Friday, July 23, 2010

We're moving!

Hello Friday-night blog readers!

Just letting you know that big changes are afoot at The Design Files...! We are currently in the process of moving this whole site from Blogger to a new Wordpress home! Exciting / daunting times!

If you experience any hiccups reading this blog over the next 24 hrs, please be patient... we'll be back to normal very soon. And the new WordPress site is going to knock your socks off! In a good way :)

Thankyou so much for your patience! x

Interview - Niels Oeltjen

Niels Oeltjen's Wilkinitie letterpress print

Experiments in typography by Niels Oeltjen

Thanks & Hudon's new Street Studio book, featuring many local street artists including Niels Oeltjen.

Niels' Street Studio pages...

Niels Oeltjen is a bit of an enigma. You see his name around the place... you've got a vague idea of his work and illustrative style.. a few seconds of googling brings up more than a handful of examples of his brilliant and varied design work... and yet, there is something just a little bit mysterious going on. Like all of Melbourne's favourite and most celebrated gems, Niels is a bit of a secret, a discovery which takes just a little bit of effort to uncover and get your head around. He's kind of like the human equivalent of that Japanese restaurant in Flinders Lane with no signage that I still can't find, 2 years after it was first recommended (Yu-U??).

It's a wonder Niels manages to fly under the radar really. In addition to his commercial illustration work (represented by Jacky Winter), high-profile design collaborations, typography projects, fine art, exhibitions, mail-order letterpress project (Wilkintie), and excellent collaborative design blog (The Wooden Foundations), Niels is also well known in Melbourne for his street art. In fact he is one of the featured artists in Thames & Hudson's new and much talked-about Street Studio book, which is all about Melbourne's celebrated Graffiti scene.

With all this in mind, I am really chuffed that Niels (aka Nails) agreed to this interview! He's not one to blow his own trumpet, you see. He's a modest man of few words and many pictures.

No complaints here! Pictures are my favourite.

Tell me a little about your background – what did you originally study and what path has led you to what you are doing now?

I grew up in Tasmania, where I was involved in the band and skate culture. This is where I learned that sometimes when you want something done the best option is DIY. Tassie was a place I constantly sought to escape, and on a trip to Europe in ‘96 I came across street art (graffiti) and amazing contemporary art. I was so inspired by it that my life dramatically changed direction and I completed by Bachelor of Fine Art with new energy and a new focus, rather than having another go at getting into Marine Biology. From there I moved to Melbourne and immersed myself in everything that I loved – street art, illustration, and design. My path meandered about a bit, and I had a lot of great experiences, but somehow the constant has always been making art, and keeping it DIY.

How would you describe your illustrative style?

Warm with a chance of rain.

What are some favourite illustration projects, clients or publications you have worked with over the years?

Favourite clients is anyone who understands what I do and respects my ideas enough to let me do what I know is best. That said every job has its challenges, and they’re easier to overcome with a friendly and open-minded client, where the process is one of collaboration. I’ve had a lot of those but Tailfeather comes to mind, and Poketo.

How did the idea for Wilkintie come about? How is it going?

My wife was looking for a new project when she left her previous job in publishing. We were keen to do something fun, and to commission all the great illustrators we came across in our work. I had just started making letterpress prints so we worked out a way to make the most of these interests by producing a letterpress art project for kids. It’s going pretty well even as we’ve taken a little break as Carly is doing the Mum thing with our baby boy. We’re working on a new direction for the project over the course of this year, and are looking forward to pursuing some more possibilities.

You have a lot of creative projects on the go at one time! How do you divide your time between freelance illustration, Wilkintie, and projects such as the Street/Studio book and the Wooden Foundations Collective etc… when you wake up in the morning, how do you know what to get started on first!?

My toughest day is usually Monday when I step into the office and see dozens of emails in my inbox and a to-do list as long as your arm. I organise my week then and try to set some time away from the mac, either interacting with people or making something. It’s not any different than any other freelancer I guess. With a lot of projects on at any given time I need to plan, set goals, and keep track of what I’m doing. Goals are really important, as well as monitoring victories… it just keeps me moving. Anyone working for themselves knows how challenging it can be, but the rewards are great coz each victory is your own. Of course there are days where I just get fed up and wanna go do something completely different. I allow myself those days every once in a while just to stay sane.

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

I usually start the day answering some emails, then morning tea and a little play with my son before heading back into the studio. From there I’d be struggling to define a typical day but any of the following might apply: Draw, brainstorm an idea, make some art, paint a wall, chase an invoice, shop for materials, marketing, printing (letterpress, lino, digital), or networking. Lately I’ve wanted to change things up a bit and schedule time in for creative play, something that normally only happens when I need a break from the admin stuff.

Where do you turn for creative inspiration? – travel, art, local or international print publications, the web etc?

I couldn’t define one source… I look everywhere for inspiration. The key is to have an open mind, be curious, and to never dismiss an opportunity to learn. I usually document the inspiration and then refer to that when I’m starting a new project, or if I’m stuck. I love going to the library.

Can you name some other creative people whose work you admire?

People whose work I have been connecting with lately include Theo Jansen, Daniel Eatock , Honet, Michael Johansson, Steve Powers, Nam collective, Random International, Henrik Menne, Tommi Stockel, and CheapCheap.

What would be your dream creative project?

It would be one where I can be purely creative without having to worry about politics, budgets, opinions, or red tape. Or I might want to take off to some remote part of the world to work with the locals on something that benefits them as well as producing something of artistic merit.

What are you looking forward to?

Watching my son grow up and having more art shows OS.

Melbourne Questions

Your favourite Melbourne neighbourhood and why?

I spend a lot of time in Brunswick, so I’ll say Brunswick.

What/where was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?

Morning Tea at Dench.

Where do you shop in Melbourne for the tools of your trade?

Ummm… nowhere specific. I do go to secondhand shops a lot for raw materials for my sculptural work.

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

At the Queen Vic market doing the weekly shopping and gorging on sweet treats.

Melbourne’s best kept secret?

There are no secrets left… except one. I know of a place where there is a cave that only a handful of (non-aboriginal) people have set foot in.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Melbourne scarves, Melbourne Style

Melbourne Scarves by Melbourne Style

There is a time and place for a good souvenir. After all, one doesn't normally take much notice of souvenirs in their own home town, do they? It's the kind of thing that's pretty much invisible unless you're on holiday. This is the only excuse I can come up with for not knowing about Melbourne Style before now!

Melbourne Style is a store/gallery in South Melbourne specialising in 'Melburnia' - gifts inspired by Melbourne. Proprietor Maree Coote designs many of these products in house - their current range includes these new 'Melbourne scarves' featuring recognisable Melbourne buildings, Melbourne birds, local flowers and trees. Whilst you can't really go around wearing a Melbourne scarf whilst you are living here, these would make the perfect gift for a Melbourne-loving out-of-towner... They really are the most interesting and well-designed souvenir-style gifts I have come across. Much better than a key rack painted like a tram, or a hunk of warped native timber with googly eyes.

In addition to stocking random Melbourne-inspired gifts, Melbourne Style is also one of the only local stockists of homewares and furniture by Spanish super designer Jaime Hayon!? Curiouser and curiouser!!

Do pop over and check out Melbourne Style's varied product collection online!

Melbourne Style
155 Clarendon st

South Melbourne

ph. 03 9696 8445

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Melbourne Home - Mandy Paton / amor y locura

Mandy Paton's South Yarra apartment

South American details fill Mandy's home... I love the handsome couple above!

Mandy's light filled dining area overlooks the shared pool! Love her rustic dining chairs, sourced on a buying trip in Argentina.

Amor y locura = love and madness

Friends at the dinner table

These days I find myself constantly on the hunt for cute Australian Homes... It is not a very streamlined research process -mainly relying on a haphazard combination of guess-work, gut instinct and random tip-offs... it's a wonder I manage to find one each week to share (and let me tell you, some weeks I cut it pretty fine!). ANYWAY. I am always quite pleased with myself when I get an inkling which turns out to be a winner! Today's home tour is one such example! I have been chasing Mandy (nicely) for quite a few months, hoping/assuming her home would be lovely. And guess what? It's lovely! Phew.

Mandy Paton is the owner of Fitzroy's very gorgeous shop amor y locura. You know, that one you always drive / cycle past on your way home from work and think "man that shop looks cool, I gotta check that out". YES you do! Amor y locura (translation - 'Love and Madness') is full to the brim of Mandy's incredible finds, uncovered on frequent buying trips to South America - Mexican hand-painted 'day of the dead' ephemera, Argentinian artefacts and exquisite antiques, wrought iron furniture and gates, rustic press metal mirrors and lanterns and lighting, a huge life-size copper(?) palm tree...?! It really is a treasure trove of unique pieces... and you can certainly be assured that you just won't see these items anywhere else!

Not surprisingly, the South Yarra apartment Mandy shares with her teenage daughter is just as beautiful as her shop - although a little more restrained! Nestled in an incredible art deco mansion-style building by the Yarra, the 2-bedroom space is bright, warm and welcoming. It's furnished sparely with Mandy's favourite finds, many from South America of course. The apartment overlooks the shared pool and leafy surrounds, with beautiful views from every window. There's something truly unique about this grand apartment building - it really feels like no other building in Melbourne...! It has a distinctly 'international' flavour... walking up the ornate, almost gothic staircase, with ferns and overgrown foliage cascading down the central light well, you feel you've been transported to 1930's LA, or perhaps even Barcelona. It's a bit magical like that.

If you love Mandy's home you really need to check out her incredible shop! A truly unique Melbourne shopping experience! (some pics of the store below)

amor y locura
77 Gertrude st

Winter trading hours :

Friday and Saturday 11.00am - 6.00pm
Sunday 11.00am - 3.00pm

Appointments very welcome on other days! ph. 9486 0270

Top - view of the pool from Mandy's dining room., bottom - a little underwater 'window' through to the pool!

amor y locura - how good are Mandy's new Mexican 'Acapulco' chairs in those brilliant bright colours?!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tess McCabe at the Spacecraft Workshop!

Spacecraft 'Aesthetics of Saving' workshop in Melbourne last weekend! Pics by Tess McCabe.

Top - Spacecraft's Stewart Russell shares his expertise, bottom - Tess McCabe gets her hands dirty screenprinting a salvaged timber crate!

It was quite amazing when the Random Number Generator selected Tess McCabe to attend the Spacecraft Printing Workshop last week. AMAZING because Tess had actually blogged about her love of Spacecraft only a week before!? Psychic? Karma? 'The Secret'? You decide.

ANYWAY I am sure you'll all agree Ms McCabe was very well deserving of her fabulous 4 hours of fun (and hard work!) with Stewart Russell and the team at Spacecraft's North Melbourne printing studio. Doesn't it look like the most brilliant productive crafty day?

Tess has blogged about her experience at the workshop here! Do pop over to see more pics! Tess's blog is well worth checking out anyway... in between graphic-designing and random acts of upholstery, Tess runs Creative Women's Circle meet-ups in Melbourne. Yes another over-achiever in our midst.

Nice work Tess! Huge thanks again to Spacecraft for this inspired giveaway! Do pop down to Spacecraft's Hawsburn store to view their 'Aesthetics of Saving' exhibition as part of State of Design -

Spacecraft 'Aesthetics of Saving' exhibition
Until Sat 31st July during business hours

Spacecraft Hawksburn store

572 Malvern rd, Prahran

Tess's very nifty finished crate / shelf / cube / storage box!

Pacquita Maher wall murals

Custom wall murals by Melbourne-based artist Pacquita Maher

Incredible ceiling frescoes by Pacquita Maher

Left - falling leaves wall mural by Pacquita Maher, right - Pacquita at home in Melbourne.

How incredible are these custom wall murals by Melbourne artist Pacquita Maher?! Pacquita has a background in graphic design and illustration, but it was a happy accident which landed her her first job in large scale mural painting. Whilst working as a receptionist in a busy London restaurant, she was handed the opportunity to work on the mural of a new restaurant with no previous experience - except that the manager knew she was 'an artist'! She fudged her way through the interview and spent the next seven years painting murals in venues around the UK!

Since returning to Melbourne, Pacquita's clients have included the Melbourne International Film Festival, Melbourne Fringe Festival, Attica and Luxe restaurants. Her varied work is inspired by patterns in nature, vintage wallpaper, classical and modern art.

Do pop over to Pacquita's website for more beautiful images of her work...!

Where the Wild Things Are mural by Pacquita Maher

Monday, July 19, 2010

Design:Made:Trade highlights!

Design:Made:Trade at the Melbourne exhibition building on the weekend! Lovely sunny top photo by Miriam McGarry (thanks Miriam!), all other pics here by me unless otherwise stated.

Melbourne Design Embassy

OK so I hope you have a strong cup of coffee this morning... because after much consideration I have decided to post ALL of my Design:Made:Trade highlights here in one very loooong post! Aggh. So much to look at!

In all honesty, I had originally planned to cover the State of Design festival in a very organised fashion using photo galleries and a guest blog, both of which are exciting features of The Design Files brand new Wordpress site(!!) - which was supposed to launch last week. BUT of course as is the nature of technical things, there have been a few last-minute hiccups, and unfortunately the new site is still not quite ready to go... thus I have no swish new photo galleries, and no choice but to post all pics in full right here!

Ah well. Onward and upwards.

HOW awesome was Design:Made:Trade on the weekend!? Seriously! I should know because I may or may not have spent four out of the last four days at the Exhibition Building. Sad but true. There was just so much brilliant local design to see! I loved the more 'open' layout this year (last year's D:M:T was a bit of a rabbit warren), and I must say the free wi-fi made me one very happy blogger. FREE WI-FI people! Few things make me so excited.

It was an excellent idea to locate lots of other fun events within the Exhibition Building alongside D:M:T - it really created such a great buzz in the building. Sanctuary Magazine's speed dating with architects was a resounding success - brilliant to see so many festival-goers all prepared with notes, houseplans and even lap-tops(!), snatching 10 minutes of valuable face time with some of Melbourne's best green / sustainable architects at the Long Table! Also I truly cannot describe the sheer brilliance of Jones-Chijoff's Paper Plane Academy - I have never seen so many tiny happy people in one room. Brilliant!

As far as exhibitors go, it was particularly great to see so many brand new designs on show... I loved Trent Jansen's simple but genius bike reflectors made from re-purposed reflective road signs, also loved Melbourne designer Kate Stoke's new Coco Pendant light at Tongue + Groove, Volker Haug's new hand-woven daisy lights are even more beautiful in the flesh.. as were Tim Fleming's new Flatland vessels / planters.

Other highlights worth mentioning include -

Best new festival initiative for 2010 - Free Wi-fi!
Best stand design - Yellow Diva for their excellent gilt-framed cubicle - nice work!
Best international accent - Festival photographer Tobias Titz by a narrow margin with lighting designer Volker Haug a close second.
Cutest couple award goes to Perth based Jayden and Jessica from B&M felt who make fabulous things from imported high density felt in the most brilliant range of colours (they didn't want me to make a big deal about them being 'together' but truly they are so gorgeous I could not help myself - soorrry dudes!)
Best death stares - Hookturn vs. Keep Cup. It's on!
Most popular - Sanctuary Magazine's architects at the Long Table - inundated!
Least popular - evil 'Warden' clamping down on photography... yeah yeah I get it, but really, how is one supposed to blog this thing without taking photos?!

Ok enough waffling from me... hope you enjoy the pics!

Trent Jansen's fantastic bike reflectors made from re-purposed reflective road signs

Volker Haug takes a breather - love his new hand woven 'Daisy' lights...

New handmade plywood vessels from Tim Fleming / Flatland OK

B&M Felt from Perth

B&M felt products - these pics from the B&M website

Tongue + Groove showed some excellent locally-designed lighting... My favourite was Kate Stoke's new timber / aluminium Coco pendant (top right).

Lox + Savvy back again with vibrant neon stationary... How good is the wacky printed wrapping paper!?

Boniko super-cute Japanese-style socks and sock creatures shared a stand with Lox + Savvy...

Paper Plane Academy - conducted with much seriousness by air-marshall Carl Jones. Love those binoculars, hats and boots... these guys take their pilot-training very seriously!

The great paper plane throw outside the Exhibition Building!

Hookturn! My mum Chrissie (on the left) and business partners Renae and Saskia peddle their coffee cups! Photo - Jules Tahan.

Julie Paterson at her very popular Cloth stand... love her hand-printed linen skirt in one of Cloth's most popular designs!

Brand new Cloth Wallpapers

Craft Victoria had three stalls and they were BUSY!

Loved Harvest Textiles beautiful hand-printed creations and DIY craft kits at Craft Victoria's stand. 'Bat in a Bag' - genius!

Me and Amber - beautiful, simple hand-printed artworks, cards and teatowels from two clever Sydney-siders.

'Lightsource' signage and Make Do creature...

Fun activities at AGDA's Design Fete - bottom photo - Paul Fuog from The Co-Op hand-painted tattoos for kids (and willing grown-ups!). Very authentic with the 'sterile' gloves...!

Aegis - not the only laptop cases at D:M:T but very cool ones nonetheless.

Yellow Diva - excellent work with the gilt-frame and custom signage on the side of their stand too!

New products by Yellow Diva - the Fandeck pendant light-shades were a winner with the crowds...!

Loved The Foundry's new screenprinted Thaumatrope wondercards! Super cute.

Illustrator / designer Skye Jefferys painted one of Buro North's X-mas Trees... lovely work!

Impressive pieces by graduate designer Matt Prince

After seeing Darcy Clarke's lights in Milan earlier this year is was great to meet him here at D:M:T! Lovely lighting and furniture all hand-made in Western Australia.

Beautifully crafted pieces with a slight scandi aesthetic by Melbourne designer George Harper of Tide Design.

New modular fabric planters at Kif & Katast.

Ceramics and lighting by one of Melbourne's most respected craftspeople, Gregory Bonasera.

More lovely laptop cases! The 'Shuky' is an envelope-style design in Italian leather (it felt really beautiful), by This Is accessories. They also do these slightly peculiar but seemingly very popular corian twisted bracelets and accessories.

Last but not least! From WoopWoop is a brand new Melbourne start-up who showed a kooky range of recycled cork tableware... cute Australiana-inspired prints with pop-out coasters and trivets.