Friday, 30 January 2009

Illustrated Book Of The Week - Knock John Ship


I first discovered the work of artist James Dodds at the superb Wivenhoe bookshop in Essex. Anyone with a love of boats, the English coastline and especially Essex's salt marshes will adore his work


The book is published by the Jardine Press which was started by James in his final year at the Royal College of Art (1984) The name "Jardine" comes from the press on which James used to print his first publications (a treadle platten press c. 1890's). Jardine Press Ltd is now run by James and his wife Catherine.


The book itself tells the story of the wreck in 1848 of a ship on the Knock John sandbank, through contemporary newspaper reports and personal accounts. The texts are also compiled by James and although there are relatively few illustrations, only 3 lino cuts (plus the gorgeous cover) the whole thing is beautifully laid out with maps, texts, fascinating texts. Copies can be ordered from
Jardine Press Ltd.

I'm sure this is not the last we'll see of James' work on The Curious Eye, as we're already looking forward to his upcoming exhibition at Messum's Fine Art, 8 Cork Street, London, W1S 3LJ, 25th February - 14th March

'Number 76' - Romantic Minimalism in Brussels

Recipe For Good Design

Take one classic Belgian House. Add one part of quirky Englishness and one part French cool. Throw in a large handful of nostalgia and a good pinch of modernism. Stir well and serve.

If you follow this recipe correctly, your result should look something like this.




I was very lucky to spend last weekend in this fabulous house in Brussels. It's owned by Justine Glanfield, a multi-talented designer (of, amongst other things, knitwear, children's clothes and interiors) and her husband Vincent Fournier - a brilliant photographer, whose strange and wonderful images fill me with awe.




It's an amazing place. High ceilings and large windows let the soft grey belgian light flood in, which perfectly compliment the interiors,. Justine has created a home filled with a sort of romantic minimalism - where the empty spaces are as beautiful as the furnishings. It's calm and evocative and very lovely.



'Number 76' can be used as a photographic location, and also functions as a B&B for the design savvy. It's website can be found at

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Archeology of the Future

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Li Edelkoort is a 'trend guru'. During her illustrious career she has consulted with many of the top names across all disciplines in the design industries ( I also happen to have worked for her for most of the 90's!).  Last week I visited her 20 year retrospective at the Institut Neerlandais in Paris. An intriguing exhibition where she links the main themes she has worked on over the last 2 decades with the products of designers, in fashion, homes, cosmetics, advertising and art.

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The show is displayed in a style which I can only describe as
Edelkoortian, and is all in the best possible eclectic sophisticated taste. Li takes us on a journey through her personal and unusual world, using videos of her trend presentations with luscious provocative prints from her magazines, pieces of clothing, design objects, and clips from fashion shows.

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The fourteen trends are a selection of the key lifestyle movements of the last twenty years, bridging the two centuries from 1990 to 2010:
Body, Soul, Global, Local, Flora, Fauna, Urban, Rural, Armour, Amour, Abstraction, Narration, Nihilism, Hedonism

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On until the 8th March and it's well worth the €4 entrance if you happen to be hanging out anywhere near St Germain in the coming weeks
Insitut NĂ©erlandais
culturel des Pays-Bas, 121, rue de Lille, Paris

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Maison et Objet Freebies

The re-usable bag seems to have overtaken our lives in the last few months, our house is full of them they are hanging on every hook and door handle in every room.


So it came as no surprise that exhibitors at the
Maison et Objet trade fair in Paris last weekend were falling over themselves to give away these conveniently portable advertisements.
These 2 probably the most covetable of the lot are from
Domestic (left) design by Genevieve Gauckler
and Marimekko (right) design by Sanna Annukka

Monday, 26 January 2009

Brussels - Vintage Chair Installation


Excellent window display at the amazing Stefantiek vintage furniture store in Brussels.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Illustrated Books Of The Week - Little Golden Books

Imagine you have three pounds burning a hole in your pocket. What do you buy - a vente caramel frappuccino from Starbucks?  3/4 of a tube ticket in Central London? Or a design classic that you and your family will enjoy for years to come? 
Tough choice, isn't it?

(I'm just going to assume that everyone chose the final option here, but if you did choose the Starbucks - please stop reading now, and leave this blog at once. Shame on you.)


These are definitely my find of the week.  Apparently, while I was learning about Janet and John in the Ladybird books of my childhood, milliions of American kids were being treated to fantastic modernist illustrations in a series called 'Little Golden Books'. 

Launched in the 1940's, the series became ubiquitous throughout the States (over two billion printed!), but, as far as I know, they remain mostly unknown here in the UK. In 2001, 'Classic Little Golden Books' were launched, with reprints of the most beautiful of the series. 

The very excellent Gosh! Comics are selling a large selection of Little Golden Books - and here's the best part - each little treasure costs only £2.99 - Mid-century Modern classics at under a fiver? Fantastic.

These three are starting my collection. First we have the glorious I Can Fly, illustrated by Mary Blair. 


The Road to Oz - with beautiful illustrations by Harry Mcnaught (loving Johnny's outfit here)


And Gustaf Tenggren's Tawny Scrawny Lion - which, though it looks like a simple fable for children, is actually an early piece of vegetarian/foodie propaganda. According to the story, if you make a good enough carrot stew with fresh local produce, then even a lion will swear off eating meat. From carnivore to locavore - a very modern message for 1952. No wonder the bunnies look so happy.


The amount of style, energy and sheer joy in theses books is truly inspiring - give them to your little one and before you know it, they'll be appreciating Eames and George Nelson as much as you do....

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Jo Syz - Combining Craft and Concept


Full disclosure: Jo Syz is one of my oldest and dearest friends. But even if I didn't know him from Adam, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend his work. It's simply beautiful. 

Most interesting to me  is the way that he combines personal and political beliefs with the traditional craft of the photographer. Jo only shoots about subjects that he feels passionate about, and every image that he produces is shot on negative, then painstakingly processed and hand printed by the photographer himself. An increasingly rare occurrence in the digital age. 

This artisanal approach has the effect of adding a very personal layer onto the images. Jo's direct involvement with the process at all stages allows him to fully express his point of view, and the final prints are a pure representation of his photographic 'eye'.

His latest series, Coal River Mountain, is a project shot over three years in the strip mines of the Appalachian Mountains. Despite the frightening subject matter, which explores the ugly ways we are willing to exploit the planet for fuel, Jo has created images that are extremely beautiful and thought provoking.

Jo's work can be found at

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

HMS Belfast - Floating Industrial Design Treasure


When I took my godson Milo, who was visiting from Milan, to see the HMS Belfast, little did I know what a discovery I was making. I had vague recollections of a going there with my grandad when I was a kid, and obviously at that tender age had no appreciation of the aesthetic tour de force that this battle ship is. Neither do many other design geeks to my knowledge. I have never heard it mentioned in any design aficionado guide.


For anyone who loves vintage metal filing cabinets, heavy duty industrial furnishing's, huge nuts and bolts, Bakelite telephones, the whole boat is an inspiration. The decks are even painted in colourways worthy of a Farrow and Ball colour card.


In addition the boat is peopled with a waxwork crew ( even a stuffed cat can be found dozing in its own mini hammock in the sleeping quarters) There seems to be a kind of odourama thing going on which we couldn't quite work out whether it was intentional or not. The whole vessel is a wonderful time capsule, and even though the fact that this boat was a effectively a water borne killing machine is never far from ones mind , one cannot help but be inspired by the whole aesthetic of the cruiser.

belfast6 copy

I can thoroughly recommend a visit to this battle ship with or without a smallish child in tow !

Monday, 19 January 2009

The Return Of The Tweed


Tweed is definitely due a massive comeback next winter..

At the moment, the streets of East London are populated with young men who look either like:

a) Extras from Brideshead Revisited. 
b) Heroes from a '50s Boy"s Own adventure  or 
c) Geography teachers circa 1962. 

Tortoise-shell glasses, classic barber-shop haircuts and chunky hand knits are de rigeur in Dalston. Even cravats have made a comeback. 

Tweed fits in with these trends perfectly. Being practical and rugged enough to mix with workwear, yet traditional enough to wear with a tie, it's the natural next step for every potential fop, geek or dashing hero.


This 60's Pierre Cardin jacket is a little more on the formal side of things, but it's a particularly nice example. I love the way that the window-pane checks are worked into the cloth. With one check that graduates from red through to blue, and another that goes from white to black, it can be worn with a whole range of colours and textures. 

Now all I need is a pipe...

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Sunday Breakfast II - Eggs With Sage At Leila's


I'm ashamed to admit that I've only just discovered 'Leila's Shop' in Shoreditch. Considering it's been open for six years, I'm not quite sure how I missed it - because it is a very nice spot indeed. An excellent place for a bite after a Sunday morning jaunt to Brick Lane. 


There's a very personal sense to the shop - you get the feeling that every decision has been made by someone who values quality and simplicity above all, and the level of the produce is exceptional.  It's hard to leave without making a spontaneous artichoke purchase.


Leila opened it as a part of her catering business. Before too long, she installed a coffee machine, and a few tables. Then she started to serve some simple dishes. Now she's planning to expand into the next door premises and make the present space a larger café - excitingly the new shop will be a 'cold room' - a fully refrigerated space. I hope she provides hats and scarfs for her customers - I'm thinking a few bits of hand-knit Aran would set off the aesthetic nicely.


Speaking of which - the space is very pleasing to the eye. Ercol Chairs, simple wooden tables, and an open kitchen full of very nice vintage pots and pans. It's spartan, but not cold - and very photogenic.

Leila's Shop, 17 Calvert Avenue, London E2 7JP

Illustrated Book Of The Week - Die Minnersinger In Bildern

Die Minnersinger In Bildern

This book comes from our trusted supplier Norman (Saturdays at Dalston waste)
I have found quite a few more offered for sale on antiquarian book sites
 A love-singer; specifically, one of a class of German poets
and musicians who flourished from about the middle of the
twelfth to the middle of the fourteenth century. They were
chiefly of noble birth, and made love and beauty the subjects
of their verses.
I cannot find out much more about these beautiful illuminations, but they are curiously inspiring in their graphic simplicity

Friday, 16 January 2009

Andrew Wyeth 1917-2009


I was very sorry hear that Andrew Wyeth passed away today. I've loved his work for many years and it has provided  a strong influence on my photography. 

There's a rare quality in his work that is undeniably beautiful - a quiet intensity. For me the combination of simplicity, craftsmanship and soulfulness is extremely moving. 

Most of all I'm inspired by his obvious respect for his subjects, and his ability to show how beautiful everyday life can be. 

These images from his series of 'Helga' picturess are a perfect example of how powerful it can be to show a woman's natural, unglamorised beauty - I'm sure they will be appreciated by many generations to come.


Wednesday, 14 January 2009

The Art Of Bunions


We found these Dr Scholl posters in Brimfield Market, Massachusetts.  

I'm sure the designer never realised that one day, his rendering of callouses would be considered to be worth framing - but I find them enormously aesthetically pleasing. The photo-realist illustrations, the perfect use of colour, and the typography are all top notch.


My favourite part are the little graphic arrows - a very stylish touch (and most educational too). 

Isn't it nice to know that, in the right circumstances, even athlete's foot can be a beautiful thing?

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Pavement Pastels

These naive pastels were spotted yesterday on the pavement outside the Victoria and Albert museum.
The anonymous artist gone due no doubt to the freezing cold, passers by can appreciate the oeuvre until the forecast rain arrives

Sunday Breakfast


Scrambled Eggs
Home-Made Sunflower Bread
Vintage French Plate
January Sun

Friday, 9 January 2009

It's A Plaid Plaid Plaid Plaid World


Fun fact: The first tartans known to man probably existed before 100BC. And it's still fashionable. Pretty impressive.

I can't think of a fabric more versatile than plaid. You can wear it to a black tie gala, a Texan rodeo or a Hoxton rave, and look stylish in every situation. For me, there's nothing more thrilling than finding a really beautiful colour combination or an an unusual weave - at it's best, it can be a real art form.

These two treasures are from my (rapidly growing) tie collection. They're both from the 60's, and are, like all good tartans, Scottish. The green tie came from London's Broadway Market, the burgundy from Portobello.

Here are some close-up views:wineplaidcloseup

I love the subtlety of the colour combination here - with the transitions between shades, it's like a tiny little Rothko that you can wear around your neck.


This one is a perfect mid-century modern palette - that jolt of yellow gives it just the right amount of 'kick'.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Curious Eye Charts

Let's make like Julie Andrews and start with some of our favorite things shall we?

Like these little beauties...



Eye Charts combine some of the elements that always excite me. Interesting typography, an unusual light fitting, and an aesthetically pleasing object, all wrapped up in one little box. Who could ask for anything more?

This one came from Castle Gibson, and is apparently from Germany, circa 1920. It's a particular favorite as it has a sort of soulful, poetic glow. 

On a more modernist tip, we have this one:
I'm guessing that it's British, and from the Sixties. It can be lit up in sections, and the 'OXO' wheel spins. Fun!

eyetests4Myopia has never seemed so stylish.