Design How-to : Unity


Hello! Welcome to the almost-last post in this series on Design How-to.  This one’s on the concept of Unity.

Unity is the overall approach to the artwork.  Stand back from your work; take a look at it as a whole. How well does it “hang together” (both visually, and as a concept/idea)? How well do the colours sit together? And the shapes? How well does it flow as a visual idea?


via – original source unknown


I love this pattern! It’s so crazy, but it works. Lots of different colours, lines, and shapes. Why does it work? The main thing tying this design together is the scale of each of the ‘island’ elements – but you really have to look for other unifying things. There are small particulars that are repeated through the design, such as the boxy details inside each of the islands, and the unifying dotted circles of the background. The repeat is not too large (far apart) either; but is given added interest with a reversal  – check the light purple islands and you’ll see what I mean.


maria kristofersson – clock – ceramic


The concept behind this clock is what makes it both interesting and joyful. We can all relate to ornately carved wooden clocks; we’ve all seen them, they are a familiar item. This beautifully rough drawing is a cartoon of the real thing, which gives a nice sense of disconnection from its origins, and the idea is enhanced by using a clean face with modern, square hands. It is not symmetrical, but looks like it meshes the designs of two or more different, yet similar clocks. I love it that something that would have been so carefully carved and polished has been parodied in such a deliberately sketchy and inexact way.

And yet it is still beautiful, and I would most definitely hang it on my wall. I love the spaciousness of the clockface, after all the busy-ness of the decoration. The hole at the bottom is a quirky and humorous touch; it lightens the whole up too, and stops it seeming like a big slab.


charlotte lancelot – large scale x stitch  (from ‘Canevas collection’ for Gan Rugs)


charlotte lancelot – large scale x stitch (from ‘Canevas collection’ for Gan Rugs)

These large scale cross stitch furnishings by Charlotte Lancelot work on several levels. Firstly, they are wonderfully reminiscent of the faded and threadbare furnishings from your grandmother’s couch. Inspiration from traditional floral tapestries and other furnishing fabrics has been enlarged and pixelated, before being hand-embroidered on a perforated grid in industrial felt. They are both charmingly nostalgic and warmly modern, and it’s such a great mix of technology-meets-handmade. They work so well because there’s that bolt of recognition, that familiarity with old and worn textiles that we’ve all come across somewhere in our lives, and yet that familiarity is mixed with something new, making it more than just a little bit intriguing.


I’d love to get some more feedback on how useful this series has been for you! Please do let me know in the comments below.

As always, if you’ve got a project that you’re proud of, that you can demonstrate any of these Elements and Principles with, I would LOVE to hear about it. If you’ve got a pic of it up online somewhere, please add a link in your comment, so you can show it off!! :)

Cheers, Julie xx

The crafted object : rRradionica – wearable textiles

rRradionica is a collective of four women from Novi Sad in Serbia; a mother and three daughters. Between them they use a variety of textile techniques to create their stunning works, centred around the traditional forms of hand weaving, crocheting, knitting, embroidery and felting. Gorgeously tactile and richly coloured, the pieces allude to folk inspirations while remaining firmly modern in form. They radiate the joy of their materials – wool, silk, bamboo, and often include vintage beads and buttons handcovered in vintage fabrics.

I started by asking them where the name rRradionica came from, and how did they start in business. Aleksandra explains, “In Serbian, ‘radionica’ means ‘workshop’; our last names are Radovanovic, so three Rs are for three Radovanovic daughters.”

How did they come to be based in Novi Sad? “We never thought about choosing Novi Sad. We are born here, our roots are here. Marijana and Aleksandra live in the house built by Margitas parents. They built it by their hands, walls aren’t quite straight, the ceiling in one room is a bit higher than in the other – it’s perfect in its imperfection. We have great childhood memories of our hometown. It lost some of its charm due to modernization, but some parts of the city are still gorgeous, especially the Petrovaradin fortress.”


rrradionica – groundhog day – handwoven shawl in autumn colours (Marijana)


rrradionica – cant wait for spring – crochet necklaces with buttons (Hristina)


While all of the the works are designed and handmade by Margita, Marijana and Hristina individually, they work together as a team, with Aleksandra taking care of branding, photography, promotion and customer service.

“Margita [our mother] was always sewing, knitting, crocheting and just like her mother taught her, she taught us, her daughters, to do the same. When she retired, she discovered weaving. Margita and Marijana already worked together when they had a shop in our home town of Novi Sad from 1989 until 1998. They made hand woven accessories and clothing.

“In the 90’s, it was a very hard time in Serbia (politically and economically), but we continued to make things for ourselves, family and friends. For a long time we had dreamt of having our own internet shop, and when Marijana and Aleksandra lost their jobs, we decided to give it a try.  After a lot of obstacles (every beginning is hard, especially if you can’t have a Paypal account), we opened our Etsy shop in the beginning of September 2011.”


rrradionica – coral red crochet necklace (Margita)


Besides working for rRradionica, Margita (retired) and Marijana are both architects, Hristina works for Environmental Protection, and Aleksandra was working in publishing, marketing and design as a graphic designer.

“All of us grew up surrounded with art and craft. Margita’s mother sewed and embroidered, her home was full of handmade beddings and tablecloths. She was also an excellent drawer but she never showed off her talent. Margita was very surprised and excited when she discovered her album full of drawings.

“Living in a socialist country, there weren’t any fancy stores, but we were able to travel abroad. Margita travelled a lot, and she always brought home lovely fabrics and yarns and made great outfits for her family. We remember her knitting while watching movies on TV and the sound of a sewing machine mixed with music filling our home. We were always encouraged to make things by ourselves.

“The hardest thing is, besides being in a rut or creative block sometimes (doing something relaxing helps with that), all our obstacles are non-creative, and are things which other artists/shop owners don’t often experience. There are only a few supply shops in Novi Sad, so if we need something, the best solution is to make it or recycle. When someone travels abroad, we make very long wish lists!” Aleksandra also tells of her mother’s inventiveness:  “We have bamboo growing freely in our garden. One day Margita had an idea to make beads from it. Can you imagine a 78 year old woman making beads with a sewing machine and a drill?”

“We also had a big problem with how to receive money from our international customers or to buy supplies on-line, as Paypal isn’t available in Serbia. We found another service, but the fees are much higher.”


rrradionica – moroccan flower fiesta – knit textile, bamboo beads – neckpiece (Margita)


They remember the thrill of their first sale on Etsy.”We were very excited to send our necklace to the other side of the world to a patient and trusting person who never heard of us before!” But still the best thing for them has been connecting with other artists/designers and like-minded people, and they truly appreciate the kindness and generosity that has been shown to them through Etsy and elsewhere online.

When I asked Aleksandra who their inspirations were, she said that it was a really hard question, and the list was very long, but first and foremost was the family. “We admire and also influence each other greatly.” Elsewhere, inspiration has come from prehistoric cave painters, Da Vinci, Nicola Tesla, naïve artists and crafters from around the world, including rug makers from Pirot in Serbia, Picasso, Frida Kahlo, many Serbian artists, Missoni and Vivienne Westwood – as well as from “a lot of talented ‘unknown’ people we discovered on Etsy, and the internet in general.”

I asked them if they worked in a workshop together, and what was their space like? “We don’t have a studio, we work at our homes; it’s a creative mess. If it’s neat and tidy, it means no one is working! Also we don’t use sketchbooks, especially when creating jewelry, everything is from our heads.”

“The only exception is sometimes Margita sketches, when she’s in the beginning of a big project. So here’s a photo of her sketchbook, from 10 years ago (including samples of handwoven fabric). She made that outfit 10 years ago. That’s sold, but she made me a hat and coat (from the fabric samples 1 and 2). I’ve included photos of my scarf and belt bag made from leftovers. We don’t sell clothing on Etsy, because we think that people have to try it before purchasing. It’s very hard to sew handwoven fabric, and once it’s sewn it can’t be modified.”


rrradionica – Margita’s sketchbook, including samples of hand woven fabric


rrradionica – scarf & belt bag from handwoven fabrics


And the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? “’Just be patient and persistent, and work hard – and everything will be all right.’ We often forget the ‘patient’ part.”


rRradionica’s work can be found in their Etsy shop here. They also have a blog (partly English, partly in Serbian) that they post their latest works on –

With thanks to rRradionica for sharing their work and images here.


Design how-to : Contrast


Welcome to the next instalment in my Design How-To series – this one’s on Contrast. Enjoy.


Contrast is a fabulous tool for adding interest. Us humans tend to expect regularity in the world around us, because that is how we can make sense of things so we can deal with  them. So when we come across something unexpected, that point of difference can be a surprise to our minds; we find it curious, and worthy of more attention.

Contrast can be subtle or bold, and can be applied to any of the Elements – Line, Size, Direction, Shape, Texture, Value, or Colour.

Please don’t think that whacking just ‘anything’ in there is sufficient to create Contrast – you must understand exactly what it is that you are contrasting.  Usually, some point of similarity is what makes the work look cohesive.


minterandrichterdes – ‘inspired by green’ – ring; titanium
{all images are linked to their respective sources}


In this sleek ring, contrast is used not only in the colour, but also in the form of the narrow raised ridge against the flat wide ring band. Still, they are both shiny and metallic.


strongfelt (lisa klakulak) – ‘stone walled 2’ – handbag; felted wool

Again, colour is the major form of contrast here, but note also that each of the ‘stones’ is raised from the surface of the bag, to provide extra interest. There are also subtle differences in the colours and textures of the rocks. The concept underpinning this bag adds interest too, because of its surprising reference to the surface of rock walls (she has others that make reference to brick walls in a similar way – you should check them out!). Cohesiveness is achieved through the use of the same material (wool) throughout, the  monochromatic colour scheme (same hue, varying tones), and the use of repetition – similar size and shape ‘rocks’.


adorn jewelry – ‘set in stone 3 (moss)’ – pendant; stone, artificial moss, silver


I so love this pendant! Its gorgeously tactile dot of artificial moss looks fabulous against the stone, in wonderful contrasts of texture and colour. Note also, these areas have been neatly contained with silver bezels, which adds a nice definition to the shapes.


magprint – ‘tiger sun’ – linocut


Contrast can be quite singular, as demonstrated in this print. There is only one element of contrast – the sun – and yet it provides the overriding identity of this piece.  I love how the sun looks like the boiling mass of flame that it is, with the wonderfully rough textures of red against orange. Great contrast of shapes, textures, and colour in this beautiful linocut.


caitlin keegan – nest pattern 1


It is the subtle use of contrasts that is so appealing in this surface design. Lots of large, pale, blowsy blooms are overlaid with delicate, fine sprays of dark red buds in a horizontal band. The softer coral colours in the berries throughout tie the design together.


katrin moye – ‘dandelion’ sugar bowls – ceramic


Contrast upon contrast – these totally gorgeous little bowls use a simple, small circle/dot pattern on the outside and contrast it with a larger, more dramatic circle/dot pattern on the inside. Oh yes, I’m a sucker for pattern on pattern! Plus more pattern. Bring it on. 😉


I hope you enjoyed this post on Contrast! You can find more about other Elements and Principles in the series of ‘Design How-To’ here.

AND if you’ve got a project that you’re proud of, that uses any of these Elements and Principles, I would LOVE to hear about it! If you’ve got a pic of it up online somewhere, please add a link in the comments below, so you can show it off!!

Julie x


The crafted object : Mimi Kirchner’s dolls

Mimi Kirchner’s dolls are people with mysterious lives. Where they have come from and what they have seen, they will not tell. They are inscrutable; they are the silent witnesses to the unknown and unthinkable, to the mundane, and to the surreal and delicate intricacies of our own lives.

They have tattoos; they are sailors, circus performers, and forest folk. Sometimes on quiet moonlit nights, they slip from their shelves and walls, and silently congregate on grassy hillsides, to converse in covert gestures and long sideways glances about desolate places and things with wild hearts.


mimi kirchner – pirate man with skeleton tattoos


mimi kirchner – tattooed lady


Like so many artists, Mimi’s fascination with art and handcrafts was not considered to be a serious long-term proposition – it was always in the realm of ‘hobby’. She remembers as a child “spending hours cutting out paper dolls, making doll clothes out of old clothes or scraps of fabric, teaching myself how to crochet from a book at age 9 – I figured I was doing it correctly if I pulled the yarn and it came undone! I loved the Little House on the Prairie books and dreamed of being able to do all the handcrafts of pioneer life.” Both her parents were creative too. “Dad did a year in art school before eventually ending up as a doctor, and Mom trained as a medical illustrator. My mom was always very interested in fashion and fashion sewing so there were materials and tools available for me. There were also lots of art supplies in our house and as children we were all always making things.” But despite the obvious love for craft and talent she had, she says it took her a long time, “until middle-age really, to shed my desire/need to prove that I could do ‘respectable’ art/craft.”

She had a major setback too, in 1999, when the building she had had her studio in for 11 years burnt down. “That was bad but the only thing I really miss is all my sketchbooks – it feels like I lost part of my memory.”


Fancy Pants Tattooed man

mimi kirchner – fancy pants tattooed man


But she picked herself up and kept going. “I started with doll making in 2000 during a time of transition for me. My studio building had burned down, I had wearied of the pottery I was doing, my kids were all in school and my parents and in-laws were ageing to a point that I had to focus attention with them. But after the fire, I got on the internet and wow – what a wonderful world! I started making the dolls, got involved in internet communities, started the blog… then when Etsy started about 5 yrs later, I was at the right place in my life and art-making to jump on board.


mimi kirchner – pale girl


mimi kirchner – kitty girl


mimi kirchner – forest girl with red hair


“The hardest single obstacle is dealing with peoples’ ideas of what a doll is,” she said, but the best best bit is “throwing my own critical voice away, letting myself do what I love and succeeding at it!” And succeed she has, with more than 10,000 likes, and 1,700 sales on Etsy alone. And her advice for getting there? “Surround myself with kind, positive and supportive people and leave the critical, the dismissive and the ones that leave me questioning myself behind.”


mimi kirchner – school girl


mimi kirchner – studio


You can find more of Mimi’s work on her Etsy site here.


With thanks to Mimi for sharing her ideas, stories, and images here.


The crafted object : Marianna Nardin – clothing


OK yes, I probably should have more clothing on here – so let’s start with the fabulous Marianna Nardin of Black Mirror Design! And although my tastes usually run to Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto, I am sure everyone’s like me and got a secret little burlesque fascination!


Black Mirror Design – Victorian shrug and skirt


It’s easy to be seduced by Marianna’s work though, it is superbly cut and constructed. It is thoughtful and quirky, with lots of attention to detail, combining elements of military, burlesque, Victorian, punk, and steampunk in a playful and wild mix. (Did you notice the lace chevrons on the Aviator shrug below?)


Black Mirror Design – Mad Max top


Although currently based in London, Marianna is Italian, and after receiving her first degree as an art teacher, went on to complete  studies in Decorative Arts and Painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice. During this period of study, she always spent time sewing and experimenting with fabrics, thinking of her pieces more as sculpture than clothes. One of her experiments was to make skirts and corsets out of hospital materials, and she says that this was where her interest in Gothic, fetish, and burlesque began.


Black Mirror Design – Military bolero jacket

Black Mirror Design – Victorian collar


She moved to London in 2003 in order to pursue her clothing ambitions, and Black Mirror Design was born in 2004. Since then, she has had her clothing bought around the globe, and has been featured in numerous high profile magazines. Everything is still handmade in her London studio, which she runs with her partner and managing director, Marco.


Black Mirror Design – Aviator military shrug and skirt

Black Mirror Design – Military trousers, Baroque top, and military shrug


Next up? She is currently working on a wedding dress collection, inspired by the 20s with bustle skirts. Can’t wait to see!

You can find more of Marianna’s work in her Etsy shop BlackMirrorDesign, and on her own website


With thanks to Marianna for sharing her words and images here.