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Beauty & the Beasts

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - 08:11

The renowned environmental photographer Morten Koldby has bravely approached his series of wildlife portraits for the World Wildlife Fund in a strikingly paired down and minimalistic manner.

By stripping away any context or setting, each magnificent beast can stare back at us from a stark white background and tell us their story.

This series was created to promote the new and comprehensive WWF App for iPad.

The focus on the wild creatures enables them to ‘speak’ to us individually whilst sustaining a common link between each portrait.

Sometimes the effect is haunting as a range of expressions are displayed across the series, and many of the emotions emoting are oddly human. Some are definitely sad, others evoke wisdom, some seem a tad annoyed and then there are the few that ebb towards the mischievous, seemingly possessing a sense of humor. All of them are compelling.

The portraiture technique and lighting highlights the textures of each species. Their fur or feathers, whiskers, antlers, beaks, skin tones and so on, almost seem exaggerated like a form of heightened reality, yet they remain tactile and disarmingly approachable.

Most smartphone and tablet apps used for campaigns aren’t very successful and that is understandable because they often only work for a short time for a single cause. WWF understands this and is doing it all a lot better with their newly launched app.
 The app scored over 100,000 downloads in its launch weekend in January of this year.

It is a combination of learning, sharing, interactivity and playing and is a wonderfully designed format for constant updates and development. Perfect for use at schools and interesting for children and adults alike.

WWF Together initially incorporates interactive elements to unfold the stories of eight animal portraits, with new species to be added regularly. Tiger vision is one of our favorites.

Each animal portrait includes editorial content, high-definition videos, photography, unusual facts, and downloadable related origami crafting/folding instructions for each animal, which we think is important so that kids (and us adults) are still crafting and learning physical, not just cyber-based creativity, (and they kind of act like tactile WWF desktop reminders to us)

By completing the individual animal stories, social media and email functionality is unlocked in the form of animated origami videos that can be shared with friends.

WWF Together was designed and developed by AKQA.

No, we don’t all have iPads but on your computer you can connect to the WWF’s website here  and enjoy a wealth of knowledge and interactivity. To further promote awareness for the WWF we are running a little social experiment over on our   page to see which portraits people feel connected to or are compelled to like. Join us over there live all week or log onto this blog or Twitter next week to view the results. Some say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder… so which portrait appeals to you? All of them we hope.



The Beauty & the Beasts Source Book:  Buy The AppWWF, Morten Koldby


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The woman who lived in a shoe

Thursday, March 7, 2013 - 07:22

Love or loathe her art, it’s undeniable that Niki de Saint Phalle was a visionary and a woman who blasted her way (literally) through an era of art dominated by men.

Niki de Saint Phalle was obsessed with altering environments with her art. As her work developed this chiefly became a quest to alter and affect landscapes and gardens with the placement of her highly detailed and mostly enormously scaled sculptures and projects. Her work sparked much controversy, mainly as a matter of taste but ultimately her legacy seems pretty remarkable, especially once the origins are understood.

Born in 1930 to a French aristocratic family and raised in New York, de Saint Phalle embarked on adulthood as a model.

Working notably for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, at 23 de Saint Phalle suffered a nervous breakdown and turned to painting as part of her recovery.

This became the gateway in to a world where de Saint Phalle could find her voice and release her creativity, thus her demons.

She began to experiment wildly and boldly, originally being seen and heard for her ‘Shooting paintings’.

This project evolved in to an ‘art experience’ for audiences where a catsuit clad de Saint Phalle would appear in front of them and shoot plaster panels (concealing pots of paint inside) with a rifle, exploding the works in pigment and with unpredictable results (and reactions).

These works represented a period of sardonic commentary on her part,  mainly about male chauvinism and the 'type' of art prevailing over society at the time.

After a visit to Spain de Saint Phalle reacted to the bullfights by making a life size paper mache sculpture of a bull and then by blowing it up in a street. There are no images of this piece. (that we know of!)

This month Elle Decoration pays tribute to Niki de Saint Phalle remembering her as ‘The French artist who made her home inside a monumental sculpture”.

Perhaps most well known for her iconic Nana sculptures, de Saint Phalle brought these colourful and voluptuous beings to life in their droves and they remain all over the world, the largest standing at 27 metres tall.

In 1974 Tuscany, de Saint Phalle progressed to her next level and started to build a world for her imaginary beings and for her imagination to thrive in. It took 20 years to build her Tarot Garden featuring 22 sculpture buildings, one of which The Empress, she made her home in.

In her words “I wanted to invent a new mother and be reborn within its form”.

That she did, living there for several years developing the interior spaces and the subconsciously Spanish-feel gardens.

By the time de Saint Phalle’s world was completed and opened up to the general public in 1998 as a Sculpture Park, she had moved out of the body of The Empress to reside in La Jolla, California.

Niki de Saint Phalle designed and built three other large scale ‘Sculpture Environments’ in her lifetime. Noah’s Ark in Jerusalem, Israel, The Grotto in Hanover and Queen Califia’s Magical Circle in Escondido, San Diego.

Niki de Saint Phalle collaborated and shared her unique universe with Jean Tinguely for over 30 years until separated by his death at age 66. The unconventional “marriage” of de Saint Phalle and Tinguely enabled two artists to work together and create art that neither could have realised alone.

Tinguely made vast kinetic sculptures out of industrial waste, a method he named “meta-mechanics”.

Although they collaborated on most of each other’s projects they never jointly ‘signed’ any of them. They were always owned or named to one of them. Tinguely’s “Cyclop,” a vast mechanical head in the forest at Milly-la-Fôret epitomises their collaboration because it seems to represent both of them fifty fifty with neither one’s style prevailing over the piece.

It is both comfortably masculine and feminine, yet is credited as Tinguely’s work and de Saint Phalle seems to have no ego or problem with that.

A posthumous reunion between the artists was organised in an exhibition in Switzerland, 2006. The curator (Andres Pardey) said of the couple “Theirs was a strategic marriage. It was important for them that, after they died, someone would look after their work, and they trusted each other absolutely.”

Though never monogamous in their relationship they remained eternally faithful & committed to one another creatively. Throughout the 1960’s, with Tinguely a leading member of a Duchamp-influenced art movement called the New Realists, they were inseparable.

Tinguely had initially made his name in 1960 with “Homage to New York,” a performance that involved building, then destroying, a sculpture in the Museum of Modern Art’s sculpture garden. Ten years later, he organized a similar ritual of fire and smoke in front of Milan’s cathedral to announce the demise of the New Realists.

When Tinguely died in 1991 de Saint Phalle was true to her word by looking after his legacy and giving 55 large works of his to the new Tinguely Museum in 1996.  She was the one who actually completed “Le Cyclop,” and in turn donated many of her own works to the Sprengel Museum in Hanover.

Queen Califia was de Saint Phalle’s last work and it represents the final realization of de Saint Phalle’s dream to provide a legacy to a place that she had grown to dearly love. Niki de Saint Phalle spoke of California as a place of rebirth for her soul, “and an earthquake for my eyes – sea, desert, mountains, wide open sky, brilliance of light and vastness of space. I have embraced another way of life and have let my discovery of this landscape manifest itself in my work.”

"The devil is in the details." Although Niki de Saint Phalle’s sculptures are on a monumental scale the attention to detail was never compromised.

The work on the exteriors and the interiors, notably de Saint Phalle’s signature mirror mosaic technique is quite simply mind-boggling. The effect of being inside or on the outside of her pieces affects people in a multitude of ways, and that was what de Saint Phalle set out to achieve, art that affects us. In this same vain, her sculptures don’t nestle comfortably in their landscape settings, nor settle in to their environment over time.

Instead they jar and they react, sometimes a little violently with their surroundings, somehow refusing to be quiet at any given time. With that they unapologetically represent an alternate world and an altered state of being.

In one of her last interviews Nike de Saint Phalle spoke of Queen Califia as a place for families to gather, play and engage with a visually rich world of ideas, symbols and forms.

“My first really big piece for kids was Golem (1970, Jerusalem) and three generations know and love it. Here is Escondido you can also touch the sculptures. They feel nice and you won’t harm them. You can be a part of them… it’s like a marriage between the sculptures and the child or adult. Maybe it brings out the child in adults too.”

Some say that Niki de Saint Phalle died for her art because in 2002 she succumbed to emphysema caused by years & years of inhaling the toxic fumes of polyester. We think that she is really someone who truly lived, for and by her art.

Escondido is Spanish for hidden. It seems befitting that de Saint Phalle’s last works is set here. Like the depths and hidden meanings that her art is laden with, Niki de Saint Phalle herself mirrored this. Life imitated art, yet somehow she always managed to stay hidden in plain sight.


The woman who lived in a shoe Source Book: Niki Charitable Art Foundation, Tarot Garden official website, New York Times, The Guardian, Elle Decoration, Elle, Fontaine, Alisanne, Notesonnyc, 3 graces detail, Dennis hopper, Giardino-dei-tarocchi, Gardian-angel-zurich-train-station, N-Phalle-Hannover, Tarot Garden, Nikki de Saint Phalle, Niki-lacabeza-final-elownes, Nikki de Saint Phalle biography-bio-sculptures, Nikkitoilet, Phallehouse.

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Out styled

Thursday, February 14, 2013 - 14:37

When it’s cold outside there is nothing lovelier than retreating inside your warm home with all of its comforts. 

By February though you are probably feeling less enchanted with the hunkering down of winter and are about ready to self detonate.

The glimpses of low sunlight on some days may seem like teases or taunts but they do really herald a whole new Spring season that is just waiting around the corner.

- (the Ostrich pillow is one way of surviving February) -

So are you ready to embrace the next season? Or should you be utilising the constraints of February to do some serious planning and not be clamoring to throw your doors open, just yet?

We have been talking to Liz Nicholls over at the Oxford Times about how to create your Signature Garden Style. And no we don’t mean dead-heading in your stilettoes Demi-style.

- (Okay, we’ll stretch to some gold wellies then) -

The article is available today (14th Feb) if you are local to Oxfordshire. Then online soon, and we’ll let you know when.

- (Sorry, that’s a step too far Doris) -

In today’s Oxford Times Homes & Gardens supplement you can read our steps to help you create your Signature Garden Style. Everyone has a slightly different view of what a garden should be and what it should offer, so we discuss how, by creating a garden of cohesive elements a definitive look will naturally emerge.

A reflection between the interior style of your home and your outdoor space is integral to this,

and by treating your outdoor space as an extension of your home you will create a seamless flow on the first days of Spring when all your doors and windows can be flung open again.

- (uh, not quite what we meant) -

- (that's more like it) -

By following some guidelines you could soon find that you have created your very own unique, sustainable garden that exudes an abundance of original style. You may be thinking that this is all a bit of a romanticised view of gardens but, it is Valentines day... and a garden doesn't have to be about weeds and mud all of the time.

What better could February be for than planning new beginnings, thinking fresh and making preparations?

So go on, tuck up and get cosy whilst you paw through books, magazines, papers & online, and wile away a little bit longer...

P.S. the two winners selected randomly of our book giveway 'Wicked' are Niki Banner and Christopher Belton. Congratulations. Please e mail your postal addresses to and your books will be sent out to you.

The Out styled Source Book: HC Gardens (throughout), The eternal sunshine of the spotless mind screenshot, Giddy Spinster, Ostrich pillow, Christmas Scenes, Harper’s bazaar, Hunter Boots, Leonarda Designs, Orla Kiely, Clerkenwell Sofa, Maine stylist, Do you love where you live, It’s Fine,  Apartment Therapy, Ebay, Style Find It, Martha Stewart, Traverse agency, Mrs B Spoke, Jill Battaglia, Andreas Wonisch, Adi, Lombok, Ecouture, Liz Nicholls, The Oxford Times

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Thursday, December 5, 2013 - 11:49


Menacing and splendidly ghastly, we would like to introduce you to Amy Stewart’s fascinating chronicle of the evildoers that may lurk in your very own garden…

You may think that this blog would have been more befitting to Halloween but as all that snow thawed anything green outside just seemed to leap out at us.

In our colour season so far we have given you a kaleidoscope of candy landscapes in the Eye Candy blog and an ice inspired Vanilla Sky. So now its time for our green inspired post and Wicked Plants seemed like the perfect gem to kick this off with. Plus, in celebration of reaching over a 1000 subscribers we have a few copies to give away.

Amy Stewart, the author of Wicked Plants draws on history, medicine, science and legend to present a compendium of tales of botanical misdeeds. These menacing tales could positively curl your blood and leave you trembling at the site of a salad, or at least leave you nibbling in trepidation.

With titles like “This houseplant could be your last” & “Killer lawn” and a strap line of “The weed that killed Lincoln’s mother and other Botanical atrocities” how could you not feel a little enticed by this tomb of perennial criminal intent?

The Boston Globe aptly referred to it as a ‘who’s who of fearsome flora’.

The misdeeds of the plant kingdom abound in this exquisitely illustrated hard back.

(-Illustrated in white copper etchings by Briony Morrow – Cribbs)

And if you fancy a brush with the dark side in person you can visit the Poison Gardens in the grounds of Alnwick Castle in Northumberland.

The gardens are under 24 hour surveillance for the safety of the public and in order to safeguard the toxic plants against would be thieves.  Some of the plants are even kept in specially fenced areas and large cage like structures. For ticket links to the gardens see the end of this post. Enter at your peril…

A few years ago a deadly tropical plant called the Devil's Snare, (which is usually found in the Amazon!), grew in a couple's Suffolk garden. Phyllis first spotted the shoots in her flowerbed in spring and then the plants were towering ominously over her borders by summer. The plant was used by South American Indians to poison their hunting spears, arrows and fishing hooks. Its poison causes dry mouth, blurred vision, heart irregularities, hallucinations, and eventually coma and death in severe cases.

“Phyllis said she had no idea how the deadly plants got there”

Now with all that macabre content aside its time for some greenscaping inspirations, my pretty

Please enter

green with envy

the green mile

and it's always greener...

or is it?

go green

The Power plant by NL Architects submitted for Tokyo

The Detroit urban soil studies

If you kind of liked this blog we have delivered some other just-colour ones over the last year. Here are the links;

Blue Monday, Pretty in Pink, White Hot, All Orla, Colour Blocking: Mondrian Style

To enter our book giveaway subscribe to this blog or like, comment on or share our page over on facebook. Click the link on the left handside tool bar. The Wicked Sourcebook: Bougly, Webflyer, Wicked Plants Amy Stewart, Kirsty Mitchell, Architizer, Chajnye Plantacii, Futures Greenscape, Hidden Road, Image Sunion, Hendy Curzon Gardens, Ostomsurf, Tejo, Territorial Seed Co, Stalbansreview, The Curious Gardener, Marqueyssac, Alan Fletcher Pencil Tree, Jose Villa, Cockington Green, Adi Curzon, Garden House, Ditze, Nick Hendy, Michael Nichols, Mondrian Miami, Phyll Aure, Imaboletin, Mint Julep, The Cutting Edge News, Open Walls, The Lantern Room, Detroits Natural Lab Soil Studies By J L Howard

And with Tulip season around the corner... did you know that the petals of a Tulip can be eaten in salads? Don’t believe us? See over at the fennel and fern blog. Tasty. 

For Poisonous Garden tickets go here The Poison Garden


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Vanilla sky

Saturday, January 19, 2013 - 18:56

and then it snowed... and Britain once again ground to a halt. It's as if we gamble every year on the chance that it won't snow. Will it, won't it? Yes it will.

Our lads worked tirelessly through the first part of last week in freezing conditions like true troopers.

by Thursday they felt it...

so we officially took Friday as snowday from site, wrapped it up and headed for our homes.

Much of the country was indeed snowed-off. So were you and what did you do? Were you prepped and ready? We always try to prepare and factor it in but we think Dan may have taken our warnings a little too seriously...

- Yes Dan does take his job very seriously. Preparations for snowday were stringent. Apparently he slept quite well in his igloo. -

Well we promised some colour this week so let's get to work.

We have kept the theme in keeping with the weather and looked for colour inspirations that embrace the frozen palette (hence the blog title).

and a little vanilla...

We look forward to warmer times. Snow = bored now. Haha snowbored, it's all just snow boring and we dream of an escape...

Until the big thaw we hope you can take some pleasure from all the snow, making snowmen - get creative! Sledging, snowball fights, taking in the colours of the frozen planet and tucking up indoors.

and just remember

whichever you are (or both) don't ever forget

never ever eat the yellow snow.

The Vanilla sky Source Book: Hendy Curzon Gardens, Art & Landscape, Daniel Semaine, Richard Peters, MyModern, Huffy Destroy, The Guardian, The Times, Ice Sculpture by Dale Chihuly, Gardens Reloaded, The Shining screenshot, Guiness, Hazrat Inayat Khan, Gothico, Dogs Unchained.

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