New Ribbon
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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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For spring/summer 2015, PPQ presented clothes to wear to 'the coolest party of the fashion season', finished with high gloss hair taken to a creative extreme 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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think we could all use a dose of soft, pretty and innocent right now. Paul Costelloe brought his unabashed femininity to the runway READ MORE...
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Carmen Dell’Orefice...if this is what being in your 80s looks like then I'm looking forward to it! The legendary model, who once declared to Vanity Fair, “If I die, it will be with my high heels on”, is set 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...
Example Frame

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!

January 30, 2013

'Shoe as Art' Series: Jan Jansen

Jan-Jansen-Orchid1I've begun to make my way through this mostly hidden world of shoes that defy the conventional notion of what a shoe is, and I'm taking you along with me on this new 'Shoe is Art' series. We've already seen the make-you-smile designs from Japanese shoemaker Tetsuya Uenobe - who can resist a stuffed leather bear hugging your ankle as you walk? - and we're going to look at other shoe artisans whose footwear creations are so wonderfully unorthodox that they essentially turn your foot into a walking exhibition. They range from the unique-but-not-a-massive-stretch-from-what-we're-used-to-seeing-these-days designs, to some that are just so out there they stop you in your tracks and cause your face to contort just a bit. (That happened to me today when I saw shoes made of dead animals. I guess when we wear leather we're doing the same, but this pair went well beyond the socially acceptable use of animals in footwear - would you be willing to walk on an actual hoof?) Whether you would wear these mind-bending designs or not doesn't matter; but if you're open to the concept, you can catch an intriguing statement from the designer/artist. And if you do wear them, you get to deliver that statement to the world.

Today we're looking at Dutch shoemaker and designer Jan Jansen whose work I was introduced to by Tetsuya when he mentioned Jansen as an influence on his own designs. Not suprising, considering 'the master of shoe design' is one of the most revered figures in the world of shoes, having created some of the most iconic and innovative styles to date. Jansen has been designing unconventional - though still largely wearable - shoes since the 1960s, the styles of which are still as relevant and current as ever, owing to his obliviousness to outside inflences: "Im not a trendsetter. I'm years ahead of the trendsetters." Jansen is probably the most prolific shoemaker when it comes to rethinking the design of the shoe; he is constantly developing new constructions, though he will use the the same ones for years and create variations of some. 

Jansen has received numerous awards for his work, including the Kho Liang Ie Prize (1985), the Grand Seigneur (1996), The BKVB Oeuvre Prize (2002) and the Max Heijmans Ring (2006). Many of his works are displayed in museums and galleries in Europe, and still Jansen prefers to refer to himself as a craftsmen, rather than 'artist' which has been attributed to him by peers and fans. In 2007, Christie's auctioned the collection 'Jan Jansen, In His Shoes' - everything sold and all of the estimated selling prices were realised. And significantly, many of the lots were a single shoe. 

With the exception of those gorgeous Orchid shoes above which are a current design on the market, this is a retrospective view of selected styles from the past five decades.


'Interchangeable 2', 1967. Metal frame mule with removeable patterned sock

'Stir my Blue Blood', 1991

Jan-jansen-serpents-kiss-1'Serpent's Kiss', 1994,  is constructed of a python upper that looks as if it could bite, mounted on a platform and heel which Jansen has reinvented in wavy, ribbon-like stainless steel.

For Snoecks', 2000. Suede, goat leather, patent goat leather, vulcanised sole. 



Velazquez boots, 1979. These quilted satin platforms were made in collaboration with Fong-Leng to be worn with her red evening cloak, 'Velazquez'.

'Build Me Up', 1972. Extreme platform slippers!
Metallic green heels with silver piping and exaggerated back, 1996; the rattan sandal in nubuck, 1973.

One variation of Jansen's iconic sandals with rattan frame, 1975. The original prototype in ochre was copied by Prada in 2006 without credit to Jansen, right down to the colour. 


'High Tea', from Meubelcouture, meaning furniture couture. You're right, you can't wear it. It's not a shoe but a chaise longue, the structure of which Jansen based on his famous rattan frame sandal. If you tilt your head you can see that the seat features a face-to-face design in the leather. 

And another art work of Jansen's based on his shoe design is 'Cindy's Dance at Midnight', part of the permanent collection of the National Glass Museum in Leerdam, Netherlands. Using glass to translate his style from the traditional materials, the extreme yet elegant curves of this 'shoe' show off and mix the spectrum of the pinks and greens beautifully. (It reminds me of Cinderella, when the one wicked stepsister's attempted to scrunch her huge foot into the dainty glass slipper.)
What's better than watching and hearing the man himself? This video profile below is just wonderful, taking us into Jansen's Amsterdam shop and studio to see and hear firsthand how he approaches the process of making his shoes: "We don't have a budget for the amount of leather we can buy or what the collection may cost. We just go by what we think is nice and beautiful." This approach is extremely unusual these days, but then Jansen has remained independent, passionate as ever, and answers only to himself. And his wife Tonny who double as as his muse, style tester and colour advisor. Jansen also shows us how a hand made shoe is constructed, and watch for the table in the window of his shop which stands on women's legs outfitted in his shoes, of course. Also part of his Meublecouture collection, titled Hommage to Rubens. 

January 15, 2013

The Delicious World of Wayne Thiebaud

Cakes. Wayne Thiebaud, 1963.

I can't believe Wayne Thiebaud hasn't featured on The Swelle Life before now. I remember seeing the American painter's work - he shuns the title of artist, looking down on "art" as "an abstract term that's still developing" - in art class in high school, it was one of his iconic dessert paintings and my eyes lingered on it for half a second before I turned the page in my survey text book. I didn't get it, I was too wrapped up in the fascinating, salacious and just plain weird lives and works of the Surrealists. At a time where adolescence is transitioning awkwardly into adulthood, the perpetual child-like curiosity and dreamstate exploration of the Surrealists just fit the teenage brain so well. 

We're looking at Wayne Thiebaud now because I became reacquainted with his cakes the other day, playing Go Fish with my daughter, of all things. We were using a deck of Modern Art cards I bought her that are made for the game  - a great way for children to learn the names of Modern artists and their works, and it comes in a set for Contemporary as well - and when it was her turn she asked me if I had any Wayne Thiebauds. A bell rung and I said Go Fish, and then later when I picked one up myself I looked at it with fresh eyes and realised I'd wasted so much time not appreciating what he did in 1960s, and what he is still doing. Yes, he is still with us at 92 years of age and incredibly, he still paints and does it as well as he ever did. In 2010 he created the google 12th birthday logo; it was of course, a birthday cake:


Like a Cezanne bowl of fruit, there's much more happening in Thiebaud's still lifes beyond his simple subject, whether it be a sundae, lipsticks, or a toilet. My initial response is noticing the presence of the subject; these are dramatic little pastries with their heavy, punctuating shadows that could not be reproduced in reality, and colours in acid hues that really stick. What I love is how each individual object, when conveyed as part of a group, has its own set of qualities and occupies its own space apart from what surrounds it. (This is the point where my dad is reading this, leans forward, squints and asks "Really?") What's been noted about Thiebaud's earliest work is its obvious 'pop' qualities derived from its focus on objects of mass culture, yet they predate Pop Art, suggesting that he may have influenced the movement. I'll take Thiebaud over Warhol any day. I can feel Thiebaud. 

For more about Wayne Thiebaud and to further understand (and fall in love with ) his work, watch the Smithsonian's video 


Wayne Thiebaud with one of his wonderful streetscapes. Like his still lifes, they also prompt us to look beneath the surface. 


















December 03, 2012

LM Series: "Does Size Matter? Growth and Sustainability in Contemporary Art"

This is the fourth installment of the LM Series, documenting the discovery of new and wonderful, world class, art and food during 'Le Méridien at Frieze' at which I was a guest in October, hosted by Le Méridien Piccadilly in London.

The starting point of Le Méridien at Frieze was an intriguing panel discussion amongst influential art world leaders, part of the Outset Le Méridien Talk Series which took place in the ballroom at Le Méridien Piccadilly. The question of the day was articulated by Outset co-founder Candida Gertler who asked, "Does size matter? Is it right to keep going? And how do we resist the next big step? Will we be able to sustain it or will we self-destruct in a spiral of ambition? And so the debate began. Le Méridien's Global Cultural Curator Jérôme Sans moderated Frieze co-founder Amanda Sharp, Tate Modern's Curator of International Art, Mark Godfrey, Serpentine director Julia Peyton-Jones and Gagosian managing director of Europe Gary Waterston. In response, each panelist drew upon their own unique circumstances they face in moving their respective gallery or event forward, sometimes at odds with another's view, illustrating how subjective and contextual the topic of whether size matters really is. And that's what made it fascinating. The video above shows highlights from the discussion. (And beyond the compelling topic the film is very well done so I definitely recommend taking a look!)

I wanted to add, that at the dinner that evening at Le Méridien Piccadilly Terrace Bar and Grill (a five-course masterpiece by chef Michael Dutnall with inventive cocktail matchings by master mixologist Boris Ivan - and yes, I kept up, it would be a sin not to), I had the pleasure of sitting across from Jérôme Sans. We had a chat about the topic of the day, and I was so delighted to see right there in front of me how fired up (still) M. Sans felt about the very point of art becoming lost in the quest for growth simply for the sake of it, that someone as accomplished in the art world as he, had not lost sight of what really matters. Art is meant to move people in some way, and if it succeeds, why send it out the door a minute later to make room for something else? And why are we pushing for so much art to be produced? Which made me gush with admiration, even moreso, for what Le Méridien is doing for art, not as a commodity but as an enrichment of culture and ultimately, the individual. It's not all about what happens at Sotheby's.

Just one of the great views within Le Méridien Piccadilly Terrace Bar and Grill

November 27, 2012

Make Mine Multi-Faceted


I know what I want for Christmas. Forget diamonds, I'll take my facets in the form of water-based blue resin, please. (I wasn't going to get diamonds anyway but it's still a compliment.) I've been looking for decor pieces that are different from anything I have. My living room is in need of a minor transformation, and I like to buy things that aren't just space fillers but unique and beautiful and the kind of piece I won't be looking at in a year saying 'I am glad I am no longer the person who thought this was a good idea.' But these things of enduring significance tend not to come cheap, so it's a slow process building that collection. (If bookmarked web pages and blogs count as a collection, I'm already there!)

These Faceture vases, which I think are better without flowers - the way the light catches the facets is beautiful enough - are made by Phil Cuttance, a New Zealander who manipulates each object's form with a turn of the hand before casting, making every piece genuinely unique (you can see how he does this in the video above). Phil says:

“I like the idea of people knowing where products come from, and what goes into making them. I think a lot of products are now seen as ‘throw – away’ as they are made on a mass scale, in places far away from where they end up, and out of sight. There was time when people commissioned a local maker or craftsman to make an object, which gave it an inherent value. I like that model.”

Yes, us too! The vessels and the rest of his Faceture series, which includes lamps and sidetables, are sold at Australia-based shop, my new obsession. The lamp is just awesome, but I like the slender design of the vessels so much that, for me, the the sidetable's chunky approach can't compare. (It's still cool though!)

This small vase is a limited edition colour called Summer Mint. That totally has my name on it.


The vases in two sizes, lamp and side table. I want to touch them for a long time.


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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