The Nature of Art and the Art of Nature at Blackwell Arts and Crafts House

Blackwell Arts and Crafts House Lake District

A recent trip to the Lake District afforded the opportunity to visit Blackwell, an outstanding example of Arts and Crafts design, and to reflect on the interplay between nature and human endeavour in the design world.

The Arts and Crafts movement in the 1880s-1920s promoted real craftsmanship in the face of an increasingly mechanised world. It was largely inspired by the writings of John Ruskin who believed that the over-mechanisation and division of labour was harmful to society. He asserted that all objects, furniture and works of art should be designed and manufactured by the same person, ensuring coherence, care and creative authenticity. In short, a designer and craftsman who is truly invested in his work produces results far superior to those achieved through a disjointed manufacturing process. As Ruskin puts it, “When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece”.

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I believe this continuity and consistency is reflected in the way we work in the architectural design world. At Boundary Space we always strive to keep the same project team from conception through to realisation, and the advantages of this approach shine through in the coherence of the finished projects (and the meticulous eye for detail when the time comes for snagging!).

William Morris, one of the most famous exponents of the Arts and Crafts movement, echoed Ruskin’s passion for creative human endeavour. He stood by these principles and would not release a new wallpaper pattern until he had mastered the techniques needed to print it himself. The movement centred around the idea that passion, skill and hard work were the qualities needed to produce work of integrity and true beauty.

Morris once said that “the most important production of Art” is “a beautiful House”, and Brantwood is a perfect example. Built 1898-1900, and designed by Baillie Scott, it epitomises the aesthetic of the Arts and Crafts movement. Designed as a holiday home for brewery owner Sir Edward Holt, Brantwood is a Grade 1 listed building, acknowledging its status as an outstanding example of British domestic design.

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The level of craftsmanship and attention to detail in every room is extraordinary, and the focus on artisan manufacture is abundantly evident. Even the smallest details and architectural elements are transformed into things of beauty, adhering to Morris’s “Golden Rule”, which was: “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

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The impressive Main Hall, which Baillie Scott referred to as a “living hall”, features beautifully detailed wood panelling and carving by Simpsons of Kendal alongside a peacock frieze by Shand Kydd. The room design takes inspiration from medieval banqueting halls and reflects the reverence with which Arts and Crafts architects regarded the medieval way of life, which they idealised as an embodiment of beauty, simplicity and unity.

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In contrast to the wood panelling in the Main Hall, Dining Room and the entrance corridor, the White Drawing Room gives a very different feel. While the former rooms are darker, grander and more formal, the drawing room is light, airy and open. This juxtaposition is felt particularly strongly as you emerge from the long dark corridor into the room. This space is distinguished and set apart from the rest of the downstairs, both in colour and style.

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Blackwell white drawing room Art and Crafts interior design

Blackwell Arts and Crafts white drawing room interior design

Contrasting with the heavier wooden detailing used elsewhere, the slender ornamental columns and decorative floral capitals are light and delicate. The room opens onto the view of Lake Windermere, letting the light flood in, and giving a sense that the architecture of the room works in harmony with its spectacular natural setting. The Lake and the hills are an integral part of the room’s design, and this harmony with nature was an important principle for Arts and Crafts designers. As Morris put it: “…everything made by man’s hands has a form, which must be either beautiful or ugly; beautiful if it is in accord with Nature, and helps her; ugly if it is discordant with Nature, and thwarts her; it cannot be indifferent…”

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The bucolic beauty surrounding the house feels like the most natural setting for it. Arts and Crafts designers took their inspiration from nature in both form and subject matter, and every room at Blackwell is filled with details which demonstrate this. Flowers, branches and animals are depicted in every piece of plasterwork, carving, stained glass, wallpaper, fabric and furnishing. The finished effect is a sense of harmony with the house’s surroundings, as if nature is inside as well as out, and the interiors are merely a domestication of what is found beyond the walls: man’s hand working, as Morris puts it, “in accord with Nature”.

Ruskin himself believed that Nature should be the guiding principle and ultimate source of inspiration for Architects, stating that “An architect should live as little in cities as a painter. Send him to our hills, and let him study there what nature understands by a buttress, and what by a dome.”

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The Arts and Craft movement promotes and brings together the dual values of, on the one hand, the importance of manual labour and artisan craftsmanship, and on the other, the momentousness of nature. Rather than upholding the usual dichotomy, it presents a coherence and collaboration between the notions of ‘natural’ and ‘man-made’.

By Connie Jackson Brown

A Room with a Theme at Osborne House

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Everyone knows the impact a themed room can have in a house. When done right it can define and distinguish a space, set it apart and leave a lasting impression.This fact was not lost on Queen Victoria, who created an incredible Indian-themed banqueting hall in her seaside retreat Osborne house.

Set in a picturesque coastal location in East Cowes on the Isle of Wight, built between 1845 and 1851 by London architect Thomas Cubitt, Osborne house was the Queen’s sanctuary away from public life. The interiors are magnificent, but none more so than the Durbar room which was Victoria’s little corner of India on the Isle of Wight.

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Though fascinated by the culture, the Empress of India never actually visited the subcontinent, but instead worked on bringing it to her by employing numerous Indian servants, learning to speak and write in Urdu and finally, creating the magnificent Durbar room for receiving important guests.

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The interior of the Durbar room is exceptionally detailed. The decorations were made using wooden moulds designed and carved by master craftsman Bhai Ram Singh, which were then covered in plaster and ‘carton-pierre’, a kind of papier-maché common in the late 19th century. The decorations include a peacock, and the Hindu elephant god Ganesha. The hall design is based on that of a medieval banqueting hall with a minstrel’s gallery for a small orchestra at one end.

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The level of detail in the room is breath-taking and makes a big impression. It is a wonderful surprise in an otherwise very English royal home. The themed interior really distinguishes and elevates the space, and brings a flavour of India to the shores of the Solent.

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Connie Jackson Brown

GSD Showroom, Chelsea Harbour

Following on from several years collaborating on Decorex installations, Boundary Space have just completed the new flagship showroom for George Spencer Designs fabric house in Chelsea Harbour Design Centre East. This project posed an exciting challenge: re-purposing a room in a converted office block – the recently expanded extension to Chelsea Harbour Design Centre – and transforming it into a relaxed retail space with a homely, domestic feel.

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The space retains features in keeping with its previous function, characterised by high honeycomb ceilings and metal floor tiles. Boundary Space retained these industrial features, keeping them exposed and working them into the scheme. These industrial elements contrast with the soft furnishings and fabrics, showcasing the latter to great effect. We introduced a curved rail of full-length hanging around the perimeter of the showroom to create a ‘wall’ of fabric display, and to soften the cavernous space, giving a warmer, more domestic feel.

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One of our main challenges was breaking up and delineating the large open space, creating a cosy retail area which would not intimidate customers. This was achieved by introducing walk-in structures for fabric hanging, to give shape to the showroom layout, and to create intimate spaces where customers can comfortably browse fabrics at leisure. These, combined with carefully chosen pieces of mid-century furniture, were used to map out the showroom floor and influence a client’s journey through the space.

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We set out to achieve a smart, but laid back, studio atmosphere where customers can browse freely or sit-down in a relaxed environment. We believe this comes across successfully in the finished space, and that the fabrics and rugs ‘pop’ effectively against the more utilitarian industrial backdrop.

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It was, as always, a great pleasure to work with George Spencer Designs and we hope to continue collaborating with them on future projects!

Connie Jackson Brown

Photos by Alex Campbell: alexcampbellphotography.co.uk

 

 

Pumpkins at the Palace!

Mwahahaha… You’ve heard of the Great British Bake Off, but Wednesday night also saw the spine-chilling final of the Great Boundary Space Carve Off! The BS studio celebrated the spookiest season in hands-on fashion, with an evening of creepy craft, devilish design and deadly detailing.

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First, the operating table was prepared; and the curved cadavers of the victims laid out (along with some much-needed fuel!). Competitors picked their pumpkin and jostled for position (‘get off my patch!’… that sort of thing…).

Then in a frenzy, as if possessed, the BS squash-squadron set to with a session of gory gourd-gutting which was not for the faint-hearted! A variety of techniques were used, from scooping to scraping; and some abandoned tools altogether, excavating innards with their bare hands. This gruesome activity revealed an unsettling new side to our colleagues…

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Next, an eerie quiet fell over the studio: the design stage. The tension was ‘pulpable’, teeth were bared, the stakes were high.

Some browsed the web (!) for inspiration, producing pumpkin mood-boards. Some made carving templates first, sketching designs onto tracing paper with architectural precision. Others took an instinctive freestyle approach, designing directly onto the face with their blades.

As night fell at the palace conversation strayed to ghosts and ghouls and we couldn’t help wondering if someone else might be here with us… in spirit. The infamous 16th century Bishop Bonner (reassuringly known as “Bloody Bonner”) is said to haunt these rooms… so you butternut stay here alone at night! (sorry)

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With an array of torture tools to choose from, the fiendishly fiddly task of  sculpting and carving our creations came next. At this point madness was really starting to creep in… after all, the devil’s in the detail! In the end though everyone worked their magic and, with expert gourd-gouging and skillful scalpelling, even the most intricate schemes were executed.

Designs ranged from traditional to original, naive to sophisticated, decorative to demonic… and all were gourdgeous! There were grotesque grimaces, diabolical deformities, scintillant skulls, cats, bats and… squirrels?

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Our bewitching creations were ably judged by an independent adjudicator: pumpkin pundit Jenna; and we are thrilled to announce that contestant Claudia carved the Prize Pumpkin – praised for its topsy-turvy teeth and barbarous brows – and won herself a Halloween treat!

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Runners up were: Ela’s macabre mummy and Mizue’s cunning kitty, with special mention to Thomas’ Day of the Dead inspired skull design.

Overall it was a spooktacular evening of harrowing hacking and chilling chiselling from the Boundary Space team, who were in the office long after witching hour (well, after dark anyway…)

Happy Halloween from all of us Boundary Spooks! Have a wicked weekend and don’t forget to lock your doors and check under your bed..!

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By Connie Jackson Brown

Getting Some Perspective

A holiday is always an opportunity to step back, see things from a new angle and get some perspective; but not often in so literal a sense as on a recent trip to Rome.

A few steps through a church door (one of the many, many such doors you pass in the endlessly rewarding streets of Rome’s historic centre), on a whim of exploratory curiosity, afforded one of the most inspiring and surprising moments of a trip already packed with highlights.

The Church of Sant’Ignazio di Loyola may be moderately well known, but it was new to me and certainly not up there with Rome’s more famous attractions – nor even its more famous frescoed ceilings (we couldn’t ‘stand’ the Sistine Chapel queues…). It is, however, a lesser-known gem which should not be missed and is pleasingly free and without queues.

The moment you cross the threshold the sense of space is exhilarating and your eye is immediately drawn upwards (do not attempt this church if you have a bad neck). Andrea Pozzo’s frescoed ceiling is breath-taking from the first glance thanks to its sheer scale and vibrancy of colour. However, the full impact reveals itself on more prolonged inspection once the deception is fully understood. What Pozzo has achieved here is an incredible feat of perspective.

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What appears to be an impressively lofty vaulted ceiling, opening up into celestial skies, is in fact a trompe-l’oeil, painted onto a modest curved ceiling. The architectural elements Pozzo portrays are stunningly convincing, as is the sense of height, and it takes some time for the skill of what has been achieved to sink in.

A few steps further into the church and Pozzo has another ace up his sleeve… the soaring dome and cupola that you notice upon entering are gradually revealed to be another ingenious deception. This is in fact a fictive architectural space, ‘constructed’ by Pozzo on a 17m wide flat canvas. Even once you get your head around the fact that the dome is merely a trompe-l’oeil painting, it is still almost impossible to grasp that the surface is entirely flat.

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Construction of a dome and cupola was originally proposed for this space; however, funds ran out meaning that they were never built, and this was Pozzo’s solution. Both the nave and ‘dome’ frescoes were painted in 1685 in the illusionist style popular in the Baroque period, using the techniques of perspective: di sotto in sù and quadratura.

Two marble discs in the church floor indicate the best places to stand to view the nave ceiling and the dome to appreciate the full effect of the trompe-l’oeil. Perversely though, one of the greatest pleasures is to walk away from these points and find an angle where the effect does not work, as this allows you to appreciate the mathematical precision with which it is created and see the slanted angles of the painted lines across the ceiling.

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What Andrea Pozzo demonstrates here is that physical spacial limitations (and in some cases financial limitations!) do not have to limit the space that is perceived, and that a great artist or designer can think beyond the physical to create space in the eyes of the viewer. Where architectural space falls short, the mind can fill in the gaps; and all it takes is a little perspective.

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By Connie Jackson Brown

Boundary Space and George Spencer Designs at DECOREX 2015

For the fourth year running, George Spencer Designs and Boundary Space shake hands to deliver yet another exciting stand for Decorex. With the general theme to explore the future of luxury, the show was once again held in the grounds of Syon House, which has proven to be the perfect backdrop for London’s premier design show.
The focus this year was to introduce GSD’s new Japan wallpaper collection designed by Neisha Crosland as well as 4 new fabrics in an original and inventive way.
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With the task set, the team set out mid-summer to brainstorm ways to display the extensive range of trimmings and a suggestion to build different structures on the stand as display units emerged. We originally set out to design the structures from octagons which caused excitement in our team as we all tried to build our own display structures using the First Octons construction toys. Further discussion and concerns over stability led us to construct the structures from boxes of different sizes to optimise the display space.
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We arrived to Syon House early Thursday morning to find an empty stand with no floor; no stand number and the challenge of creating an exciting stand seemed daunting at first. We set aside our scalpels and glue and waited for works to be finished at our stand and the arrival of our wallpapers and boxes, which by now had been covered with GSD’s usual array of sumptuous fabrics.
We had wonderful help from RM Builders, who wallpapered the walls with samples from the new Japan collection, while our team embarked on the challenge to create 3 different structures out of the 33 different boxes we had to work with.
Several hours of reading our drawings and carefully assembling the boxes later, we had managed to finish two of the three tasks.

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As we were running out of time to assemble our shelves, we headed back to the grounds of Syon House on Friday and after hours of construction deliberation, assembly and a pizza break, we finally managed to secure the shelving to the walls and the stand was finally coming together.
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We can honestly say that this year’s Decorex has taken more out of us then previous years, however we are happy with the end result and the feedback has been more than positive and we hope the show is a success for GSD. See you at Decorex 2016!
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By Ragne Aaviste

Mesmerizing Marrakech

We landed well after sunset at Marrakech Menara and while I had seen photos of the airport in daylight, the night view left me speechless. You wouldn’t have guessed, waiting in line at passport control surrounded by common faience work, what an amazing architectural space lies beyond. The envelope of the building consists of a white geometrical pattern with cut outs that create a play of light and shadow while the cactus landscape brings an exotic note to the picture.

Our first visit was the Koutubia Mosque, its iconic minaret at 77 meters high would be our guide on this amazing journey throughout the intricate streets of the city. The minaret, built by the Almohads, follows the typical proportions of 1:5, the height being five times the width, and bares a different pattern on each elevation. The ornamentation, made of sandstone, increases gradually towards the top and ends with the only surviving strip of original turquoise faience work. The Mosque is protected as a landmark by laws prohibiting the building of any structure, higher than a palm tree in its surroundings.

The Marrakech museum is housed in the Dar Menebhi Palace built at the end of the 19th century by Mehdi Menebhi. It belongs to classical Andalusian architecture and includes fountains, traditional seating areas, hammam and intricate tile works and carvings. The highlights of the museum were the ceilings – we spent most of our time just staring up at the mesmerizing patterns carved in timber or plaster and ornate with stained glass. The hammam functions as an arts exhibition space and its vaulted ceilings with insertions of stained glass give a haunting image to the space.

By far the most fascinating architectural experience of Marrakech was the Medrassa Ben Youssef. Formally an Islamic school with board and lodge, the Medrassa was built in the 14th century and was last restored in the 16th. As in Islamic architecture the exterior doesn’t give any hint of what awaits inside, the narrow passage that leads to the entry is just like any of the others in the old medina but as soon as you peek through the doors a multitude of patterns explode and multiply through a narrow corridor: zellinj (brilliantly coloured tiles), intricate plaster carvings, wooden carvings expanding on sequential double heights, it’s hypnotising. It’s an exciting experience to stand in the corridor facing a large wooden carved door that leads to the inner courtyard. More complicated patterns develop around the symmetrical planning of the courtyard which is centred around a pool. Layers upon layers of patterns adorn the walls of the Medrassa, strongly contrasting with the monastic rooms of the former students on the second floor, which overlook the courtyard. On exiting the building one is left in a hypnotised state and complete admiration for the craftsmanship of the Berbers.

The Saadian Tombs served initially as a burying place to the descendants of the Prophet Mohammed and it is here where in the 16th century the Saadian dynasty chose to bury their own. The exquisite decorated burial rooms were built by the sultan Al-Mansour for himself and his immediate family. Also known as the Hall of Twelve Columns, the central mausoleum is the resting place of Al-Mansour and the finest of them, with its carved marble columns, vaulted roof, calligraphy inscriptions, gilded cedar and zellinj faience work. The second mausoleum built for Al-Mansour’s mother is less impressive but it is still a wonderful blend of the usual carvings and zellinj work. There are over 100 tombs spread outside in the gardens with gravestones covered with beautiful faience work and adorned with quotes from the Qur’an.

The old medina is enclosed by high walls which were built by the Almoravides in the 12th century as protective fortifications. Made out of the traditional orange red clay and chalk, they stand at 5.8 m high and have 20 gates and 200 towers. Bab Aganaou, the most imposing gate, was built in 1185 by the Almohad Dynasty and unlike the other pink pise structures of the walls it was carved in the local blue greyish Gueliz stone. Apart from the intricate carvings of patterns and calligraphy the gate is also ‘adorned’ with storks which are considered lucky charms by locals.

Once you step outside the walls of the medina you feel like you are in a different world, wide spaces and busy roads with little to no proper crossings, some palms and cacti here and there and even more dust. As it usually happens in poor countries which undergo huge development in a short amount of time, the urbanists are not or cannot do their jobs properly. We somehow managed to cross all the streets safely and arrive at the amazing Majorelle Gardens. Designed by the artist Jacques Majorelle in the 1920s the botanical garden remains his creative masterpiece. The amazing blue he used extensively to decorate the gardens is named after him, bleu Majorelle. The tadelakt finished pathway leads one through the garden which contains plants from five continents, fountains and water ponds with more vegetation, Yves Saint-Laurent’s memorial and an Islamic Art Museum. There is also a small gallery which displays the beautiful Love posters made by YSL as New Years cards for friends and clients.

Marrakech is the city of contrasts, where opposites stand together in harmony; humans meet nature, old meets new, ying and yang if you’d have it. Sitting here in the comfort of my home and reminiscing of the time spent in the hustle and bustle of Marrakech I can finally understand and feel the love so many artists have felt for this magical city.

By Ioana Baciu

The Revolutionary Printer: review of ‘William Blake: Apprentice and Master’

The beauty of an exhibition at the Ashmolean is that it’s guaranteed to be on a manageable scale, seeing as they only have three large rooms for their temporary exhibition space. This must surely have presented some difficulties though when it came to planning their current show on William Blake: how can you possibly contain a man who was arguably the eighteenth century’s greatest visionary, a whirlwind of poetry and printing, polemic and prophecy, into three rooms?

The answer, of course, is that you can’t, and perhaps it is best not to try. So the Ashmolean has taken a single aspect of Blake’s multitudinous talents, and examined his journey as a printer, from his enrolment into drawing school at the age of ten, to his death in 1827. As an avid fan of Blake the poet from my student days, I confess I was disappointed that it didn’t feature more highly. However, it left the path for his equally important, but less celebrated innovations in printing.

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Prints of works by the Renaissance old masters, which the young Blake studied from. 

The first room, admittedly not wildly exciting, lays the groundwork for his later tastes: making copies of old Masters as an apprentice, and sketching medieval tombs in Westminster Abbey to make engravings from would later manifest itself in his taste for the Gothic. It is easy to imagine the teenage Blake sitting in the gloomth of that ancient sacred building, his imagination firing up and darting around in all directions as the statues he was sketching re-animated by the flicker of candle light. Several years after leaving the Royal Academy (where he endured a 6 year stint of formal teaching) he had become an enormous commercial success as a copy engraver. Had he been an ordinary man, content with this artistically modest measure of success, he and his wife might have lived out their lives in relative prosperity and the gradual oncoming of obscurity. However, Blake was the very antithesis of ordinary, and not content with copying other people’s work, he began his revolution in printing.

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An engraving, and corresponding print, of the tomb statuary of the Plantagenet Queen Philippa, drawn by Blake as an apprentice in Westminster Abbey. 

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Blake’s commercially successful print of Hogarth’s ‘The Beggar’s Opera’, in two stages.

The traditional method of etching learnt by Blake was to cover metal plate with an acid-resistant waxy ground, which the design would be etched into with an etching needle. The plate is then washed with acid, which bites into the exposed metal, leaving behind the design, and the remaining ground is washed off. However, Blake’s earliest printing innovation was to reverse this process: eclipsing the waxy ground altogether, he drew the design directly onto the metal plate using the acid as ink. This was his first experiment in bringing some of the freedom of the paintbrush to the printing process but he was to take it even further but inventing a new kind of colour printing. Using glue based pigments to paint the outline of the design directly onto the plate, the piece could then be finished after it had been printed in pen, ink and watercolour. During the 18th century there were in fact two standard colour printing techniques:

1. Ink a single plate with different colours, using a rag dauber.

2. Engrave different plates and print them one on top of the other in different colours. If one printed two colours on top of each other a greater colour range could be reached. This method allowed for greater precision, but was still difficult to perfect as the images had to be exactly lined up.

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An example of the second colour printing technique, by Christoph le Blon

However, with Blake’s innovative technique different effects could be achieved by scraping lines in thickly applied ink, or using a sponge to create texture; this brought the spontaneity of drawing without the predictability, making it an exciting new media. With this method he dispensed of etching altogether, simply painting directly onto the copperplate. As each impression became correspondingly thinner in ink, he would finish them by hand in watercolour, and so each print becomes entirely unique. Another innovation he began to employ was combining text and image on a single plate, which took many years to perfect.

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All Religions Are One And There Is No Natural Religion, c. 1788, a early example of Blake combining text and image in a single print.

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The Approach of Doom, c. 1787-89. Inspired by a vision of his dead brother, who suggested that Blake try a new approach to etching, this is a very early attempt at his reversed method.

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Details from three different versions of The House of Death, c.1795. The extent to which each print became an individual art work is evident when we examine the differences in the hand of the foreground figure, and the attitude of the background figure’s head.

 These techniques culminated in the production of Europe, one of Blake’s most famous prophecy-poems, which is displayed fantastically along one long wall in the exhibition, allowing the viewer to view them in sequence. The prints are truly exquisite in the flesh: he has perfected his backwards mirror writing, and the images have a richness and intensity of colour hitherto unseen in printing, a result of Blake adding a gluey paint mixture to the surface of the plate before printing, which gave it a more textured, three-dimensional surface. This method breathes life into his narrative of oppression and the dominance of reason over imagination, a thinly veiled criticism of eighteenth century London suffering the effects of war with France, the rise of commerce, and the tyranny of organised religion which sought to banish all sensuality. Also on display at the Ashmolean is a recreation of Blake’s study, helping us to imagine the artist feverishly bent over his enormous printing press, straining to create his illuminations, which would pull back the veil of hypocrisy shading the world and tell the truth about society.

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A selection of plates from Europe: A Prophecy.

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Blake’s reconstructed study at the Ashmolean exhibition.

 

By Helena Louise Cuss

The Architecture of Protest at the V&A’s ‘Disobedient Objects’

I visited the V&A ‘Disobedient Objects‘ on its last, oversubscribed last day at the beginning of this month, expecting to see plenty of makeshift gas masks, defaced walls and posters shouting righteous slogans. All of the above was in plentiful supply, but the real highlight of the exhibition for me was the unexpected role which architecture has had to play in the last 50 years of social activism. Social activism, moreover, which has played a vital role in shaping the society we live in today.

The exhibition entrance features drawings of barricades, and how they have changed over time.

The exhibition entrance features drawings of barricades, and how they have changed over time.

We all remember the year Occupy took the world by storm; it is perhaps the most widespread global protest in history and has been seized upon by a number of activists for any number of issues since its inception. In 2011, protestors in New York occupied Zucotti Park to denounce the growing inequality of wealth distribution in the wake of the global recession.  The camp was built with the skills and knowledge of its diverse inhabitants, including a working group of architects, ’123 Occupy’ (Greta Hansen, Kyung-Jae Kim, Andy Rauchut and Adam Koogler) who designed, amongst other things, an “Inflatable General Assembly”, a model of which was on display at the V&A. The architects imagined a space “made from human movement, as large or as small as the number of people who create and inhabit it.”

A model of 123Occupy's design for a General Inflatable Assembly (c) V&A

A model of 123Occupy’s design for a General Inflatable Assembly (c) V&A

The Occupy movement has grown and swelled its ranks as social discontent and protests have swept across Europe: the 2013 Gezi Park protests in Istanbul against an increasingly conservative and prohibitive government spawned “spontaneous” architecture all over the city: barricades, communal dining tables, an open air library and a speakers platform were amongst the structures recorded by Turkish architects in drawings for posterity, as they recognised their temporal nature. They said: “Creating a collective memory is really important when the government is trying to forget everything. The life cycles of these structures were really short so we had to document them. We believe it is a way of passive resistance. We keep remembering what happened in Taksim. In a way we merged the practice and protest by using architecture as a tool to critique.”

Also on display at the V&A was the Acampadasol map of the Indignados movement in Spain, showing the organic urban topography of protest. Motivated largely by the recession and ensuing budget cuts and rampant unemployment, the “Indignants” spoke out against Spain’s current party system, and the disconnect the people currently feel with it. This map helped activists to navigate themselves between different committee meetings in the Puerta del Sol camp in Madrid.

The Acampadasol map, the camp for the Indignados movement.

The Acampadasol map, the camp for the Indignados movement.

A quote from Archivo15, an activist group in Madrid documenting the protests, gives a feeling for the anarchic role urban topography could assume: “Madrid, May 2011. The crowd couldn’t believe it. Who needs them? Making drawings in the street, around the statues of dead kings, maps of places different to the ones we ‘should have in’ IN-SOL-ACTION!!! (Excuse us for ignoring your police lies, we are occupied taking over our squares).”

The scope of the V&A’s exhibition far extended this single aspect of protest, but it is arguably it’s most powerful, as it represents a manifestation of the protest itself, spreading through the streets and parks of our cities, breathing activism into the environment we live in.

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A road sign by Occupy Sandy. They took control of humanitarian aid for the people of New York city after the destruction wreaked by Hurriance Sandy, in the face an incompetent and insufficient government response.

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Advice guides for squatters and “revolutionaries” i.e. social activists clashing with the law.

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Guerrilla Girls banner and gorilla masks; a female group of artists who exposed racism, sexism and corruption in the 1980s art world.They use humour to engage people with their campaigns.

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1960s “bust cards”. Bust cards were pamphlets or cards produced by gay rights activists, giving homosexuals advice on what to do if there were arrested, and listing their rights.

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An arperilla: appliqued textiles produced by Chilean women to document the rife violence during Pinochet’s dictatorship. This example depicts a massacre carried out by paramilitaries during one night in the small Colombian village of Mampujàn.

Gay Bashers Banner

A banner challenging gaybashers to “come and get it”.

Badges Against Apartheid

Badges Against Apartheid

Stencil graffiti by Syrian artists of victims of the civil unrest and political regime there.

Stencil graffiti by Syrian artists of victims of the civil unrest and political regime there.

By Helena Louise Cuss

The Boundary Space Biscuit Experiment

When one of our interior designers returned from a  whirlwind weekend in Brussels last Monday, she was laden with edible treats to satisfy even the largest appetite. Probably most exciting though, was the array of speculoos biscuit products on offer: possibly one of few foods to come in both biscuit and spread form.  A week of experimental elevenses ensued, as we sought to find the best combinations, but first, let’s introduce the ingredients:

The Biscuit

The Lotus speculoos biscuit, thin with just the right amount of crunch and tasting delicately of burnt caramel and cinnamon, this is a favourite with hairdressers all over. Perhaps you recognise it from that little black tray you get accompanying your complimentary tea or coffee.

The Spread (Smooth)

The original Lotus spread, simply a mixture of biscuit and rapeseed oil. Smooth, silky, irresistible.

The Spread (Rough)

The same as above, but with crunchy bits of biscuit mixed in. Sandy.

The Spread (The Interloper)

You may have noticed that thus far this has been a mono-brand event. But here at Boundary Space we like to give everyone a fair hearing, so we threw a challenger into the mix: Jules Destrooper have produced their own version of the spread, blended with butter.

The Spread Contenders The Original Biscuit

The Verdict

Obviously all three spreads needed to be tried in their pure form, unadulterated by biscuit or toast. The Jules Destrooper was noticeably maltier than the Lotus versions, tasting more like digestives than speculoos. Mixed with butter instead of oil, the food snobs amongst us were surprised to find that that was not our favourite (although the writer may be swayed by her excessively sweet tooth).

Out with the new and in with the old then. In contrast the Lotus (smooth) tastes altogether more caramelly, more indulgent, and almost leaves a sort of fizzle on the tongue. The introduction of biscuity crunch into the second rendition was better than expected, adding a new dimension to the gastronomic experience.

Whilst the writer would prefer to always eat the spread like this, with just a teaspoon and a cup of green tea (to cancel out the calories, obviously), there were others in the studio who felt that there was an unmissable opportunity here: the speculoos bourbon. Two speculoos biscuits sandwiched together with spread, this is the ultimate speculoos creation: what was a dry biscuit has been transformed into a delicately buttery, creamy treat. As for me though, I’ll be putting it in my pancakes this evening. Happy eating!

The Spread Testers The Speculoos Bourbon

 

 

By Helena Louise Cuss