From the Archive; Nostalgic for Ampersand

Good conferences are a joy to attend, and Ampersand proved to be a pleasant surprise. Last June, at short notice, Eye requested that I cover it. I wasn’t sure what to expect, as I’m neither a web nor graphic designer (core audience), but I got a lot out of it, and more importantly, so did that expectant crowd. This year’s conference is on 28 June 2013; but as there’s nothing wrong with a little nostalgia, so here’s my review from last year.

Ampersand Conference Eye Blog

Ampersand Web Typography Conference, Brighton
Organised by Clearleft and compèred by production director, Richard Rutter
Attended 15 June 2012

Monday 2:36pm, 25 June 2012
“Let’s hear it for the hinting slaves”
by Liz Farrelly
Originally posted on Eye Blog

When keynote speaker Phil Baines asked the full house at the second Ampersand Web Typography Conference, “Who’s a graphic designer? Who’s a web designer / developer?”, a show of hands revealed that three-quarters of the audience were web-based practitioners (up on last year). Ampersand is a two-way street though, a place for print-based, art-school-educated graphic and type designers to discover the special requirements of designing for the web, and for websters to learn about type, how to use it, and what the type foundries are doing to meet their needs.

Ampersand delivered on all fronts. If at times it felt like Type 101 or Web 101 – depending on which camp you were in – a bit of back to basics never hurt anyone. And, as Baines pointed out, “designers need to talk to one another”, so it follows that both camps should propagate a mutual understanding of parlance.
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From the Archive; Unravelling (again)

Opening this week is the third iteration of the Unravelled initiative, which pitches a curated group of craftspeople into a heritage location to make in situ artworks informed by the environment. The first time I wrote about this collaboration, Unravelling The Manor House, (2010), I jumped on a bus for Preston Manor, to discover the delights of this Edwardian seaside home and its ghosts (thanks to the well-informed guards and guides). Next time, Unravelling Nymans, required hiring a car and enjoying the National Trust’s Nymans on a rainy Monday, no crowds and still very summery for Sussex. Here’s that review, which first appeared on Crafts magazine’s website. Consider this a primer for the new Unravelled, which opens this week.

Unravelling Nymans in Crafts

Unravelling Nymans
Handcross, near Haywards Heath
4 May to 31 October 2012

“Unravelling Nymans”
by Liz Farrelly
Originally posted on the Crafts Council website

Encouraging repeat visits to museums, galleries and heritage sites is one reason for staging temporary exhibitions. When the venue is a National Trust property, with core fans who will have visited many times and take comfort in its familiarity, while newcomers look to discover something different from hundreds of other options, one size doesn’t necessarily fit all. How do you make new while respecting the old?

Demonstrating a genuine commitment to arts and crafts programming, the National Trust and Arts Council England have initiated Trust New Art. Contemporary Arts Programme Manager, Tom Freshwater, cites aims as, “inspiring creative people” and “…creating something new to intrigue and delight our visitors”.
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Grayson Perry; Weaving Media

iPad and iPhone app by Aimer Media

iPad and iPhone app by Aimer Media

The Vanity of Small Differences
Victoria Miro
26 Wharf Road, London N1
From 7 June to 11 August 2012
Visited 21 July 2012

Currently at Royal Academy of Arts, London
From 10 June to 18 August 2013
and Sunderland Museum, Tyne and Wear
From 28 June to 29 September 2013

Not just an exhibition; it’s a six-tapestry cycle, “The Vanity of Small Differences”; a three-programme television series, “All in the best possible taste with Grayson Perry” on Channel 4; a London show and national tour; a book by Hayward Publishing and now an app by Aimer Media; the multiple-media by which Grayson Perry has disseminated his thesis on British class and taste is an impressive exemplar of cross-platform marketing and, in academic terms, of engagement and impact. If Perry were earning REF (Research Excellence Framework) points for a higher education institution, it would score off the scale.

Last summer I watched the TV shows (thanks 4oD) and then stood in front of the tapestries on a sunny Saturday afternoon. It felt like half the Guardian readers of London were doing likewise, but the Victoria Miro gallery was spacious and calm (thanks to a recent addition by minimalist-maestro Claudio Silvestrin). Because it’s a commercial gallery and doesn’t attempt to capture visitors for an all-day session (with cafes and shops), the crowd milled and departed. It was a diverse audience too (possibly because of the TV-tie-in), providing an excellent opportunity for people watching and eavesdropping. A second gallery sofa would have been nice.

A reinterpretation of William Hogarth’s “A Rake’s Progress” (1732-1733), the project is a moral tale for 21st-century Britain. In the TV shows we hear Perry’s aims and motivation, travel with him around the country and go behind the scenes, witnessing his working process, a blend of research, drawing and making.
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From the Archive; DIY Design from 2010

I wrote this review when the DIY phenomena was still new to mainstream design; as St Bride Library is quiet for the summer I thought I’d re-post it. Perhaps DIY was perceived as a trend at the time; the conference broadened and deepened the definition by focusing on diverse projects with a claim to DIY credentials. Now such notions as self-instigated briefs, ad-hoc distribution and hand-making have evolved into a productive modus operandi for designers and creatives working across disciplines and often in collaboration.

St Bride Library Conference 2010 DIY Design
St Bride Library, London
Attended 27-28 May 2010

Tucked away in a narrow alley off Fleet Street (which was once the epicentre of the UK’s newspaper industry but has now been invaded by banks and trading floors), St Bride Library inhabits a labyrinthine Victorian building, alongside a theatre, classrooms and at one time a swimming pool, installed by the philanthropic founders for the improvement of the local workers. The newspaper presses have left the neighbourhood, but its long association with the art and industry of printing and typography remains, as the library boasts an extensive collection of books, manuscripts and archives relating to graphic design, publishing, calligraphy, illustration, and of course, type.
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From the Archive; Organic by Kapitza

Organic is one of my nominations, featured in the Design Museum’s Designs of the Year exhibition. I’ve written about Kaptiza’s two books for Eye magazine. Why am I reminding you now? Because there’s just a month left to see this annual review of the best design around, and to participate in the Visitor Vote. Straight from the website: “Come along to the exhibition’s pop-up polling station and place your sticker on the design that YOU think deserves to win. The winner will be announced on Friday 5 July.” Exhibition closes 7 July, 2013. Check my tweets for updates.

Here’s my review of Organic.

Kapitza Organic Eye Blog

Wednesday, 12:57pm, 11 January 2012
“Force of nature”
by Liz Farrelly
Originally posted on Eye Blog

Organic by Kapitza. Introduction by Simon Thorogood. Published by Kapitza Books
New Kapitza book replaces geometric certainty with organic structure

Following on from their 2008 book Geometric, the Kapitza sisters, Nicole and Petra, have produced another tome, full of colour, pattern and ideas. This time they self-published, so as to oversee all aspects of the editorial and production process.
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Design Culture Salon

Design Culture Salon
Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
From November 2012 to April 2013
Attended 27 November 2012, 29 January 2013, 29 April 2013

In November 2013 I participated in the first Design Culture Salon as a panel member asked to discussion, “What can museums do with contemporary design”. The brainchild of Dr Guy Julier, Professor of Design Culture and Principal Research Fellow in Contemporary Design at University of Brighton and the V&A, it was followed by four more in the series, until April this year.

Here’s the official description…
“The Design Culture Salons are occasional discussion events hosted by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. They provide a space to: develop advanced debate and discussion of the complex, dynamic and pervasive role of design in contemporary society; and consolidate discussion as to how design culture, criticism, representation and practice can be further developed. Each event features an invited panel, chaired by Guy Julier, University of Brighton Professor of Design Culture at the V&A. Panelists provide brief, personal overviews of the respective event’s theme. This is followed by open discussion. These salons are supported by the University of Brighton and the Learning Department and Research Department of the V&A.”

On the excellent website dedicated to the Salon, there are previews and reflections on each event, written by Guy and his colleague, Leah Armstrong. I attended three out of the five (bad winter weather being my excuse), and I’ve left comments on the website each time. Here are my comments again, but visit the site to read them in context.
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à la mode in New York

Claude Monet. Women in the Garden, 1866. Courtesy of Musée, d’Orsay, Paris. Alongside embellished white dress from the exhibition

Claude Monet. Women in the Garden, 1866. Courtesy of Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Alongside embellished white dress from the exhibition

Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
26 February to 27 May 2013
Visited 12 May 2013

From PUNK to the sublime; the next-door exhibition, on that Sunday morning, was one I’d just missed at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris back in January, where tantalizingly the entrance banner was still up but the show had closed. So I was excited to see this joint venture (between museums in Paris, New York and Chicago) in its second incarnation, enjoying spacious galleries and perfect lighting that happily accommodated both paintings and textiles.

Even though my main professional interest is contemporary design in the context of design museums, as an avid gallery-goer I’m drawn to an exhibition such as this, which presents a sure-fire art-historical hit (there’s no better crowd pleaser than Impressionism) in a new light. And, from the point of view of Museum Studies this is an interesting show; mixing over 80 major figure paintings by Impressionists and their fashionable contemporaries, with historical artefacts and garments – the clothes and accessories depicted in paint on canvas – demonstrates a newly collaborative approach to exhibition curation.
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PUNK, but not as I knew it

The DIY Gallery at PUNK: Chaos to Couture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, featuring its “designationed punk”, Sid Vicious

The DIY Gallery at PUNK: Chaos to Couture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, featuring its “designationed punk hero”, Sid Vicious

PUNK: Chaos to Couture
The Costume Institute of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.
9 May to 14 August 2013
Visited 12 May 2013

What’s to be said about a “blockbuster exhibition”? Having reached saturation point due to blanket press coverage, you’ll dutifully add it to your list of “things to do this summer”, remembering to avoid weekends, bank holidays and school half-term…

If it’s the Metropolitan Museum’s annual summer exhibition, you’ve probably also ogled the fabulous frocks and wardrobe malfunctions that clad celebrities (from Aye to Zee) at the Met Ball (proper title, the Costume Institute Gala). We have Diana Vreeland as “special consultant” to thank for kicking off the exhibit-themed frivolities back in 1971 (the film, Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel investigates Vreeland’s role at the museum). Now the Met Ball is run by Vogue and raises millions of dollars annually for the museum.
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