I have just finished an incredibly fun project. A trio of cushions as a very personal wedding gift, one of him, one of her and of course, one of them together. And the best this about this brief – to be as kitsch as possible. A challenge I was more than happy to accept. Combining digital print and screen printing proved to be a little more difficult than expected – but I think the end results has meant that it has all been worthwhile. Having never met the couple myself meant that my only option was to create these cushions to my own level of kitsch – so I can only hope that they won’t be too overwhelmed.

Congrats to the happy couple – and I hope they are pleased!

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Revisting another of my favourite photographers, Pieter Hugo. The Nollywood series captures the macabre world of the Nigerian horror film industry but in a playful way. I am never very sure if I like them because of the actual photographs, or because of the bizarre industry that they capture. The Nollywood film industry releases over 1000 films a year straight to home-release. Without a Hollywood budget, there is something very charming about the lo-tech effects and costumes. But I feel Huge captures this feeling perfectly, by almost making the characters look at home, and often in a very mundane set. Check out more of the series of Hugo’s website.

http://www.pieterhugo.com/nollywood/

I was incredibly lucky to be taken on an unexpected (and wonderful) trip to Budapest last week. It is a city that I feel I know well now, and really love – probably because whenever I go I now feel I can spend the time in spas and bars instead of sightseeing! It offers a completely different vibe to London – so much more laid-back with a real creative-vibe. The ‘East London’ of Budapest is the Jewish Quarter, which is full of restaurants, independent shops and outdoor bars – perfect for 34 degree heat. I was really excited to visit a real favourite of mine, a bar (if you can call it that!) called Szimpla, and it appears to have gone from strength to strength.

It is absolutely huge, and spread out over 2 floors. There are outdoor areas, large patios and terraces, as well as numerous nooks and crannies that are probably a bit more favourable in the winter. The floors are connected by various staircases (some a little more precarious than others) and there are balconies to look down on to what is going on below. But what is really incredible about this place is the truely unique decor.

Every single surface is covered. All of the furniture has been salvaged and updated. And at night the place comes to light with fairy lights and other odd-ball pieces. There is always something new to see. It may take you a while to notice that you have sat down in a reworked bath tub, or that there is a gnome hanging from the ceiling above you. Also, the decor is interactive. There are switchboards where you can change the lighting in a room, or provoke a reaction on a tv screen. There is even a switch that made an entire ceiling of battery powered animals suddenly come to life. It has hard to describe – but the whole experience is a bit of a sensory overload.

The outdoor terrace is amazing, being characterised by a burnt out car. Colourful awning and mismatching chairs make it a really great place to drink on a summers evening. But the entertainment Szimpla offers excels that of a normal bar, with film screenings, bands, performances and food. It really is a one off place – and judging by it’s popularity I am not the only person who thinks so!

http://www.szimpla.hu/

I have just completed a term of evening classes to learn traditional upholstery techniques – and here are the results! I have found the whole process incredibly satisfying. I picked up this nursing chair at an auction and consequently knew nothing of it’s history, except for it’s Edwardian date. It was amazing to see some of it’s past through stripping it all the way back to a wooden frame. And it is equally amazing to think that, due to my own handiwork, it could now last another 100 years. But what made the process really special for me was being able to cover something with my own design. I love the idea of a very traditional piece being juxtaposed by a completely unexpected and modern print.

The kitsch prawn fabric was hand printed by myself (although with some crucial assistance from a wonderfully reliable friend). It was interesting trying to visualise how my print would look applied to a chair during the design process – putting my illustration into a traditional repeat grid helped. And I think the playful print works really well on a smaller nursing chair – although it may now be more suitable for a children’s room!

I am hoping to continue classes to learn other techniques in the Autumn. I love the idea of being able to create something completely bespoke and individual. I am trying to take on as many commissions as possible – so as not to forget everything that I have learnt. So watch this space.

The ‘Afronauts’ is an ongoing project from Spanish photographer Cristina de Middel. I really love the mood of these images – they feel like a sci-fi scenario that has got completely misplaced whilst travelling through time and space. They are humorous but also slightly eery at the same time.

However, in a statement about the ‘Afronauts’ project, Middel suggests that her actual inspiration for this project was just as obscure as you would imagine it to be.

In 1964, still living the dream of their recently gained independence, Zambia started a space program that would put the first African person on the moon catching up the USA and the Soviet Union in the space race.

Only a few optimists supported the project by Edward Makuka, the school teacher in charge of presenting the ambitious program and getting its necessary funding. But the financial aid never came, as the United Nations declined their support, and one of the astronauts, a 16 year old girl, got pregnant and had to quit. That is how the heroic initiative turned into an exotic episode of the African history, surrounded by wars, violence, droughts and hunger.

“Afronauts” is based on the documentation of an impossible dream that only lives in the pictures. I start from a real fact that took place 50 years ago and rebuild the documents adapting them to my personal imagery.

Middel creates the perfect realisation of a truly bizarre story. There are so many other beautiful, witty and imaginative projects on Middel’s website. Make sure you check it out.

http://www.lademiddel.com/
http://www.heyhotshot.com/blog/2012/01/23/second-edition-2011-hot-shot-cristina-de-middel/

I came across the work of French Artists Pierre et Gilles a very long time ago – and yet it still fascinates me. Every time I look at them, I find something new about them that I love. And although many current artists and photographer may cite Pierre et Gilles as an inspiration – no one has done it quite like them yet.

Their work can only be described as multi-disiciplinary. The actual photography is only the end result. Pierre et Gilles were experts at creating incredible mini-worlds in which to photograph their (often famous) subjects within, building their own flamboyant sets and costumes. However, I believe it is the retouching that really brings their pictures to life – helping to reinforce the narrative created within them. Although kitsch and devotional, I really don’t know what it is about them that makes them still seem so new and appropriate for today.

I first came across the work of artist Stephen Wright in a small boutique in Brixton Village called Brixi. A mixture of tapestry and mosaic techniques, Wright’s work is immediately eye-catching and engaging, if not a little on the wild side. As a fan of all things kitsch, the way that Wright combines materials, objects and imagery seemed wonderful to me. Large scale embroidered tapestries have been photographed and interpreted into beautiful prints that have not lost any of their texture and the abstract qualities that make them interesting.

Stephen is currently exhibiting some of his work on the first floor of the legendary patisserie and art gallery Maison Bertaux on Greek Street in Soho until mid June.

Having seen Stephen’s work for the first time, I immediately found out about his current project, the ‘House of Dreams’, from his website. An ongoing project, Stephen is gradually turning the ground floor of his house in East Dulwich into what feels like a living, breathing piece of art. The house has now been bequeathed to the National Trust, and consequently will be open to visitors long after it is completed. Before visiting, and having seen the aesthetic of Stephen’s work and a few images of the house online, I had a fairly good idea of the sort of sensory assault I was expecting. It certainly lived up to those expectations. Instantly visible upon the terraced street, every surface is covered in literally everything – objects from all over the world, ranging from the utterly mundane to the outright bizarre. You could walk around the house for days on end and each time you would still spot a detail that you had overlooked before. However, I also experienced something more, which I hadn’t expected. The house isn’t just an artwork, but more of a museum of Stephen’s life. It is incredibly personal – full of stories and moments from all stages of his life – as well as all of the objects, themes, and issues that are currently consuming him. The combination of this provides an all-encompassing and truly unique story, straight from the artist himself. One might have thought that the house would seem claustrophobic and chaotic, but in a strange way it almost feels like everything is in it’s correct place, which is a true feat. Unfortunately, I was not able to take any photos as work is currently in progress towards a book documenting the House of Dreams and the journey that Stephen has been on, which is a very exciting prospect. But these images taken from an interview with Stephen in ‘Dulwich On View’ should give you a taster.

The House of Dreams is having an open day this Saturday (the 2nd of June) between 11am and 4pm. Booking is required. I felt I had such a personal experience from going there – and strongly recommend it to anyone with an erring towards to kitsch. There will also be another open day on the 7th of July.

http://www.stephenwrightartist.co.uk/house-of-dreams.html
http://www.maisonbertaux.com/maisonbertaux.com/Maison_Bertaux.html
http://dulwichonview.org.uk/2011/01/28/welcome-to-the-house-of-dreams/

Shine Shine has been created by graphic designer Heidi Chisholm. South African born and Brooklyn based, this clash of cultures really comes across in her eye catching repeat patterns. The graphic style is very slick and clean – and there are none of the characterful mistakes that I aesthetically associate with African textiles. However, the bold and often unexpected use of colour seems very typical. And the overall layout of the prints seems to take a lot of influence from traditional ‘commemorative cloths’ of this region. Some how, the two cultural references blend seamlessly to create something quite unique to me.

http://www.shineshine.co.za/
http://www.heidichisholm.com/

Concept Shed are a young, creative team based in Cornwall – dreaming up some brilliant concepts and building some fantastic prototypes.

I love their AutoWed Machine, created for Marvin’s Marvellous Mechanical Museum in Detroit. Made to order, this kitsch vending machine offers a completely new method of undertaking a quick hitch. I suppose it should seem hideously unromantic – to some how compare the idea of getting married with the sorts of things you normally get out of a vending machine. Canned drinks, a packet of walkers, tampons, flavoured condoms… Yet there is something incredibly sweet and humorous about the whole idea, especially when you watch the video. The design as a whole is very harmonious. Every aspect has been considered to create an object that really reinforces the irony behind the whole idea – from the automated wedding march soundtrack and the plastic rings, to the personalised certificate, or rather glorified receipt.

Then all that it is left is to press 1 for ‘I do’, or press 2 for ‘Escape’…

http://www.conceptshed.com/
http://marvin3m.com/