Day Tripping: South Coast

Last week I explored the sights and sounds of East Sussex and with time still left in ol’ Summer’s clock I thought I would share a few photographs from my day trip that spanned from Bexhill on Sea to Romney Marsh in Kent with a few surprises in between.
Starting the day at The Pelican Diner on Hasting’s East Parade was tough – tough on my taste buds that wanted to try absolutely everything on the menu. 
Huck Finn pancakes - The Pelican Diner, Hastings
I always find eating out for breakfast a real problem. The English have just about mastered brunch, however compared to our comrades both on the Continent and across the Atlantic, I feel breakfast still has a ways to go. The Pelican Diner is an exception – for menu fantasists, the tributes to American classics match up with what arrives on the plate, and what was on the plate was a slice of US of A heaven à la Huck Finn: fluffy blueberry pancakes, crispy bacon and proper maple syrup – yee-yum! Best seats in the house are on the light-filled first floor looking out onto The Stade and sea with local contemporary art decorating the walls. 
Walk off breakfast exploring the independent and eccentric shops in Hastings Old Town. The High Street is a charming parade of design and home interior boutiques, finely curated to their individual tastes. Be sure to visit A. G. Hendy & Co. Home Store for on-trend understated traditional lux living for home and kitchen as well as Made In Hastings across the road, for contemporary artisanal gifts and products.
Hastings’ latest cultural addition is the Jerwood Gallery. The black tile-clad white space opened in 2012, neighbouring the native black wooden net huts that are still used by local fisherman. Jerwood Gallery hosts seasonal exhibitions as well as a permanent collection of modern art. Currently on show are paintings by Jeffery Camp and etchings by the Chapman Brothers (Game of CorpsesAugust 2013).
Following the coastline Westwards, the De La Warr Pavilion is a national modernist landmark. Framed by Bexhill on Sea’s wide promenades along the sea front, its clean, cream lines houses a dynamic programme of exhibitions and events all year round.
The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things is curated by Turner Prize-winning artist Mark Leckey and includes a selection of historical and contemporary works of art, artefacts, technology and objects presented in specially designed environments that explore the connections past, present and future between this international collection. 
The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things curated by Mark Leckey
An outdoor installation of Exposure Sculptures by Matt Calderwood are also on display on the pavilion’s roof terrace.
Exposure Sculptures by Matt Calderwood
Ice cream by the sea is default whatever the weather - Di Paolo’s Café is a few minutes walk along the Marina from the De La Warr and offers genuine homemade Italian ice cream with a variety of delicious flavours to boot.
Through the picturesque harbour town of Rye - which is worthy of a return visit on another day for its preserved Tudor and Georgian architecture – lies the nature reserve of Dungeness in the county of Kent, east of Hastings. As the sun began to set, this leg of the trip was unexpected - the extent of this special detour only became clear through the shingled landscape that is overshadowed by Dungeness nuclear power plant.
The approach to the headland is unassuming along Dungeness Road until it nears the shore and the impressive Jurassic-esque terrain engulfs your field of vision. I would have never believed such a landscape existed in Britain - it is a peculiar corner of the land, officially classified as a desert. The wildlife and vegetation that lives and survives in such a bleak environment is equally remarkable, warranting the status as an important site for international conservation. 
As I had learned throughout my day along this stretch of coast, there is chic to be had in the rough. Small wooden cottages with their handmade ‘private’ signposts and security chains are scattered along the gravelled road that nears both power plant and The Britannia Inn pub - a when-in-Dungeness must, serving mighty fish and chips. 
The cottages that haphazardly sit along this landscape are uniform in their aesthetic – black matte finish is de rigeur and may have been inspired by the most famous dwelling in the village, Prospect Cottage. The former residence of English film director and Slade alumnus, Derek Jarman is a destination in itself – on one side of its exterior reads in raised lettering the poem, The Sunne Rising by John Donne. The front garden, and I use that term loosely, comprises of pebble and drift wood formations, scrap metal and a host of extraordinary plants that thrive on the peninsula. Jarman’s aesthetic has expanded to the other properties – some have retained their old railway coach features while others have redesigned their sought after residences into über chic bungalows with glass sides and even a shiny vintage airstream addition.
The Britannia Inn, Dungeness
Think Montauk compounds in America’s Hamptons, minimal Danish design and a retiring air of exclusivity and you’ll only be half way to understanding and appreciating the beauty of this area. As a lover of all things symmetrical, even I was taken by its charm and the uncomfortable sense of scale between the colossal nuclear power plant, the towering lighthouses and the lilliputian cottages in comparison. But I guess that is precisely what makes them so attractive as a refuge from the brutal outside world, in every sense of the word. 
As it got darker, adding more drama to the already dramatic, barren scape, I would have not wanted to visit at any other time. At the farthest end of the village I spied a highly designed compound with a series of cast iron sculptures in its garden I believed to be by Antony Gormley – my investigation to find out more about this exclusive enclave and its creative occupants begins, as does the countdown to my return to the South Coast…

Thank you again to @djbrass and the most distinguished whippet in the land, Finn, for such an eccentric itinerary! 

Jeffery Camp: The Way To Beachy Head and the Chapman Brothers' Exquisite Corpse exhibitions run to 2nd October 2013 - visit Jerwood Gallery for visitor information. 

The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things curated by Mark Leckey runs to 29th October 2013. Exposure by Matt Calderwood is on display until February 2014 -  visit De La Warr Pavilion for further details. 


Game Of Corpses

Earlier this week I headed to the South coast of East Sussex to explore the historic town of Hastings and its characterful surroundings. My local guide was fellow Slade alumni @djbrass, a resident of the area for several years, whose exceptional knowledge of all things creative made my inaugural visit extra special with great finds from the worlds of art and design. Many Londoners decamp along this coast line to live in idyllic bohemia and this includes the capital’s Jerwood Foundation who opened an outpost along the seafront in 2012. Now a little over a year old, the HAT Projects-designed Jerwood Gallery exhibits contemporary British art with both temporary displays as well as a permanent collection of modern art housed in a tile-clad black box, congruous with its neighbouring native black wooden net huts located on The Stade.
The current contemporary exhibit in Room 6 of the intimate museum showcases works by Jake and Dinos ChapmanExquisite Corpse presents a series of etchings on paper from the collaborative siblings created in 2000. Part of a larger body of work – and an important source to where successive works have originated – the eight images on display have been inspired by a parlour game developed by the Surrealists called cadaver exquis or exquisite corpse, where the series and exhibition title takes their name. To be executed collectively, a sheet of paper is folded several times; the paper is passed around for each participant to add parts to a body, which in turn is folded again to conceal previous additions. The technique subsequently produces a haphazard composition of varying scales and styles. 
 Exquisite Corpse, 2000
The formula is unsurprisingly favoured by the brothers grim, grotesque and shocking - skulls and swastikas contribute to the visual DNA constructed by the brothers of decay and destruction that have been trademarks of this YBA duo for over two decades. The nature of the printed medium allows for exquisite fine detail: hairy limbs uncomfortably share form with oozing orifices shredded by razor sharp claws; shower heads spray blood within a landscape of richly textured uproots, inhabited by decapitated children with bestial deformities. While the tradition of print provides a gravitas by default, the series is deserving of an appreciative eye for the provocative that is relayed in monochrome innocence. There is beauty in the ghastly and the attention to detail is seductive in both context and execution.
Macabre as brand is no easy feat, yet the Chapman Brothers have successfully presented both an accessible and accepted narrative that transcends from the conceptual white cube walls, via household recognition, to the image-conscious runways of high fashion. 
Chapman Brothers X Louis Vuitton F/W13
The artists have collaborated with none other than French luxury house Louis Vuitton, under the direction of ready-to-wear menswear designer Kim Jones, on a capsule collection of accessories due for release this Autumn. 

Featuring a floral motif of winged-eyeballs and crazed embroidered creatures, the limited edition collection reflects the continuing addiction for contemporary art affiliation within luxury brand strategy as well as society’s own perverse, clandestine attitudes that fuel the Chapman Brothers’ deviously playful practice.

Exquisite Corpse is part of Jerwood's Summer programme and runs to 2nd October 2013 – for visitor information visit Jerwood Gallery.

Jerwood Gallery
Rock-a-Nore Road
East Sussex
TN34 3DW

Exquisite Corpse images courtesy of Tate
Louis Vuitton images courtesy of Style.com


David Bowie Is... Timeless

After double digit visits, I only wish I had the time to write double digit reviews on the gloriously resonant retrospective in both image and sound, that is The Victoria & Albert Museum’s David Bowie Is exhibition. Curated by Geoffrey March and Victoria Broackes and designed by 59 Productions, the sensory journey of the life and times of Mr David Robert Jones through the bounteous items of memorabilia from the David Bowie Archive can only be described as a privilege, exemplified by the daily queues that have wrapped around the museum every morning in South Kensington since its opening in March of this year. 

Unfortunately time has not crawled, and the curtains will draw on David Bowie Is this weekend. It was impossible not to obsess over a new item after every visit – the detail in both object and curation was a seductive match that undoubtedly fed Bowie die-hards and culture vultures old and new alike. A pioneer across multiple mediums and over many decades in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the exhibition does justice to its iconic subject and amongst the sketches, the art, the bodysuits, the euphoric visual space projecting music videos and concert highlights – I could go on and on – I wanted to share a possibly unnoticed and rare item on display. 
An original roll of wallpaper produced by Laura Ashley incorporating Bowie’s portrait of Lucien Freud was a surprise discovery. The limited edition boxed item of 500 was in aid of the War Child fashion event Pagan Fun Wear and featured in conjunction with the occasional series project Antennae #1held at London’s Saatchi Gallery in St John’s Wood in 1995. The product is a brazen clashing of quintessential English country chintz from the house of Ashley with the equally brazen character that was Freud, which Bowie portrays in conceptually decorative unison within a Damien Hirst-esque formaldehyde tank in repeat. 
Buyers were provided with a conceptual instruction manual whereby they could recreate the excitement of the fashion event in the comfort of their own home, with various suggestions listed such as ‘Push several tables together to form your own catwalk’ and then ‘Dress up in the clothes you bought from the auction and walk up and down the catwalk’. The art-meets-product wallpaper later features in a photo shoot by Lord Snowdon from 2005 of Bowie striking a pose between two decorative columns that are plastered with the motif. While it may not be the most daring of expressions from Bowie's repertoire, the artwork is just as contemporary today as it was in its conception. The wallpaper and its creator are a timeless embodiment of gifted talent - we can all but hope there are more Golden Years to come.

David Bowie Is unmissable and it's not too late to experience this phenomenal exhibition. David Bowie Is closes this Sunday 11th August 2013 - visitors are advised to arrive early for limited ticket sales on the day. For further information visit V&A

Images courtesy of David Bowie and Lord Snowdon


Heal's Discovers

For over two hundred years Heal’s has offered homegrown craftsmanship on the British high street and has championed the best of young design talent in the country. Last month I was invited to the furniture emporium’s London flagship on Tottenham Court Road to preview their 2013 Autumn Collection with a host of exciting collaborations and emerging talent on display in the press showroom.
‘Old icons meet future classics’ is the order of the season for the collection, which sees the reissue of iconic pieces by Ernest Race to the debuts works from young designers Ian Archer, Sebastian Cox and Matthew Elton, who feature under the annual Heal’s Discovers programme. Working around the themes of sustainability and contemporary craftsmanship, each designer presents an individual collection with an eye for heritage and quality that is certain to attract admirers across all tastes. Lee Broom, a Discovers alumnus himself from 2010, now features as a fully-fledged collaborator. After growing national and international success as a product designer, Broom has been commissioned to create a suite of upholstered furniture that will contribute to the Heal’s Designer Collaboration range.
Such an aspiring journey will undoubtedly be on the minds of the four third-year students at London's Art, Architecture and Design Faculty, The Cass who are all in reaching distance of the winner’s prize that is the next up-and-coming design star who will have their product manufactured by Heal’s and showcased this year at the London Design Festival.
Heal’s Head of Furniture, Tim Ely selected four finalists from twenty-two applicants in the competition and it was a pleasure to have had the opportunity to meet the emerging quartert that were Alexander MuellerMika OgarcaDouglas Montgomery and Michael Randall, to discuss both their practices and their Discovers experience to date.
Heal's Discovers 2013: Alexander Mueller, Mika Ogarca, Douglas Montgomery and Michael Randall
Riding high on recent accolades from John Lewis’s very own Award for Design Excellence and Innovation, Mika described her personal experience to be far from the competitive atmosphere that most contests take, but as an invaluable opportunity to participate with her fellow Cass-alumni and be recognised by a British institution of interior design. Her laser-cut Twist lampshade in birch plywood is a wonderfully organic and practical product that places the customer at the centre of its construction by way of its flat-pack design.

Twist by Mika Ogarca
Alexander and Douglas present their unique takes on a coffee table, sourcing Japanese origami and bygone manufacturing methods as inspiration, respectively. Alexander’s limited edition Fold coffee table in walnut, exudes craftsmanship in the details that cannot be seen – the fit of the tongue and groove joints seamlessly blend to create a stunning product in form and utility. 

Fold by Alexander Mueller
The tactile result of Douglas’s Cog coffee table is taken from the cross-section of a classical column, balanced on three legs that highlight recent shifts in taste, away from the decorative and fussy styles such as barley twisting and fluting. Its reeded pins will positively command the affectionate caress of craft connoisseurs over many a brew. 
Cog by Douglas Montgomery
Last, but by no means least, Michael’s quest to identify a product that was overlooked in the home lead him to the humble coat stand. After describing The Cass’s liberal approach to design, au fait with contemporary art school teaching, as well as the group’s involvement at the Salone del Mobile in Milan earlier this year, his submission to the competition is the most conceptual in nature, sighting Native American totem poles as inspiration for his Totem coat stand. Moveable pegs may be slotted into a variety of holes available along the stand’s body in English ash. With a family as his customer in mind, Michael sees users adapting the coat stand to tell their own personal tales – a charming sentiment as the pegs follow a child’s growth. 

Totem by Michael Randall
The finalists' involvement with the Heal's Discovers collection will be determined by the public – hear the designers speak about their concepts in their own words in the video below. Votes may be cast for your favourite product online and the winner will be announced in-store at Heal’s Tottenham Court Road next month on 18th September in time for the London Design Festival.

The beautiful works of West London-based studio, DeGross Design & Innovation caught my eye and I very much enjoyed speaking with co-founder Sabrina Gross, who introduced me to the studio’s Utrem Lux series of upcycled lamps made from discarded glass bottles in warm hues of brown and mustard. 
Utrem Lux table lamp by DeGross Design & Innovation
The bottles’ body, with its delightful handle detail, are elegantly constructed into adjustable wall, ceiling and base fixtures, which are produced by hand and finished off with on-trend, colourful power cords. The Utrem Lux series will be available at Heal’s newly remodelled Lighting Department at Tottenham Court Road.

Also being showcased this Autumn are charitable social enterprise Out of the Dark. Followers of my blog will remember my visit to their High Wycombe showroom and studio earlier this year (Interior ConfidenceMarch 2013) - it was brilliant to see founders Jay and Jade again, in front of their seductive wall of furniture all restored and revamped by their young apprentices and sitting proudly under the roof of the institution that is Heal's. 
Working with names that would have been sold at the store during the Fifties and Sixties, pieces by G-Plan, Ercol and Parker Knoll will be given the Out of the Dark touch of bold, colour blocking and will be showcased in the flagship’s street-level window display along Tottenham Court Road.
Out of the Dark's furniture will be on sale from 5th August to 22nd September and the team will run a series of weekend workshops for upcycle enthusiasts as well as a children's toy-painting session. They will join the Discovers collection to form part of Heal’s central showcase for the London Design Festival between 14th and 22nd September 2013.
For more information about the Heal’s Discovers range and associated events this Autumn visit heals.co.uk - click here for details about this year’s London Design Festival.

Best of luck to all four finalists competing to win the Heal’s Discovers competition - visit the voting page here to cast your vote - and follow @JMVELARDI for the latest news, updates and winner to be announced next month.  

Visit Heal's at: 
196 Tottenham Court Road

Discovers product images courtesy of Heal's