12 Dec 2016   admin

How One Design Studio Is Keeping Traditional Craft Techniques Alive

Wallpaper has sadly become a byword for anything visual thats simply there, in the background, and barely given any attention. A little like television. The incredible collections from New Yorks Calico Wallpaper look set to change that dismissive perception, and perhaps more importantly breathe new light into traditional craft techniques that have been in danger of fading and peeling away.

At the same time, they are not afraid to embrace modern technology their Inverted Spaces collection drew on NASA satellite imagery, while other collections have channeled traditional means of fixing broken ceramics with molten gold, and the Great Depression / king of the road experience with horizon views as seen from railway boxcars.

In the three years that Calico has been in business, their bespoke wallpapers have graced the interiors of homes and hotels, purveyors of heavenly delights (churches) and earthly ones (a chocolate bar). In the process, theyve scraped away some of the misconceptions that modern consumers have about wallpaper, and revived some laborious, but ultimately stunning, printing and dyeing techniques.

A recent commission saw the Calico team inspired by the Japanese concept of wabi sabi. Not to be confused with wasabi, the creative heat here comes from finding the beauty in imperfection.

For the backdrop to a collection of artworks featuring organic materials, batik seemed the most appropriate approach. Bolts of fine Japanese silk were boiled in a cauldron with a natural dye made of charred tree bark, sea salt and rose petals. This however was just the first stage of the sorcery.

Next, hot wax was poured over the silk, Christian Grey-style. Once this had set, it was cracked so that more pigment could be massaged into the silk. Then it was back into the cauldron to be boiled again, removing the wax and revealing the underlying pattern. Mastering this technique took around three months perhaps not so long when you consider that the pattern was inspired by the earths crust, all dramatic cracks and heat beneath the surface.

In our digitised world, there is perhaps too much that is virtual, and not enough reality. The Calico team maintain that people want to see the influence or the trace of the artists hand in what has been created, and to understand and see evidence of the craft processes that were used. This is nostalgia not for its own sake, but to create a perfectly imperfect, tactile world in which design and décor become real.

As tangible things, they have the power to transport us, whether across the Mid-West on a freight train, or into orbit. They may even have the power required to break the hold our devices have over our attention, and bring us not only back in time, but crucially into the present.

23 Jan 2017   admin

More than just a smiley face

More imaginative teenagers – and adults – can now write entire messages in emojis, and they are changing the way we talk to each other in every sphere of our lives. An emoji movie is in the works, and we live in a world where adding a smiley face the end of a message makes anything preceding it acceptable as a joke. Other emojis are still prone to misinterpretation, especially by new users: “No, Mom, that’s not a happy scoop of chocolate ice cream!”.Emojis can trace their design routes to the creation of the original yellow smiley face back in the 1960s, which then became familiar to ...

23 Jan 2017   admin

Off the charts

If we’re honest, there’s always been a bit of a disconnect between physical reality and the way it’s represented on maps. Most world maps are based on the Mercator projection, which dates back to the sixteenth century - slightly before we had GPS to check our bearings. The Mercator was a map with an agenda – it had to convey not-so-subtle messages about power, as well as help sailors find their way. An enlarged Europe sits dead-centre as it was (to Europeans at least) the centre of the universe at this time. Polar regions tended to be squished out of shape, or cut off. Most famously of ...