Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Franckly Speaking

1970's Enamel Bowl by Kaj Franck for Finel
Kaj Franck (1911 - 1989) was a Finnish designer who many of us would know by forms rather than by name. If you are a denizen of the world of Ebay then his enamel pieces often pop up in the same categories as Cathrineholm and Scandinavian mid-century objects. His output was extensive and he crossed over between glass, enamelware, and ceramic forms. He also experimented with plastics but these seem disparate to his original inspiration. Supposedly a mediocre student at a school near Helsinki he rose to become one of Scandinavia's most pre-eminent 'industrial' designers. I use that term with respect as I don't wish to imply his work was 'mass' by virtue of his scale of production.

Kartio Glasses by Franck for Iittala. 
The fact that he straddled the gap between mass-market and prestige has long fascinated me. As a producer based in a small studio I can only imagine his excitement in having the means to work with other materials and techniques. To be able to translate your designs in to glass after creating a ceramic collection with a company like Arabia must have been both professionally, as well as personally, liberating. His work with glass was greatly influenced by restrictions in colours after the war and the training he received at Murano in Italy. He also displays a reference to the cubist Georges Braque in his glass production. 

Pumukka Ceramic jars for Iittala by Franck
With his ceramics he also captured the consumer mood as he exploded the sales at Arabia with his Kilta collection. His practical fusion of utilitarian and high design made his works both desirable as well as functional. In modern parlance it was a 'win win' situation for the sales division! Apart from the fact his work has a timeless feel to it, his simplicity creates a sense of familiarity which in turn evokes a sense of comfort. Not bad for a so-so student who was told he'd be a good potter because he rowed in circles!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Moore or Less

The work of Henry Moore (1898 - 1986) is one of those things which appears familiar but strangely removed from our collective memories. With a proliferation of public art in our day-to-day lives it's quite rare to see forms which evoke such reflective responses to seemingly simple shapes. His work in bronze has been called  Modernist by many people but I view it as a fantastic combination of ancient cultural influences. After a recent trip to the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City (a migraine inducing overload of inspiration!) I can see glimpses of pre-Columbian figures in his pieces. He also drew on Classical and African references and there are shades of Modigliani with his exaggeration of anatomical features. 

Moore used bronze as his medium from the 1940's and found it a more expressive and probably more malleable material to work with. For me the subtle interplay between organic forms and the green oxidation provided by verdigris on bronze gives his work a sense of timelessness. It's almost as if he made the pieces to look as if they have been abraded by history and the elements of nature. Whatever his inspiration was I certainly think we're the richer for his talent. 

Mix of African and Surrealist possibly?

The reclining woman was a common theme in Moore's work

Monday, February 13, 2012

Brave New World

Photography: Tim Brotherton/Katie Lock

People often decry new year resolutions as the deluded hopes of years past. A kind of projection of how you'd like to view oneself. For me the past month in South America was truly cathartic. Amazing scenery, brilliant architecture and use of colour, and a sense of 'place' all led to the following conclusion. 
(Insert Sound of drum roll here....) I need a complete evolution in the direction of my design and future work. While I've had 14 (yes...that's correct!) wonderful years working on Bison I feel I need to inject new energy and style in to the mix. To that end I'm busily drawing new shapes and profiles... maybe not even ceramic forms... egad! Add to that the fact that my long-suffering partner of 23 years has spent the past 7 of those commuting between Trinidad and Tobago, Amsterdam (and now Townsville) then I think a less patient person would have called a timeout on me! You'll see me posting from numerous locations (still including Canberra) as I explore possibilities to create an even more dynamic range and collection of lifestyle pieces. 

You may wonder how this image relates to my end game??? Well, my taste has evolved over these past years along with my business. The above room is a really good reflection of how I feel I need to be as a designer... a neutral canvas with lots of splashes of colour and texture. A sense of purpose and 'integrity' doesn't go astray either. This image actually allows me to segue to an earlier post where I mentioned the work of Melinda Ashton-Turner. Despite the fact we work together on concepts for my stores and product marketing and visual merchandising, her talent with her much-touted blog has inspired me to change the way I view my work. This image is analysed in depth by her this week. Have a look at her fresh take on colour and style... you won't be disappointed!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Max Dupain

Max Dupain was one of our most iconic modernist photographers (1911 - 1992). His unaffected and pared back style encompassed a world which stretched from the beach, to the theatre, and his role as a visual social historian. His iconic 'Sunbaker' image was taken in the early 1930's and yet it seems to be the most well-known of all of his works. He possessed a rare clarity in the way he lensed his subjects. They appear natural and at rest as opposed to the heavy (but nevertheless beautiful) propping by photographers such as Horst. I guess I'm really attracted to images which give you a sensory experience by simply reflecting on the shot. 

A friend of mine has the following photo in his home. It's a statement on postwar Australia when meat rationing was still being implemented and all the bleakness and pain of war is etched on the faces of the women. The power of this image is undeniable and yet it still allows the viewer to reflect on the context of the photo. It's a shame that more of Dupain's works are not given the same exposure as his beach images. I have been told the Art Gallery of NSW has a good representation of his works. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Ice Ice Baby!

This is the only picture I'll post from my trip to Antarctica. While I try to avoid the cliches of holiday blogs I just thought I should share this image with you. In terms of scale this iceberg would have been up to 30 plus metres tall. I have an image of the front of our cruiser filled with people gawking at it. They look like ants by comparison and the quietness as you sailed through was remarkable. Penguins would scuttle in a chaotic fashion from one iceberg to the next. They seemed to be always looking for a safer perch away from the killer whales who patrolled the area. 

The one thing that really struck me was the pristine condition of Antarctica. We were on the last large cruise liner ever to be allowed through these waters and it was an amazing privilege. Despite temperatures hovering near zero it amused me to spot power walkers obsessively pounding the decks. Occasionally you'd hear, or see, huge sheets of ice shearing off the ice shelf. It gives you the true sense of what insignificance feels like. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

We're Back!!!!!!

Hello patient readers... finally we are back on the air! After a tumultuous late December and January (where I was stuck on a cruise in Antarctica and in the steaming jungles of Brazil) I have finally got both a reliable internet connection and time. Okay... so the Brazilian jungle was actually Iguassu Falls at Hotel das Cataratas and the boat was a cruise from Santiago to the Chilean Fjords; Antarctica, the Falkland Islands (Las Malvinas for our Argentinian friends!) Montevideo and Buenos Aires. To be honest I think having a mid-life crisis means you are entitled to a little luxury!

Back to the issue at hand. I am seriously considering a segue into the world of fashion. Every time I pick a colour of motif it seems to surface in a collection somewhere. This campaign for Prada (Spring/Summer 2012) reminds me so much of how my mother dressed that I'm in danger of having flashbacks. I have a serious case of the green-eyed monster when I consider how much budget they would have to style and film this ode to the late fifties/early sixties. For those of you trying to do the maths I was born in December 1964 but country NSW got everything a few years later.

Enjoy and I'm looking forward to sharing some exciting changes with you this year.