Deborah Bowness
New Ribbon
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Fur. The mere mention of the word makes many cringe. In western urban culture, it's a contentious topic that divides us into two groups: those who deem fur fashion READ MORE...
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Earlier this week, I was in the comments section of a blog I frequent, and someone had posted a photo of a shirtless, young guy with red hair sticking his tongue out cheekily READ MORE...
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The Sculptured House, also known as the Sleeper House since 1973 when it featured in Woody Allen's sci-fi comedy, Sleeper, is so cool it's painful. An elliptical curiosity in concrete and glass perched on Colorado's READ MORE...
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The BAFTA qualifying Aesthetica Short Film Festival (ASFF) has teamed up with London College of Fashion to establish a new fashion film strand at this year’s event, showcasing READ MORE...
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Knitwear designers studying in Italy are invited to enter the Knitting for Juliet competition launched by Fashion Ground Academy of Italian Design READ MORE...
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It was not possible to walk past Nicholas Rose's luminous, contoured lamp shades at 100% Design the other week, I felt like a moth drawn to a flame. READ MORE...
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The film series, #UnlockArt, produced by Tate and supported by Le Meridien, concluded with the release of the last of eight films, What's So Funny?, decided by an online poll READ MORE...
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December 31, 2013

Afternoon Tea, Art (and the Coolest Toilets Ever) at Sketch

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After screening the second #UnlockArt film in the Le Meridien and Tate produced series last month, we were treated to a fantastic afternoon tea at Sketch in Mayfair. It's a gallery/cafe/restaurant spread over two floors of a converted 18th century building, and it's just a magical place, one of the reasons London is such an incredible city to visit. 

We were taken to the Glade which is where Afternoon Tea is served, a gorgeous, jewel-toned room that had me looking at the walls, ceiling and everything else for several minutes - total distraction!

Glade_SketchPhoto from

The most charming pastry case sits near the entrance of the Glade room:

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We went all-out and had champagne as well as tea which came in white porcelain teapots with bust sculptures as lid handles. 

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The finger sandwiches were lovely, some came topped with caviar and quail egg. My favourites were the mini croque monsieurs.

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I was full by the time I realised I hadn't yet had the parfait sitting next to my plate, but you know my rule, pretty food can't go to waste so I ate it right up, and I was glad I did as it was one of the most delicious things on the table:

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The decor throughout the spaces, from the walls to the ceilings to special installations, was intriguing:

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TheSwelleLife_Sketch_ceiling (1 of 1) TheSwelleLife_Sketch_neon (1 of 1)

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Now, normally I don't include the fact that I 'went to the bathroom' in a post, but I'm mentioning it this time because it was the coolest thing ever. I was directed to walk up these stairs...

Sketch_bathroomPhoto from I think that's a DJ booth inside there. 

...not realising when I got to the top that I was actually in the bathroom until there was no where else to go, and then I clued in that the glossy white, egg-shaped pods all around me were the toilets:

Sketch_podsPhoto from - Sketch made it on their '7 Public Bathrooms Nicer than our House' list

When I went in, my pod - which glowed pink - was talking to me in a male voice and I have no idea what it was saying. (And I only had one glass of champagne so that wasn't it.) Outside, the mirrors were definitely made to mess with your vanity - they were convex so your face looked warped. I got the message - it was 'Stop staring at yourself and get back to admiring this awesome toilet!' I had to find photos of it online because I don't normally take my camera into the bathroom, people tend not to like that. 


Lastly, an exterior shot as the car pulled away far too early to take me to Kings Cross station to head back up to Newcastle - I'd love to see what they do for breakfast:

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Thanks to Le Meridien for another wonderful day!

Photos © The Swelle Life unless otherwise credited

December 11, 2013

What is Art and How is it Valued? Latest #UnlockArt Film Gives Insight

UnlockArt_Film2Click the image to watch the film at the Le Méridien Unlock Art site

Understanding today's art market is kind of a universal challenge; the question 'what is art' is one that many are afraid to ask for fear that we should just know. Well, fear not, it's a valid query and has been since the early 20th century! It can be even trickier to get our head around how art is valued. In November I was back in London to screen the second of eight films in the Unlock Art series, Browsing the International Art Market, produced by Le Meridien and Tate. (The film that opened the series was Bringing Perfromance Art to Life, presented by Frank Skinner.) The screening, at Tate Modern, was followed by a special tour to explore the theme of the film, led by Professor Linda Bolton, a writer and art historian who has published 12 books on artists and art movements. (I have to mention that Linda is an exceptionally charismatic speaker, and whose brain I wish I could download into my own.) The tour focussed on exploring the sales and value of works and artists with particularly fascinating backgrounds; for example, Mark Rothko's Seagram Murals came to live permanently at Tate Modern when he pulled them from the Four Seasons commission, not wanting them to essentially serve as wallpaper for fancy dinners. Linda wrote a guide as an accompaniment, calling it a 'throwaway', but I kept mine because her choice of facts and ideas to highlight had a unique slant. . 

These are the key points we learned during the tour:

  • In many cases, a privately owned piece of artwork will be lent to a gallery on the basis that it will benefit the owner – firstly it is a form of insurance, secondly people can see and enjoy it, thirdly, they receive a copy for their own home and lastly and most importantly – the status of the located gallery adds value to the painting for future buyers.
  • Some keen art collectors trust their art buyers so much, they don’t even view the art before purchase.
  • ‘Art’ is formed of trends, fashions and ‘sexiness’
  • What is art? People have to have an emotional connection to art – for example, if you stub your toe and exclaim in pain, that isn’t art. If you pretend to stub your toe however, that is art because there is emotional thought involved. Artists like Van Gough wanted to be clear about how his paintings were meant to make you feel. But over the years, artists encourage the viewer to make their own opinion, have their own emotions for the piece and be ‘transformed’ by the artists into a certain thinking
  • Joseph Beuys – his abstract art is designed to make you think and try and understand its meaning. Joseph believed we are all artists.
  • Man Ray Gift – we viewed the Dada/ Surrealist sculpture of this famous iron; by adding a row of nails, Man Ray transformed a household flat-iron into a new and potentially threatening object.

JosephBeuys_ManRayLightning with Stag in its Glare, Joseph Beuy, date not known (left); Gift, Man Ray,1921

I've been struggling with what makes something art since I was an art student, witnessing incidents where my peers made up joke rationales of their work only to pass them off as legitimate statements during the critique. One time this happened during a juried show, and the guy won. (Needless to say, there were some awkward moments following the announcement!) Now years later, the idea I took away from the film and the tour is that there is no 'absolute' when it comes to what makes something art, and like Linda told me prior to our talk in so many words, it's best just to open your mind and think of the questions later. I saw what she meant; once you accept that there is no clear answer - I liken it it to Tarantino's mysterious, glowing, briefcase in Pulp Fiction - it's a bit of a relief; it's endlessly frustrating to seek a definitive answer when one doesn't exist! Well it doesn't today, anyway. Linda pointed out that if the question 'What is art' were asked in the late 19th century, the answer would be very straightforward; at that time, art was clearly defined. All one had to do was look at the common threads that made the masterworks great. But in the 20th and 21st century it's very muddled. Blame it on, or thank, Dada, the ' anti-art' art movement. It all began when Marchel Duchamp placed a urinal in a gallery for exhibition, transforming this ordinary, utilitarian thing into something that begged for contemplation simply because it was there. (Is it just me who wonders if it had been previously used or not?) Without Dada, we wouldn't have this:


What exactly is that, you ask? Here's a close-up:

Rubbish_2"Sometimes the pieces on show can be a little bit surprising. Now that anything can be art, anything can be bought and sold as art." - from Browsing the International Art Market

The name of this work translates to The Last Dirt, and is described as "a memorial to the concept of the traditional artist studio" and it was for sale for 17,000 euros at Basel Art Fair a few years ago. For me, the bottom line is that if a work can have meaning for the individual viewer, it's worth something. We don't all have to agree that whatever sells for millions at auction is justified, or feel bad about ourselves for just not 'getting' the point of a piece. But I do think that it's wrong to simply write off something before taking the time to try to understand it, the same going for anything in this world, really. When we explore art, we learn something about ourselves, and that's a worthwhile endeavor. 

October 16, 2013

The #UnlockArt Film Series Experience Begins...

TheSwelleLife_3D (1 of 1)Upon arrival I was given 3D glasses so I could find my room which had my name encoded on the door - a new way of seeing things? This set the tone for what was to follow....

Here I am again at one of my most favourite places, Le Méridien Piccadilly in London, this time for their UNLOCK ART film series experience. It's only mid-afternoon as I'm writing this and already we've had a day packed with all kinds of wonderful delights ('we' is me and six other lucky bloggers), and we've been told there's a surprise to come before our "immersive" five course dinner experience with A Taste Full Space this evening. We've received instructions to be in our rooms at 6pm for the first surprise and I can't wait to find out what they have cooked up - if I know Le Méridien, it will be out of this world. 

Click the image to watch the film at the Le Méridien Unlock Art site

This morning at the hotel we were treated to the Unlock Art debut screening of Bringing Performance Art to Life, the first of a series of eight exclusive films created by Tate in partnership with Le Méridien. It was brilliantly presented by Frank Skinner who delivered the most clever of scripts, written by Jessica Lack (with a bit of improv we've been told). The objective of the films is to make art inclusive and accessible to everyone, taking it from 'high brow to street level', to Unlock Art for those who may not otherwise have paid attention for whatever reason, be it they don't understand the art, or think it's not meant for them. Delivered with the perfect dose of respectful humour, this historical survey of this provocative genre was entertaining, engaging and educational, and I wasn't bothered about whether I understood at that moment exactly what performance art is - yes even as an art student I struggled to get my head around it - I just wanted to keep watching. For me, it opened the mind and bridged the gap between 'us' and 'them', and hopefully it will do the same for many others as well. This afternoon we had the opportunity to chat with Susan Doyan who directed and produced the series, and she was lovely. What a talent. This easily digestible tour of the arts, from Surrealism to Pop Art, will continue to roll out monthly at the Le Méridien Unlock Art site. In addition, The Guardian will also be posting the videos. 

Update: The BBC has also featured the story and video which you can see here

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And what better to follow than actual performance art? Pil & Galia Kollectiv's 'A Guide to Office Clerical Time Standards' is an instructional piece based on a corporate manual from 1960. The pamphlet is focused on the time necessary for the accomplishment of minute labour procedures in the office, from the depressing and releasing of typewriter keys to the opening and closing of file cabinet drawers. In the performance, seven costumed performers represent the different levels of management and employment while performing the actions described in the guide, accompanied by a live musical score. It was a very rhythmic performance that captured and held the attention of the audience throughout its repetitive acts. 

Now let's talk about the food. Jumping back to my arrival, I found a treat in my room after I entered be-spectacled in 3D. A trio of fortune cookies were waiting to be opened, and in them were these messages:


I ate them up and was so excited to see what art was going to be unlocked for us. 

After the performance, a unique array of tiny cocktails and food, both savoury and sweet, were served. Never passing up an opportunity to make a moment special, they presented chocolate covered strawberries hanging from umbrellas which was just so neat!

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After the lovely talk with Susan Doyan I came up to my room and found this:

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Being a three-time (and counting I hope!) veteran of these Le Méridien experiences I knew what was in that teapot: an infused gin, one of the hotel's specialties, and tonic to mix for a totally unique G&T. (See more here.) I was so full after my Caligula-like ravaging of the mini foods (and drinks) but there was no way I was letting that pot sit idle and I poured a delicious cup (and kept going until it was all gone). And I ate more than that one bite missing from the macaron. As you can see, I really had no choice. 

Next up: Our immersive dinner. Hint: Hackney, locked cages, dancing zombie girls...

June 09, 2013

Swedish Photography Berlin: Fashion Meets Art


Denise Grünstein’s focus is theme of women and nature, explored through a powerful and suggestive visual world conjured by the artist. 

The work of five internationally renowned fashion photographers from Sweden is currently on show at Swedish Photography gallery in Berlin. Artists Denise Grünstein, Julia Hetta, Martina Hoogland Ivanow, Julia Peirone and Elisabeth Toll explore and displace limits in 'Different Distances'. Their art is a game of balance between fashion and artistic photography, rooted in art history and personal experiences. 

Julia Hetta

Julia Hetta’s romantic and timeless images, published in magazines like Another, Dazed & Confused and Harper’s Bazaar, show an alternative world inhabited by mysterious and omniscient beings, evolving slowly in a place where the light is always soft, however permeated with a feeling of impatience. The colours are so saturated and the textures appears so real they make one want to step closer and touch them. 

Martina Hoogland Ivanow 

Martina Hoogland Ivanow’s photographs give the onlooker the sensation of a presence both real and poetic, combined with a menacing and hypnotic aesthetic. She works for clients like Prada, Miu Miu, Philip Lim and Bergdorf Goodman. 

Julia Peirone, Nike

Julia Peirone masters the art of capturing moments out of our control. Her images are revealing; for instance, her series of portraits of teenage girls uncover a self-consiousness during this awkward time of transition into womanhood.

 SWEDISH PHOTOGRAPHY_Lanzarote_2012_©Elisabeth TollElisabeth Toll

Elisabeth Toll, who works for French, German and Russian Vogue, says, "If there is no light, I can’t see anything". Her photographs are inspired by personal recollections, stories, impressions and sensations which she relives and shares with us. Exhibition curator Greger Ulf Nilson says, "These images spark my curiosity by their strong link to architecture and their dash of surrealism."

The exhibition is produced by Swedish Institute, Stockholm.

DIFFERENT DISTANCES is now open until July 20, 2013

Karl-Marx-Allee 62
D-10243 Berlin
+49 30 81473709
Monday to Saturday 12:00 - 6pm

April 09, 2013

Subversive Ceramics: Barnaby Barford's The Seven Deadly Sins


I think the most intriguing art works are those that deliver a message through craft, combining technical skill and statement. Even better is when a pleasing, and seemingly benign, exterior - such as clusters of pretty porcelain flowers - draws us in to confront us with something we didn't expect; to surprise, and possibly even shock. This is the experience British artist Barnaby Barford has created with his new exhibition, The Seven Deadly Sins, currently on show at David Gill Gallery in London's Mayfair. 

Known for his controversial re-modelling of traditional ceramic figurines, Barford describes his latest ceramic subversion as ‘love gone wrong’. He has made a series of mirrors which reflect the viewer and convey elements of the ‘sin’ they represent: Pride, Avarice, Gluttony, Envy, Lust, Sloth and Wrath. Human in scale, they reflect the viewer in full length, challenging perception in terms of form and message. The initial response is to marvel at their beauty and delight in the intricate detail which has gone into the construction of the sculptures. Then, the surprise, or shocking twist, plays its part when closer inspection of the frame's porcelain filigree flowers and foliage reveals images loaded with emotional, and sometimes distasteful, messages. For example, Gluttony carries images of fast food and takeaway menus, Envy uses photographs of the London riots in the summer of 2011, and Lust shows clusters of flowers bearing the faces of porn stars.


According to the artist's statement, Barford explores the nature of sin through these seven works, posing the question: Are sins a plague upon the social order or the grease that turns its wheels?  At what point does desire turn into obsession or an unhealthy intensification of a perfectly understandable impulse? Barford has spent the last twelve months considering the way society measures and values extreme sensations. “We are all hard-wired to desire power, love, possessions. That’s probably the way all humans have been like,” he says. “It’s not fundamentally bad to desire things but what interests me is the way these ‘sins’ can motivate people. How does the idea of ‘sin’ affect people these days when we live in a largely secular society? What are the consequences?”

In confronting what he sees as uncomfortable truths about contemporary society, Barford decided that the viewers of his work should find themselves not just reflecting on the ideas he has presented to them but also, literally, reflected within the mirror. “You see the piece and you see yourself within it,” he says. (I am dying to know how many people fix their hair when standing in front of these mirrors, especially Pride.)


Pride. Barford has created a mirror which demands that the viewer sees themselves in entirety, portrayed like a god, within the curved portal of an icon. This mirror is surrounded by a multitude of flowers in golden clusters which frame the viewer, giving the reflected figure an heroic status. Barford’s interpretation of Pride is his take on the familiar phrase, “If it makes you happy…”, expanding on the notion that pride can be defined by arrogance, defiance, desire for self-fulfilment and self-satisfaction, no matter what impact your desire might have on other people. He was inspired by Henry Fairlie, British political journalist and social critic, who said: “Pride excites us to take too much pleasure in ourselves, but not to take pleasure in our humanity… it causes us to ignore others.”


Sloth. Barford has created a mirror which resembles a lazy loop, a bulging shape, weighted at the base with the easy, swelling lines of a bag filled with cushions. “I wanted to use just plain white flowers for Sloth,” said Barford, “because it’s about not caring. It’s represented by a shape full of nothingness and the sense of an emotion which is too inert to love or hate anything or anyone.” He adds another quote from Henry Fairlie, “Sloth is a sin which believes in nothing, enjoys nothing, loves nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing and only remains alive because there is nothing it would die for.”


Gluttony. An obsession with food is clear to see within this mirror. Resembling the bloated gut of the digestive system, the flowers carry Barford’s witty take on the availability of food and a human inability to resist temptation when it is presented so frequently, and universally. The flowers which adorn the puffy shapes of this piece are patterned with fragments of takeaway food menus and fast food advertisements. “From fatty kebabs to extreme fine dining, humans can’t stop thinking about food,” says Barford. He adds, “For a dieter the idea of food is negatively all-consuming and for the greedy person it’s a constant urge.”  The pale tints of the fast food menus are seductively pretty and appealing, just as they are intended to be in their real purpose.


Wrath. The sharp shape of a mirrored star sits at the centre of this intense piece. Using the hot, flame colours of red and yellow, the impression of a bomb-blast is immediately apparent. Barford has taken the intensity of anger, when it spills into violence, and has represented it in a cacophony of colour loaded with exploding emotion. “The bomb is a master motif of our time,” says Barford. “A British viewer might see this and think of terrorism but an Iraqi might think of NATO bombs and a Japanese person might think of Hiroshima. At first glance this piece may seem cartoon-like but Barford deliberately uses this style to evoke an emotional distance from the reality of violence. He sees the piece as an example of the way vengeance can be carefully planned, designed to inflict maximum damage and pain but ensuring that the impact is well removed from the person who has planned it.


Lust. Barford confronts the extremes of contemporary sex in this piece.  The flowers are beautiful, as with all the other mirrors, but they each bear the image of a porn star’s face, eyes closed, as they act out their roles for other people’s enjoyment. “I wanted to concentrate on the actors’ faces,” said Barford. “These films are impersonal, in the sense that it’s not the faces that the viewer’s want to see.” Yet the viewer of this piece will see themselves reflected within a splattered border of fleshy faces in varying states of ecstasy, disengaged, doing their job for the lust of others.


Envy. This, his most political piece, is about desire for other people’s possessions and the notion that, if they can’t have them then this festering resentment can result in wilful destruction and theft of other people’s property. Barford has used the urban disturbances in London and other UK cities in the summer of 2011 to illustrate this extreme sensation. “What happened during those riots was appalling,” he says, “but you can understand how a sense of injustice, coupled with violent opportunity, can catapult people into a situation when they take what they can, because they can.”  He adds, “There’s this idea that people feel an entitlement to enjoy what others have and an irritation that others should enjoy what they don’t have. We are sold the idea of society as being equal,” he says, “and everyone having equal opportunities. But sadly we are simply not equal.” This large oblong mirror is covered with a filigree of creeper, like a lascivious weed which threatens to engulf the entire piece. Each of the leaves bears an image of the riots; hooded youths throwing stones, breaking windows, rampaging in the city streets and confronting the police. The piece’s beauty belies the depressing violence which envy can promote so suddenly in people who believe they can justify criminal behaviour as an aspect of their ‘right’ to possess other people’s goods.


Avarice. The desire for money is plainly seen in this handsome piece. Florets of porcelain blooms each bear the fragmentary image of some of the world’s great currencies. Greenback dollars for the leaves, pink Euros and Sterling pound notes as well as Yuan, Rupees, Turkish lira for the flowers. Avarice confronts the viewer with their basic desire for wealth, depicted as the wreaths twist and turn across the mirror’s organic shape. “The obsession for wealth can be seen both reflexively and reflectively, demonstrating desire and seeing the truth,” says Barford.

The Seven Deadly Sins can be viewed at David Gill Gallery at 2-4 King Street, St James’s, London SW1Y 6QP until Friday, 12 April. Concurrently, an exhibition of his earlier work will be shown from February 9 – March 17 at the American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona, California, USA.  

April 01, 2013

Swelle's 5th Anniversary Giveaway: Win a £100 Voucher from Smartbuyglasses!

Congratulatons to Annushka! She has won the £100 voucher and has been notified. Thank you to everyone who entered.

It's hard to believe that The Swelle Life is now five years old! Actually, it does feel every bit that long, in a good way. We've explored so many beautiful and inspiring subjects through words and images - 1400 posts in total! (And still no carpal tunnel syndrome, but I am on my second prescription for reading glasses.) My enthusiasm has never waned thanks to all of these wonderful things out there in the world that keep the momentum going and the curiosity insatiable. I'm looking forward to another five years of sharing it all with you. 


To celebrate, and as a thank you for reading, SmartBuyGlasses UK is giving away a £100 voucher for a free pair of designer sunglasses or glasses to a reader of The Swelle Life.  This giveaway is based on a point system using Rafflecopter, so the more tasks you complete, the greater chance you have of winning.

Here are the tasks:

  • 1 point - Like SmartbuyGlasses on FB
  • 1 point - Visit SmartbuyGlasses, choose your favourite pair of designer eyewear and share it on your FB
  • 1 point - Follow SmartBuyGlasses on Pinterest
  • 1 point - Pin your favourite pair of designer eyewear from SBG on your Pinterest

a Rafflecopter giveaway

With 160 designer brands to browse you're sure to find a covetable pair. If it's eyeglasses you're looking for, some of my favourites are styles from Miu Miu and Prada, and for sunglasses it has to be Tom Ford or Marc by Marc Jacobs - I've got my eye on several pairs of cat eyes. And of course there's the ever-popular Ray Bans, including the Clubmaster style in 11 colours. Having trouble deciding? Use their 3D Try On Service that allows you to take a photo and see how the glasses look on your face!

These are my favourites from the Tom Ford selection:


This giveaway is open to readers worldwide. It will close at midnight GMT on 20th April, 2013. The winner will be announced the next day on The Swelle Life, and a representative from SmartBuyGlasses UK will contact the winner with details for redeeming the prize. Good luck!

Finally, I wanted to mention something special that the site is involved in: SmartBuyGlasses has a Buy One, Give One charity where they give away a free pair of eyeglasses to someone in need, for every pair of eyeglasses purchased. They have donated over $1 million USD worth of eyeglasses to impoverished people in Africa and Asia. 

March 09, 2013

Candy Hearts, Cakes and Elle Fanning by Will Cotton

Headpiece by Will Cotton, based on Alexander McQueen

This was initially supposed to be a Valentines post...obviously that did not happen. It was too soon after my first post of Will Cotton's works anyway, and that is a lot of sugar to consume at once (no complaints here though).  New York magazine's spring fashion issue featured a cover and spread of Elle Fanning as Will Cotton's latest muse, wearing designs from the spring runway accessorised with sweets and icing against candy land backgrounds that are blowups of Cotton's paintings. I haven't actually seen Fanning in any films so I have no opinion of her as an actress (though I hear she's talented), but I do like her as the human embodiment of sweetness in Cotton's paintings; it rings genuine. (Those Fanning girls really buck the child actor stererotype, don't they?)

Cotton reworked the clothes into "something even more perfect for the environment", adorning them with all kinds of dainty designs made from icing, and 'Cottonised' a brand new Reed Krakoff bag by shoving a couple of big squishy cakes into it!

You can watch the behind-the-scenes video featuring Will Cotton and Elle on The Cut:


Elle pipes the icing corset Will Cotton created to be worn over a Dolce & Gabbana bodysuit. Cotton made the earrings and headpiece, too. 

Elle_will_1Elle Fanning wears a Marchesa gown in front of Will Cotton's Pastoral, 2009

Will Cotton hand piped this Erdem dress with icing to create sugar appliques

Elle_will_4Eyes by Will Cotton, based on Dior

Elle_will_11Will Cotton based this dot candy detailed bag on a Fendi design

Elle_will_13This Thom Browne skirt reminded Will Cotton of a tea tray, so he decorated it with petits fours "because what a nice thing would that be?"


Elle wears a Marc Jacobs dress in front of a version of Will Cotton's Insatiable, 2008

And you thought your purse was messy. Will Cotton stuffed cakes into this Reed Krakoff bag!

Elle wears Reem Acra in front of one of Will Cotton's gingerbread house paintings

An ink on paper rendering of Elle in a Louis Vuitton romper by Will Cotton

Elle lounges on sugar crystals wearing Valentino's 'glass slippers'

Photos: NY magazine/The Cut

March 05, 2013

Bil Donovan: Seminar, Masterclass at L'Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival

BilDonovan_TandCADAs part of the L'Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival programme, revered fashion illustrator Bil Donovan will be presenting a business seminar and teaching a two-day masterclass. In his presentation Bil will talk about the role of fashion illustration in the contemporary marketplace and provide advice on fostering successful collaborations between artists and brands. His presentation will include a live demonstration of his work.

 “The role of fashion illustration in the contemporary marketplace continues to evolve beyond the scope of a single figure gracing a page in a magazine and is visible in markets as diverse as Branding, Package and Website Design, Animation, Merchandise, as well as in a thriving market called Lifestyle.”

The fashion illustration masterclass is an extraordinary opportunity to learn from one of the world's leading fashion illustrators, drawing from a live model. Lecturer in Fashion Illustration at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology and Artist-In-Residence for Christian Dior Beauty, Bil creates artworks for clients worldwide.  He is the author of Advanced Fashion Drawing/ Lifestyle Illustration, and the illustrator of books including Edith Head’s The Dress Doctor, Prescriptions For Style From A to Z and Birds of a Feather Shop Together, Aesop's Fables for the Fashionable Set

The masterclass takes place March 22 and 23 and tickets are available to order through the L'Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival website

To see more of Bil's work you can visit his website (you'll be glad you did!)




February 25, 2013

The British Library to Host Celebration of Film, Design and Fashion

A section from Julie Verhoeven's new artwork for the British Library's Spring Festival © Julie Verhoeven

Following the success of last year’s Spring Festival, the British Library will again host a star-studded five day celebration of the creative industries from March 1st - 5th. Aiming to inspire creative practitioners from all over the country, this year’s Festival invites industry experts, from Dylan Jones, editor-in-chief of GQ magazine, to leading fashion illustrator and artist Julie Verhoeven, whose portfolio includes Louis Vuitton, Versace and Mulberry, to speak about their sources of inspiration. 

International Vogue PosterFrom Russian propaganda to rainforest recordings, the treasures from the British Library’s archives have inspired up-and-coming creatives as well as established artists. This year the Library will reveal a brand new piece of art from Verhoeven to celebrate the Festival and, as a tribute to the Library's incredible collections, a series of postcards from some of the most influential figures in the fashion world, including Gareth Pugh, Alex Fury, Adam Selman and Christopher Kane, telling of their favourite item in the Library will be on display as part of a one-night pop-up exhibition. Also featuring that night will be the Library’s historic issues of fashion magazines, from Vogue to I-D, all part of Late at the Library: Fashion Flashback, an evening of music and fashion co-curated by the Central Saint Martins Fashion History and Theory degree students. The evening will also see GQ's Jones and fashion illustrator Tanya Ling give a special ‘In conversation with…’ talk, an exclusive ‘paper fashion show’ of specially commissioned designs by the Central Saint Martins Print Design course, a styling area where guests can receive makeovers with Chantecaille inspired by iconic looks taken from the Library’s Cecil Beaton archives, live costume drawing and sets by iconic British DJs, Princess Julia and Jeffrey Hinton.  

‘Manhood by Michel Leiris. Find it, read it, it will change your life’ – Gareth Pugh

Christopher Kane Postcard

My favourite book is Tokyo Lucky Hole, by Araki Nobuyoshi’ – Christopher Kane

Celebrating new work from budding filmmakers in the UK, the Library and IdeasTap launched an exciting debut film competition during London Film Festival. Filmmakers were asked to produce a new short film using sounds from the Library’s unique wildlife recordings, from haddock to bats. The winning film will be shown during the Festival alongside award-winning shorts from the Future Shorts Festival including the winner of the Grand Jury Prize at 2012 Sundance Film Festival ‘Fishing without nets’.

Designers from all over the country have once again been invited to host a stall at this year’s Spring Market on the Library’s piazza, selling products inspired by the Library’s collections and nurtured to market by its Business & IP Centre. The list of designers can be viewed here, and to watch a video of last year’s market on the piazza see here

Spring Festival market
Spring Festival Market, 2012

For more information about attending the festival and for a listing of events, you can visit The British Library website

February 06, 2013

Happy Place: Will Cotton Takes us to Candy Land

WillCotton_taffyforestWill Cotton, TAFFY FOREST, 2007. Oil on linen, 72" x80"

A few weeks ago we looked at Wayne Thiebaud who often uses food, particularly desserts, to express the nostalgia he feels for his past, and he presents it to us from an unusual and intriguing perspective in his paintings. Now we're exploring Will Cotton who also works with sweets - he builds maquettes of the candies and cakes to create landscapes in his studio which he then paints hyper-real pictures of - as his preferred means to provoke discussion. But the similarities end there, according to Cotton (and probably anyone else who is familiar with both painters): "Thiebaud's cake paintings are in the tradition of still life painting, mine are about landscape." 

However, like Thiebaud's dessert works, his paintings are extremely appealing - who doesn't like the look, the taste, or at least the childhood association with sweets? - yet you sense immediately that there's far more happening on that canvas than simple representation. 

I'd love to go on, but I've been reading about Cotton for three days now and can't quite sum him up in a neat little package after attempting to digest his interviews which each take him at completely different angles. So if you're curious to know more, have a look here, here and here. And do it while eating a giant ice cream sundae with a disgusting amount of whipped cream and a cherry on top. 


 Will Cotton, PASTORAL, 2009. Oil on linen, 60" x 72"

WillCotton_CrownWill Cotton, CROWN, 2012. Oil on linen, 80" x 68"

I never imagined I'd be talking about Katy Perry on The Swelle Life, but the result of her collaboration with Will Cotton  is too good not to get into. If  his paintings elicit an intense longing for a real-life Candy Land where you can wander around and have a nibble off a gingerbread house or a drink from a chocolate stream, then these videos from Perry's album Teenage Dream (2010) - Cotton painted the cover art for the CD and consulted on and built some of the video sets  himself - are the closest you'll get to the real thing. 

Before the video for the California Gurls single (which features Snoop Dogg wearing a suit covered in tiny pastel-coloured cupcakes) here's a look at how the packaging for the Teenage Dream CD was produced. It comes with a cotton candy scent and I love that the burly printing press operators were determined to find a way to get that sweet candy smell into the CD liner. 



When the nut house inevitably calls to confirm my reservation, I hope it's this one:

WillCotton_nuthouse Will Cotton, NUT HOUSE, 2007. Oil on linen, 36" x 40"


 Will Cotton, ALPINE RUIN, 2008. Oil on linen, 60" x 84"


 Will Cotton, CROQUEMBOUCHE, 2010. Oil on linen, 54" x 39"


Will Cotton's sculpture, clockwise from left: CAKE TOWER, 2010, polystyrene, acrylic polymer, pigment, gypsum, 48" x 16" x 16"; AGAINST NATURE, 2012, plaster, wood and pigment, 74" x 48" x 75"; SWEET, 2009-2010, polystyrene, acrylic polymer, pigment, gypsum, 46" x 38" x 38"
  WillCotton_custardcascadeWill Cotton, CUSTARD CASCADE, 2001. Oil on linen, 108" x 144"


Will Cotton, CHALET, 2003. Oil on linen, 70" x 80"


 Will Cotton, DEVIL'S FUDGE FALLS, 1999. Oil on linen, 96" x 144"


Will Cotton, FOREST, 2003. Oil on linen, 60" x 70"


Will Cotton, GHOST, 2007. Oil on linen, 72" x48"


Will Cotton, ICE CREAM CAVERN, 2003, Oil on linen, 70" x 80"


Will Cotton, SPUMONI RIVER, 2003. Oil on linen, 80" x 80"


 Will Cotton, PEPPERMINT HIDEAWAY, 2001. Oil on linen, 68" x 80"


 Will Cotton, MONUMENT, 2009. Oil on linen, 72" x 84"


 Will Cotton, SWEPT AWAY, 2000. Oil on linen, 68 x 80 inches


Will Cotton, "UNTITLED" 2003. Oil on linen, 80" x 120"

Big thanks to Julia!


PORTER Magazine issue 5 now available at NET-A-PORTER.COM

Cupcake Monday!

Interiors & Exteriors

Floral Friday

London Fashion Week

Fashion Illustrator Series

Artist Series

Paris & Cities

Painted Houses Project

Colour Colour 



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