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Category Archives: Design

A Garniture of Beauty and Decay – from Tamsin Van Essen to Miss Havisham

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I have found a new {to me} designer to crush on, Tamsin van Essen  a British designer based in London, who specialises in conceptual design. She has recently been using the medium of ceramics to explore scientific and medical themes. Widely exhibited since 2006, her most recent being at RCA in June and July this year with two new upcoming  – Bone  at the Florence Nightingale Museum, London 19 July – 30 Aug 2012, and When I Woke at  Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre, Wales 6 Oct – 17 Nov 2012.

Tamsin also has several permanent collections , the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Wellcome Collection, London, UK and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Museum also London.

Three of her projects particularly appealed to me.

Ornamental Metamorphosis

“This project is about metamorphosis and aesthetic ambiguity: a future rococo paradise where beauty and ornament become sinister and destructive…   Elements of decoration come alive and burst out from the confines of the vase’s form, impinging on the surrounding space. A gothic vision where everything is in flux: the static becomes dynamic; the inert, active; and the everyday, extraordinary.”

 Medical Heirlooms

Which explores the stigma of diseases, questioning contemporary obsessions with perfection and beauty.

”  I have been manipulating the ceramic material in a way that emulates physiological processes, deliberately encouraging ‘faults’, ‘defects’ and ‘blemishes.’  Based on 17th -18th century apothecary jars, the forms have strong historical and medical links, as well as providing the metaphor of vessel as body: they become containers for disease, rather than holding the cure. As family heirlooms, the jars can be passed down through the generations in the same way as hereditary medical conditions.”

Psoriasis 1Psoriasis      Acne (pocked) Acne

Vanitas Vanitatum

A garniture of beauty and decay

This project is the one which appeals most to me , she has designed a collection   influenced by  17th century dutch vanitas paintings, by using an etching tool to remove material from the slip cast porcelain forms and a sandblaster in its bisqued state, the decoration becomes part of the ceramic structure. during the last kiln firing, areas of the vases begin to peel, representing  and capturing the moment of decay.

All images and quotes © Tamsin van Essen via her website

It is something about the objects in this project that makes me think of  Miss Havisham, especially in the recent adaptation with Gillian Anderson, the ceramists description of  her work as A garniture of beauty and decay  perfectly evokes how I feel about the image of the ageing bride surrounded by the faded grandeur of her lost dreams.


Three Things That………Play With Marbles

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Eggs ‘au naturel’

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Beautiful isn’t it !  When the shops are full of over decorated and admittedly delicious chocolate varieties of egg  it’s nice to see something designed by nature.


In utero motion created the almost calligraphic design on the shell of this great-tailed grackle egg.

Photograph by Joel Sartore at University of Nebraska State Museum.  From an article in National Geographic Magazine.

There have been many artists and naturalists that have recreated and documented the beauty of eggs over the years – this is just one illustration I find particularly pretty.


“ŒUFS” (Eggs), illustration by Adolphe Millot from Nouveau Larousse Illustré [1897-1904].   Nouveau Larousse Illustré, edited by Claude Augé, published in Paris by Librarie Larousse 1897-1904, this illustration from vol. 6 p. 473.

Brings to mind Annie Sloanes chalk paints – available in beautiful colours like these, and perfect for painting floors, walls, furniture to recreate that beautiful shabby chic, or french vintage look.

{Old White,  Antoinette,  Paris Grey and Versailles}

Her website is a wonderful place not only for buying her paint but she has pages for each of her colours with examples of painted items, ideas and colour matches, click on the colours above to go see examples like this :

French Chevets in Paris Grey

Painted with – Paris Grey, described as a ‘soft and slightly bluish grey’ [ picture and colours ©  Annie Sloan ].

There are also vintage finds, her own fabric, ideas on creating the ‘French look’ and lots of interior and design inspiration.  Also worth  a visit is her blog Paint and Colour for more ideas, and the inspirations and thoughts behind her paint colours.

At last…..

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something to hide my Kindle in that I like and I do not have to take out a second mortgage for

Available from Red5 for £14.95, there are other literary options…but why would you want anything other than Alice!  Thank You to  Geekoid for pointing me in the right direction.

Three Things …..that make me go yum!

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Benrus Watch Co., Sky Chief, 1940

Benrus Watch Co., Sky Chief, 1940

Gentleman Hare from Rococo Chocolates he’s pretty yummy but it  isn’t  him it’s the beautiful packaging which really stands out.

                                                                 The British Librarydigitization of ‘Alice’. 

So Traditional, Classic and Timeless I guess sums this up!!

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty

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Despite telling myself I wouldn’t mention much about fashion on here…as despite loving it I don’t tend to follow trends preferring my take on a tried and tested look, and there are many, many people out there doing a far better job than I could ever do, I did keep a small eye on London fashion week.

All I will say about that is Giles Deacon …perfection!Giles deacon A/W 2012

But what LFW did do is prompt me to spend some time re acquainting myself with the exhibition catalogue for  ‘Alexander McQueen – Savage Beauty ‘ published on the occasion of an exhibition organized by the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute.

Alexander McQueen: Savage BeautyAlexander McQueen (British, 1969–2010) was one of the most influential, imaginative, and provocative designers of his generation. McQueen saw beyond clothing’s physical constraints to its ideological and conceptual possibilities, addressing questions related to race, class, gender, religion, sexuality, and the environment.”

Read the rest of this entry

Just Briefly

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Thinking about the worlds created by Jeremy Hush, and other illustrators I will no doubt waffle about at some point, I feel I should point to this gentleman’s work.  He goes by Mister Finch and he creates wonderful textile art of creatures which could easily inhabit the art mentioned.  I have a familial link to thank for pointing me in his direction!

In his own words….

“Finch works alone and makes everything himself by hand in a studio full of books,glass jars and naughty cats.” 

    Just as a little taster   Words and images Copyright Mister Finch

He has a gallery of past work here  and you can find his blog here

Go see!