Seeing

An update to my open letter to the CEO of H&M

Since posting my open letter to the CEO of H&M on Monday evening I have been completely overwhelmed by the reception its received and the support that I have been shown. I have also been shocked to be told over and over again at how common an occurrence this is.

Pots 46

Earlier today I received this email from Camilla Henriksson, the Head of Marketing and Communications at H&M Home.

Letter

 

I am really happy to have heard from them. It was the response I was hoping for and more. I think I’ll leave it to  my reply describes best how I feel, 

“Dear Camilla,

Thank you for your reply and for going some way to answering the question in my letter. I can see that you recognised that it wasn’t written or sent lightly and that you have reacted accordingly in your apology and product recall. I can appreciate that this is a big undertaking and for this, I thank you.

I too use the world as inspiration when working on new ideas and I find this to be one of the greatest joys of doing what I get to do. And I also work hard on avoiding treading on anyone’s toes, I think we can both agree, it is a fine line to walk at times and a very well recognised and well-worn one too!

Issuing this letter openly has been an overwhelming experience, the show of support I have received has been extraordinary. But the number of similar stories shared by other small designers seeing their ideas seemingly stolen out from under them and feeling utterly hopeless and helpless to do anything and sadly fearful of the repercussions if they did, was totally unexpected.

It took me a lot of courage to do and I am glad my letter has shone a light on this.

To me the design world is a place where I can feel like we can all work together to try to make things better (in an aesthetic sense) and I hope moving forward we all can and look out for each other with this in mind as we do.

Yours sincerely,

Bridie Hall”

H & Ouch!

An open letter to the CEO of H&M                                                           

Dear Karl-Johan Persson,

It is deeply upsetting to learn that H&M have produced and are selling as its own, a product copied directly from my range of Alphabet Brush Pots.

 

HandOuch

 

I designed these in 2014 and have been making them in London with a small, skilled and dedicated staff since 2015. They have been very popular and sell into a number of the most prestigious interior, design and department stores in London and around the world. Something I have worked immensely hard on and am very proud of.

To see H&M producing a poorly watered-down version to pass of as its own design in the form of a candle votive (votive made in China, candle poured in Vietnam), is not only disappointing from the perspective of witnessing an enormous multi-national company yet again stealing a design from a tiny independent designer and profiting from it.  But it’s method of production also flies in the face of everything I work hard to promote and practice – locally assembled, handmade, sustainable, high quality.

It puts under threat the relationships I have built between my company and my stockists and compromises my reputation with my customers, who will recognise this design as mine and think that I had a part to play in its compromised design and method of mass production. 

As well as being (totally) unethical, by directly copying my design there is an obvious detrimental financial implication to my business as customers and the wider public will be purchasing your copy of my design instead of my original product. (Your company has completely diluted my product’s exclusivity.) The damaging effect upon our own sales may be lasting and is a cause of great stress for a small business like ours.

I have visited the H&M website and read your values and guidelines manifesto ‘The H&M Way’ which is aimed towards your staff, customers, suppliers, shareholders and business partners. Throughout this the words – quality, respect, openness, ethically, straightforwardness, honesty and responsibly, are repeatedly used and that you ‘continually encourage our suppliers and other business partners to do the same.’

I want to ask you; do you not feel that these values and guidelines should not also be extended towards the wider design community and the treatment of their intellectual property?

Yours faithfully,

Bridie Hall

Glenn Brown & Rembrandt at the BM

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Rosenberg Palace, Copenhagen

Visiting the Rosenberg Palace while in the middle of reading Rose Tremain’s “Silence and Music” had to be one of the most truly enchanting experiences in terms of bringing a book to life. In quiet corners I could picture her characters inhabiting the grandness. 

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Perhaps he’s trying to tell us something? (more…)

Portraiture In Clay And Marveling At Marble

 

Eventually admitting defeat to myself that I am never going to be a draughtsman I finally looked to what has been staring me plainly in the face all these years – going three dimensional. I don’t know why I forget that for my graduation show for painting was all sculpture. Dead birds cast in wax if you’re asking.

So, over Summer I attended a ten week portraiture in clay course at City Lit. Working with clay and collecting pottery is a passion so I was excited to be learning a new way to create with it as it’s always been more a conventional utilitarian practice for me. It was also fascinating to learn to see in a different, more anatomical way. Being taught to look through the models skin and into their skull, building up the layers of muscle before applying the skin, I find this endlessly interesting. The process completely sucked me in, although the progress is by no means instant.

I’m looking forward to working on portraiture in this way and have set myself the rather ambitious task of sculpting the Roman Emperors portraits. I’ve been visiting the British Museum regularly to study their collection of marble busts, a completely different technique and medium but the aesthetic I am aiming for. They are so pure and perfect. I have a feeling at some point I’ll be spending a lot of time working on and perfecting the bases they will be displayed on. Oh and faux marble finish them – that could be a happy disaster!

 

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We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us – WINSTON CHURCHILL

 

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Private View: Wednesday 23rd October, 6pm.

London Curiosity

When One is tired of London….Episode 1 ‘The Drowned Man’

I can say I have been tired recently but certainly not of London. In fact I would say this has been the first Summer in a very long time that I have made the most of what’s on offer in this great city. Largley due to having energetic and interested house guests, but also due to the fact I have been holed up for some time now and have finally found the need to shake it off and remind myself of who and where I am.

Having missed (forgotten) to take photographs of what Ben would call ‘blogortunitites’ over the last couple of weeks due to being so involved in what I was doing I thought I’d skim some images courtesy of the kind people of the internet to share with you. So thank you kind people with foresight and cameras. Let me know if you have any objections to me using your images IF you can prove they are in fact yours yeah?

The first cultural event I want to blog about that I never thought I’d see myself going to was a production by the immersive theatre group Punchdrunk and their latest theatrical adventure ‘The Drowned Man’ ( I ended up seeing it twice!). I’m normally the LAST person to put their hand up to volunteer attending any theatre. I find live performance pretty, I dunno, in your face? Theatrical? Performancy? Self conscious for sure. People pretending to be other people anywhere other than on the telly have always made little sense to me. Puppets are OK, because people are pretending to be an inanimate object and that makes perfect sense. Call me uncultured, I really don’t mind. Educate me, if you want to put in the time I’m happy to do the crime. PLEASE!

My first theatrical experience was seeing CATS in Auckland in 1990 (same year as the Auckland Commonwealth Games, which was/is still OUR London Olympic Summer!) when I was 12. The tickets cost my mother a fortune and she made me a waistcoat with a tiger print/face pattern especially for the evening, she’d seen it a few years before in Sydney and didn’t want me to miss the dazzle. There was so much anticipation and SO much riding on it being amazing for me. I think I ended up being so nervous I forgot to actually enjoy it! ( Or perhaps seeing fully grown men and women pouncing around in leotards painted up as cats singing renditions of Barbara Streisands’ ‘Memories’ makes you automatically block/hate all theatre?)

CATS

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 Back to The Drowned Man…I was offered a ticket a few weeks ago almost last minute by a friend which I couldn’t make, that same weekend I was given a second spare ticket a chance I figured the gods were telling me something so I went. I took a group of six the week after that.

The Drowned Man - Punchdrunk production

 The Drowned Man is a completely different experience. Set over four or five floors (200,000 sq ft) in an old postal sorting office in Paddington, two stories of love gone wrong are played out and it is up to each individual audience member to decide which storyline or actor they want to follow. We were given masks upon entering and told to remain completely silent throughout but encouraged to explore, leave no stone unturned if we so felt the need. The staging is vast. I spent the first visit mostly wandering around wondering how they’d managed it and only getting glimpses of the action. The second time I decided I wanted to follow the story more closely and it was pretty extraordinary. I’m aware there is an unwritten code that punchdrunk fans don’t reveal any plot line so I’m not going to spoil it for anyone other than to say, its a three hour performance and the first lot of friends I went with who were experienced in punchdrunk said ‘there will be a point where you want to start looking for the secret bar, find it and odds are we will be there or not far behind’ I can tell you both times this happens approximately two hours in and the last hour is spent happily in a replica 60’s Hollywood club where you drink and fall in love with the man singing Blue Valentine perfectly dressed in a white tuxedo and all the girls walking around on floor length sequined gowns whispering sweet nothings in punters (who can’t believe their luck) ears.

What I loved about The Drowned Man was how it was so different to regular theatre. Things I struggle with i.e. the self-consciousness, when everyone around you is laughing so hard/reacting so strongly to something that you think is utter crap. You then need to proceed to judge the entire audience, especially the friends that invited you (entire friendships needs to be fully re-evaluated), its stressful. If you really hate it you can walk away and visit the bar. If you really love it you can secretly weep and get swept away with it because you are wearing a mask and have lost your mates and are anonymous. I can’t possibly comment on the quality of the dancing or acting I have zero knowledge of it but at least I can now say I say I have a burgeoning interest.

The Drowned Man runs until the 30th December in London’s Paddington, tickets and dates available here. I urge you to experience it for yourself and if you have any recommendations I’d love to hear them. Having shared mine I’m now far more interested in hearing about your first foray into the theatre.

 

Michael Stubbs – Artist

 

A couple of week ago in my blog ‘Taste is the Common Sense of Genius’, I mentioned that I had attended the private view of artist Michael Stubbs – Solo Exhibition at the Cass Gallery in Whitechapel. The so called tagline to the show goes, ‘This exhibition contextualises Stubbs’ painting practice alongside his rarely seen paper works’. I had only ever seen his paintings so I was very curious to see where they came from and how they evolved.

Being a friend of Mike and an admirer of his work I invited myself to his studio last week hoping to gain more of an insight into where his work comes from and how it’s produced and lets face it, who doesn’t like having a nosy at how and where people work. As a maker and painter it is easy for me to see that his understanding of paint, colour and technique is absolutely expert. Using household paints and tinted varnishes with ready made graphic stencils, I wanted to see how he executed this.

‘BB Beat EF, 2004, household paint and tinted floor varnish on MDF, 198 x 198 cm

 Upon entering the studio the first thing you can’t help but notice is the immaculate white walls and paint caked floor, immediately I took my camera out and started to take pictures of it “I knew you would do that”, said Mike, “Everybody does”. And why wouldn’t they?

The Studio Floor

 

A new board being prepared against the floor of the studio. Talk about brilliant contrast.

 

 Mike works leaning over his paintings where they are on the ground. He says he works quickly, spending only a couple of hours at a time in the studio, applying a layer of paint as a pour or in a stencil and then leaving it to dry and contemplating his next move.

Three of the six boards Mike is about to start working on being prepared. The back has the same number of coats of paint that the front does.

 

A multi-purpose medium

  

A well used stencil motif becoming an object in itself.

 

Paint trays.

 

Rolls of stencils.

 

A potential palette for a new series of paintings.

 

The Artists uniform

 

Ingenious use of stacked tables as shelves. A moment of monochrome on the back wall and a sneak peak of whats to come.

 

I know what I love about these paintings, first and foremost and as I mentioned earlier is the expertise Mike exhibits with the paint. The contrast of the thickly applied eggshell or gloss paint to the multiple layers of tinted varnish along with the free form of the pours against the strict confines of the stencils interplay with one another pleasingly. The sheer scale of the paintings, like a confined explosion is staggering. It’s the recognisable motifs, a stylised Lichtenstein brush mark, sign writers lettering, which cause me to think that it’s time to learn more about what is going on within them.

Mike explains, “Technique and making is only the means, not the end. What’s equally important (if not more so) is the context the paintings operate within. Like when a DJ plays two tracks and mixes them to make a new tune, I combine genres of Abstraction and Pop Art to make a third language in painting” So far so good, “What you get from the painting is a sensation, which arguably resists meaning and interpretation” I agree, “However, painting is always framed within the history of its particular language. When you combine this with say, the flat of the digital screen, you end up with a clash of methods and interpretation.” I have to admit I’m lost at the last line. 

What does he mean if you combine the pure sensation you get from the painting with the flat of the digital screen? Is this depicted by the gloss black in many of his pictures?  Or when you view paintings through a computer screen? What are the clash of methods he refers to? I can see the different methods of painting…..

All good art leaves the viewer asking questions and searching for answers, much the same way the artist is lead into a painting in the first place. information about domain . I guess it’s thrill of the chase so to speak. 

A corner of ‘Hot Steppa’, 2011, household paint and tinted floor varnish on MDF, 122 x 305 cm

 

‘Snowblind’, 2002, household paint and tinted floor varnish on MDF, 198 x 260 cm

 

I leave you with this brilliant Short Studio Film: Michael Stubbs in conversation with John Shilver from Tamazin Devereux. A wonderful look at how Mike paints in his studio and his work in his words.

 

And if you can, I urge you to get along to the Cass Gallery in Whitechapel this week, the final week of his show.

Details here:  Michael Stubbs – Solo Show, The Cass Gallery.

Visit www.michaelstubbs.org to see and read more about Mike’s paintings on his website.

Visit Laurent Delaye to see more by the artist.