“One might not think of light as a matter of fact, but I do. And it is, as I said, as plain and open and direct an art as you will ever find.” Dan Flavin – American minimalist artist famous for creating sculptural objects and installations from commercially available fluorescent light fixtures.
I’ve always had a thing for lighting, in particular neon… In my first year at art college I went on a trip to Blackpool to see the lights in November. I was totally blown away by the gaudiness, the colours, the assault on the senses. I was in neon heaven! Neon has come in and out of fashion, and to a certain degree has become a bit of a design cliche of late. I haven’t let this deter me though. I still have a massive soft spot for all things neon.
It’s been used as a medium of expression over the years by many artists – Tracey Emin, Jason Rhoades, and Dylan Neuwirth to name but a few. It smacks of Soho and many an insalubrious area; circus tents and theme parks; Las Vegas and excess… and I love the fact that neon has a seedy edge to it. But it is also a thing of upmost beauty and the art of neon is incredible. My neon hero is Chris Bracey of God’s Own Junkyard, who sadly passed away in November 2014. I had the pleasure of various email communications with Chris prior to his death. If you have never heard of him I urge you to investigate his vast collection of work. “His work can be seen in films as diverse as Batman, Blade Runner and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The Rainbow Fancy Dress and Sonata Jazz Café signs in Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut are both his: they now form part of the 700-strong collection in the Walthamstow workshop-cum-neon-museum.” The Guardian online, November 2014.
And if you are like me and dyeing to make something in neon yourself, then have a look at The Neon Workshop company based in Yorkshire. Set up by artist Richard William Wheater with the aim of teaching and exploring neon, it offers a number of different workshops. If you would like something closer to London, then why not try the fabulous Indytute – brainchild of the highly talented Calypso Rose – which offers neon-making courses delivered by The Neon Workshop.
With all this rain and grey sky, it’s a perfect time to be thinking about bringing a little light and colour into your home.
I am a Christmas decorations hoarder! My obsession is getting a little out of hand I think… the Christmas tree is positively creaking under the weight of them this year. But this won’t deter me. I’ve been collecting them for years. My current favourites are four beautiful exquisitely delicate hand-blown glass birds that we picked up in Prague earlier this year after a particularly red-wine fuelled lunch… the next day I worked out how much I’d spent on them and let’s just say it was a lot more than I’d originally thought.
There has never really been a Christmas tree “theme” at home. It’s definitely a case of more is more – as it should be in The Maximalist home! – a veritable feast of heirloom treasures, handmade delights the children have made over the years, gifts from friends, charity-shop vintage finds, mementos from our travels, treats I’ve bought myself at designer-maker fairs, all mixed up with new decorations I inevitably buy during the course of each year. I love combining different textures such as glass, metal, porcelain, glitter balls, fabric, felt, beads, paper… it makes for an extremely tactile tree and one that conjures up every child’s (and grown-up kid’s) dream of a magical Christmas land where fairies hang out next to robots, sequined butterflies and fantastically feathered exotic birds.
So I thought I would share this decoration delight with you and point you in the direction of some truly gorgeous Xmas decs. This is by no means an exhaustive list, as there is so much out there at the moment. There’s still time to get hold of them, and there’s always next year after all!
For a magical twist on tradition head over to the frankly incredible Christmas Shop at Liberty. There are some wonderful tongue-in-cheek iconic decs shouting “London”, such as the double-decker bus, Big Ben, the Royal corgi dog, and of course a stunning crown. I especially adore the glass globe range of decorations, my favourite being the blue crested bird… might just have to get that one myself! There’s also the Queen in a globe, which made me chuckle. I am also loving the very striking glass humming bird on sale at the moment.
I’ve always been a fan of Paperchase‘s quirky, kitsch take on Xmas tree decorations: in the past I’ve bought robots, dinosaurs, and this year it’s the Jesus effigies that are really making me smile.
Rockett St George has an absolutely fantastic Christmas shop this year. I could very nearly buy everything there! I am completely in love with the glass whale decoration, the set of six glass Mexico baubles and the Love Has Wings dec… I strongly advise a virtual visit! They have some fantastic lights too.
Anthropologie has some beautifully unusual Xmas decs on offer. The scarfed critter ornaments are particularly inspired! And the forest soiree creatures are the stuff of childhood dreams…
If you would like something a little less fussy, have a look at the smooth lines offered by Jonathan Adler.
What do you get if you throw eccentricity, britishness, a predilection for all things Baroque, and a hefty dose of wit into a bag and give it a thoroughly good shake up? Why, you get seriously exciting design ideas…
I would also like to point you in the direction of Mister Finch – the super-talented textile artist whose exquisite oversized insects should adorn every interior in my humble opinion; Alex MacArthur Interiors – a veritable cabinet of curiosities; and Melody Rose – bone china “marrying the unexpected with the traditional; images that shock and please in equal measure; the juxtaposition of quaint and quirky.”
So as winter approaches and we get ready to hunker down for a cold spell, why not inject a bit of good old-fashioned drama into your home interior. Surround yourself with unusual objects and create a cocoon of design statements. Think open fires, rugs, lots of texture, dark walls, creative lighting, kooky accessories, witty artworks, and a large dollop of weird and wonderful eccentricity. If nothing else, it will make you smile as you sip your mulled wine and listen to the wind and rain beating down outside. Home should after all be a sanctuary…