Monday, December 17, 2012

Louise Dahl-Wolfe

Louise Dahl-Wolfe (1895 -1989) is without a doubt one of my favourite photographers. Her images were infused with historical references (as with Horst) and her use of natural light was legendary. Originally her work leaned more towards portraiture but in time she became the house photographer for Harpers-Bazaar in New York (1936 - 1958). Her discovery of a young Lauren Bacall is the stuff of fashion and movie legend... so much so that she even placed her on the cover.

She was referred to as an 'environmental' fashion photographer in the sense that she'd use exotic locations as her backdrops for styled shots. To me she represents one of the group of photographers whose work in the 1950's, in particular, shed light on a rapidly changing world. A world in which women were joining the workforce in ever increasing numbers and where 'cruise collections' were making an appearance. Her window in to the rarified hothouse of haute couture and extensive work in advertising lends her work a very personal touch. People on a beach casually looking over their shoulders, unaware of her lens, or Diana Vreeland sitting imperiously in profile as if engaged in a conversation with friends. Whatever the desired effect was it certainly makes the vapid 'selfies' of Facebook look more meaningless than we can imagine. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

When in Rio

Last week we lost a great architect with the passing of Oscar Niemeyer. Assuming we last to 104, as he did, this Brazilian architect has left an amazing legacy of modernist structures throughout South America and the world. From the United Nations Secretariat in New York to the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Brasilia (pictured above) his work captured the zeitgeist of architectural evolution in the 20th Century. His soaring buttresses and graceful arches have embodied his public buildings with a sense of freedom in a world still scarred from the deprivations of the Second World War.

His later works (such as the Niteroi Museum of Contemporary Art in Rio c1996) still resonate with his modernist approach but feel more in harmony with the landscape. This is in stark contrast to his masterpiece in Brasilia in the 1960's. Some would call his work brutalist, others 'retro', but to me he represents a pinnacle in design evolution. A bridge between the 50's and a global culture in flux in the 60's and 70's. His close ties to Fidel Castro and membership of the communist party may have hurt his commissions with his more conservative clients, but talk about giving you street cred!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Heavy Wreathing!

Photo: Brian Tunks

Once upon a time Christmas decorations came out from musty boxes at the beginning of December. The scent of pine (ruthlessly cut down by a father on a mission) would waft throughout the house until the needles turned stiff and brown. The tree would then be unceremoniously dumped in a ute and ferried out of sight. Similarly, in our department stores we'd be tempted by amazing windows with animated characters and winter wonderlands while eating ice-cream in 30 degree heat. The one thing that is consistent about Australian Christmas is how surreal images of reindeers and a man in thermals and a red costume find a place in our hybrid culture. 

One decoration that works in any part of the world, or climate for that matter, is the traditional juletide wreath. My ever-creative friend Belinda came up with the idea of using raw and textural fabrics for my Christmas windows this year. The result (after several hours of dying fragments in a vat at home) is the beautiful material and vinyl (complete with selvage) wreath in our store windows. I love it because of the pared-back simplicity of the design. I also asked for a single peace logo to be placed on one of the grey pieces to give some detail to the otherwise clean fabric pieces. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Pesce del giorno

It's easy to fill a home with a multitude of pieces that share more of a resemblance to a paint catalogue than indicating your own personal style. A very talented (and stylish) friend of mine once told me that the essence of creating a sense of visual harmony in a space was to layer a number of elements. Thinking that this sounded more like advanced alchemy than interior design I delved further to try and understand the concept. In principal it goes something like this; if you are conceptualising a room you should never have just stone or wood together. Fabric softens or adds texture. It creates a visual (and auditory) buffer which allows the viewer to see greater depth and warmth in an otherwise barren space.

My way of achieving this is somewhat simpler. I have always believed that a home requires a heart. I'm not referring to some Danielle Steele novel, rather that the objects which proliferate our spaces have some personal or historical meaning. They need a sort of cultural relevance which allows you to show your individuality but at the same time demonstrates a layering of taste. 

This fish-patterned plate was a gift I received today from my mother. Its' provenance is about 120 years old from Cambodia. To me is has a timeless simplicity to the form and the brushstrokes are measured and fluid. This also begs the question of how many homes and families has this vessel been a part of? When you look at the pieces in your own home try doing this experiment with one vintage piece and seeing how far you can go. It's quite daunting when you realise the combined ages of many of the things we live with day-to-day, and that each and every one of them has a story.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The New Life of Brian

Hello there...I know it has been a long time between drinks as it were but there's been some good reasons for our radio silence. Bison, under the guise of my direction, has been travelling with some tentative steps towards an exciting new future. No... I'm not joining a doomsday cult or waiting for the end of civilisation in a French Village high in the Alps. I'm actually completely restructuring Bison to allow us to move out of the glazing booth and into 'the home'. I have had over fourteen amazing years producing quality ceramics in my small local studio. The production process, and manufacturing in general, has presented me with an increasing array of challenges on a daily basis. This, coupled with a health issue has forced to to either leave ceramics entirely... or to try and resolve these issues through sharing my production with other studios. 

One of the things I miss working in isolation in a small space was the collegiality of working with other designers. Now I have the ability to create not only just ceramics, but to explore the whole gamut of media to create objects for the home. Seeing a ceramic vessel sitting on a wooden tray of your design, paired with a napkin printed with your motif in an array of colours... that's the stuff that lights my fire! Please stick around and share this path with us. My team and customers have been among my strongest supporters and for this I'm truly grateful.