Thursday, 26 June 2008

Finsk Shoe Sale

In our magical box of tricks are a limited number of wonderful shoes by Finnish label, Finsk which we have put in the sale just for you!

Julia Lundsten (the designer behind the label) won the Manolo Blahnik Footwear Award two years running and has since produced two 'Designer Collections' for Topshop.

This stunning collection is made from beautiful soft leather with a laminated heel made using sustainable wood from Finland, of course!

Available from the Shoe Department.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

The 21st Century Weavers

It's that time in the week again when I get lost in the Victoria & Albert Museum's online archives. This week I limited my research to the Tapestry Rooms.

The Museum has some wonders from a 1970's Alexander Calder wall hanging to a 1625 Mortlake tapestry depicting a drawing room with an incredibly complex perspective. But I was drawn to the tapestries from the Tudor period with all those naive animals jostling about in foliage and ornate but primitive borders.

It was these tapestries that came to mind when we first found the work of Alena Hennessy. Based in the mountains of South Carolina, USA, Alena spent much of her early studies in Europe where she fell in love with early textiles. Back home she spotted the potential of the local cottage weaving industry and started her business from there - working with the weavers to make her drawings into objects such as the Horse and Bird bags.

I love the thought of a community of weavers still being specific to an area, like those earlier pioneers in the Southern Netherlands from where England imported most of its textiles from until the weavers set up looms in Warwickshire in the late 15th & 16th centuries. As many of our readers will know The Shop Floor Project aims to support as many small craft industries as possible and its wonderful when we find crafts like small scale weaving still thriving in rural communities around the world.

Alena’s collections can be found in the Scarf & Bag Departments in the Shop.

Along similar lines I recently had the opportunity to preview
a new film/documentary, Living with the Tudors, by artists Karen Guthrie and Nina Pope (winner of the Northern Art Prize 2008). Amongst other issues the film explores various crafts that were central to Tudor society including ruff making and paint mixing within the context of a group of dedicated Tudor re-enactors at Kentwell Hall, Suffolk.

You can purchase a copy here.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Dressing up for a Summer Wedding

Apart from the obviously important act of marriage itself, it seems to me the greatest attraction of a wedding is and always has been the ‘dressing up’ from the bride and groom downwards. This isn’t as superficial as it may first appear. It is a an act of complete respect to dress up for an occasion - I’m never impressed by the ‘dressing down’ brigade. To don one’s finery for weddings goes back centuries along with other aspects that we still retain in the 21st century wedding. Bouquets were originally a collection of herbs and flowers that had culinary and medicinal properties that demonstrated a bride’s knowledge of such things. These were later to include flowers that had symbolic meanings of love, devotion, faithfulness etc. Today’s wedding reception still holds aspects of rural life when a whole village would dress in their best clothes and assemble in a hall to feast and dance in honour of the newly weds. There is no need to break the bank to continue these traditions - less is often more! But to treat yourself to something extravegant is all part of the experience - an event that allows you to be a bit indulgent is worth keeping in my book.

Ideas for a Summer Wedding from The Shop Floor Project

These include a range of stunning designer tights, available from the Modern Hosiery department; a collection of hats from award winning milliner, Karen Henriksen; the brightly coloured handmade textile shoes of Hetty Rose to the elegantly simple shoes of Finnish designer Julia Lundsten;

a diverse choice of original jewellery that will add a distictive statement to any outfit; a beautiful summer scarf by American designer Alena Hennessey will keep a summer breeze

at bay; with a handmade gold leather clutch bag by Natalie Thakur to add a final touch of luxury.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

From New York to Ancient Greece

Erica Weiner Jewellery,
fit for a modern day goddess

It's well documented that much of the inspiration behind The Shop Floor Project comes from our love of Museums - so it won't be a surprise to learn how I spend much of my spare time.

It's a dangerous thing to start searching through the online collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, what begins as a quick tea break often becomes a couple of hours 'research-time'. There are over 27,000 objects listed in their online catalogue each one illustrated with the most beautiful photograph.

With the categories covering ceramics, fashion, furniture, glass, metalwork, paintings, photographs, prints, sculpture, and textiles I am often overwhelmed with inspiration for possible projects, travel expeditions and collaborations. My new rule is to restrict myself to one single category per week.

This week it was the jewellery department, in particular a collection of Ancient Greek earrings dating from circa 400BC.

Looking at these treasures it struck me why I collect the jewellery of New York based designer, Erica Weiner.Perhaps it's the size of the pieces or their unashamed celebration of the insect world or that wonderful metal which looks like it's been covered in old gold which makes Erica's jewellery feel as if it's just been uncovered and found to belong to a beautiful Grecian Princess.

Just like the bronzed women of Ancient Greece who wore layers of ornament from hair beads, necklaces, amulets to ankle, wrist and thigh bracelets - I have decided to channel the inner Greek Goddess in me and wear at least three pieces together this summer: the small Grasshopper necklace (£25) with the larger Bumble Bee necklace(£28) and a pair of Cicada (£19)or Fly earrings(£18).

Why not visit our own museum
cabinets where Erica Weiner's collection can be found.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Signed Artist Book for Father's Day

The Demise of the Urban Tree
It’s a very sad fact that in many of our towns and cities - large mature trees are being felled at an alarming rate - not because they are diseased but that they’re seen as a problem to urban housing. The BBC programme The Trees That Made Britain recently investigated the current practices of insurance companies that can demand trees to be removed if a claim is made for any structural problems to a building that has a large tree near to it. Also in this age of litigation local councils err on the side of caution - often cutting down healthy mature trees that line many of our urban streets in favour of smaller ‘lollipop’ varieties. (Image above of Mature Horsechestnut tree planted in Broughton in Furness in 1850)

Arriving in London from Finland, artist Minna Kantonen rapidly noticed the trend of small tree planting which she has recorded in her ‘Book of Small Trees’. Her collection of images lament the disregard for large trees and reveal the alternative(often penned tightly into small spaces between buildings) as mere tokens of ‘greenery’ which only serve to heighten the starkness of urban landscapes. (Image above from Minna Kantonen's Book of Small Trees)

The Small Book of Trees by Minna Kantonen is available from the book department at The Shop Floor Project with a limited number of signed copies in stock. Delivery within 3 days of purchase - £9.50 (currently with 10% off all books which shows up at the checkout).