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 : Helen Amy Murray ~ upholstery

Helen Amy Murray is a designer based in the UK who produces bespoke upholstery textiles for the luxury market. Her designs are individually carved into a variety of surfaces, such as  wool felt, silk and high-tech non-woven materials, but especially leather.


Helen Amy Murray - tropical - wallpanel

Helen Amy Murray – tropical – wallpanel


Helen Amy Murray - Autumn - headboard and toeboard

Autumn – headboard and toeboard


The worked surfaces have been applied to screens, walls, cabinets, chairs and other surfaces in private residences, superyachts and hotels, as well a large commission for Van Cleef & Arpels.

Helen utilises the materials fabulously to create amazing sculpted and tactile surfaces, with small elements repeated en masse through graceful sweeping curves and structured geometrics. The graduation of size and direction of the elements means the effect changes dramatically through change of light and viewing angles to create visually stunning pieces. Her choice of motifs range through a wide variety of inspirations, and include floral, animal, and abstract geometric. Can’t wait to see what she has in store next!


Helen Amy Murray - bloom - chair

Helen Amy Murray – bloom – chair


Helen Amy Murray - chrysanthemum - wall panel

chrysanthemum – wall panel


Helen Amy Murray - fishscales - armchairs

fishscales – armchairs



With thanks to Helen Amy Murray for kind permission to reproduce her images.

Textiles : Kelly Swallow – upholstery

Kelly Swallow is an Irish designer, who has always loved working with textiles in her spare time. Since she was a child, she has been interested in sewing and fabric. “We had my grandmothers really old manual sewing machine in our house which was perfect for starting out on little projects as a child. So, I did all the usual things like making dolls clothes. I remember making a very complicated patchwork quilt when I was about ten, which was quite ambitious looking back at it!

“I have always reused things…I used to use vintage curtains to make coats and I would always try to look beyond the obvious and do something different.”


pink princess


“It was probably in my late teens that I really developed a passion for fabrics and design – at that stage I studied fashion design. It was then that I started to accumulate a huge collection of fabrics and over many years I gradually moved towards working on interiors and upholstery. … After many, many years of designing and making I worked on a project which was a family piece of furniture – an old chaise longue which had been passed down to my husband. I thought I’d do something a bit different with it, he was sure his Aunt Kath would have approved! It was beautiful when finished and before I knew it I had a waiting list of clients and so set up my own business making unique upholstery.”


violet rose


An avid collector of fabric, she says her collection tends to take over the house sometimes! A new piece of fabric is often the key to a new piece, and she is always excited about new projects. However, she says “Completing each chair is very special. Seeing photos of my work in magazines is quite a thrill.”

She loves what she does, but is always ready to explore new ideas. She would like to try more collaborative work – a dream collaboration would be with UK interior design Abigail Aherne, or wild fabric designers Timorous Beasties.


penny lane


lady olive


I love Kelly’s sense of fun, her clashing of disparate patterns and colours. It’s a great balancing act, which underlines her immense skill with scale, colour, and texture. With such vivid colours and lots of pattern, it could so easily hit overload, but careful placement of coordinating sections of fabric ensures the look hangs together well.

Her chairs are gregarious, always welcoming and ready to be part of the conversation, and each chair has its own distinct and very definite personality. Now, I’ve just got to convince my husband that we need one in our new house.


circus thrills


mangle mother – from vintage mangle cloths


And the last word from Kelly, on the best piece of advice she’s ever been given?
“Of course you can do it! – constantly said by my husband.”

More of Kelly’s work can be found on her website, or you can keep up with her on Facebook.