Thursday, January 27, 2011

Its Nice That / Bookshelf

Image courtesy of Owen.

Last week I was asked by Bryony Quinn at It's Nice That to talk about my top 5 books for their new Bookshelf feature; it was a pleasure and I thought I'd re-post it here incase any of you missed it.

Interaction of Color Josef Albers
This book is concerned with seeing what happens between colours. I love how it discusses something often so instinctive and personal in such a rational manner; it makes me look further than I have already gone, at the same time as working backwards to break down the assumptions I’ve made. It also promotes Albers philosophy of “thinking in situations”, which I was happy to uncover alongside my own interest in ‘thinking through making’, which looks at a part of the design process which I don’t think can be ever be pre-planned, organised, scheduled or described.

“We are able to hear a single tone, but we almost never (that is, without special devices) see a single colour, unconnected and unrelated to other colours. Colours present themselves in continuous flux, constantly related to changing neighbours and changing conditions.”

The Fountainhead Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand was a Russian-American novelist and philosopher in the 40’s, and concerned with individualism. I was first given this book when I was 18 by an engineering student and have treasured it ever since. The Fountainhead is about an individualistic young architect who chooses to struggle in obscurity rather than compromise his own vision, against those who attempt to live through others; those who place others above themselves. I love the development of the thoroughly complex relationships between him and all the different clients and friends who misunderstand him; to me it has also become both a romantic and comical interpretation of the creative industry we are working in today.

Loose Associations & Other Lectures Ryan Gander
“The route of a ball during a half-hour ping-pong game is about the time it takes to read Loose Associations. The match is played by only one person on a half-table facing a wall, and the player is not a professional, so the ball bounces on, as much off, the table.” A description by Emilie Renard of this book; which is a collection of objects, ideas and stories put together by artist Ryan Gander and narrated in a way you might experience it as a performance or lecture. One subject follows the next seamlessly as if you were listening to a stream of consciousness, and each anecdote is backed up with an example-of-a-kind and a series of pictures; this book should be the bible for every blogger. Mine is a bootleg copy I was kindly given by friends Europa who designed it to be published-on-demand.

Art School (Propositions for the 21st Century) Steven Henry Madoff
This book is just one long line of enquiry after another for anyone interested in progressive art education; I got hold of it at the John Baldessari Pure Beauty exhibition at Tate Modern when I started my post as Teaching Fellow at Winchester School of Art in 2009; I am endlessly interested in ways people have approached the problems (and there are problems!) we face – from temporary art schools built on the side of hills (The Future Academy, 2006) to the question of whether we still need buildings at all. Every few months I find myself reading a lot of these essays over again; something to do with reading about a practice you are engaging in radically changes what you understand from the text; I think this book is a goldmine and I couldn’t do without it.

Kiss Kiss Roald Dahl
Most of my favourite fiction comes in the form of short stories; and the best I’ve ever found belong to Roald Dahl. There’s something about short stories which induce a sensation of contentment in me; something to do with the way they wrap me up and set me free again in a small amount of time. My favourite story from Kiss KIss is William and Mary. William, a dead philosopher and controlling husband, arranges to have his brain and a single eyeball set in a basin in his home, in order for his wife Mary to continue to pay attention to him; except his plan has disastrous consequences when she flaunts all his rules by smoking in front of the eyeball and watching TV all day – much to the distress of his vulnerable state.


Life Drawing

I started a life drawing class this week. I haven't been to one for nearly ten years so it was great to get that feeling of total and utter concentration back. Interested in trying to describe form with as few lines as possible, spaces, interruptions.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Golden Arrows / Gallery 263 Cambridgeport, MA

At the tail end of last year, a beautiful invitation with a painting of my favourite plant - the unruly swiss cheese - arrived from Nerissa Cooney and Alexander Hage, the designers behind Golden Arrows, working out of Boston, MA. They asked me to supply them with images to help cover the walls of their new studio space at 263 Pearl Street in Cambridgeport, where they are taking up residence until March. These guys are the sweetest and have some really nice work in their portfolio so it saddened me to find my wallpaper did not arrive in time for their December deadline... and it was still missing a month later! Just as I had resigned myself to the familiar mantra 'always use recorded delivery Holly you cheapskate' once again, Alex got in touch to let me know my collage had finally arrived - made from a selection of photocopies I took from one of my sketchbooks, it's great to see it up on the wall along with all the others!

I love fun projects like this, using the internet for what it was intended - bringing strangers together!


Friday, January 21, 2011


The Modernica factory.

Source unknown

The American Museum of Natural History in NYC

Via Andy Beach

I found the Workspaces blog last weekend after finding they'd kindly featured OPEN. There is nothing I find more exciting than looking at people in the process of making; the places they do it, the concentration they use, the application of their hands and eyes to a particular task; it becomes the negative (exciting and seriously understated!) space around their product itself. These are some of my favourites from the blog.


The Future Academy / Metronome No.10

In July 2009 I was in Oslo visiting my friend Kim Hiorthoy - on the last day we visited a bookshop and he bought me a book called Dwelling Portably 1980-89; it is a collection of zines known as The Message Post written on a typewriter, in incredibly small type (in order to save paper) in a yurt in an undisclosed location in a forest in Washington State. The authors are long-time outdoor-livers Bert & Holly Davis, who have collected tips from other home-less (not homeless) people for decades. I love the amount of detail it gathers together from individuals finding their way, outside the confines and rules of our towns and cities.

I've extracted a little content from this fantastic catalogue here;

Wild Sprouts Update: Mustard Seeds Sharply Flavoured.
Having the 'Wild Sprouts' article has given me lots of feedback. The young sprouts from the seeds of the mustard family, including black mustard, peppergrass and wintercress, are very tasty. But some are so sharply flavoured that many people will only enjoy eating them raw if they are mixed with larger amounts of blander sprouts, such as alfalfa or wheatgrass. William Chapman, NY.

There is Much Good Camping in Northern California.
The river canyons are largely empty and beautiful. I've been mining for gold on the North Fork American between Truckee and Sacremento. Pretty good gold at end of summer. Paul Rinne.

I recently uncovered Dwelling Portably again after reading about Metronome No.10 in Art School; a project carried out in 2006 by The Future Academy, which is an instruction manual for artists who wish to live and work portably and features unusual yet vital hints for our social and economic survival. The above image is the cover page from Metronome No.10 - intentionally designed in exactly the same format and spirit as Dwelling Portably.

Metronome No.10 was published while living in a portable publishing studio, and covering 2000 miles of the great outdoors looking for Bert & Holly. During this production period the Future Academy artists "built a ‘hill-lodge’ into the side of a south-facing slope in the woods, digging out the mud bank and setting up tarps and poles to insulate the 3x2m cavity against the pouring rain and wind."

This kind of thing makes my day, especially after a month of varying my working-time-and-location; from libraries, to cafes (old and new), to the poorly lit corners of the Barbican, from my desk at OPEN at 6am to 4am in my kitchen. I wanted to see what it would do to me, and as January comes to a close, I'm really glad I did. Even if I didn't get to sleep outside once.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Pony Express

I was pointed in the direction of the Pony Express by new flatmate (who comes to London from Las Vegas via Vancouver and keeps my American dream alive on a daily basis). The Pony Express was a mail service crossing the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains, and the High Sierras from Missouri to California which only ran for 16 months in 1860. I absolutely love the idea of this, everything about it, from it's tiny lifespan and full-on harrowing intensity - it was one of the most dangerous jobs around. One of the ad's for new riders read 'Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over eighteen. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.'

This was the oath sworn by Pony Express Riders.

I agree not use profane language, not to get drunk, not to gamble, not to treat animals cruelly and not to do anything else that is incompatible with the conduct of a gentleman. And I agree, if I violate any of the above conditions, to accept my discharge without any pay for my services.

I want to investigate the route here further for Adam Hayes' Make Maps project...


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Make It In Paper

I'm back at Winchester this week and I've been enjoying some time in the library; yesterday I found this book I hadn't spotted before, lost in the needlework section; called Make It In Paper. I love all the illustrations, especially the nervous-looking pyramid-tiger who looks like he only walks on tip toes.

Make It In Paper has the most rigorous set of instructions for children I've ever read. "If your work is fussy and cluttered with unnecessary detail you will find that you have wasted both time and paper" - I absolutely love it. I've found I've been entertaining some abstract thoughts lately about rules and the sheer thrill you get breaking them - more rules please!


Monday, January 3, 2011

Happiest Newest Yearest

To begin a whole new year, embracing one or two massive changes, and many more smaller ones as a result, is suddenly quite an exciting prospect. And to greet it all, I offer you something new to me, The Man Who Planted Trees by Frédéric Back.