Saturday, 15 May 2010

The Genius of Wally Byam

Last night I was already enjoying The Genius of Design on BBC2 but got very excited towards the end when the subject became Wally Byam, the designer of the very first Airstream trailers and the founder of the Airstream company.

The programme was about 20s and 30s design innovators and the birth of modernism. It showed the explosion of creative invention going hand in hand with the development of industrial materials, a move towards minimal and functional style as a reaction against the overly-decorated. One of the principles was that good design can be more affordable and democratic if it isn't laden with unnecessary adornment. The story went from Bauhaus to Habitat via Le Corbusier, Henry Dreyfuss and Wally Byam. Those kinds of leaps in creativity make my heart flutter. And the paring down and simplification are like a whiff of eucalyptus to me.

The narrator described the Airstream style of the thirties as "folk modernism", "Le Corbusier meets Henry Dreyfuss from a designer who probably never heard of either of them." I guess that puts Wally in a school of his own then. I know that the best thing you can ever see in your rear-view mirror is an Airstream. That's just one of the many reasons why we live and travel in ours full-time. Like the Airstreamers on The Genius of Design said, it's self-contained, has all the comforts of home and if you don't like the view you can just move on.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Still Hooked

The shawl is progressing, slowly. Although each row is one loop shorter than the previous one, I'm not feeling it yet. I am happy with the trellis stitch though.

The pattern is from Sirdar but I have substituted the shiny, synthetic yarn they recommend with a merino from Debbie Bliss. It has a little bit of stretchiness in it so I'm hoping I'm not going to end up with a massive, distorted, shapeless thing.

This might be a bit naff, but here goes anyway. While I was deciding what my next crochet project should be I saw Jennifer Aniston in some film or other and she was nonchalantly and stylishly sporting what looked like a crocheted shawl. It was open and light enough to be draped a couple of times around her slender neck. Consulting my copy of the Compendium of Crochet Techniques I guessed the stitch was trellis or similar. We can't always choose where we find inspiration, can we?

And why do I need a pattern for such a simple garment? Well I'm a novice and I needed the guidance for the shaping involved. It's all a learning process.

Henri Matisse

The BBC's Modern Masters series focused on Henri Matisse this week. Alastair Sooke highlighted how Matisse's bold use of colour and simple shapes has influenced art, design and fashion. It was interesting to see the extent to which his work, particularly from later in his life, has become part of our visual language, whether we are aware of it or not.

This postcard is one of my favourite things, on permanent display in the Airstream.

And here's some seaweed from Lligwy beach on Angelsey.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

A Village Fair

On Monday we went to the Kingsbury May Festival in Kingsbury Episcopi in Somerset. It was a proper village fair, but bigger. There were people demonstrating their crafts and skills, like spinning, stone masonry, bee keeping, archery. There were stalls with all kinds of handmade products from knitted children's clothes to pottery, from felt bags to turned and carved wooden bowls. There were places to have cream tea, there was live folk music in the street and a brass band outside the church (playing an Abba medley at one point!?!). David and Ali, our Airstreaming friends who have been our neighbours here in Somerset, explained that the festival has grown over the years. It now spreads through the village and into two fields.

In the children's area there was the funniest and most inspired thing of the day, a medieval fruit machine. In a box, painted to look like a mini castle sat three jesters. When you rang the bell they would each hold up a piece of fruit. Beautifully bonkers.

I noticed that, at a festival there is no such thing as too much bunting. It looked so pretty and celebratory flapping around in the breeze.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Getting Hooked

I have been experimenting with some crochet stitches, including this funky purple ruffle. I'm new to crochet and I just wanted to learn the stitches and to see how the textures and three dimensional shapes turn out. So I made some swatches of squares, circles, trellis and the ruffle as well as various flowers.

Now I am starting a shawl for myself in a trellis stitch. I'm looking forward to sitting outside the Airstream late into the approaching summer evenings and I think the trellis stitch looks like it will be open and drapey and wrap aroundy.

It is going to be a big, holey triangle. So far I have made a very long chain and a foundation row of one hundred loops. Each row will now get shorter by one loop, like a very slow countdown. Then there will be a fringe. Pretty glamorous really.