Friday, 29 August 2008

Pebble alphabet

Wow! What more is there to say about this Pebble Alphabet by typographer, Clotilde Olyff?

Thursday, 28 August 2008


Helen, one of our readers in the UK, got in touch this week to tell me about her visit to Digitata design studio in the Orkney Isles in Scotland.
Digitata is a small and ethical studio, where designer-maker Sarah Johnston prints her textile designs onto silks, irish linens, hemp, or has them made in jacquard weaves, and then uses them to make up small runs of homeware and fashion accessories.
Top L: Umbels on Irish linen
Top R: Leaves on silk douppion
Below: Jacquard weave cushions (now on sale!)

Love the kitchen-themed teatowels, also available as aprons.

I love this idea of selling printed fabric panels stretched on frames as wall art. This is from the Digitata Everything But the Kitchen Sink range.

So even if most of us can't manage a visit to the scenic and remote Orkneys, thanks to the internet, all this loveliness and more is available to you right here.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Report from NYC: Panteek Prints

As summer exhales its last few breaths here in NYC, the flowers that burst out in radiant colours are starting to wilt. Which is why I am savoring the plump freshness of these peonies in a woodblock print by Tanigami Konan, who worked in Japan in the early 19th century.

The print is available from Panteek, an online store run by David and Sue Panken who live in Spokane at the foothills of the Rockies in Washington state. The Pankens grow rare plants and orchids and collect botanical prints. They have an enormous range of these intricate artworks for sale on their website.

And it's not just botanical prints - there are shells, fish, birds and just about every natural form of life.

David and Sue are incredibly knowledgeable about their finds, too. They buy most of their stash from Europe but also find sources within the US. "We buy them however we can find them," said Sue, "from beat-up old books to entire print lots." She explained to me that many of the prints never got bound into books, but were issued in fascicles.

The heyday for these prints was from 1790 until the early 1900s when scientific discovery and publishing flourished. It was a time when science and art merged.

The seaweed prints above are some of my favorite. They were made by James Sowerby, who was well known for the elegant simplicity of his prints.

The range of stuff on Panteek's website is almost encyclopedic. There are architectural prints, Art Deco prints from fashion journals, and vivid silkscreens of people in traditional folk dress.

Sue Panken pointed out that the prints were designed to have popular appeal to increase their potential for financing the scientist's next exploratory trip. It is amazing how they have transcended time.

Also pretty remarkable is the wealth of information I got from Sue, who answered the 1-888-PANTEEK number listed on their site. The internet may have brought their collection of prints to the world, but there's still a human voice on the other end of that line.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Casamento - new website

The Casamento shop in Bree Street Cape Town may have closed down (see the pics I took of the store here), but the studio is still hard at work, reviving the most amazing vintage furniture for your pleasure and mine.
And now Casamento has a brand new website , where you can see what's available, what's been sold and what's in the studio awaiting revival.

Monday, 25 August 2008


Last week, Mary Clare Jensen got in touch about her family business - the online photography gallery Viewville - where professional photographers exhibit their work for sale. There are lots oflovely photos there, sold for reasonable prices. As Mary Clare puts it, "you don't need to have an eye for art or a pocketful of cash to make your tiny apartment, summer beach house, or workspace look beautiful."

I picked a few of my favourites. Check out Viewville to find yours.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Guest blog: West German Ceramics

We're thrilled to welcome to Elle Deco's guest spot today, Adelle and Justin from vintage online store, H is for Home. They've written a fabulous post for us about a growing trend in the vintage market, and one of their passions.

Collection of West German vases

Thanks so much for asking us to contribute to the Elle Deco blog. We're taking a look at mid-twentieth century West German pottery.

After a period of time being generally 'out of fashion' these amazing ceramics are being appreciated once more for their style and eccentricity. They are now regularly seen gracing the pages of design and interior magazines.

The range of colours, shapes, textures and sizes is mind-boggling!

Collection of West German vases

Some pieces are hand-thrown, others are mass-produced, stock shapes. However, as with the Poole 'Delphis' Pottery range, even these stock shapes can be transformed by the textures and the individual glazes in every colour imaginable. Pieces range in size from a mere three inches to well over twenty inches tall for the larger floor vases.

West German vase with impressed detailing
Impressed 'thumbnail' detailing

Lava glaze detail
Frothing lava glaze

Incised West German vase
Incised decoration

Colourful West German vase
No rules with colour combinations!

Base detail of West German vase
Typical base markings

A number of factories produced these characteristic ceramics - Baykeramik, Carstens, Dumler & Breiden, Jopeko, Roth, Ruscha and Scheurich to name but a few. Much has still to be learned about which company produced what. Some factories produced pieces with distinctive base markings such as the crossed swords of Dumler & Breiden, however the majority of pieces simply have serial number markings (often accompanied by 'German' or 'W. Germany'). You may be lucky enough to find a piece with the original paper label, otherwise you're in for a bit of detective work. Fat Lava book by Mark Hill

There hasn't been a great deal published on West German ceramics from this period, however Fat Lava, by Mark Hill (from Amazon UK)is a good starting point - it outlines the main factories and is packed with good quality colour photos.

In fact, the book was written to accompany an exhibition of German pottery from this period held at King's Lynn Arts Centre in 2006.

Another breathtaking fat lava exhibition that recently took place was of Marieke van Diemen's collection at Boymans van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam.

Other places to find out more are GinFor's Odditiques, Outernational, and An Seta Pottery.

If you need any help in identifying pieces that you find, try the nice and very knowledgeable folks at 20th Century Pottery Art & Collectibles.

The pots work well displayed in groups of either similar or contrasting colours. The larger floor vases look great as stand-alone pieces.

Our particular favourites are the fiery oranges and reds, particularly ones with the bubbling lava glazes. We've built up quite a collection, but good examples are getting harder to find and prices are rising steadily.

In addition to vases, examples of West German pottery can be found in the form of lamp bases and shades, wall plaques, plates and bowls.

Bright colours & sculptural forms are much sought after

Trio of West German vases
Trio of small, red and brown West German vases, 4-6 inches tall

Trio of 1950s West German vases
Trio of incised vases - classic 50s shapes

Blue West German vase
Blue vase with original Scheurich paper label

Trio of West German floor vases
Huge floor vases

West German vase with rustic stool and knitted cushion
Provides striking accent colours

We hope you've enjoyed looking at some of our collection. Have a look at the West German Pottery Collectors group on Flickr to see some more examples from us and other members. If this blog has inspired you to start your own collection, then happy hunting!

Le Train Fantôme at Bloesem

I love these two shots from the family home of Fanja Ralison from Le Train Fantôme, which is the Bloesem Open House feature this week. Why don't you go and pay a visit too?

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Report from NYC: P.F.1 at P.S.1

It's late summer in New York City and while everyone is murmuring forbodingly that it's soon drawing to an end, the summer Warm Up parties over at P.S. 1 are still in full, sweaty swing.

It's been a while since I shimmied over to the museum's Saturday parties, held in its courtyard outside, but I have been reading about this year's installation in the Young Architect's Program by WORK Architecture Company and have decided I must pay a visit.

The giant sloping wall of cardboard tubes planted with vegetables, called P.F. 1 (Public Farm 1), is a bit of a deviation from the museum's usual "urban beach" theme for its courtyard installations.

The top surface of P.F. 1 is a working farm, blooming with a variety of vegetables and plants. It's a very organic contrast to the grey concrete walls of the courtyard and looming buildings outside.

Now in its eighth year, the museum's competition has yielded some innovative designs built to provide shade for the revellers, while using the courtyard space in an interactive, fun way.

Last year's 'Liquid Sky' consisted of these giant teepee-like structures created by Ball-Nogues Studios.

Architect William E. Massie's 'Playa Urbana/Urban Beach' was a series of undulating, wave-like tunnels made of PVC tubing, which shaded shallow pools.

And OBRA Architects constructed 'BEATFUSE!' , consisting of interconnected domes made of plywood and polypropylene mesh suspended above tidal pools, water misters, and light strainers.
Here in the urban jungle we have to find creative ways to keep cool - so hat's off to these talented designers who keep managing to magic up an empty, gravel-strewn lot into a cool funhouse. See you there!