25 Jan 2017   webgap

How One Design Studio Is Keeping Traditional Craft Techniques Alive

Wallpaper has sadly become an aphorism for anything visual that’s simply there in the background and barely given any attention – a little like television. The incredible collections from New York’s Calico Wallpaper look set to change that dismissive perception and – perhaps more importantly – breathe new light into traditional craft techniques in interior design that have been in danger of fading and peeling away.

Calico Wallpaper’s designs are not afraid to embrace modern technology. Their ‘Inverted Spaces’ collection drew on satellite imagery from NASA, while other collections have channelled traditional means of fixing broken ceramics with molten gold. They also have a Great Depression/King of the road compilation that comes complete with horizon views as seen from railway boxcars.

In the three years that Calico has been in business, their bespoke wallpapers have graced the interiors of homes and hotels, the eyes of purveyors of heavenly delights in churches and earthly ones, in the form of a chocolate bar. In the process, they’ve scraped away some of the misconceptions that modern consumers have about wallpaper and revived some laborious but ultimately stunning interior design techniques that include printing and dyeing.

A recent commission saw the Calico team inspired by the Japanese concept of wabi sabi. Not to be confused with wasabi, the creative ‘heat’ here comes from finding the beauty in imperfection.

For the backdrop to a collection of artworks featuring organic materials, batik seemed the most appropriate approach. Bolts of fine Japanese silk were boiled in a cauldron with a natural dye made of charred tree bark, sea salt and rose petals. This however, was just the first stage of the sorcery.

Next, hot wax was poured over the silk – Christian Grey style. Once this had set, it was cracked to allow more pigment to be massaged into the silk. Then, it was back into the cauldron to be boiled again, removing the wax and revealing the underlying pattern. Mastering this technique took around three months – not so long when you consider that the pattern was inspired by the earth’s crust which is all dramatic cracks and heat beneath the surface.

In our digitised world, there is perhaps too much that is virtual and not enough reality. The Calico team maintain that people want to see the influence or trace of the artist’s hand in what has been created. In addition, people want to understand and see evidence of the craft processes that were used in various interior designs. This is nostalgia not for its own sake but to create a perfectly imperfect, tactile world in which design and décor become real.

As tangible things, they have the power to transport us, whether across the Mid-West on a freight train or into orbit. They may even have the power required to break the hold our devices have over our attention and bring us not only back in time but – crucially – into the present.

01 Feb 2017   webgap

More than just a smiley face

More imaginative teenagers – and adults – can now write entire messages in emojis. These little graphic designs are changing the way we talk to each other in every sphere of our lives. An emoji movie is in the works and we live in a world where adding a smiley face to the end of a message makes anything preceding it acceptable as a joke. Other emojis are still prone to misinterpretation though, especially by new users: “No, Mom, that’s not a happy scoop of chocolate ice cream!”.Emojis can trace their design roots to the creation of the original yellow smiley face back in the 1960s. T ...

08 Feb 2017   webgap

Off the charts

If we’re honest, there’s always been a bit of a disconnect between physical reality and the way it’s represented on maps. Most world maps are based on the Mercator projection, which dates back to the sixteenth century – slightly before we had GPS to check our bearings.The Mercator was a map with an agenda – it had to convey not-so-subtle messages about power, as well as help sailors find their way. The visual design, created by Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator, became the standard map projection for nautical purposes because of its ability to represent lines of constant course. ...

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