Blog, book review, Book Reviews

Le Corbuffet: Edible Art and Design Classics.

By Esther Choi Published by Prestel on 1st October 2019

Home-cooking meets highbrow art in this one-of-a-kind cookbook that uses food to create edible interpretations of modern and contemporary sculptures, paintings, architecture, and design.

The nearest I have ever come to a book like the one i am about to review, is the 1987 Artists Cook Book by Jocelyn Stevens and Henry Moore. That one was a series of recipes illustrated by artists who contributed to the book. This one is much more inspired and original in its concept .

From the mind of Esther Choi comes Art-Inspired Recipes as Contemporary Sculptures. The writer, photographer, and artist has compiled a list of recipes inspired by artists, designers, and their creations, all staged in contemporary arrangements. Recipes seek to distill the practices of figures such as Frida Kahlo and Barbara Kruger into their best and most delicious aspects—like the crisp and bright Frida Kale-o Salad, or the crimson-coloured and acerbic Rhubarbara Kruger Compote.

The idea was first launched during a series of participatory dinner parties Choi hosted in 2015 after discovering a 1937 menu designed by artist László Moholy-Nagy for Bauhaus founder and architect Walter Gropius. After creating her own set of detailed dishes, she decided to compile them into a book that would be a playful spin on the artists she admired.

“I hosted the first in a series of ‘Le Corbuffets’ in my Brooklyn apartment, a project which carried on until 2017,” she explains on her web site. “Offering meals to an assortment of guests, these social gatherings revolved around the consumption of absurd, pun-inspired dishes that referred to canonical artists and designers. As a commentary on the status of art, food, and design as commodities to be ‘gobbled up’ by the market, the project deliberately twisted idioms to explore the notion of ‘aesthetic consumption’ though taste and perception.”

You can see her photographs, in Le Corbuffet will be published October 1. 2019 You can see her photographs, in additions to snippets of recipes from what she describes as “a conceptual artwork in the form of a cookbook”   Esther was one of the six recipients of the 2019 Richard

Andrea Branzini grilled fish

Rogers Fellowship, an award and residency program at the Wimbledon House in London, the landmarked residence designed by Lord Richard Rogers for his parents in the late 1960s. The six fellows named for the 2019 cycle were chosen from nearly 140 applicants from around the world. Since its inception, the Richard Rogers Fellowship has drawn serious scholars from a range of fields and backgrounds to London, where they have engaged with that city’s great research and design institutions.

Blog, Meet the Maker

Meet Kate Watson-Smyth from ‘Mad about the House’ and podcast companion of Sophie Robinson on ‘The Great Indoors podcast’

Kate Watson-Smyth is a journalist with over 15 years experience writing about interiors for publications including the Financial Times, The Independent, and the Daily Mail.

However it is her interiors blog ‘Mad about the House’ that has turned her into a very well known interiors expert. She was awarded the Vuelio number-one UK interiors blog award in 2015/16 and 2016/17.

Have you always been a journalist? Or did you have a different career previously?

I have been a journalist since I started working – but it took me a long time to start working. I dropped out of university – I was doing French at Nottingham – and had to spend the third year in a French-speaking country. I went to Senegal and never went back for my finals. I moved instead to Paris where I stayed for three years. On returning my mother said I needed some training and insisted I go to secretarial college. While I was there someone came from the regional Oxfam office looking for volunteers to stuff envelopes and help out during its 50th anniversary year. I ended up running the press office and styling fashion shows and it was then I decided I wanted to be a journalist.

Did you study journalism or design originally and if so where and what did you study?

I went to Darlington to train on the NCTJ course for a year – it was one of the best years of my life and we recently all met up again for our 25th reunion. Then I returned to Birmingham, where I had done my newspaper work experience and they offered me a traineeship if I went to journalism college. Again. They sent me to the Westminster press training course in St Leonards on Sea, near Hastings.

I have never studied design.

Do you work as a journalist both on-line as well as for newsprint?

I started in print – because online didn’t exist – and have always been commissioned for print which is now shared online as well. Since I became so busy with the blog I tend to write only for myself online rather than newsprint any more although I often give quotes and contribute to articles.

Have you always been passionate about interiors or do you also write on other topics?

I began as a general news reporter but I always wanted to write features. I have always loved the writing part of the information gathering. When I had my first son I went freelance and it so happened they needed someone in the property section at The Independent – in the days when it was a 24 page weekly pull out… As soon as I started writing about houses and property I knew I had found my thing.

I have always loved decorating and styling. It began with my bedroom as a child and I graduated to other people’s houses – not always when they asked me to. I have been known to move and restyle a coffee table while someone nips to the loo!

Did you embrace social media from the start? If so which platforms were you using to start with and why?

I took to Twitter fairly fast as words are my thing. I loved it for ages and I think it’s brilliant for people who work from home as it gives you that chatting round the water cooler thing that you miss in office life. But it has changed over the years and can be a nasty place as well as a wonderful one. I’m on there less now as I have found Instagram. I was late to that particular party but I love it. I have found the interiors community to be very supportive and who doesn’t love looking at gorgeous pictures? I have also really enjoyed improving my photography skills, which I wasn’t expecting. Last year I bought my first camera although I still tend to use my phone more.

How and why did you start the web site ‘Mad About The House’?

In desperation! Newspapers were struggling and my freelance career was dwindling. At the time it seemed like everyone had, or was starting, a blog and I thought I would have a go to see if it would generate any work as a journalist. I thought it would work as a kind of online CV and portfolio. I had no idea it would go this far.

Did winning the Vuelio awards have a major impact on your work?

Winning recognition for your work is always lovely. I think perhaps it makes brands take you more seriously and widens your audience. Certainly the Vuelio awards, which selects a shortlist based on reach and engagement and content – tracking stats – and then calls in a panel of judges who are all experts in their fields. That definitely gives weight to the results as there is no campaigning for votes which can skew the results.

When did you set up your design consultancy?

When I started the blog in 2012 I began a new notebook so I could keep a record of what I was writing and doing. I wrote on the first page: Blog, Book, Business. I have done all three now – the books twice! The business came in about 2014 when people kept asking me for help with their houses.

Did you go on any courses when you set up your blog?

No! I figured as a trained journalist who had been writing for the national press for over 20 years I knew as much about writing as a course would teach me. I still don’t know about the tech side but I pay someone to do that for me. My brain is too full for that side of things and I can’t read an SEO document without falling asleep. My growth has been completely organic. I could probably grow more if I knew how to work the backroom details but I don’t.

I love the look of your blog/web site. Did you have it professionally designed?

Yes. It was done by Odysseas Constantine of Art & Hue. I saw his work on the beautiful Copperline site and then met him at the Amara Blog Awards in 2015. I asked him to do my site then.

Have you found Pinterest of use to your business? If so in what way?

I was a featured user on Pinterest when they first came to the UK. As a result I have 190K followers and it does bring traffic to the site but I have to say that I don’t go there very often. It’s partly a time thing and partly that I don’t need to use it for my own schemes so I have been ignoring it for a while. I wrote a chapter in my book about Pinterest being your frenemy. It’s so vast that I think it can be unwieldy and also unhelpful if you don’t use it in a very disciplined way. You fall down a rabbit hole of pretty pictures and completely forget what you went in for. I also think there’s a real tendency to pin pictures you like rather than ideas for things that will actually work in your own home.

I tend to do only do one platform at a time and at the moment that’s Instagram.

Floor boards transformed into a bathroom sliding door

Have you found Instagram a useful platform?

Yes. It’s inspirational. I love looking at great images, the community is lovely and I have enjoyed developing my own photography skills.

What do you think that the courses being offered to bloggers?

I don’t know about them so it wouldn’t be fair to offer an opinion. I’m sure, as with everything, that there are good ones and bad ones.

As a journalist how do you feel about ‘influencers’?

It’s one of those terms that everyone seems to hate but then again, I’m not that keen on the word blogger either! It is what it is – there are people who influence others rightly or wrongly. I wouldn’t use it of myself but then I have other words to choose from journalist/author/writer/whatever…. Makes a change from model/actress/whatever although I’d take it!

I love your ‘365 Objects of Design’. Has this been a popular section on your blog?

I began it when I launched the blog as a way of making sure I blogged every single day. I had read pieces about about how many people give up between three and six months in and I was determined that wouldn’t happen to me. I came up with that idea and numbered them to make sure I didn’t miss a day. For three years I blogged seven days a week, now it’s five and while I don’t number them anymore it’s still a popular post. I think of it like a postcard among the letters. I write about design events and trends and advice and every now and then I drop in a short piece about a cool thing I have found.

Tiny Replica of Kate’s sitting room made by a fan of her blog

Here comes my how long is a piece of string question. What is a typical working day like for you?

As long as string…. It’s enormously varied and I’m very lucky as I love it all. No two days are ever the same. Yesterday I spent the morning with a client helping her choose colours and furniture for her flat and talking about the layout, then I went to a book signing at Clerkenwell Design week. Today I am writing, doing a photoshoot with you and taking my son to his piano lesson. Tomorrow another book signing and a talk to prepare for in the evening as well as gathering ideas for my next book. Between that I try to find time to go to the gym, wrangle my teenage children and see my husband over dinner.

How much time do you spend on your blog and how much writing features for papers and magazines?

I don’t really write for papers and magazines any more as I don’t have time. As I post five times a week I either spend a couple of hours a day on the blog or blitz it for two days straight. The rest of the time is meetings, clients, book writing or dealing with email and working on styling and brand jobs.

One of the reasons I am interviewing successful women who are over forty is that they have often had to take a career break, or had to slow down to deal with child care and/or aged parents or illness or had to follow a spouse abroad for work reasons. Have you ever had to deal with any of these issues and did it impact on your working life?

Before I had children I always assumed I would go back to work full time after one and stop after two. In the event I went freelance after the first and never stopped working. It was hard at the start. One year I spent nearly everything I earned on childcare and couldn’t really afford the tax bill. As they spent more time at school I could work more and I regarded it as an investment in my future. I basically worked solidly from 9-3 every day and only left the house to go on the school run – no meetings, lunches or events – or very rarely. I was glued to the phone and the computer during the school day. As they got older it got easier and now they are nearly 15 and 17 I have much more time. I’m still around to cook their tea most days and it’s fine when I’m not. I can go on press trips and they can get their own breakfast.

We have also had those episodes of life that get in the way of best laid plans. My younger son, now 15, was born at 25 weeks (three months premature). He was in hospital for three months and fragile for the first couple of years after that. He is completely fine now – we were very lucky. In 2014 I was diagnosed with cancer of the saliva gland. My type was chemo-resistant and I had surgery followed by 35 sessions of daily radiotherapy – about six-and-a-half weeks of five sessions a week. I carried on blogging for the first few weeks and then uploaded archive posts so that the blog never missed a beat while I was in treatment. I finished on 23 December 2014 and went back to work on 4 January when the boys went back to school after the Christmas holiday. I was approached about writing my first book the following day when I had just stopping taking Morphine and was still a bit high I think.

I didn’t carry on for any macho reasons but rather that it gave me something to focus on while I was well enough to do so. By the end of the treatment I was lying on the sofa under a blanket watching episodes of Keeping Up With The Kardashians.

Do you run any workshops or give talks other than when promoting your books?

I have a plan for workshops but haven’t had time to work out how to do it yet. I think online will be the answer as I already tend to work on Sunday afternoons – the week invariably ends before I’ve had time to write Monday’s post so I’m not keen to add Saturdays into the working week as well. I’m currently developing an online course which will be a mix of written advice and video. I have taken part in panel discussions which aren’t book-related but recently that has tended to be the focus.

What is the best part of your work and what is the worst part?

When I get an email from someone who says the blog or the book has really helped them make their home how they truly wanted it that is wonderful and makes it all worthwhile.

The admin and the invoicing – always have to spend time chasing those – it’s irritating.

Who or what inspires you?

Mad about the house

Always a tough one. What? Restaurant loos and hotel rooms – often. Good design in a small space with clever ideas and bold colours. Who? The person who finds their passion, and follows their dream to make it work without compromising their ideals. My Instagram account is full of women like that and I admire them all. The woman with the disabled kids who decorates her home so beautifully, the dentist who started her own interiors events business, the mothers who get on with it all every day without complaining. They inspire me.

What advice would you give to any journalist starting out today?

Find your passion and write about it. Spellcheck. Oh and think laterally. You need to be a problem solver when you’re a journalist. On my first day at The Independent at Canary Wharf I was told to go to Kew Gardens to monitor a plant that only flowers every ten years. There was a tube strike and I was told I couldn’t take a taxi that far as the company wouldn’t pay. And there was a deadline to meet. I got there (bus, overland train, walking). You have to be able to think around problems.

What is next for your work?

I have just launched A directory  that lists companies who reduce their impact on the planet called DO LESS HARM

Many thanks Juliet Bawden

Blog, book review, Book Reviews

Want to Master the Art of Punch Needle And make accessories for you and your home?

Look no further than the book Punch Needle

by Arounna Khounnoraj

Published by Hardie Grant £14.99

Photographs by Catherine Frawley

Punch needle is the very modern take on rag rugging, it uses  a tool to punch yarn or strips of fabric into a stretched base fabric to create a series of stitches. In the same way that you embroider or cross stitch over a printed or drawn design, so you can create your own needle punched pieces of work.

         Having just been to the Autumn Winter 2019  home ware collections, this craft is so on trend and this book  will enable you to make some of those fabulous textural, soft products yourself.

         The author, Arounna Khounnoraj is a great pair of hands to help us master the art of needle punching. She has a masters degree in fine art and in 2002 set up, with her husband John Booth,  her multi-disciplinary  studio Bookhou in Toronto.

         Together they explore a variety of printing and embroidery techniques through making utilitarian objects such as bags, home goods  and textiles.

         Inspired by the seemingly never-ending ways you can combine different stitches to create contemporary homeware, Arounna has been instrumental in the current modern punch needle renaissance.

         The book opens with an overview of the fundamentals as Arounna teaches in her studio workshops. As a result the ‘how to’ sections are as simple and clear as possible. Most projects only have two components – the punching and the making. Each project has a design drawing, and step by step instructions, for both the punching or hooking element of the work, as well as the means to turn the punched pieces into a wide variety of different items. There are charts featured throughout to help recreate the designs given in the book.

There is also a web site at bookhou.com/pages/patterns so that you can download patterns if you are nervous about drawing them freehand. The tools and materials sections are small, as so little is required of this craft. You are shown how to stretch a frame and how to transfer and image. You are guided on how to create the stitches and how to fid inspiration and design your own patterns. The finished projects are lovely and once you pick up this book, you will want to be making.

Blog, book review, Book Reviews, Uncategorized

On trend : Textile Folk Art

Textile Folk Art  By Anne Kelly published by Batsford

I was just about to review this book, when into my inbox popped the following, prescient quotes, from designer and licenserJehane, from ‘ making art work’

Folk Art  – Folklore ‘Art of the people’ celebrates traditions and rituals from across the world and the relationship between maker and object’

‘Art teaches us to see into things. Folk Art allows us to see outward from within things.’ Walter Benjamin.

This book is an inspirational exploration of folk art from around the world by textile artist http://www.annekellytextiles.com/Anne Kelly.

It includes samplers, quilts, tribal and nomadic cloth. Anne Kelly explores traditional motifs used throughout the world in textile folk art and shows how contemporary textile artists use them in their work today. She demonstrates how to incorporate treasured personal objects- such as garments, stitched samples, vintage lettering and motifs-into textile to create unique works of folk art.

The red horse by Mandy Pattullohttp://threadandthrift.blogspot.com/ mixed media textile, appliqué and embroidery on vintage quilt background

We are shown examples of collections from around the world – Scandinavia, USA, Australia, China and Mongolia. There are some step –by- step projects including collages, screen prints, folding books. We are shown creative collages on garments and even a stitched shed that was shown at the knitting and stitching show. The reader is given resource to some of the best textile artists, such as Nancy Nicholson, Mandy Pottulloh and Sue Stone and you can see their work on their web sites.

Romanian Commission by Anne Kelly, mixed-media textile

My verdict this is a lovely book that more than earns its place on a bookshelf, I will delve into time and again.

Blog, book review, Book Reviews, Uncategorized

A book for art and cat lovers : History of Art in 21 Cats

by Nia Gouldhttps://niaski.co.uk.

This humorous and witty picture book uses the cat as a guide to enlighten us about the different and fascinating art movements throughout history. This is Art history as you’ve never experienced it before- with a large helping of cattitude. From the old masters to the modernists, the moggy as muse.

Feline friends have stalked the studios of many artists, such as Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet and Georgia O’Keefe, so, it only seems entirely fitting to enlist 21 cultured cats to navigate a journey through art history.

From ancient Egyptian and Byzantine art to the wacky and wildly successful world of the Young British Artists, explore the styles that characterized important art movements and the artists who led them. Each cat is depicted in the style of the art movement that is being shown. For example the Egyptian cat has an ornate eye and the colour palette of the Egyptians is explained.

         To show renaissance art, the Mona Lisa has been represented in cat form.

We have Rococo cats, impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Pointillism, Symbolism, Fauvism and Cubism. Dada, Destijl, Magic Realism, Art Deco and all the major art movements of the twentieth century are represented. The book ends with a feline timeline. This will make a great gift for any cat lover.  

From Michael O’Mara books £12.99

Blog, book review, Uncategorized

Do you need to get your house in order and sort out your life? Then Debora Robertson’s book DECLUTTER is your answer

Declutter

The get-real guide to creating calm from chaos

By Debora Robertson published by Kyle Books at £12.99

You need this book if you are doing any of the following:

  • You regularly buy things to replace items you already own because you can’t lay your hands on them right now.
  • You regularly lose your glasses, keys, phone and tv remote. Or if like me recently, when the night before I was to fly to Armenia I couldn’t locate my passport. It was 2 hours of anxiety and turning everything in the house upside down before I found it.
  • You have said any of the following in the last month:

‘ I have to go through those‘ ‘Someone might need that’ ‘It’s still got wear in it’ ‘It might come in usefulone day’

Unlike other books on this subject, Debora does not expect you to totally readjust your world to minimalist living. She offers practical advise including allowing a certain amount of time to clear up. She suggests buying a kitchen timer and using it. Decide how much time you can spend on a task on any given day and just spend that amount of time and no more. She suggests keeping a diary of what you wish to achieve and offers tips on what you need to do daily, weekly and monthly and even how to clear up if you  only have a spare ten minutes.

She gives information on how and where to get rid of useful unwanted items. I have made so many visits to charity shops during the last month!

I am a craft author and run workshops so I am a great one for collecting all kinds of tools, materials and ephemera. ‘Oh that will come in handy sometime”. Reading that Debra writes on cookery and gardening I realized that her pile of stuff probably bears a resemblance to my own. So I am even more impressed.

What this book does, is encourage you to create new habits that will enhance your life.

I knew this book was good because as I was reading it, my friends kept asking if they could borrow it after me. Well it is a great book based in reality and full of practical advise and No you can’t borrow it. I’m keeping my copy and authors like Debora deserve people to buy their words of wisdom. So go out and buy your own copy, you won’t regret it.

Uncategorized

‘Folded Book Art’ by Clare Youngs, Book Review

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35 beautiful projects to transform yourbooks-create cards, display scenes, decorations, gifts and more.

I have been fascinated by book art since it first appeared on the scene about fifteen years ago. In those days it was more a technique used by artists but in the last few years it has become very popular in the craft world. It looks very difficult to do, particularly the folded books where an image appears as if by magic.

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What Clare Youngs has managed to do is to show her readers how to make some inspired book art pieces. For those of you who love books and think it is a travesty to cut them up, it is worth considering what Clare says in her introduction.

‘ Four years ago I wrote Book Art. In the introduction I talked about my love of books and how the decision to cut or fold doesn’t come easy. I still find this hard, but I have made a few rules for myself: I never cut up a rare book and I only use tatty and damaged books or samples that would end up being recycled.’

The book covers three main techniques:

Folded books includes many ideas, here are a few of my favorites: an ampersand, a butterfly a bird a knot and a star.

The making scenes section , has a little mermaid, a fairy tale castle, honey comb and bees and mushrooms and ferns, there is even knitted paper.

Mushrooms & Ferns.jpg

The chapter on refashioning pages includes brilliant origami slip covers that look very like, much of the ceramics currently in the shops. I love the little sailing boats and the baby elephant on wheels. There is a lovely selection of tags to make and hydrangers.

There are templates, tools and techniques.

Clare has such a strong graphic style and having read the book I came away wanting to make everything! So I can see what I will be doing in the autumn and winter.

Folded book art by Clare Youngs published by Cico Books £14.99 www.rylandspetersandsmall

Photography by Jo Henderson © CICO Books

Why not also check out CICO’s new craft website – https://makeetc.com

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