Monday, 30 January 2012

Duck Egg recently took part in an interview on the handmade v machines...

Why is it important to pass on craft skills to future generations?

At Duck Egg we believe it is important to nurture and promote craft skills. In a multi-media world that expects immediate results, but will not compromise on finish, these are skills that cannot by their nature i.e. small production, not time or sometimes cost productive, survive because there is no need for them. Skills therefore, can in a machine led environment, become devalued and redundant. This could be the recipe for extinction, if we don't ensure to pass down the skills. Craft skills also require learning and can be esoteric to the material being used, so specialist knowledge may mean that only a limited few understand the skill in question, for example thatching.

Which stand the test if time better - hand made or machine made & why?

This is an interesting and a complex question. undoubtably something made by hand has had the time taken on it, we take it as inherent that the material used has been specially selected by the craftsperson and uses their knowledge of the intricacies of the material. For example think of a carpenter, he knows which would will warp and which are less flexible. Machine made-the amss produced, does not bear the mark of the handmade and this is an emotional link to standing the test of time. An oak carved Georgian chest of drawers bears intricate inlay and hand carving, it is unique and you will not find it the same anywhere else. The machine made, however, is created to replicate the same finish every time. We musn't assume that because it is machine made it is poorly finished, this is where the argument for and against because tricky. It made be durable and last as long as its handmade counterpart, but will it retain anything of the spirit of the ethos other than a nod to the zeitgeist, that is the 2012 designers' challenge to marry individuality with the machine. 

Is making craft products economically viable?

For a craft to survive today, the craftsperson must know their market and work within the margins of the market. If a craft product is unique, well made and from ethically/carefully sourced materials it will be economically viable.

Is there a future for craft activity?

There is always a future for craft and that can be seen in the enormous popularity of programmes such as 'Kirstie's Handmade Homes', the resurgence and strength of individual producers at Farmer's Market where not only independent food stockists are but also craft traders. The Recession has impressed upon people that importance of home and a hibernation period where we want to nest and wait out the troublesome times. There is something reassuring and enduring in cross stitch, knitting and a handcrafted approach.

What satisfies you the most about creating your own products?

The sense of achievement at having produced a piece by hand is all important. The knowledge of a personal approach is what our customer's are looking for. our fabrics are rotary printed and in as much we are using machinery for this process, but the designs started out as a sketch in front of a pond and we are not digitally printing our fabrics, so the design is more innate, in our opinion, to the fabric.

What value would you say handmade products have to yourself and the owner?

I believe again this is the personal touch and their is a unique quality to the item. In furniture painting, we distress each item by hand, therefore even if we painted a similar piece of furniture the colours are hand mixed and the produce has been distressed in the areas that suit the piece.

Do we have the skills to survive without machines or are they being lost?

Machines were made to make production, quicker, faster and easier. We cannot doubt their use. However I believe we are all more resourceful, more creative and more productive than we know.

I am a big fan of the 'mouseman' who amongst many wooden pieces, carved pews in Yorkshire, carrying on the medieval practice. Sheltering in beautiful hillside churches amidst a squally downpour on a walk it is possible to see an ancient tradition that has carried on without any interference from the Industrial Revolution. On this note I do fear for the practice of building. the stonemason's who produce our beautiful and breathtaking cathedrals are not in great demand and without this demand these skills will remain with very few. Startling then that the creations of a thousand years ago still stand.  I am also worried that our demand and pressure on the machine led world also increases a wastage in production of energy and material and we have a duty to make sure that we do not waste precious resources, for with mass production is also mass waste.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Designing and the Fun Factor!

So my toddler has developed a wonderful, full throttle, no holds bar scream...and its brilliant! It's not an unhappy yell or a grizzle it's a shout of pure delight directed at the world. I wonder when I last felt like that? What a grounding effect it has had on me. When I have designer's block or come up against another setting up blockade, this shout of joy is at its most glorious. It's a look at me, sort of sound too. He brought most of our local Tesco to a standstill with it and I had several very kind attendants sent to pack us (and be rid of us) who very warily sidestepped the trolley with its passenger and his new teeth primed for exploration. I left forgetting most of the essentials, but took away a million loo rolls and a selection of toothbrushes, and accomplishing not a very efficient weekly shop. We also donated another sock to the Tesco floor. So in the spirit of liberation and the new found animal sounds we headed out to the local farm shop to investigate and stock up on items that I was too embarrassed to return for! How rural we felt as we filled a wonderfully rustic wicker shopper with seasonal vegetables.

 It was such a calming experience, the little one was fully engaged with the bright colours and simple delights of an enormous bunch of carrots. What a  treat to buy locally produced food. And so we returned home after a throughly good time, giving the obligatory 'Baa' at the sheep and the 'moo' at a startled cow!

So tonight I am full of ideas for our textile designs, with renewed respect and interest in nature and definitely a sense of wonder!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Nice weather for Ducks!

I love the idea of the outdoors indoors, especially on a day like today! We have been cooped up inside and I had to resort to being the pied piper and playing the plastic trumpet from the toy box while my baby son chased me at top crawling speed! Glass of wine in hand, lasagna sizzling and almost ready, in the meantime I am coveting all available surfaces for my indoor planted pots...

Arrangement 1

I have a real fondness for Muscari or Grape hyacinth. There is something that seems very ancient about them. As if they have been plucked from an untouched glade, near a cool, still pool of spring water, while a nymph flutters nearby. It is no wonder then that they originated from the Mediterranean region. As we have no lawn about which I am for-lawn...I think if it can't be mysteriously lurking amidst lush grass they look perfect in a pale cream enamel tub, planted in a cluster. If you feel rather ruthless they also look beautiful against a softer and frothy cream flower in a cut glass vintage vase.

Arrangement 2

On the Ovid-ean theme of the last arrangement, who can not like Narcissus. The small happy yellow flower or the more delicate and intriguing cream Narcissus are full a scent that promises Spring, longer evenings and the advent of Rose (drinking it in Winter is wonderfully decadent!). They fill the room with a warm smell of growth, beauty and the haunting reminder of the sad tale. These deserve a terracotta pot that straight away takes you to the temple at Delphi. Laetitia Maklouf has some wonderful ideas on how to create an aged patina with yogurt on terracotta!

PS To enjoy your surroundings try pasta with a hint of truffle oil finish with figs roasted in honey and a bath in bergamot/lavender oil!

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Making an Impression....

There is nothing more exciting nor more perplexing as what to hang on the wall! We are currently creating a 'Wall of Fame', wall of shame more like, in the cottage. We have lots of photos in mismatching distressed (obviously) frames around the wall of all our friends and family and a few pics of our favourite haunts in Norfolk! However we are now staring at the blank and scary prospect of the bare opposite wall. We are big fans of vintage enamel signs, road signs and quirky finds. As an art historian and an art teacher I also like to have some creative pieces about the house. Harking back to my old days as an art teacher I have decided to make a few pieces myself and put them in eclectic and beautiful frames. So cosy up, clear and space on the floor and invite the children along too to create some exquisite ethereal pieces.

Sun/light sensitive paper is amazing and on a sunny albeit cold day, it  is well worth the look on your own and little faces, as you place unusual objects on the paper to create ghostly images (You can even find lovely paper without any nasty chemicals). If you want to be really historical about it, it might be fun to peruse the Impressionist who captured the fleeting moment at a time when art was in crisis against photography.
Monet, Impression: A Sunrise, 1873

 To go with the Duck Egg theme we have created some whimsical images of feathers on the paper. On the inky blue background, they are a captured moment in time; a feather blowing in a breathe of wind. We love it for bathroom prints too, they are a perfect reminder of seaside holidays. Try with leaves, flowers, shells or why do not go even further, try something really unusual. A whitewashed frame, a distressed gold frame or a curling grey gesso frame would set it off nicely and Duck Egg will be live soon to help you show off your creations.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Duck Egg beats the Blues

A little mid week musing...

Standing with my hand down our ancient sink that continually blocks or seemingly regurgitates delightful forgotten fragments of former meals, I started thinking of 'Blue Monday' and decided today should definitely be a duck egg blue Monday instead!

So hopefully here is a little something to cheer the souls of Duck Egg followers. First, put on youtube

A good foot stomping song, that is reminiscent of younger (in my case) days of running about in Cornwall, til the wee small hours without a care in the world. After an unusually sunny day and balmy evening, still able to taste the saltiness of the day! I can feel the cold water as we each took the plunge diving off the boat (belly flopping) and swimming with numb limbs to the beach to shiver and laugh... (so summer feel good factor sorted...!)

Next the visuals...

Of course it has to be duck egg fabric, its soft warm pastel hues, bringing back memories of turquoise skies in Norfolk, pure seas pulsing over white bleached pebbles of Greece. How can you not like this colour? I am so excited to be making a feeble attempt at curtains for my baby's room. I will remove his temporary black curtains with a huge sigh of relief. I don't know why I bothered with blackouts as he is up when it is dark anyway! They will at least be a salve before the sunrise! Use duck egg remnants for bunting to fete every day! Match with pinks and pale browns. Attack old dark furniture with  chalk paint, see Annie Sloan's range or an eggshell for a sophisticated matt finish.

Francois Boucher Madame de Pompadour, 1750

Duck egg blue appears throughout history, it is a soft colour of spring and luxury, go on have a  Madame de Pompadour moment. Wear it in January and wear the blues.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Duck Egg's fledgling manifesto

I am eternally grateful for the laundry basket lid which seems to be the only thing that keeps our baby amused during nappy changes...And in my bleary early morning state I could vaguely recollect William Morris's famous quote,

 'Having nothing in your home you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful'.

Morris adjustable chair (The Victorian Lazy Boy!)

How true! Having done a traumatic removal from a small flat that was apparently bursting at the seams, resulting in 13 bags of rubbish and 5 bags of recycling. How do you know when enough is enough? I should have listened to William Morris! There is something very modern about Morris and his compatriots' Arts and Crafts movement. Looking past the densely floral wallpaper, their aesthetic is one that seem particlarly interesting right now. The enormous popularity of Kirstie Allsopp's 'Homemade Homes' (check out her twitter following-one of whom is of course Duck Egg!) displays how much we enjoy original items and putting a unique, or even our own, stamp on our interiors.

Strawberry thief design by William Morris and Co.

Now we are asking where does our food come from, similarly we are savvy interior shoppers. Where do our interiors come from and who are the craftspeople behind them. There is something very much in vogue about the handmade, its foibles and mistakes becoming part of the charm. 

With the BBC Pre-Raphaelites' series and the new Emma Thompson film about Ruskin's wife 'Effie', the  Arts and Crafts movement is having its own renaissance and of course there is always a good old romp into the bargain...

So this is all part of the Duck Egg plan! We're using a William Morris ethos for our goods all selected by the baby amusement factor!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Vintage Gardening

Part One - Thinking about Planting!

On a wet and windy day in January, I am thinking about the summer and feeling guilty about neglecting the garden since we have moved. Having left our first floor London flat in the search for more room for our energetic one year old, we went in search of space and fell in love with our Victorian cottage in Kent. The garden was covered in invasive ivy that had really dug its roots and my feeble attempts at sawing its roots left little more than a dent in the first week. There was also no grass which we decided was essential for a footall pitch/rugby pitch and putting green...Facing East has also presented a few interesting dilemmas, as each time I open a gardening book, this always seems to be the most problematic direction...! My vegetable plot and dreams of being self sufficient and feeding my family on organic home-grown veg keep being thwarted by the importance of a well placed goal! However I am compiling a list of flowers that I would like to grow and which might inspire me for Duck Egg!

Nostalgic and evocative, plant lavender amongst roses for a quintessential cottage garden

Scent of the summer, train sweet peas around a rustic trellis made of branches

Create a cherry blossom arbor around a shabby chic garden seat

We now have a blank canvas after a little help from our invaluable handy man who managed to clear the garden in an hour and half! There is a sea of mud but endless possibilities for our little patch! I can't wait to see those first optimistic snowdrop shoots! I love that with gardening we can get started now, growing seedlings and planting.

 I can't help thinking guiltily about the bag of bulbs we have been given and that are lurking under the kitchen sink...However they represent a whole bulb of hope, ready to burst with colour and transform; they are getting me thinking about the bigger picture! I plan on having a garden full of nostalgic scent, carefully chosen colour combinations, of course, and a little bit on the wild side! The garden is going to have a vintage feel, and in my gardening ignorance I am keeping fingers crossed that old English tea roses, apples and lilacs will thrive. It may not be this year, but soon I hope to have tall foxgloves, poppies, runner beans and sweet peas all nestled around our small lawn, with pockets of wildflowers to encourage the bees! I plan for barbeques, heralded by bunting, and make-shift wigwams, oh and of course football matches!

Inspiration (and motivation) for the garden!