Friday, February 29, 2008

Vogue Living Love

My love affair with Vogue Living continues... these lovely shots from the March/April issue.

Love those prints on the wall... the ochre yellow with black and cream is such a great combination...

Lydia Pearson's home - beautiful combination of patterns and colours...

Shots from the London apartment of Pippa Holt. Love the kooky collectibles and bright hues against crisp white...

More from Lydia Pearson's home... again lovely brave bright colours...

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Interview - Nick Rennie

Stick Desk Light - 2006

There's no doubt about it. Nick Rennie is an over-achiever. He graduated from Industrial Design at RMIT in 1998, showed his work at the Milan Furniture fair for the first time in 2000, and since then has consistently shown his work internationally, and forged relationships with some of the major names in furniture and product design all over the world. He was included in the 'Freestyle' Australian design exhibition that toured Australia last year, and he's certainly no stranger to the press - his successes in the international market have been highly publicised, probably because this is a hurdle that so many talented Aussie designers just don't seem to crack.

Nick's introduction to the international design world was propelled initially through his association with The Melbourne Movement - a group of young designers working under the tutorage of Kjell Grant, head of furniture design at RMIT. It was his association with The Melbourne Movement that made it possible for Nick to show his work in Milan in 2000 and 2001. In 2002 Nick set up his own design firm - Happy Finish Design, and exhibited solo for the first time.

He's still based in Melbourne, and despite his overwhelming achievements, he's consistently described as an unaffected, down-to-earth, laid back guy. Despite being in the throes of preparing for the Milan Furniture Fair in April, Nick was really receptive to my request for this interview and I appreciate it! Here Nick shares his creative inspirations, and gives a fantastic insight into the challenges Australian designers face on the international stage. Thanks Nick!

Butterfly wall sconce - 2007

Dimple Cup and Bottle - 2006

Mori Shelving - 2006

Tell me a little about your background - what did you study and what path led you to what you’re doing now?

I studied Industrial Design at RMIT, but realised early on that product and car design weren’t really my strong points, and that furniture and lighting was what I was meant to do.

One of your most documented achievements has been your success in creating relationships with international companies from very early on in your career. How were you able to exhibit at Milan in your graduating year? How would you say this singular event has propelled your business?

Under the guidance of Kjell Grant (head of furniture design at RMIT) I travelled to Milan in 2000 and again in 2001 for group showings, firstly with an RMIT exhibit and in 2001 with the Melbourne movement - a group showing of young designers curated by Kjell Grant. These experiences led me to see that for what I do this was the place to be and gain the best exposure I had to continue down this path. In 2002 I showed internationally for the first time as Happy Finish design.

Have you ever felt disadvantaged in the global market because you’re based in Australia? How do you overcome this distance?

Without question... The distance and timezones are a huge disadvantage, but you have to look past that and see the up side. Australian design is now starting to gather an international reputation for being fresh in their approach to design. When I first went to Europe the only designer they knew was Marc Newson, now there is a core group of designers pushing the boundaries of Australian design and the attitude is slowly changing.

From the outset, you chose to start your own business rather than work for someone else. What informed this decision, and has it worked well for you? Would you recommend this approach to emerging designers?

I wouldn’t say this is the best method, purely for financial reasons, but it’s a great way to learn your strength and weaknesses. For me I think it is beginning to work out well. You have to be incredibly motivated and not knowing when the next pay cheque will arrive is a real strain. Its not like you get up, go to work, come home and switch off. If something needs to be done, there’s no one else to do it. After saying that though, its great because all your ideas are yours and don’t belong to someone else.

Are there any particular designers, artists or creative people you look up to or are inspired by?

Locally I am inspired by fellow designers travelling the path I am on. In particular Helen Kontouris and Simone LeAmon. Other local creatives include director Michael Gracey, writer Nick Lord, both of whom have been integral in allowing me to follow my dreams.

Internationally I am inspired by the work of Jasper Morrison, Konstantin Grcic, Naoto Fukasawa, Sam Hecht and my Japanese friends FAT. Jin Kuramoto and Yusuke Seki.

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

Anything from five to twenty hours of work seven days a week.

What are you most proud of professionally?

The fact that I have been able to stick with it. At times its not much fun, but then you realise why your doing it and it gets you through. Its taken 8 years of hard work, making a loss or just breaking even, but now its looking promising. But after saying that the real work is only just beginning.

Where do you find inspiration?

Through watching people interact. I like to try and infuse emotion into my designs. Jumping in puddles as a child, or kicking mushrooms over. These types of experiences.

What's the best thing about your job?

You live your dream every day.

And the worst?

Where do I start! Not having a regular income would be the main one I guess.

What would be your dream project?

Something where you get paid up front and not wait three months for when and if the royalties to kick in.

Where do you see yourself professionally in 5 years time?

Hopefully still doing what I love. Spending time both here and overseas.

What are you looking forward to – professionally or personally?

The launch of one of my designs in Milan this year.

Melbourne Questions –

What/where was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?

You can never go past a late night souvlaki at ‘lambs’ on Malvern road Prahran

Your favourite furniture/homewares retailer in Melbourne?

For supporting the local scene it has to be ‘Tongue and Groove interiors’ at 85 Smith st Collingwood

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

Sound asleep in bed until around lunchtime

Melbourne’s best kept secret?

Greg and Steve from ‘Rhythm and Soul’ records on Greville st Prahran

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Top 5 Bookshops

Melbourne is bursting with brilliant bookshops... it was hard to whittle it down to 5. Actually I felt like stretching it to 10 at one stage but that wouldn't be much of a shortlist would it?

The following 5 are my favourites for design/art/architecture browsing. (And I do a lot more browsing than buying). They all also have a great selection of magazines, as well as fiction, kids stuff etc etc.

In no particular order:

Metropolis Bookshop - Level 3 Curtin House, 252 Swanston Street, City
Open Mon - Thurs 10am - 6pm, Fri 10am - 7pm, Sat 10am - 6pm, Sun 12 - 5pm

When Metropolis moved from St Kilda to Curtin House in the city I was convinced it was a crazy idea and would never take off. I mean... no foot traffic... no late night trading. I used to drive down to Acland st with my Mum and browse after work... we were devastated when they finally closed. BUT I stand corrected! It was Metropolis that really kick-started the regeneration of Curtin House... a string of painfully cool businesses followed suit, and these days Curtin House enjoys legendary status amongst most Melburnians. Anyway, aside from its location, Metropolis is a truly GREAT bookshop, the space is airy and stunning, the selection of books, magazines and now music is second to none, the staff are super friendly and more than happy to let you browse to your hearts content... just take a good deep breath before heading up those endless stairs.

Coventry Bookstore - 265 Coventry st, South Melbourne

I just wrote about Coventry Bookstore in my South Melbourne Gift Guide... nothing new to say really... Just a gorgeous little bookstore... particularly good for pretty interiors books (not so much pure architecture)... friendly staff and a really warm, inviting interior.

Avenue Bookstore - 127 Dundas Place, Albert Park

Let me first say that the Avenue Bookstore has one of the best selections of any bookshop in Melbourne... you could easily lose a whole day there browsing the shelves. The new-ish section up the back is devoted entirely to the art/design-y books, and really does offer such a feast of beautiful publications you'll be spoilt for choice. HOWEVER i cannot write about this wonderful shop without mentioning an awful experience I did have there last year that has honestly marred my opinion of this shop. To cut to the chase, I was browsing for quite some time in the graphic design books section, and felt inspired to jot down the titles and authors of some of my favourite finds... (not, of course, being able to buy every single item I fell in love with). I was eyed with suspicion for quite some time by a snobbish staff member who then finally plucked up the courage to reprimand me quite severely for browsing for too long and 'taking notes'. I responded by purchasing a very expensive book at the main counter and making sure the rest of the staff down there were well aware of this embarrassing experience. To their credit they were mortified and seemed genuinely shocked! I haven't seen the offending staff member again and I hope she isn't there anymore. That's all I will say. Anyway, the store is too lovely to blacklist. So please don't let me put you off! They also have a great selection of kids books, magazines and beautiful cards.

Amendment 16/5/08 : I have recently received a lovely email from The Avenue Bookstore... they were sincerely apologetic for the negative experience mentioned above! They also mentioned that the offending staff member is no longer with the store. So please do pay this fantastic store a visit... and feel free to browse away to your heart's content!

NGV bookshop - Fed Square, Swanston st, City
Open 10am - 5pm everyday, Thursdays until 9pm

That man in the fantastic green jacket just really wanted to be in my photo. Well... I took about 10 photos at the NGV bookshop and he's in at least 7 of them. So I thought it was only fair to make sure he didn't end up on the cutting room floor :)

Clientele aside, the NGV bookshop has a great selection of art books (as you'd suspect), but also a brilliant array of interior, architecture, graphic design books and the like. There's also some great other gifty things - Mud ceramics, interesting jewellery and accessories, and a really cute kids section. Again, also a great selection of local and international magazines... and lovely staff who were only too happy to let me take some photos for the site. Love that! (although I have recently become quite expert at covert photography).

Brunswick st Bookstore - 305 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
Open 10am - 11pm everyday

Brunswick st Bookstore has been around since 1987 apparently. Which is waaaay before Fitzroy was a 'cool' as it is now. Now that's foresight. In 2003 they opened up their light-filled first floor which enabled them to increase the art/design/architecture section significantly. It's a lovely space, the range is fantastic, and again they have great selection of local and international mags... also they're open 10am til 11pm everyday which means you'll never be stuck on Brunswick st without somewhere nice to wait for your dinner date. But the best news is that coming up on Saturday March the 8th their annual sale starts with massive reductions on art, architecture, photography and graphic design books, as well as 10% off all other stock in the store! wicked.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Skinners Playground

Cutting edge architecture in Melbourne means SHIPPING CONTAINERS.

Well not really. But there sure is a hell of a lot of shipping container re-fashioning going on in this town. It all started with Section 8 (aka 'Container Bar')... followed up by those container booths in the Fed Square carpark for The Melbourne Design Festival last year... and now, thanks to the clever people at Phooey Architects, we have Skinners Playground in South Melbourne.

Jokes aside, this place does look fantastic... the 4 containers have been modified enough to make it feel like a really well considered design (rather than just a hunk of metal plonked on a car park). Of course the obvious other benefits are the eco-friendly element and the relatively low cost of this kind of project. Apparently all the materials that went into its construction were reclaimed or recycled... good on 'em :)

The project was the recent recipient of an 'Architecture Review Award for Emerging Architecture' in the UK.

via in design

Monday, February 25, 2008

MocoLoco - behind the blog

Apartment Therapy Unplugged posted a great little 'behind the blog' article about MocoLoco... It's always nice to snoop into the workspaces of creative people... and there's also something very satisfying about seeing the physical world behind your favourite blogs/websites! I guess it makes the whole blog-reading experience seem more personal.

I particularly love MocoLoco's 10 foot high acrylic divider/screen featuring a stylised map of their local neighbourhood in Montreal. It was made by Montreal design outfit Rita Design Studio. I'm assuming it's a vinyl cut just stuck onto the acrylic? Super simple, cheap and so effective.

ps) OH OH I have just been looking at Rita Design Studio's website and you must check out some of their other work... such varied projects - from graphic solutions to really large-scale installations... unique concepts, and well executed too. Go look. (a couple of pictures below)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Rewind Coffee

Stephanie from Five Boroughs posted about Rewind Coffee a couple of weeks ago...
I'm sure the coffee tastes great.... but the main thing that caught my eye was the fantastic retro packaging. It comes sealed in a vintage-style kitchen canister that is airtight, stackable, and reusable... not to mention super-cute! It looks like something you'd stumble on in an op shop... Actually they won Silver at the PADC packaging awards last year...

They're available in a range of lovely colours (and flavours)... and only $20 each.

(OH and for the non-coffee drinkers, Rewind offer 'Coco Smooth' drinking chocolate - packaged in the same gorgeous containers as the coffee...)

Available from Five Boroughs - 345 Lygon st, Brunswick East

Rewind promotional poster - allegedly drinking decaf coffee is like kissing your sister!

on display at Five Boroughs

Thursday, February 21, 2008

South Melbourne Shopping Guide

This project has been a while in coming... and quite labour intensive! Anyway hope you enjoy this shopping guide to my favourite shops in South Melbourne. I have been inspired by the fantastic shopping guides Bloesem and DesignSponge have posted in the past... I have plans for many more guides... all in good time!

Still struggling with the size of my images... sorry if the map is illegible. I am a bit limited with my layout... can't seem to get the image big enough. What a shame! Perhaps it's best to double-click on it for a larger view in a new window.

1) St Ali - 12 Yarra Place, South Melbourne
My favourite coffee/lunch spot in South Melbourne. Actually it's one of my favourite cafes anywhere in Melbourne. It's a fantastic industrial space and the food is great and inexpensive. They also roast a variety of coffees on the premises which you can buy for home.

St Ali industrial interior

mmm peach and prosciutto salad....

2) Kikki K - Shop G-07/ 245-267 Clarendon St, South Melbourne
Yeah I know it's a chain store... but I couldn't resist. Kikki K have just opened in South Melbourne... gorgeous interior... beautiful products... and you can never have too much stationary.

stationary heaven

3) Macphee's - 249 Coventry st, South Melbourne
Macphees is a relatively new store dedicated to the wine enthusiast.. BUT before you move on hear me out! This shop is actually beautifully designed and the stock is very carefully selected. It stocks some of the most beautiful decanters, trays, wine racks, books and other high end home accesories. I rarely drink wine and even I found myself browsing the shelves with interest! Next time you're stuck gift-shopping for the men in your life (Dad, boyfriend, brother, husband?) remember Macphees... you're sure to find something here.

4) Gas - 253 Coventry st, South Melbourne
Gas is a great cafe for salads, sandwiches and baguettes. They're seriously good. Especially the baguettes. There's a fantastic selection and everything is super tasty. Apparently it's run by the three daughters of Armadale's Tartine guru Jan Maskiell. That makes sense.

5) Made in Japan - 276-278 Coventry st, South Melbourne
Yes, I know... another obvious choice. But Made in Japan does have a great selection of ceramic gifts and Japanese furniture... yes it is kinda overpriced... so why not head nextdoor to the warehouse instead? Here you can pick up a kimono for as little as $30, other fabric remnants for as little as $5, and a wide range of ceramics and furniture that for whatever reason didn't make it to the showroom floor.

6) Cafe Sweethearts - 263 Coventry st, South Melbourne
Another lovely South Melbourne eatery... more of a sit-down and order from the menu affair. Not quite as fun as St Ali - it's a little more formal - but Sweethearts does have a great menu... and is a little more quiet and calm. Good for a lunch meeting with your boss or a breakfast date with your sweetheart.

7) Coventry Bookstore - 265 Coventry st, South Melbourne
This is a great little bookstore with a fantastic range of design and interiors books. The staff are lovely and the shop has a really warm, friendly feeling. This is one of my favourite bookshops in Melbourne... (I feel a 'Top 5 Bookshops' post coming on...)

8) RG Madden - 269 Coventry st, South Melbourne
Another chain store? Yeah... sorry. RG Madden isn't exactly an inspired choice but they do have a good range - especially if you're gift-shopping. They've also got a good selection of pieces at a reasonable pricepoint... in addition, or course, to that stunning $2000 bike that's been in their window all summer. Seriously. It's gorgeous but who is going to buy that bike?

9) Household Linens - 279 Coventry st, South Melbourne
Household Linens are a New Zealand based company, specialising in the most beautiful, simple, crisp bedlinens. Mostly whites and creams - and all natural fibres (cotton or linen). The quality here is second to none - with pricetags to match! I admit in the past I have been guilty of buying cheap bedlinen... but in the last year or so I have started to feel just a little more 'grown up' and I think perhaps along with this I have become an advocate for posh bedlinen! Not fancy, patterned, coloured bedlinen... no no... just clean white, simple sheets and doona cover... but the quality of the fabric is important! You truly can feel (and see) the difference.

10) Fragile - 285-287 Coventry st, South Melbourne
Fragile touts itself as 'Australia's leading maternity wear and children's wear store'. It certainly has a beautiful range of clothes for kids... stunning fabrics and prints. There are pieces so cute you'll wish they came in your size - and, accordingly, the prices are closer to what you'd spend on yourself (rather than on your 2 yr old). Still... super cute stuff... plus designer baby bits and pieces like cots, prams, blah blah. I don't know about the functionality of these things but they sure look good :)

11) Nest - 289 Coventry st, South Melbourne
Nest is a South Melbourne institution... they stock the beautiful range of natural skincare products by Aesop, bedlinen and artworks by well known Australian screenprinting outfit Spacecraft, and assorted other gorgeous things. Lovely space, friendly staff... check it out.

12) Let Them Eat Cake - 147 - 149 Cecil st, South Melbourne
Let Them Eat Cake create gorgeous cakes for any event... they have lots of their work on display in their store, and photographs you can sift through too... but you can also design your own decadent dessert and they'll make it exactly to your specifications. There's also a selection of ready-made masterpieces if you're running behind time and want to pick something up off the shelf. ps) also the building these guys are in is beautiful - a lovely big old warehousey-type space...

13) Izzi and Popo - 258 Ferrars st, South Melbourne
Izzi and Popo have a gorgeous selection of European antique furniture and homewares... I now read on their website that they have buyers in Belgium, and have also ties in Amsterdam... so... not sure why I thought it was mainly French stuff. Anyway... details aside, Izzi and Popo are a treasure trove of gorgeous furniture and knick knacks... beautiful French table linens are a favourite.. and currently they have a great collection of old letterpress pieces for sale individually (picture below). There's always something different... worth a browse if you like the traditional, French (Belgian/Dutch?) provincial look.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Box Doodle Project

Keeping with yesterdays theme... more cardboard creations! The Box Doodle Project is a a site run by David Hofmann... anyone can send in their box doodles and they'll be added to the collection. Can't remember where I first found it... it's been in my bookmarks for a while now. Maybe it was via Jeffrey Yamaguchi's 52 Projects?

Anyway... cute characters huh?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Interview - Jim Clark

painting cardboard speakers

Jim's studio in Richmond (double click for a larger view)

Jim's oversized cardboard creations for Big Day Out '08

Jim Clark is an artist, art director, props maker, interior designer, builder, graphic designer, sign writer... he also loves building and riding motorbikes, restoring his beloved dune buggy, and I've even seen him do the odd bit of plumbing. He's a jack of all trades, master of many, and one of the most creative people I've ever met. He's also a fantastic dad to 2 of the coolest kids in Melbourne... the kind of dad that can whip up a rooftop swimming pool in a weekend, and takes the kids for noisy joy-rides around Melbourne in his infamous customised buggy. (helmets required for under 10 yr olds).

But the one thing that I find most inspiring about Jim is the fact that for him, nothing is impossible. Any brief you throw at him, he just figures out a way to make it happen. If you want a 10 ft tiki carved out of polystyrene, he's your guy. If you need to create an aeroplane crash in a TV studio, he's your guy. And as was seen this year at the Big Day Out, if you want an entire stage decked out in oversized 3D cardboard props... he can make that happen too!

One of his many jobs over the past few years has been as art director for 'Lilyworld' - a stage that tours with The Big Day out all over Australia. He creates a different look every year, and this year the brief was 'cardboard eco village'. Jim created the most amazing collection of oversized cardboard props - from giant robots to a cardboard-clad bicycle, giant match boxes and skeletons and ghetto blasters and speakers... the list goes on. The results were truly incredible. Check out the images above and below, and read on for an insight into the crazy, creative, cardboard world of Jim Clark...

Tell me a bit about your background – where you grew up, what you studied etc?

I grew up all over the place but spent my formative years in Melbourne. I studied Art and Design at both High School and TAFE. The course I completed in 1989 is now known as Visual Arts. This course is a 3 year lesson in Painting, Drawing, Photography, Ceramics and Illustration. As I started getting jobs, I studied part time at the Melbourne College of Decoration, in Interior Design, Signwriting and Graphic Design.

What is your answer when people ask ‘so, what do you do?’

My response is ,"I'm an Art Director", which to most people is too ambiguous! I then usually have to explain my role as seeing the overall picture as well as the detail and co-ordinating the Art Department to fully realise the end product. My job description includes Graphic Design, Interior Decoration, an understanding of set building, sign-writing, scenic painting, prop-making and sculpture.

How did you get to be working on The Big Day Out?

A few of my loony friends got together as the "Ambience Team" on the BDO. Their set building skills were limited to hastily scrawled ideas on butchers paper, so they offered me the job of making them look crafty and creative. I initially started carving huge polystyrene sculptures of Tikis , Sumo Wrestlers and 9 ft Gnomes for the Lilypad stage, which recently became Lilyworld. I now spend 3 months of my year conceiving, building and touring our wacky themed stage around the country for the Big Day Out.

What other jobs have you had?

Art Directing many & varied projects........TV commercials, skatewear showrooms, film storyboarding etc. I also enjoy working as an Art Director for Working Dog, a Melbourne based production company. Working Dog produces "Thank God You're Here", a semi scripted improv. show for television. My job is to help realise the five sets we produce each week for the show. Our series can run up to 12 episodes, meaning we conceive and build more than 60 sets over a ten week period. Gets pretty busy!

What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened on a job or project you’ve worked on?

My time on the Big Day Out has often delivered some pretty weird experiences, not many of which are printable! Seeing touring artists interact on the BDO is often very weird, ie; Kamahl and Fergie ( Black Eyed Peas),Kenny and Keith Flint (Prodigy) and more recently Bjork flying into Dizzee Rascal!

Who or what inspires you?

My partner Amber is definitely my first inspiration as she is my harshest critic. I always run ideas past her first to test the water. In terms of referential inspiration, in alphabetical order:
artists,cool fonts, clip art, dune buggies, mexico, motorcycles, murals, stencilling, street art, vintage signage, vinyl cutters.

What is your greatest achievement?

Having an amazing family life with Amber and our kids, Ginger and Jonah.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Working hard for a few months and then having time to travel with the whole family. I can't do the whole 9 to 5, four weeks off thing.

And the worst?

I don't believe there is a worst thing, but not having complete creative control can sometimes be unpleasant.

What are you looking forward to?

Where the next job is coming from!

Jim's crazy Big Day Out buddy Larry, riding the cardboard bike

cardboard speakers in situ

Lilyworld stage

more cardboard jungle

Jim and his partner Amber... and the dune-buggy

Monday, February 18, 2008

Stockholm Design Week

images - Core77

I'm a little slow off the mark with this one, but last week Core77 posted a great little wrap up of Stockholm Design Week... They have some lovely photos up and will post the entire gallery soon. I love the shots of busy festival-goers rushing past the camera lens... makes me imagine I am sitting there in person - notebook in hand, rugged up with a warm coffee, enjoying the people watching, and eavesdropping on conversations in languages I can't understand... aahh. I think I'm in need of a change of scenery...

Amongst many standouts of the festival, Core77 point out 10 Swedish Designers - an organisation that, according to the article, formed in 1970 because the wider industry thought their work was "un-saleable, too advanced and non-commercial". These days their bold printed fabrics and wallpapers are in demand... the gorgeous pram above is their design.