• Archive for May, 2011

    The world according to Harry Allen

    by  • May 31, 2011 • The World According to... • 0 Comments

    American designer Harry Allen, he of Bank In The Form Of A Pig and brilliant C’Mere hand hooks, talks design inspiration, rollerskating, living in a former funeral home and being paid to have fun

    Where are you based and what do you love about your neighbourhood? I’m based in the East Village neighborhood of New york City. I love it for a variety of reasons. To me it still feels like New York. So many neighborhoods like the Meatpacking District and Hell’s Kitchen have gentrified beyond recognition. The East Village still feels diverse and edgy. It’s not what it used to be, but it still has some flavor. It is diverse in all ways – racially, economically, sexually. It’s a residential neighbourhood, mainly, so there are lots of good small restaurants, and lots of people on the street in the evenings. For years the East Village was a creative centre of the City, and a home to many young artists and creative professionals. As rents have risen many of those young creative types have moved out to the boroughs, but some of the bohemia remains and I like that vibe.

    Tell us about Areaware. Areaware is not my company. They manufacture and sell my REALITY line of products. However, I have been with them almost from the start. For about a year and a half I made the REALITY products on my own. I have manufactured a couple of times during my career. In general I am a consulting designer, but from time to time, when I have an idea I just can’t deny, and I cannot find a manufacturing partner, I go into production myself. That is what happened in 2003 when I first had the idea for the Bank In The Form Of A Pig. I started making it and selling it as best I could, but then in 2005 I showed at the ICFF, with my friend Ross Menuez and a fledgling company he was involved with. That company became Areaware, and they eventually picked up all of my products. My own company is Harry Allen Design, a multi-disciplinary design firm. I design a wide variety of products, furniture, lighting, packaging and interiors. I have a very diverse portfolio. I set up the studio in 1993. It was just the logical progression of my ambitions – to have a studio of my own.

    Describe your studio/workspace. I live and work in the same building. The studio is on the ground floor and I live on the second floor. It’s a nice old building, when I bought it it was a funeral home, but it is not creepy at all. It was inhabited by a very nice Italian family. Two brothers bought it in the Forties and converted it into the Sparacio & DeMarco Funeral home. It has an amazing sign on it with a clock when I bought it. I’ve cleaned it up and added alot of windows. One of my contractors told me that it probably weighs half of what it did when I bought it. It is a nice place to be.

    What are you working on right now? Two apartments, a yoga studio, a store project in Japan. Some new products for Areaware. An on-counter tester for MAC cosmetics. Two or three lighting projects, etc etc.

    Before you begin a new design, you must… Not much. I like a clean studio, so sometimes I need to start by straightening up, but other times I can just ignore the mess. The creative process is very personal. You must give yourself the space and the time you need. Each design project is so different. I have yet to encounter two that are the same, so there is no way to have a routine, and honestly I like it like that. I am not a creature of habit – sometimes I drink coffee, sometimes tea, and sometimes nothing at all. I look and listen alot. I am in a constant state of research. I travel alot and look around at products, stores, design and art. I am constantly feeding my head so that when I get a project I always have new ideas to employ. I hate repeating myself. As you see, design permeates my life so it is difficult to know where one project ends and the next begins. Of course with the corporate work there is a contract and a kickoff meeting so it is pretty clear as to the start and finish. My mind usually starts designing in the first meeting. With studio work it is less structured, more artistic. I always have a few projects brewing that I can bounce between.

    Who inspires your work? Everyone and everything I encounter. Really. I used to cite artists like Donald Judd and Sol Lewitt, and great designers like Kuramata and George Nelson, but they are not the great influences that they were in my youth. I’ve learned all that I will learn from them, I think. Now I am looking at the young designers to see what is going on in their minds. I loved the Salone Satelite this year in Milan. It had an energy that you do not find in the more grown up sections of the fair. In general, however, design only clutters up my mind. I use design references more as a limit on what I can do – to know what has already been done – than a true inspiration. I have my most creative thoughts when I get out of my environment – when I go see to an see art show or a dance performance.

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    Dapper gents can now get dressed in style, thanks to Lee Broom

    by  • May 27, 2011 • Life.Style.etc Loves, Uncategorized • 0 Comments

    Life.Style.etc wishes it was a boy and could go hang out at Topman’s new men’s personal shopping suite, designed by Lee Broom. His One Light Only pendant shades look delicious grouped against the rich parquetry. Speaking of which, Lee’s new Parq Life  collection for Deadgood launched at Clerkenwell Design Week, and it’s a very luxurious, beautiful thing indeed.

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    Life.Style.etc loves The Rug Company’s Anglo-American wallhanging

    by  • May 27, 2011 • Uncategorized • 0 Comments

    What do you give the couple with everything? And we mean everything. This is the tapestry wallhanging, specially made by The Rug Company, that Samantha and David gave to Barack and Michelle this week to commemorate their visit to the UK. Much nicer than a stick of rock. A very nice example of beautiful British craft will now grace the White House. Lovely.

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    The world according to Reiko Kaneko

    by  • May 25, 2011 • The World According to... • 1 Comment

    Reiko Kaneko was born in Britain but spent her childhood in Japan, and those roots are clear to see in her bold yet fragile ceramics. She established her design studio in London’s East End in 2007, having studied arts and design at Central Saint Martins. We’ve always loved these, and this. She will be showing at Pulse in June, but until then, she tells 

    What’s your studio like? We’re in the middle of a move so there are currently boxes stacked high. But it’s a nice light room in a converted clothing factory in the East End of London. The building is full of studios with fashion designers, film production companies and workshops. Once we tackle the boxes, we’ll have plenty of space for a plaster works area but, already, it’s cluttered with previous models and half-finished projects.

    Who or what inspired you to become a designer? Initially, I was inspired by artists – especially contemporary, and slightly off-beat people but then when I saw Jurgen Bey’s Tree-trunk bench, it all clicked into place. Like catching a ball he’d thrown out, I got it and design suddenly felt like a two-way thing.

    How do you get from idea in your head to finished piece? It all starts in my sketchbook – I’m not all that good at drawing so thankfully, with the power of technology (3-d computer modelling programmes) the drawings are push, pulled and tweaked for the model maker. The plaster models are then made up in Staffordshire after consulting with experienced producers. Ceramics is, after all, earth and mud and what happens in the heat of the kiln can be very unpredictable with new shapes and forms. As a designer, I need their knowledge and recommendations as the design progresses into production. After the moulds are set up, samples are made and if we need to finish it off by splicing rope or adding wheels, we put it together in our studio ready for another home.

    What are you most proud of? Just to be able to work on this every day. Quitting my part-time work after years of ‘setting up’ was a very happy day.

    How far ahead does your masterplan stretch? I really believe in preserving manufacturing skills in England so I would like to continue increasing the product offering to perhaps hit upon one day, a formula for the finest English China.

    What do you hope to get out of Pulse this year? Catching up with retailers and press. It’s always a great chance to see everyone again and also a great place to meet new people and talk about interesting up and coming projects.

    Other than designing, what makes you happy? Apart from the usual joys of being with friends, I love cutting tofu, honey and marmite on toast, a rare chance for a nap and a good challenge.

    How would you spend your perfect weekend? It would involve sunshine and friends in London – maybe Hampstead Heath ladies’ ponds, a green tea tart at Lanka in Primrose Hill, a cycle to Broadway market preferably along the canal for a few drinks. Then balance up the weekend with discipline through my usual Sunday activity – Japanese archery practices (Kyudo).

    Tell us a secret. I’ve a collection of Royal memorabilia. Mugs, plates, ashtrays, the works – it was a happy day when I acquired the latest tacky Royal wedding mug…

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