dinsdag 31 mei 2011


Another way of getting the same message about the importance of community living and caring for our environment is this children's book by Jeannie Baker.
In a great sequence of the same view through a bedroom window we see the neighbourhood develop. We first see a kind of decline with half-broken advertisement boards, damaged walls and more concrete than green. Suddenly we see more children, more friendliness and an increase of green. A communal garden, a playground and elderly people as well as families. We also see the child who's window we look through grow up. We see how she develops her identity, individuality and.. a sense of belonging.
And the images are so wonderfully made; each is a collage a made with mixed materials. Textile, wood, carton, clay etc.
A brilliant idea and a brilliant design. With a simple, important and positive story about (urban) life.

vrijdag 27 mei 2011

My Green City

Th subtitle of this book is back to nature with attitude and style. And indeed it contains a great attitude and a strong style. It's full of urban initiatives that bring nature back into cities. Guerilla gardens, pop-up outdoor restaurants, a vintage plant shop, rooftop beehives, educational projects....it makes you, me at least, want to be part of every page! It's such a great development, and it's growing fast. It makes people think, it makes people smile, it brings a new way of neighbourhood living, a sense of community and it makes you feel a sustainable lifestyle is actually easier in a city than in the countryside. That is good news, for urbanisation is also a fast-growing development.
This book should be on the desk of every urban developer, every city councillor and every designer. This green city is the city we should aim for.

donderdag 26 mei 2011

Flora Celtica - plants and people in Scotland

This book is a wealth of information. And a source of inspiration for me. The evolving relation between humans and plants. In my continuing research for crafts and lifestyle in the remote Western Isles of Scotland I encountered many of the issues described in this book.
Weaving with twigs, dying wool with leaves, flower buds and roots, insulating and thatching with grasses, enriching nutrition value with seaweeds, ropes made from heather etcetera. The use of plants has a rich history and a wide variety of uses.
The book is clearly divided into chapters about the elements in the ongoing relation with plants and trees. Food and drink, homes, transport, health, culture, farming, economy, crafts and environment. lavishly illustrated. It's also a treasure, for much is in decay.
The authors are William Milliken and Sam Bridgewater; both (ethno)botanical specialists.

Which type of lichen makes the best orange dye?
• What plants did our ancestors use for healing wounds?
• How do you make a traditional dish from carrageen seaweed?
• Why is it still considered unlucky to cut down a rowan tree?
• When is the best time to cut heather for thatching a house?

With books such as this some of the knowledge and skills may be kept for the future. And will hopefully get back into bloom. Not for being nostalgic but for being aware of the richness around us, and the need to take good care of our planet.

woensdag 25 mei 2011

Threads of Feeling

Occasionally the catalogue of an exhibition is better than the exhibition itself. To my belief that's the case here. The theme of the exhibition, which was in London's Foundling Museum in the early spring, is heartbreaking. Textile tokens from the museum's archives. Tokens left by young mothers who brought their babies to the foundling hospital in the eighteenth century as the only trace for possible future contact. Most children stayed in the hospital for the rest of their lives until they went to work somewhere. If contact between mother and child ever was restored is hard to tell. The museum has around 5000 swatches, stapled together with a letter in which was written the age, the possessions and the sex of the baby. The catalogue gives an in-depth view into the historical background and is written by John Styles. The beautiful photographs and details of eighteen-century prints are a great illustration of the story.
5000 Swatches means 5000 heartbreaking stories of lost love, despair and hope. In the swatches you can see the sign of the times. Symbols, fashion, living standard, crafts. All kinds of fabric such as silk, wool, cotton and linen. Ribbons, embroidery, patterns; all so delicate!
In the eighteenth-century song 'Oh dear, what can the matter be' we hear about the emotional significance of ribbons:
He promis'd to buy me a pair of blue stockings
a pair of blue garters that cost him but two pence
he promis'd to bring me a bunch of blue ribbons
to tie up my bonny brown hair.

Ribbons in favourite colours were worn as material emblems of attachment.
I'm very attached to this book!