Safari Living Blog
One of the best things about cultures other than our own, are the multitudes of legends and traditions which differentiate themselves from the culture that we’re familiar with. By experiencing the uniqueness of other cultures, we see our own in a new light, providing us with a perspective otherwise impossible to achieve. Chinese New Year presents an opportunity to show curiosity about this long lived and established tradition that’s shared amongst both Chinese and increasingly, non-Chinese alike.
Where else to start than at the beginning? Chinese New Year originates from the myth of ‘Year’ (“Nian” in Chinese) a monster who was fabled to terrorize villagers by eating their crops and frightening them with his grisly appearance on the night of every New Years Eve. The villagers discovered that ‘Year’ was afraid of the colour red, fire and loud sounds, hence the proliferation of red decorations and fire crackers which are synonymous to the festival.
The family unit is the most important aspect of Chinese New Year and it’s expected that all members of the immediate family make their way home to celebrate no matter what their circumstances are. ‘Red Packets’ – which are small red envelopes with money inside, are gifted to younger members of the family to start the new year with wealth and luck. A similar tradition offered to elders by the younger generation is also common.
Food is a bonding experience for many cultures and China is no exception to this. Special foods are eaten during Chinese New Year such as steamed fish, Hot Pot and Dumplings which symbolise wealth and prosperity. The making of Dumplings is especially important for the Northern Chinese, where members of the family get together to laugh, banter and catch up over a much-loved ritual.
Red is an unmissable part of Chinese New Year. Seeped in meaning and symbolism for Chinese people, it’s a colour that represents joy, celebration and success and so it appears not only during Chinese New Year, but also wedding celebrations, inaugural ceremonies and the sealing off of official documents.
Learn more about Chinese culture and history at The Chinese Museum and What's On in Melbourne
The new year presents an opportune time to take a closer look around us, both literally and figuratively, for that next exciting discovery. A short no. 6 tram ride away from the hustle and bustle of High Street Armadale, is what we affectionately call our small but curated precinct, “Little High Street”. A space that we share with some very special businesses including Loom, James Vivian Dermal Therapies, Teaspoon, Sum of Us, Robinson Man and Club Social amongst others. Whereas busier precincts prioritize numbers, at Little High Street what counts more is the one to one, personalised approach to both service and product.
Starting with James Vivian Dermal Therapies -- “Clients visit us for treatment, then go across the road for a browse at Safari and then a coffee and a snack at Teaspoon. People enjoy this ritual, they put the time aside to do so” says James. Arguably the most trusted dermal therapist in Melbourne, James began his career after a short stint at Aesop. His three words to describe Little High Street? “Unique, welcoming and bespoke”.
When asked about what makes the area different, former Sydneysider, Tina from Robinson Man (carefully curated menswear) says, “It’s the really specific niche products”. High Street’s past reputation as an international destination for antique hunters doubles its credibility as the go-to place for that special, can’t find it anywhere else item. “In Sydney, you find a lot of more established brands. But here, there’s space for something different”.
Alongside Robinson Man, you will find Sum of Us studio. With its serene and calming interior designed by GOLDEN, the award winning firm has truly instilled a sense of serenity and calm with its design vision. Having spent a stretch of time in the physio world, but finding the industry overly clinical, Marney from Sum of Us provides Yoga, Pilates and Physio services aimed at promoting overall positivity with a holistic touch.
Wellness from within reigns supreme. Since opening the business on High Street, Marney has noticed that the owners of the stores are very involved and everyone helps each other out. “The area is community minded, creative and passionate”.
Image by Sharyn Cairns, Design by GOLDEN
Our next door neighbour, Loom specialises in making and sourcing the most beautiful rugs. "I fell into the rug business due to my family connections in Turkey and worldwide. I was always fascinated with the rug making process as my family was weaving the rugs in a nomadic setting. Since then it has been my passion to grow the business". He reiterates the community spirit of Little High Street -- "The scale of the suburb means that it is easy to make strong connections with neighbours and members of the community. We are lucky to be located amongst such a close-knit group".
Just a stone’s throw away is Teaspoon, the little sister to Spoonful. Here, expect to find shelves amply stocked with fine pantry necessities. Not to mention their excellent coffee. Or if a lunch plate is what you’re after, Club Social (right next door to Loom ) does an excellent Okonomiyaki pancake amongst other delicious choices.
Little High Street, make a ritual of it. Come visit.
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
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
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
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
PET LAMP WEBSITE
SAFARI LIVING WEBSITE
December 11, 2017
NLXL have been producing amazing collections of high quality wallpapers since their debut Scrapwood collection which they created with Dutch designer Piet Hein Eek back in 2011. They continue to collaborate, having worked with Piet Boon, Merci Paris, Paola Navone and many others since then, consistently coming up with some of the most inspired wallpapers and murals available today.
Here is a small selection of the NLXL collaborations, including the wonderful Biblioteca collection designed by Ekaterina Panikanova.
Here we share an edited version of an inspiring interview with Spanish designer Alvaro Catalán de Ocón of the PET Lamp project in his Home & Workspace in Madrid from Freunde von Freunden - an international interview magazine that portrays people of diverse creative and cultural backgrounds in their homes or daily working environment.
By all appearances, Spanish designer Alvaro Catalán de Ocón lives and works in one of the un-coolest areas of Madrid – which, as it happens, is precisely what makes it as cool as it ultimately is.
There are no trendy restaurants or shops. No art galleries to be found. In this working class corner of the city, you may not spot hipsters strolling the streets, but what you will find is a rare authenticity and a richness that’s long vanished from more centrally located regions of Spain.
Alvaro is perhaps best known for his acclaimed PET lamp, a project that marries industrial lighting with regional textile techniques. It’s a social and artistic endeavor that continues to evolve, having already reached communities in Colombia, Chile and Ethiopia, with several others on the horizon. It’s also a project that’s changed the way the designer approaches work and living, and the spaces in which both take place.
“As a designer, in the beginning,” he says, “you’re always focused on making beautiful things. But beauty should be inherent to anything you do. There’s much more to it than that.”
You studied business at Madrid University before transitioning to a career in design. How did you decide to make that switch?
I knew when I was studying business that it wasn’t of real interest to me. I painted and did sculpture and was very interested in architecture – I knew that working in a bank wasn’t going to be my life. In my second year of university, I did my military service and that ended up being a bit of a turnaround year. I decided I’d continue to study business for another two years, but straight after, I went on to another university to study design. At the time, I was becoming more and more interested in three dimensional creative practices over graphics and painting and photography. I was more interested in architecture and that brought me a bit closer to what I’m doing now.
“I believe that designers shouldn’t necessarily have a signature style - instead, they should have a method of work.”
You studied at both Istituto Europeo del Design in Milan and Central Saint Martin’s School in London. Were there notable differences between the two cities and schools in terms of approaches to design?
Both are deeply ingrained in me. From my stay in Milan, I picked up on a vast culture of post-war Milanese design and the importance of the relationship between the brand and the designer; and the importance of the concept and the functionality, as well. From my London years, I came to understand design as an opportunity for entrepreneurship, an idea that is very present in my studio today, where we produce and sell our designs. This is something very important to the studio because I started just as the economic crisis arrived and the big companies began to have a more cautious approach towards new designers.
Tell us about the first piece you produced after graduating.
After St. Martin’s, I designed a little object with resin – it’s a cube with a bulb, and it was meant to explore the relationship between sculpture and design. It’s called Glow Brick, and it was produced by a firm in the U.K. called Suck UK. It’s still in production. That was the project that allowed me to start doing my own things.
These days, you’re best known for your PET lamp, a project that combines industrial lighting with regional textile crafts, that had its beginnings in Colombia. What brought you there, and how did the idea for the lamps come about?
My daughter is half Colombian, so I’m linked to the country in that way. I was on a summer holiday with a group of artists who were doing a project with plastic bottles in the Amazon River. At the time, I was looking for a project to do in Colombia in order to get to know the country better and to get involved in the crafts community, which is very rich there. So that’s how it all started. We developed the first lamp prototypes here in Madrid and got in contact with a public organization, Artesanías de Colombia, whose aim was to keep craftsmanship alive in local communities. Together, we did our first workshop there in 2012.
Now, we’ve moved on to Chile and Ethiopia. We wanted to see how the concept would be interpreted by different cultures. Plastic bottles are everywhere, after all, and basket-making is one of the oldest crafts techniques humans have developed. It’s even older than pottery. The project’s been an excuse not just to get to know Colombia better, but to get to know the world. It’s become more than just a design project. It’s a way of meeting people, of seeing the world; not as a tourist, but as a local.
Have you had the opportunity to meet the artisans you’re working with?
All of them. We’ve gotten to see how their lives have changed since becoming involved with the project. In Colombia, the artisans used to come to the place where we’d meet, walking from three hours away. And now they have motorbikes, or they come by taxi. It’s really changed the way they live in the city. They’ve built up their own small economy. They’re professionals now – they can work legally; they can do invoices. The project’s become a starting point for building up their own small businesses.
Has this changed the way you’ve approached your work moving forward?
Yes. I believe that designers shouldn’t necessarily have a signature style – instead, they should have a method of work. The PET lamp project was a response to a certain brief, and when I receive a different brief, I’ll have a different response. Every project certainly leaves a very strong impact. Each one gives you new tools and new ways of understanding global problems, as well.
“My generation of designers - we’re a bit overwhelmed by how many things are being produced these days, and how much has already been done. My worry when I design another chair or another lamp is: should it really exist?”
How do you see the project continuing to evolve?
It’s become quite big, so it’s not as easy to handle as before. We have an organization here in Madrid that runs the three projects we have in Colombia, Chile and Ethiopia, and we’re getting approached by different organizations and people who are interested in developing their own projects in other countries. In 2016, we’ll be working with a museum in Victoria on a project with an aboriginal community in Australia. We’re also hoping to do workshops in Kyoto and Cape Town. At this point, the project has its own life – if someone is interested in doing the project elsewhere in the world, he can contact us.
Did you always intend to incorporate public and private spaces within your work-living space?
It’s natural to the activities I do here. During the day, we use the table as a meeting place for the seven people who work in the studio, and in the evenings, I use it for dinner with friends. The hammock is sort of a psychological border, like a barrier that divides the public and private sides. I included some curtains that I can close for privacy and even a doorbell by Droog Design. The bird there, Pepe, is free to get out of the cage and fly around whenever he feels like it.
Tell us about your bedroom, and your daughter’s little house.
I designed my bedroom differently from the rest of the house, which is really open. My little space is just a minimal wooden cabin, very quiet and relaxing. And the little house is a ‘home within a home’ that I designed for Sofia. It even has a tree trunk inside. She can climb upstairs and has her little kitchen and playroom. She has her privacy, but she can watch what I’m doing from the upstairs window, which opens to the living room.
What items are most meaningful to you?
The three things that come with me everywhere are my books, my music and my plants. There are plants that have been with me for ten years, from Barcelona to Madrid. My books and my CDs are, at the end of the day, things which many would think are obsolete. I could have replaced them, but instead, they are things that I really value.
What kind of books do you find yourself gravitating toward most often?
I buy many art books. In terms of literature, I read more essays than novels. Right now, I’m reading a book by a Korean philosopher who lives in Berlin, which I’m finding quite interesting (Die Müdigkeitsgesellschaft by Byung-Chul Han). These books are a continuous reference in my work. I believe very much that you must buy a book the moment you feel an attraction to it. If you are looking around at a book shop and you feel attracted to a book, you should buy it then and there. If you buy it five years later, it will lose that attraction you felt for it. All of those books in my shelf I’ve felt that way about. I’ve built the way I think around them. And I have a very bad memory, so they are a way to keep track of my ideas.
What about music? Who’s been your greatest inspiration?
I like all kinds of music. Bob Dylan is a strong inspiration for me. His life and work are so connected, and what he does is so genuine. He’s always reinventing himself; he’s always in search. He’s not trying to do ‘beautiful’ music. I identify with that. As a designer, I’m not particularly interested in comfort. I believe that a bit of cold and hunger keeps you alert and alive.
See more of Alvaro’s PET Lamp Collection here
Interview: Ana Domínguez
Photography: Erea Azurmendi & Adrian Cano Franco