Posted on June 29, 2018
Following their 25th anniversary last year, we invited Harriet Wallace-Jones of renowned British textile studio Wallace Sewell to chat with Manuela Millan of Meanwhile in Melbourne about their work, tradition and the future of textiles.
Britain has always been a pioneer and world leader in textile design and manufacture. Wallace Sewell continues this proud tradition of top-quality and design-driven textiles, while bringing it into the modern age. Their ability to fuse modern technology with traditional textile design processes has enabled them to create a distinctive and vibrant range of products which can now be found in top galleries and boutique retailers in over 20 countries.
Wallace Sewell is known for keeping their design and manufacturing local, with all their products designed from their London and Dorset studios and made in a family-run textile mill in Lancashire.
We always said that we would design on hand looms to sample our ideas but the actual production would then be done on a power loom. If we were weaving it all ourselves then we wouldn’t be able to fulfil the orders from shops and galleries.
It is clear from their work that they have a real respect for their craft and the materials that they use. There is an authenticity and passion which shines through each of their beautiful pieces and each one has its own way of making you feel comfortable, cosy and happy. Wallace Sewell’s style incorporates bold colours and striking geometric patterns to achieve an iconic British design which have been recognised worldwide.
In the past, our style has been described as ‘classically British with a twist’ but I think it’s actually very European. We love the fact that everything is designed and manufactured in the UK, however I think we see ourselves as being part of a more European movement of contemporary designer makers particularly as we’re very influenced by the Bauhaus and that period of Art and design in Europe.
As graduates of Textile Design from the Royal College of Art in London, Emma and Harriet made their start after winning a grant from the British Crafts Council which allowed them to purchase their first handloom and design their first collection. Their big break came soon after when they caught the attention of the American department store Barney’s which put in an order for a scarf collection, a relationship which has endured to this day. Their work is routinely exhibited in top galleries such the Tate Museum and MOMA, which often commission them to design and create scarves inspired by key artworks to be featured in their upcoming exhibitions.
Their work is also seen and experienced by millions of people across London everyday thanks to their winning entry in the 2007 competition to design new train seat covers for the London Overground. Their work proved so popular that they were then commissioned to create custom fabric for a number of other train lines across the London train network.
Emma Sewell and Harriet Wallace-Jones
Wallace Sewell work across their two studios, with Harriet Wallace-Jones working from Dorset and Emma Sewell and the rest of the team working out of London. This setup clearly works for the design team, allowing them to work independently but also come together at regular intervals to brainstorm and make the important decisions.
Having three of us on the design team is brilliant as we all have a different perspective when discussing ideas. I live in the country and we really enjoy combining our rural and urban aesthetics.
Harriet and Emma’s design process combines thoughtful research and contemplation with a hands-on practical approach to prototyping and developing their designs. They draw inspiration from art, contemporary design and the world around them and then use their expertise with the handloom and knowledge of fabrics and materials to create their signature patterns.
We’re often looking at a specific painting and we’ll analyse the proportion of each colour. We’ll then create a yarn winding by taking a strip of card approximately 3-4 inches wide and we’ll wrap coloured yarn around the card to the proportions we wish the stripe to be.
When you’re at college, you have so much more time to do primary research such as collage and drawing which you then develop into weaves. Once you have your own business, 90% of your time is taken up with admin and only 10% design time. Emma and I have found that as our team has grown and our tasks are fewer, we’ve much more time for design and we can do more painting and drawing research as we used to do which is lovely.
After an incredibly successful 25 years, and having built their studio from two graduates working with single hand-loom to their current status as a globally recognised and sought-after design studio, Harriet and Emma are excited for the future and the opportunities that they will be able to explore.
I’d really like to do some colour consultancy and continue to explore other collaborations. To work not just in weaving but design in a broader sense would be very interesting. For example, it might be applying our ideas onto ceramics or wall coverings. A few years ago we successfully launched our first collection of carpets and last year we introduced a range of printed silk scarves to be shown along side our woven collection, so we’re branching out into new products which is exciting and challenging.
Gwynne Block Throw
Safari Living currently presents a selection of textiles from Wallace Sewell. To view the collection click here.
Words: Manuela Millan of Meanwhile in Melbourne
Visit Wallace Sewell here
Photos courtesy of: The Guardian/Photographer: Suki Dhanda (of Harriet Wallace-Jones), Wallace Sewell and Safari Living
Posted on March 1, 2018
Laney Harman joined the Safari team last year as an intern working in our graphics department. She very quickly became a very valued and integral part of the team. After a super busy Christmas, Laney headed to Vietnam and Cambodia for a well-deserved break. She returned with a collection of wonderful stories and images-some of which she is sharing with us here...
Images of bikes piled impossibly high with all manner of livestock and miscellaneous goods are nothing new, but I couldn't resist photographing this bright bicycle of blooms.
Although overrun by tourists, it's still possible to capture moments of relative solitude in Ha Long Bay.
A local row-boat woman casting off from the pier in Hoi An, whilst in the background others wait patiently for the evening crowds to flock for a romantic river cruise surrounded by floating lanterns.
With the farmers out working in the rice fields during the day, the animals are often left to rule the roost.
Sometimes described as an inland Ha Long Bay, Trang An in Ninh Binh Province is best explored by rowboat, where the river winds through limestone caves and under thick tree canopies.
Vietnam seems to be a contrast between many people rushing and many people waiting.
Those keen enough to brave the 4.30am wake-up for sunrise at Angkor Wat are rewarded with scenes like this; ancient stone pillars casting long shadows between beams of morning light.
A slightly less beaten track through Angkor forest.
Tender moments spent making a new friend at Angkor Wat. I thought he was unwell as he rolled onto his side, but it turns out he just wanted a pat. Photo: Dan Waterman
Photos courtesy of: Laney Harman
See more about Laney at laneyharman.squarespace.com
Posted on January 16, 2018
Missy Saleeba and Pouria Zoughi of Dyad Artisans
We invited Manuela Millan of Meanwhile In Melbourne to meet with Missy Saleeba and Pouria Zoughi of Dyad Artisans to talk about their current homeware collection and everything they’ve achieved in the short time since their launch earlier this year.
Dyad Artisans is a Melbourne-based company which specialises in purveying and commissioning contemporary and traditional Iranian designs for the Australian market. What makes Dyad Artisans special is their focus on collaborating with local Iranian designers and artisans to produce works uniquely suited to the Australian design palette while retaining their Iranian design heritage.
This concept of conversation and collaboration goes to the heart of Dyad Artisans and can be seen in the design history and quality of each of their pieces.
[PZ] One of the main goals of Dyad Artisans is to change the overly political narrative about Iran in Australia today and create a cultural narrative in which direct people to people contact overrides current political tides creating a personal relationship between the Australian consumer and Iranian maker by placing a piece of their unique art in the Australian home.
[MS] Dyad means the relationship between two elements or two people. For example Pouria and I, Iran and Australia, artist and designer, traditional and contemporary.
Their story began when Missy and Pouria travelled to Iran together after meeting at an Iranian film festival in Melbourne. Missy had been keen to return to Iran after travelling there three years ago, and Pouria was more than happy to have an excuse to travel back to visit his family. While in Iran they had the idea of bringing some of the local Iranian art and design to Australia as they wanted to share the rich culture with an Australian audience. In particular they wanted to highlight some of the unique and less well known Iranian designers and introduce a new aspect of Iranian design to Australia.
[MS] Instead of bringing what everyone expects to see in Iranian arts, crafts and design, we wanted to work and collaborate with artists to show the unexpected side and to give a different view of Iran from what people are used to seeing through the current media.
Getting the balance right between retaining and featuring the traditional Iranian design styles and processes while trying to keep it fresh and contemporary was a challenge which Dyad Artisans has succeeded in meeting. Their curated eye has enabled them to find and select a cohesive modern homeware collection which would suit and enhance any design-conscious home while retaining the essence of what makes Iranian design special.
This meeting of worlds requires seeking out artisans who may be willing to alter or expand their existing collections and techniques, which is not always a simple task.
[MS] It was about looking beneath the works and meeting the artists and seeing how much flexibility they have and if they were willing to do something a little bit different, maybe a little bit paired-back or a whole new direction.
[PZ] You have to look for the people who are willing to take a risk. On one hand you have craftspeople who have had this master/apprentice relationship for hundreds or thousands of years, and you also have a separate group of contemporary artists and each one could be quite resistant to change for their own reasons.
Retaining and rejuvenating endangered techniques and traditions which have survived for thousands of years but are under threat today by force of mass consumerism and production is an important aspect of Dyad Artisans’ ethos and they have tried to ensure that their business is both sustainable and fair so that the relationship with the makers can last for many years ahead.
[MS] We want to be building long-term relationships with artists, so it’s important that we do that sustainably and that we respect the work that they’re doing.
[PZ] It is important for us to keep ancient traditions of craft alive, if we have an elderly master metal worker commissioned by us, we want him not only to be able to continue the work long term, but also to be financially stable enough to hire an apprentice that can learn and progress this ancient tradition.
Equally important is creating a connection between the artist and end-user and ensuring that the story of the artist can be heard and shared. This connection and history gives extra meaning to the products, and allows you to have a deeper connection with the items you bring home.
[MS] It’s really important to us that people can be proud of buying something which has been hand-made by an artist in Iran, and that they can feel that there’s a connection there. We love the idea that our community (which includes those who love culture in its many forms), can share their stories via our website and through the fun and creative events we have planned for the future.
We can't wait to see the next collection and the upcoming collaboration between Melbournian and Iranian artists. It has been a pleasure to meet the minds behind Dyad Artisans and we can't wait to form a dyad of our own with these beautiful homewares.
Safari Living currently presents a selection of textiles and brass trays from Dyad Artisans.
Words: Manuela Millan
Photos courtesy of: Meanwhile in Melbourne and M.Saleeba/P.Zoughi
Posted on January 16, 2018
International Guest: Alvaro Catalan de Ocón of PET Lamp
WORDS: MANUELA MILLAN
PHOTOS: PET LAMP
Alvaro Catalan De Ocón has spent the past 6 years travelling to remote communities around the globe to tackle the issue of plastic pollution in a unique way.
PET Lamp works with local artisans to create award-winning and unique lighting designs from discarded plastic bottles. The artistry of the local weavers transforms the plastic bottles from damaging waste into vibrant pendant lamps which are reflective of the traditions of the community and individuals who created them.
“The issue of plastic bottles is a global problem and we approach the problem through another global reality which is basket making, which has existed since the very beginning.”
— ALVARO CATALAN DE OCÓN
PET bottles can have a second life. There are other ways to accomplish this, but we intended to fuse one of the most produced industrial objects with one of the traditional crafts most rooted to the earth.
The bottles changed from being containers for liquids into being ceiling lamps. We took advantage of the bottle top to join the electrical components to the lamp shade, the neck as the structure and the body of the bottle as a surface on which to weave. The principle of weaving is reinterpreted and the surface of the bottle is converted into the warp through which the artisan weaves the weft.
The PET Lamp story begins in 2012 when Alvaro was invited to be involved in a project to tackle the issue of plastic pollution in Colombia’s waterways. With a background in product and industrial design Alvaro wanted to find a way to repurpose and upcycle used bottles in a way which would extend their usable life. PET Lamp’s ingenious solution involves treating the used bottles as a support structure on which to create woven designs, and then working with artisan weavers from affected communities to create stunning lampshades which are then retailed worldwide to bring much needed income to the community while raising awareness of the ecological impact of our overreliance on plastic.
After their Colombian experiment gained traction and became economically self-sustaining they realised the potential to take PET Lamp worldwide, as basket making and plastic pollution are present in every human culture. PET Lamp has since travelled and collaborated with artisans from Chile, Ethiopia, Japan and most recently Australia. The beauty of the PET Lamp project is that the spirit of the weavers takes centre stage and no two pieces are identical, as each region and artist puts their own imprint on the piece.
One of the most remarkable things about PET Lamp is that it touches on such a variety of important areas, from pure design aesthetic, to social and of course ecological issues. This has not gone unnoticed and PET Lamp’s work has gained worldwide recognition taking home honours across a variety of fields and countries.
All PET Lamps are available at the Safari Living Showroom on High Street, Prahran.
“We don’t impose a design on the weavers; we trust the design instincts of the artisan. It’s a real collaboration.”
— ALVARO CATALAN DE OCÓN
2013 & 2016
December 11, 2017
Posted on December 21, 2017