed, following falling ouput and rising costs. (There are two connected stations; B was built shortly after the second world war)

Michael Heseltine declared it a heritage site in 1980 with a Grade 11 listing which denotes buildings that are of ‘special interest, warranting every effort to preserve them’.

In 2007 the listing was upgraded to Grade 11* a listing given to ‘particularly important buildings of more than special interest’.

As my cross stitching took shape (and it’s been a looong time coming) it started to remind me of Charles Sheeler. Sheeler was an American photographer and painter whose methods and subject matter hymned the Machine Age. His best known photographic work is his River Rouge Ford plant series.

Criss-Crossed Conveyors, River Rouge Plant, Ford Motor Company, 1927 Charles Sheeler

He achieved an equivalent photographic quality in his paintings and even his abstracts had a sort of machine-like precision.

Charles Sheeler, “On a Shaker Theme #2” (1956) From Hyper Allergic Labs Tumblr site

His subject matter should not be seen as one-dimensional however. Yes he depicted an urban and exurban world of work, often empty of people, but it is “Work” rather than ”Industry” that is glorified by Sheeler. In addition to his factories and foundries he painted and photographed Amish barns; between 1926 and 1934 he produced a series of interiors that depict his home in South Salem, New York filled with Shaker furniture and simple ceramics.

Here are some images of Sheeler’s to remind us all of a time when “The makers of things” as Barack Obama had it, and the places in which they worked were accorded a dignity forgotten for a while, but hopefully experiencing a renaissance.

Classic Landscape, Oil on Canvas, 1931
Side of White Barn, Bucks County, Gelatin Silver Print, 1915
American Interior, Oil on Canvas, 1934

Click here to see the work I do for my soul and not for “The Man” (man).

Classic Landscape, White Barn and American Interior from Area of Design


Filed under Architecture, Art, Cross Stitch



Not a red rose or a satin heart.

I give you an onion.

It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.

It promises light

like the careful undressing of love.


It will blind you with tears

like a lover.

It will make your reflection

a wobbling photo of grief.

I am trying to be truthful.

Not a cute card or a kissogram.

I give you an onion.

Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,

possessive and faithful

as we are,

for as long as we are.

Take it.

Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding ring,

if you like.


Its scent will cling to your fingers,

cling to your knife.

Carol Ann Duffy

from Mean Time, pub 1993, Anvil Press Poetry.

Image by Justin Clayton

Leave a comment

Filed under Poetry, Valentine's Day

Sunshine in a Jar

Lenten Rose/Helleborus Orientalis

All things considered it’s not been an awful January. I’ve only got caught in driving rain in too few clothes maybe twice, and as it’s mostly been mild (apart from those two times) there’s hyacinth, lenten roses and camelia blooming in the yard.

However, January blues can strike at any time and mine struck yesterday, the second last day of the month. I went out to buy a plant. Actually, I went out to buy Hope. Preferably flowering and perfumed. What I came home with was an indoor hyacinth and for the instant gratification factor, the last three Seville Oranges left in my local vegetable shop, Evergreen on Wexford Street. (Click here for a very cute YouTube video of the shop)

Apparently there’s been a run on Seville Oranges. Marmalade-making seems to be having something of a moment. I’ve never made it before but this time of year there are recipes in all the weekend papers. I opted for Darina Allen’s recipe:

Traditional Seville Orange Marmalade

Makes approx. 7 lbs (3.2kg)

2 lbs (900g) Seville oranges

4 pints (2.3L) water

1 lemon

4 lbs (1.8kg) granulated sugar

Square of muslin, string to tie

Wash the fruit, cut in half and squeeze out the juice. Remove the membrane with a spoon, put with the pips and tie them in a piece of muslin.

Slice the peel finely or coarsely, depending on how you like your marmalade. Put the orange peel, orange and lemon juice, bag of pips and water into a non-reactive bowl or saucepan overnight.

Next day, bring everything to the boil and simmer gently for about two hours until the peel is really soft and the liquid is reduced by half. NB: The peel must be absolutely soft before the sugar is added, otherwise when the sugar is added it will become very hard and no amount of boiling will soften it.

Squeeze all the liquid from the bag of pips and remove it.

Heat the granulated sugar in a bowl in the oven 180C/350F/Mark 4 for 15–20 minutes. Hot sugar dissolves faster and the result is a more aromatic marmalade. Add the warmed sugar and stir until all the sugar has been dissolved.

Increase the heat and bring to a full rolling boil rapidly until setting point is reached 5-10 minutes approx.

Test for a set, either with a sugar thermometer (it should register 220F), or with a saucer. Put a little marmalade on a cold saucer and cool for a few minutes. If it wrinkles when you push it with your finger, it’s done.

Allow marmalade to sit in the saucepan for 15 minutes before bottling to prevent the peel from floating. Spoon off any white scum that may have developed. (I’m not sure what this is – sugar? pith? It’s harmless, it just doesn’t look very nice)

Pot into hot sterilised jars. Cover immediately and store in a cool dry dark place.

(For Irish Whiskey Marmalade add 6 tbsp of Irish whiskey to the cooking marmalade just before potting.)

Ta~Daa! Sunshine in a jar!

If you’ve missed the Seville Orange season – and it’s a short one – you could try Nigel Slater’s Lemon Curd for a similar citrussy hit.

Lemon Curd

Makes 2 small jam jars

Zest and juice of 4 unwaxed lemons

200g sugar (I use half white & half demerara which gives a more runny consistency, but a better flavour)

100g butter

3 eggs and 1 egg yolk

Put the lemon zest and juice, the sugar and the butter, cut into cubes, into a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, making sure that the bottom of the basin doesn’t touch the water. Stir with a whisk from time to time until the butter has melted.

Mix the eggs and egg yolk lightly with a fork, then stir into the lemon mixture. Let the curd cook, stirring regularly, for about 10 minutes, until it is thick and custard-like. It should feel heavy on the whisk.

Remove from the heat and stir occasionally as it cools. Pour into spotlessly clean jars and seal. It will keep for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator.

Leave a comment

Filed under January, Lemon Curd, Marmalade, Preserves

The Secret Garden

My favourite gift this Christmas (Thank you husband) was a re-issue of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, illustrated by Lauren Child.

Parents will recognize Child as the writer and illustrator of the Charlie and Lola books and TV series, although I first came across her as co-creator of a gorgeous version of the fairy tale The Princess and the Pea. The illustrations for this book are actually photographs of little stage sets with Child’s character drawings placed within them.

In 2010 Child designed a cover for The Secret Garden for Puffin’s 70th anniversary. It came in a perspex box, in a limited edition of 1,000, cost £100 and sold out incredibly quickly.

Luckily another Lauren Child illustrated version of the story was published this year to celebrate the book’s centenary and it is just lovely. It is a fabric covered hardback, with six full colour plates and black and white drawings scattered through the text. She has used a variety of materials in the pictures so curtains and dresses and sometimes even trees or bricks are made with fabric or old paper. There’s a real depth and humour to each picture that rewards close inspection.

This same wit and piling on of print and texture is evident in a collaboration she did with Liberty fabrics. There is a lovely account of the design process on her website here

Images 1-4 by Lauren Child, Image 5 by Lauren Child/Liberty

Leave a comment

Filed under Fabric, Illustration, Reading


Often the simplest and most humble of things have the most emotional impact. This morning I saw two images that stopped me in my tracks, and then sent me off on a highly rewarding tangent.

I normally prefer to generate my own content (flawed as it is) even if that means I post less often. But today I’d just like to share my discoveries:

Kouzaki Hiromu was a master carpenter who, when he retired, started making envelopes from old and found scraps of paper. His granddaughter Fujii Sakuko assembled a collection of them and they’ve been exhibited in Japan and published as a book. They are being shown in Gallery Two of the Douglas Hyde Gallery in Dublin from 25th November to 25th January.

This photo is from Garance Dore’s blog today, and I stumbled on it seconds after Grandfather’s envelopes. It just seemed to resonate.

While reading about Hiromu I came across a word I wasn’t familiar with: Boro. These are Japanese textiles, usually indigo, reused, recycled, stitched and over-stitched and passed down the generations. There is so much soul in these textiles that what was considered a necessity for impoverished Japanese has since become a collectible. Click here for a brief appreciation of the form.


Photos from Douglas Hyde Gallery, Garance Dore and Accidental Mysteries.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bag, Envelopes, Quilts