'Big Sven' is a man I have known for a few years. He serves the coffee in a shop I used to frequent and still do occasionally. A gentle giant, like many peers, he is also an artist. I knew he rented off the fishmonger-owner of the coffee shop in a space nearby but I had never really found out much more about his art. I was too slow the last time he had a gathering but I heard enough of the experience to make me hungry for a view and so with luck, I secured the last ticket for last Friday's performance.
I grew up in a time of change (doesn't everyone?) and decimalisation was something that, despite being a 400 year old concept, the British were still struggling to adopt. I was schooled in metric yet daily life was dictated by an obscure measuring system based around an aristocrat's foot. To be fair - I don't have a gripe with the origin - it makes sense - it's just that no other element of the imperial system relates to common sense. Even the name is outdated for crying out loud! Like holding on to something in the distance that you bullied your way into owning. Metric even sounds more democratic.....
A pound of potatoes used to confuse me, golfing yards confused me, buying drugs confused me, acres of farmland still confuses me, choosing a drill bit for metal just made my brow furrow.
But now I always have something on my person that is exactly 115mm - no - not that. Nor my elbow to fingertip (or Ell in old Scots). Something, in fact, that you can hear people referring to as a standard measure: "what size is that?" - "eh, it's about the size of an iPhone." or 115mm. or 4.527 inches.
Posted by stupot at 11:16 AM Sunday 22 Apr
I've rarely blogged, been on my bike or drawn for fun in 2012. The flip side is that I'm heaving with work and habits have changed to long working days, little time at home and often living out of a bag. Being freelance means that when the work is quieter it can be a financial stress but you have time on your hands to search for work and have time for leisure. When it comes to the busy time it often feels like you're spinning plates. Often in a good way, but invariably it a bit tricky to manage. The end of the financial year spells clients getting rid of money, trying to get your own accounts in order and general busyness: Business.
St Peter's seminary lies just north of Cardross, before Helensburgh on the Dumbartonshire coast. The setting is slightly elevated, amidst woods and by a large burn which acts as the soundtrack to an otherwise lifeless space. I knew of the work of Gillespie Kidd and Coia before I knew of their name, my school in Ardrossan being close to St Peter in Chains Church on the south beach. I've since known of them via St Brides in East Kilbride and the BOAC offices in Sauchiehall street, Glasgow.
The lovely Hollie at Folio 14 has published a wee interview with me today on their site.
Many thanks Hollie!
Posted by stupot at 12:58 PM Wednesday 12 Oct
Last week I went up to Forres with work I'm doing with the Art School's Centre for Design Innovation. It's a relatively new project and I'm still fully getting my head around it. After meeting the team and being part of a day designed to look at and understand what the Centre is, we headed to Aviemore where there is a live project on-going with a major tourist attraction. Weather continued to be outstanding, but with it came the huge gusts of winds characteristic of the country.
It is interesting that when a company grows to a certain size, no matter how it is considered in leaner times, it becomes the object of ridicule and scare campaigns. Rightly so, perhaps you might argue. Multi-National's need an ombudsman watching, scrutiny, questioning of procedures. I have noticed with Apple computers that, especially since the i-phone properly brought the company into the public realm, that journalists and laymen alike find ways to drag the products down to the same level as everything else. Perhaps that's the problem - people traditionally pick on the extremities of society be them clever and geeky or misguided and foolish. Moving recently, I stumbled upon a 16 year old Macintosh Computer tower and monitor in its no frills plain cardboard box which made me think about how the company has evolved since the days of using the classic at School.
Along with stumbling on Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan on late night TV as a teenager, the dawning of the iphone was genuinely a life changing moment - and I don't mean that frivolously. When we were studying product design in the mid-nineties we were working to briefs that were basically saying - 'look, we have small chips now, memory is physically small, camera's are getting smaller' and we were designing hand held gadgets that were certainly not as smart as phones now, but were getting there. Talking about products that were performing many functions in one - an area electronics companies like LG, Samsung and Sony have avoided like the plague for want of destroying market share, jobs and ultimately the company as a whole. It baffles me that Nokia, for having the leading interface and instigating design competitions would miss having a properly intuative product that can perform all the functions of camera, phone, music player, games console.
Without knowing it, and for ten years, I had waited for this particular product and what, future gazing from the nineties would you think to be the public reaction to the iphone? Hysteria? Condemnation? Love? Or just that people get pissed off with the fact that covering an area on the case will interfere with reception. It's not ideal but check through the instructions for every other mobile phone you've had and it'll mention an area where you should avoid holding it. Maybe we should just go back to zip drives and mini discs for a bit - and remember how good we've got it.
image copyright http://hirac.info/site/
Posted by stupot at 10:04 AM Tuesday 15 Feb
To the right of where I was standing a new glass, dark and steel building by RMJM stands. The rest of my view is old Glasgow: the shearing shed that is city barbers with all its sports memorabilia, the graffiti and the glazed white brick of the Glaswegian rear elevation. I like to document plots like this before they are covered by office or retail space.
Posted by stupot at 10:25 AM Tuesday 8 Feb
Gmbh is a new shop attached to the Modern Institute in the Merchant city between Mono and the Tron. It sells Roleur and other design and illustration specials so it's well worth a peek if that's what floats your boat. I'm glad to have found a sister to Edinburgh's Analogue. It's run by Neil, a chap I've cycled with in the past, so it has the benefit of a friendly face.
Posted by stupot at 12:12 PM Monday 1 Nov
On Friday, after a wet run on the bikes up Gleniffer Brae, we returned to beautiful coffee at Coffee, Chocolate and Tea at Cranstonhill. It brought a whole new meaning to drip coffee - we had half of the downpour lying on the floor beneath us. Beneath that, and through the glass floor, you can see the coffee bean sacks in the basement. It's a nice place with a huge roasting machine in the window which helps heat the space (formerly MacCallums fishmonger) in the winter. We even got a wee lesson in roasting and a chocolate to try after John's gentle persuasion.
Saturday was a much better ride with blue skies, if wet roads, south west to Kilmacolm and Bridge of Weir and back.
Posted by stupot at 11:52 AM Monday 1 Nov
I was worried last week when I took a whole swatch book of laminates to a client - worried she'd be as overwhelmed and as side-tracked as I get when confronted with so many amazing colours. Much like a kid in a sweet shop. Thankfully she was very professional. I'm glad that such a simple thing can still bring so much pleasure.
Posted by stupot at 03:07 PM Tuesday 26 Oct
I suffer from poor circulation and as a result I struggle to draw outdoors from October to March (I have been reminded this week). I picked up some new gloves from the unlikely shooting section of the Barbour shop in Edinburgh at the weekend. The middle, index finger and thumb tips all pull back to allow you to have grip and feel when squeezing the trigger - or on a less aggressive level - when moving a pen about a page. So far so good. Whilst I feel a little sad that outdoor sketching will become more of a test of willpower for the foreseeable, it's also good to be reconnected to clothes you forgot were in your wardrobe.
Posted by stupot at 03:53 PM Wednesday 13 Oct
For September weekend the shows were in town so instead of staying in the boozer last Friday night, we ended up in Queens Park. The ground was pretty damp and the air getting cool but the sky was turning a lovely orange colour and we had had a little alcohol to warm our cockles. Unfortunately it had been a long time since we had been on a waltzer so we had forgotten that a sausage supper mixed with the alcohol wasn't the best preparation for high speed twirling. We went on 4 rides, dodgems, 'twister' and 'entertainer' included, and then stumbled back to the pub in with smiles. There is great pleasure in being thrown up and down and round and round on machines that have flashing lights and that are held together with dubious looking pins.
Posted by stupot at 11:35 AM Thursday 30 Sep
I can never imagine, in the depths of winter, that I will be sitting with all the windows and doors open trying to break up my day by sporting events. I'm not much of a jock but I'll watch a world cup, I grew up on golf and I'm definitely a cycling fan. I might even watch a tennis match if a set goes to 140 games. At the moment on my monitor I have ITV4 showing Le Tour and BBC2 showing Open golf from Fife. I stopped by Analogue books yesterday to pick up the new copy of Ride and Roleur, as well as some design porn. I also found this of interest. If only the winter was filled up with such delights, it might make it go a bit faster. And help slow down summer.
Posted by stupot at 11:46 AM Friday 16 Jul
Berneray - Bowglass
The wind is still battering against the small windows of the blackhouses but sun now lights up the white horses in the green sea. As with the night before we make a dash from our sleeping quarters to the living and eating space situated in the next building. We repack after porridge, swap some advice with the others and head off for the ferry. Despite the terminal being only a mile away it takes an eternity and some skill to keep the bikes upright - the head wind buffeting us and occasionally trying to lift our feather-light front wheels.
I was in Glasgow last week during my west coast retreat - a few meetings and a design talk by Marque - part of the Long Lunch series put on by Andy Neely and Rusty Spiller. I had time to kill and needed to eat so headed for Stereo for some vegan magic (the Calzone and Ice Cream Sundae could be my desert island food if it wasn't for Gandolfi's crab linguine). I realised that I was in the old Daily Record print works - a Mackintosh building - and was about to head up to my old haunt, the Glasgow School of Art. His building's aren't ten-a-penny so it's nice to still have a link to the west of Scotland's modernist maestro. Damn, that lecture theatre is uncomfortable (read: good design).
Posted by stupot at 05:57 PM Sunday 30 May
It has been a very modern election - American even - what with the TV debates. I personally found them dry and consistently uninspiring: bad suits and a firm lack of passion. The lamp-posters which this year were not allowed until the final week could tell us a lot about the parties. The Lib dems do not appear on this post - have they been sabotaged? On most other sites they were way at the top. The Greens have a simple party slogan on thin substrate and secured with twine. The Tories do not even name a party here - quite the opposite from the party centric advertising in the Conservative strong hold of Hexham, at the weekend. The Scottish Socialist party get to the point with a red star and Labour hang on to the 1997 over-design which appears to put the emphasis more on voting than the party or candidate.
Posted by stupot at 02:22 PM Wednesday 5 May
We visited Hexham on Sunday - an old market town with traditional brick buildings and the odd flash of Sandstone. It's also an area with a surplus of archaeology - like in Orkney, you stupidly become blazé about what incredible sites surround you. After Hexham we drove into the Toon and on my way back from Gateshead stopped to pen the famous bridge that appears on Newcastle Brown Ale bottles and also in Sydney Harbour. Fulmars or small gulls or whatever they were (loud, white, webbed feet) perched below me on the columns and windowsills of the buildings beneath the bridge, which act as an incredibly accurate man-made cliffs, guano lining the street below.
Posted by stupot at 02:18 PM Tuesday 4 May
"What's the name of the Gateshead multistorey?" I ask Laura. "I don't know" she says - "I just know it as the 'Get Carter' car park." A lot of people say the same about Trinity Square, the prominent brutalist structure behind the Tyne Bridge. The site has been Tescos for quite a while now and demolition can be only a matter of months away (they've been saying that for 3 years) so I walked over the bridge from the University in a quite excited frame of mind. The reality is a bit different: Gateshead is not a rich place (The Barbican works well, for example, but isn't it remarkable that so many of these buildings were tested in poorer areas) and you wonder if a high street with a rash of pawn shops benifits from a gap site with an aeriated concrete block shadowing out the sun for yet another three years. I found it mildly depressing on what was a relatively nice day but then there is no life crawling on it - I do think that the cafe on top was a great idea - I would have gladly gone there for a look at the North sea and the Toon. When it was built people thought motor cars were a good idea and concrete was a suitable material for the cladding as well as structures in the north. Hindsight was not available. A bit like getting the public to bang a load of E's in the early nineties and waiting until sometime in around 20 years to see what the effect is.
Posted by stupot at 09:22 AM Tuesday 4 May
My drawings are featured this month, with some others from the Urban Sketching gang, in TAM airlines inflight magazine called RED. The spreads are really nice - it features work from last years Morocco trip.
Post script: Bizarrely, I just got up from the computer and the hard copy arrived from Argentina - unfortunately it's the wrong issue!
Posted by stupot at 08:50 AM Tuesday 20 Apr
I found out from my dad recently that the spitfire which hangs in the Kelvingrove Museum sits in the opposite gallery from sculptures which must (surely) have been based on the work of Messerschmidt." Now that's the best unknown fact, and potential dog-fight, of the year so far for me. However, I did break it to some people in the pub a few weeks ago that there would definitely be a May 6th election. Everyone apparently already knew. Such is working on your own.
Posted by stupot at 05:43 PM Monday 19 Apr
Orkney was great fun - I cycled over to Deerness when Laura went to meetings and savoured the early spring weather after having had a day in Kirkwall on Monday. On Wednesday we went to the harbour village of Stromness (Kirkwall is a city thanks to its cathedral) with the house gables pointing to sea, suggesting just how severe the weather can be in Winter. The pier arts centre is a wonderful place with a great collection of Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson work. The rest of the village seems oblivious to the little modern building (hidden within old buildings), instead getting on with mending nets and going to school and delivering letters. Perhaps Stromness is more endearing because of it's proximity to the sea and the backdrop of the great hills and cliffs of Hoy.
Posted by stupot at 01:35 PM Sunday 18 Apr
There are somethings in life, I now realise, that aren't going away. I always used to think, for example, that my infatuation with the Housemartins (the first band I independently got into and fourth best band in Hull) would wane if not entirely dry up, just as was the fate of the band. The memories go back to not only playing the cassette on my walkman on the way to York on our school trip in primary seven, but indeed to when I first heard the band on radio, driving back from a barbeque with my dad's work circa 1985.
I've now realised that as much as I have time for the current bands in my life like Midlake, Fleet foxes and even a bit of Kanye West (I like to pronounce his name Kayne and have people correct me) I still find myself getting excited about finding a Housemartins vinyl in a charity shop: in the past week I have found Caravan of Love 12" in Help the Aged in Peebles followed by London 0 Hull 4 LP in Oxfam, Stockbridge. Quite a week for me as my affair with the band who taught me to button my shirt to the top and wear white socks regardless of trouser length, continues.
Posted by stupot at 12:31 PM Sunday 21 Mar
My opinion of the NHS changes like the wind. Today I had a physiotherapy appointment in Gorgie, just behind the Hearts Stadium, by the train tracks. A completely unremarkable place with a lovely group of people working within. I'd waited six weeks for an appointment (my original complaint had to be dealt with privately or I would have either become addicted to cocodamol or been unable to earn a living) so I made the most of this by finding out about knee pain which is a regular occurrence especially during winter exercise. I was fully examined and then given stretch exercises to work on for two weeks. My enthusiasm for the elegance of the bedside tables was not fully appreciated by the therapist who smiled politely at me. I mean - check out the splay on those legs!
Posted by stupot at 05:30 PM Friday 19 Mar
A lovely Interview with Britain's main man illustrator - a good reason to watch channel 4 for your news if you don't already.
Posted by stupot at 11:36 AM Friday 5 Mar
Working on a job for a leading carpet tile manufacturer just now - one of the worlds most environmentally progressive companies. I had huge reservations about the waste generated from exhibition design after a few years in the profession but experience and jobs like these keep me going. I found out at the National Museum that it's quite easy to off load waste on third parties - be it acrylic for a CDT department at a local high school or timber to a wood recycling project. It just takes a phone call. Here are carpet tiles that we print on and reuse for other exhibitions. When their life is over they are recycled into backing product for new tiles.
Posted by stupot at 01:05 PM Friday 29 Jan
In design it is hard to know how the outcome of a project will be received - you can never predict - especially when it is a prevalent subject. You can have a good guess if an idea is simple and effective enough. Frankly, you know in your head when a concept hits the target or fails, straight away. The ideal is not always reached but the best attempt made.
I live in Edinburgh so I'm more the brogues, monacle and corduroy type. Running a company now I do have a responsibility for my carbon footprint. I travel by bicycle for every journey within the city limits and take the train for almost every journey outwith. The cleats I currently use on my cycling shoes have three small protruding rubber pads which means, even with the heel making contact, my footprint is already tiny. By combining the love of bikes with the recent Japanese trend of Warm-Biz (turning the heating down and supplementing with a layer of clothes) I am one step away from setting up the bike in front of the computer to generate power for my electrical use which will make me, finally, carbon neutral.
Posted by stupot at 02:08 PM Tuesday 1 Dec
Whilst watching Remembrance Sunday at the cenotaph I couldn't help noticing how well dressed the Royals were. The Earl of Wessex particularly stood out with matt black buttons on a stormy grey doubler. The pigs trotter collar is a definite for the winter streets of New York, Paris and Tokyo.
Posted by stupot at 07:47 PM Monday 9 Nov
The buses in Edinburgh are pretty good. There's a decent amount of them and you know when the next one is coming. 60 years ago there used to be a problem with men in bowler hats and pipes playing 78's on old gramophones - the space they took up, not to mention the poor sound quality and racket. 30 years ago the 'Boom-Box' and 'Walkman' became equally annoying disturbances on a quiet journey and, with the advent of ear-plug headphones, I thought the syndrome of leaky music was over.
Continue reading "Modern Etiquette #164 - bleeding ears"
Posted by stupot at 04:59 PM Thursday 5 Nov
I have to give a shout out to the Barony Project in West Kilbride which sells some great second hand furniture. It's completely hit and miss but I recently bought my 50's style (it's dated 1973 underneath) wing chair for £15 which I'm very happy with. Some great kitsch crockery too!
Posted by stupot at 04:08 PM Friday 23 Oct
'Up' was pretty damn good but we were all blown away before it even started - by this trailer. It looks like all you could want and more: Spike Jonze Directing and a magical soundtrack are gonna make it contend with In the Loop for my film of the year.
Posted by stupot at 01:46 PM Monday 19 Oct
It's Bramble season - cycle paths and railway lines are spilling over with them. Down in West Kilbride last week I met up with the irrespressible Kirsty Reid. She's a star in many ways. She calls her mummy's Blackberry a 'Bramble', which I think a. is lovely, b. makes perfect sense and c. everyone should call them. Kirsty also draws a mean lion - almost as good an artist as my nephew, Fred!
Posted by stupot at 02:40 PM Tuesday 13 Oct
After climbing Arthur's seat on a glorious start to Autumn we sat in the secluded cafe at the bottom of the royal mile looking out to the Scottish Parliament. Interestingly you can read the Parliament website in Scots as well as Gaelic.
Posted by stupot at 07:42 PM Sunday 11 Oct
Posted by stupot at 02:15 PM Tuesday 29 Sep
10am and I popped down a close off the Royal Mile for a quick draw in the morning sun. The occasional person trotted through the square where the Museum of Writer's sits. A tour group came by, disturbing the peace but at least I gathered some free facts from the guide "Scotland is the only country to have a soft drink that out-sells Coke and Pepsi"......"Irn-Bru is not fit for sale in the US"..... I don't know if these are actual facts but it reminded me of Disani coming to the UK a few years ago. Irn Bru is well known for it's edgy adverts.
Posted by stupot at 07:33 PM Thursday 27 Aug
A long time in the making, John Macleod finally opened his restaurant crab shakk in Finnieston in February. Despite the amazing reviews and lovely design (By John and Good creative), I was a virgin until today when I went along with Dave for early lunch: top mussels for me and fish club sandwich for him - very reasonable. The space resembles Cafe Gandolfi - a wee cracker in the Merchant City John designed a few years ago. It was nice to see John there, with his subdued Hebridean drawl having a calming effect on the proceedings.
Posted by stupot at 12:15 PM Friday 31 Jul
I used to see a guy in Glasgow with this bag - years ago - I loved it! I didn't recognise the name at the time and even when I started going to MacDonalds they didn't have them on show. Recently they got them out the store and have them in the window - few left apparently. I couldn't design it better - good fabric on rear, waterproof front, high viz, world champ rainbow stripes, go faster text and £4.99! snap yours up now - Morrison Street, Edinburgh.
Posted by stupot at 08:05 PM Thursday 23 Jul
Wow - these guys are sweet, and not overly expensive. Would still be a bit lavish though - I'll get a few more jobs under my belt first...
Posted by stupot at 11:21 PM Saturday 18 Jul
Garden Detectives is the last of three temporary exhibitions I've helped design at the National Museums - opening two weeks ago. I had the pleasure of working with Jill Calder who did all the illustrative work - it really made the exhibition. It didn't take much to get the team to agree when they saw her work early on - childish yet dynamic was I think how I sold it in! Great internal team too - Graham Rotheray the laid back curator, Maureen Barrie the 'badgering' Project Manager, Tom'll fix it Chisholm, Emma 'ideas' Webb and Lisa 'details' Carrington. Matt Black, the long suffering joiner and friend who has to make my drawings was also there on the night of the opening. A demanding project with budget and time constraints from the off but sad to say goodbye. The phone has already gone for freelance work though!
Posted by stupot at 01:32 PM Thursday 16 Jul
I wouldn't usually take time out to blog about a film (The Damned United would have come first this spring) but it is encouraging that the only film worth going to see last night was a British one (save O Horten and Is Anybody There?). I'm mainly documenting the posters which are Obama take-off's and done very well indeed. I really want to get a set for the house. Peter Capaldi's swearing was the funniest cinema moment for a long time - the audience were constantly laughing. Creativity in the language was in abundance with it hard to choose a favourite phrase. You kind of had to be there - so go there!
Posted by stupot at 07:50 PM Sunday 10 May
A supplier (forbo) took us away to Amsterdam for 3 days and I managed to mix drawing with hangovers. The sun shone, the architecture was great, lovely locals, community feeling with lots of bikes, better English than in Scotland - definitely could live there. After a tiring day at the factory which was also enlightening, we went to the west side of town to some furniture shops on Saturday. The solid cork stools I'd seen in a showroom were 280 euros so stayed where they were. Tired but satisfied. Photos.
Posted by stupot at 10:26 PM Friday 27 Mar
Ross made me go to the Apple store and buy lots of stuff.
For which I thank him.
Posted by stupot at 09:11 PM Monday 9 Mar
I got a new phone last week. Then I woke up yesterday morning and placed it, quite carefully, in a glass of water as I surfaced from my sleep. Today a replacement came from the SKU man who reminded me more of a well organised drug courier, with his compact mixture of ziplock bag, plain white card boxes and a funky handheld gadget to record our encounter. I contemplated all the excess that came with my original phone (which had nothing to do with the actual sale) and wondered if it was truly necessary. These boxes still litter my living room yet the white box has performed its function and is in the recycling bin awaiting pick up.
My old phone, bearly a year old, was swapped for £150 credit and I'm now on a much better deal than before - so go see what the man can do for you!
More and more you're probably noticing change in your pockets (pun certainly intended) as the new British coinage seeps more and more into our lives. I noticed an article in Design week last year but only now is it becoming obvious that there is an heir to the original decimal family (actually there has been a lot of change in size of coin since and even the advent of the 20p piece and £2 coin not forgetting the old half-penny). Not many people talk about it but then it's not a life changing experience. It's a slow, slow burn and I might not even see a new ten pence piece until May! It does make me smile though to see the clever way they fit together - I'm desperate to get a set. Betty continues to frown on the other side so some things remain as they were.
If I had lots of money I would own a lot of rapha clothing. Check out their new tweed jacket. I'd even just like a cap though. The attention to detail is staggering. Roleur, their magazine, is a wee treat now and again - It's about £9 but the photography, choice and quality of articles blows all the others out the water. There was a DVD of the brooks saddle factory in England in one I bought last year. Geeky, but tremendously good.
Posted by stupot at 06:04 PM Friday 16 Jan
So when I bumped into Chris Hoy with his Tanqueray a few weeks ago at Glasgow Airport, I really didn't expect I'd be meeting Graeme Obree within the same month. Obree won the hour record twice on revolutionary, handmade bikes (check out the bmx seat post) and was at the museum on Wednesday to hand the medal over for the first of these wins so it can go on display (possibly for a few bags of sand). Nice guy - now lives in the next town from my folks and, like me, doesn't agree with cross training. A colleague tipped me off on Tuesday and I was duly down with camera, and pen - for his John Hancock.
Posted by stupot at 10:18 AM Friday 12 Dec
I'm beginning to put together a list of things I want to buy in Japan. Eye glasses were what started the list and now I seem to be thinking of anything vaguely needing updating. I've always bought cyber-shots as my camera of choice but they're really only good for short distance and macro especially. I've been thinking about switching brand. And then I saw the new design released in Japan. Aye Chawawa!
Posted by stupot at 08:59 PM Sunday 5 Oct
I really love trains. Seeing my dad off on the old fossil fuel locomotives with their compartments, the means of escape to the big city as a teenager, the way to travel through Europe by seeing places and meeting people, the disbelief of a shinkansen approaching for the first time, getting on one as you would a plane and seeing the sky when you bank, sitting at a table with an ever changing view and having no-where to go. gradually arriving somewhere and understanding the climate, architecture and agriculture before you meet the people.
Popped down to Manchester today for work - I used to go down quite a lot about 5 years ago with the company I worked for and I really enjoy it as a city - despite most people I speak to having little good to say about it. The office I was visiting is in Deansgate so I got off the train at Oxford road and managed to make my way past Harry Hall Cycles for what has become part of my routine when I visit. It was the first time I'd been in since his passing last year. Last time, I bought some arm warmers and as my knees have been playing up a bit I decided to get some knee warmers today. The neoprene wrap I wear sometimes is a bit too thick for summer so these look good. I was not surprised to find out that my goat-like legs equate to a size S. The amount of passengers on the train back was horrific to start with but eased up past the Lakes. I felt, for the first time in a long time that I needed to be wearing a watch so hastily drew one to get over the urge. I'm thinking about getting a tattoo without hands and adding in for appointments.
Posted by stupot at 10:34 PM Friday 11 Jul
One of the small pleasures of working at the museum is that you can find yourself getting pretty close to the objects. I found myself beside Graeme Obree's bike this week which was quite special. It's not an old fragile relic but none-the-less it's a lovely bit of home engineering that helped him break the legendary hour record. The bmx saddle and narrow bottom bracket (of washing mashine fame) were quite evident.
Posted by stupot at 11:20 PM Thursday 24 Apr
Spent a few days at the Museum of Costume last week down in New Abbey, quite near the biking meccas of, the unusually named, Ae and Mabie. The build went well and the scenery on the way down past Moffat was beautiful. Should you be near Dumfries in the summer - do pop in - the home baking is apparently legendary.
Posted by stupot at 12:59 AM Thursday 27 Mar
I'm doing some drawings right now for an ad agency in Manchester who are compiling an annual report - they're mixing the drawings with photo's and it seems to working pretty well - especially the more linear, which suits my style. Should be nice to see the finished article when it comes along.
Posted by stupot at 10:01 PM Tuesday 4 Mar
I was looking for an old phone I wanted to recycle and realised there was a fair few in the house. In Japan it's not unusual for people to go through a few cell phones in a year. Having never owned one until a few years ago this came as quite a shock (as was the sat-nav and email which came as standard). In the UK infrastructures have always been slower and apart from Friday night rendezvous time I really didn't need one. Now I can't leave the house without mine.
I spent quite a lot of time in Glasgow over the past week upgrading the flat, working and going to a wedding. It was nice to be back in Yorkhill in at my old local, popping in on old friends and I forgot how at home I felt there. I popped in on my lovely old neighbour Joyce who gave me tea and told me how bad I looked on a hangover, "you'll need to do something about your eyes," she said to me as I bounced off to the wedding.
Tipped off by Hannah at the Recycling Project, I headed around the block and down the train lines to the studios of SWG3. When I lived here it was almost soley an unofficial club venue, tip off's would often come about gigs on the night, in the pub. There was a good wee exhibition on reused materials as products, including african masks from skateboards I'd seen on the web a while ago. Great space, shame there's a hundred people on the waiting list.
Posted by stupot at 09:50 PM Thursday 11 Oct
Yesterday I headed up to the Glasgow Wood Recycling Project with some second years from the art school. The place - where you can buy or sell used wood for good prices - is a fantastic idea and somewhere that should really be supported. All the start up problems of working out a small space, getting reliable sources, marketing etc. aren't getting in the way of the drive by those working there who have teamed up with the Product Design department to come up with some new ideas for sellable products. I reckon the bird house made from reclaimed palette wood is a winner though!
Posted by stupot at 10:44 AM Tuesday 2 Oct
When I came back to my hometown this year, so much had changed. The town won the DTI's UK craft and design town of the year last year thanks to all the work done by the local initiative and councillor. For the past few years there has been lots of craftspeople and designers making use of the subsidised studios which were redundant shop units a few years ago. I noticed, however, that there was no smaller items for sale that people could buy if they were just passing. I've put together designs for merchandise and the mugs are the first things to be completed. Hot off the press - mail me if you want to buy one! These boys are 8oz bone china - say good bye to strained arms when picking up your tea!
Posted by stupot at 08:55 PM Thursday 27 Sep
There's a competition to design the graphics for campagnolo's bora wheel. Since it's carbon fibre there's a nice black canvas to work on - I decided to sketch out (and invert) some key innovations the company has produced (quick release skewer, derrailleur) and I've interwoven ribbon between them. The colours represent those worn by the world champion (many of whom have ridden campagnolo over the years, not least Eddy Merckx). Deadline next Friday.
Posted by stupot at 06:12 PM Wednesday 5 Sep
I used to have a big thing about vinyl. I suppose I'll always love it but I now appreciate the ease and convenience of buying and 'sharing' music with my laptop. I bought more CD's as presents than I ever did for myself and MD's didn't figure. Recently I was talking to my old buddy Ian about all of this and he was reminding me the implications for people like him when you share music online. Now-a-days bands like his have to tour and tour to make any money because fewer and fewer people buy music. Maybe that's why there are so many festivals this summer. When I first started using the MP3 format I was away in Japan and I downloaded my old record collection from other users of the shareware I used. Of course you don't stop there and eventually I started stealing and got into the harder stuff. Airing my record collection has been a revelation - the crackle on my Technics turntable, having to get up and turn the record over, raking through all the big art to choose what's next, gatefolds, even some ltd edition Jamie Hewlitt prints from my Senseless Things phase!
Posted by stupot at 08:16 PM Tuesday 4 Sep
I came across the web site of the highly talented Jill Calder and dropped her a mail to tell her how much I rate her drawings. When I asked where to check out in Edinburgh I got two great suggestions that I'd pass on to anyone - the current Picasso exhibition of pottery and lino prints at the Museum of Scotland and Analogue books by the Grassmarket. I'd urge anyone vaguely interested to head on down. I think Analogue has become my new favourite shop - packed with loads of illustration and design books as well as a gallery and prints to buy. I spent lots of satisfying time and money there. Thanks Jill!
Posted by stupot at 12:59 AM Monday 3 Sep
I passed Barga - the town where many of Scotland's Italian immigrants come from - ten years ago on a cycling holiday. I was always curious about where people would leave to come and live in such a windswept place. We have a rich history of ice cream parlours / fish and chip shops with their lovely interiors, exotic staff and of course the weekend special-treat. When I was a kid we used to pop into Luca's of Musselburgh for, more often than not, a strawberry 99 before the long drive back to Ayrshire from my grandparents. I decided to pop in for old times sake on Saturday and joined the orderly queue to get an oyster which brought a pretty wide smile to my face. By coincidence I was in Ardossan the next day and, bouncing off the walls, we popped into the Palazzo sampling almost every flavour before the door was blocked and threats thrown for us to spend cash. It was nice to be back in Ayrshire once again.
Posted by stupot at 01:19 PM Monday 27 Aug
This was the Flemish Scottish Temperance League offices on Hope Street in Glasgow - just around the corner from Central station. It also sits on Renfield lane (a notorious place known for it's crime and violence) down which is the Mackintosh designed, but largely unseen, Daily Record print works. Now the offices have been overhauled and sometimes I work in the loft at a friends studio.
Posted by stupot at 12:37 PM Tuesday 26 Jun
If you live anywhere near Ayrshire, you should definitely check out the graffiti project at Kelburn Castle. We headed over after the stormy start to the weekend had passed and had a blast. Basically the roughcast is being replaced in a few years and so it's a great excuse to go to town with the cans. Kelburn is an amazing place to go if you have kids - we went with the nephews and there's stuff to keep you amused for hours including the timeless adventure playground. The walled garden and walks keep the ageing amongst us amused.
Posted by stupot at 04:34 PM Wednesday 23 May
I gave a talk at the Apple store in Osaka on Tuesday to a design group that meets once a month. Good bunch of folk. I don't really talk in front of big audiences so it was a bit strange. Everyone said they liked it though. Met some really good people as well which was a nice bonus. There's some pics here if you really don't have anything better to do.
Posted by stupot at 05:22 PM Saturday 21 Apr
After visiting the ward office to change my address and national health insurance (it took about an hour and a half and, at one point, 6 public servants), I came home via Chikatsu Asuka Museum (Ando Tadao, 1994). It's only about a kilometre and a half from my house in Taishi and whilst it's not the kind of architecture I'd like to live in, the design actually does, and will continue to, blend in to it's surroundings. I reckon in 100 years it'll look great. I drew by the edge of a nature trail before getting up, with a numb arse, to go and jot down a couple of details. Today was surprisingly cold but people were happy to greet strangers along the way - something I've missed in the city. The women in the cafe did a double take when I spoke to them, in that way rural people do when they're confronted with foreign country people speaking their own language - even just to say "one coffee please". There were a few hardy family's up the trail doing hanami but I know how chilly it was to be sitting about. The fresh weather will hopefully prolong the sakura though.
Posted by stupot at 06:52 PM Tuesday 3 Apr
It's no wonder that half of the male population in Japan smoke - cigarettes cost nothing - 300 yen - two and a half dollars or one pound thirty. You can also smoke wherever you like and the famous vending machines litter the streets as much as used butts do. Smoking is still seen as a right here, like it's a right in most other developed countries to not contract cancer when you're having your dinner. Japan Tobacco have lots of TV time here, showing how concerned they are that people should not smoke near children or throw away trash when they're really missing the bigger picture. Being out of sight and therefor out of mind is perhaps a better way to rid a person or a country of such a habit. The fact that the industry here is seen as caring and family orientated (there are always kids in the adverts) simply makes it more accepted. I have to say though, that recent packaging design has been really nice. Generally the retro stuff like Caster and the very new Camel nutty menthol. There's something so wrong about that name but I can't define it. I keep thinking of jobbies.
Posted by stupot at 12:34 PM Wednesday 28 Mar
The popular Mac v PC adverts have been shown, in their Japanese form, on TV recently. Usually the exotic honky is used by Japanese companies but then this is an American company and Japanese things are cool. The results are, well, the same adverts but in Japanese. As ever, TV is a helpful listening aid to those studying the language.
Posted by stupot at 07:56 PM Tuesday 14 Nov
If you ask a visitor about Naoshima they'll possibly know of it. If you ask a Japanese the chances are much more slim. It's one of the hundreds of islands between shikoku and honshu and, perhaps typically, is part industrial (recycling centre) and part unspoilt. We were staying at the swanky Bennesse house hotel on the south coast which was just beside the two art galleries also designed by Ando (a treat from my folks). The coast and nearby village has a scattering of installations and sculpture which make the place a wee bit like the set of the prisoner.
Live painting is very hip in japan just now - that is to say, painting in front of an audience. Karl, a new aquaintence from Kyoto, was talking about the demand for it at the last design matters talk at the apple store and sure enough, yesterday, when I visited the art show at River Place in Osaka there was some going on. The show comprised of about 50 stalls with local painters and deisgners and there was a live painting wall for joe public to use too. It had quite a carnival feel and had that surreal quality you get when random people walk about with oversized goats heads and cardboard boxes over their heads. There was also a random guy hitting bits of woods which is the kind of thing, as a child, you don't get and when you're older you still don't get. I guess I could imagine what he was trying to suggest were I to give it the time, but people were interested and it put a smile on my face so I guess he did his job. good fun.
Posted by stupot at 04:38 PM Monday 23 Oct
As I've always liked drawing, I've always liked going to stationery shops and Japans is like the Mecca of stationery. The delight of becoming excited about buying a very cheap material posession, that most people take for granted, is a nice feeling to have. Especially if you're as tight as I am. Like cash will never die in asia, neither will the mark - it is after all, why the fax machine put email back by 10 years. The mark is such an important part of the culture in Japan that pens are constantly being redefined here. As much R+D seems to go on at pilot as does at honda. If you've ever tried to write complicated Kanji (Japanese characters) on a typical application or order form in Japan then you'll appreciate why there are so many different thicknesses of pen. Going by shelf presence, Pilot's Hi-Tec C is the best selling pen in Japan. I've used one since I was in the UK but a few years ago they were getting difficult to find there. The quality of line that the Hi-tec gives is pretty flawless and for only 210 yen. I recently said that you should visit a builders centre if you ever visit japan. You should also add a stationery store to the list. Tokyu Hands in Osaka has a huge section that any creative would salivate at but the wee local dusty places still possess the charm and prize finds you can't get in department stores.
QR code has been about for some time and it's now an extremely common method of advertising in Japan. It's an odd medium though and a very impersonal part of the unsettling leap, certainly for the uninitiated, into another era. This is what I thought when I first came to Japan and saw QR my only thought was 'what the hell is that?' - the code in some adverts being very large (you take a picture with your mobile and the browser directs you to the campaign website of the company in question). My new business card, which before was my URL which had to be manually typed, is now just a Quick Response link to my website/email address in your mobile browser. The picture is centred so your thumbs go either side (as per offering and receiving a business card with two hands in Japan) which is probably ironic as you can't read it. Business cards are fascinating to designers as there are so many possibilities. I still enjoy writing something on a card to make the person receiving feel special - like a cell phone number.
Posted by stupot at 05:24 PM Saturday 14 Oct
I blog about Glasgow about as much as I eat deep fried mars bars these days. The likelihood of writing about a certain Toryglen area of the city, therefor, seemed about as remote as bumping into an auld jakey bastard staggering doon the main street in osaka with an evening times in one pocket and a bottle of irn bru in the other, singing to himself and on the verge of tears. It seems though, that the dear green place has been chosen for the next installment of the much revered Sony Bravia adverts, the last of which was all over the web like a rash.
Posted by stupot at 09:05 PM Wednesday 4 Oct
well, the invites for the show arrived today. I guess that means it's really happening. excitement is mixed with the usual pinch of anxiety. for anyone in osaka or nearby who is interested - there's info below. the show, scheduled for the end of november, will no doubt be here faster than you can say 'what happened to octob....' hope you can make it.
A couple of people, over the past few weeks, have given me a wry smile as they've passed me on the bike, my crutches resting over the handlebars. I've resisted taking the train where possible because the amount of effort involved to actually support myself getting to those elevators, or the right exit, is so demanding. I knew it before but I now have hard evidence that building standards in Japan are a world away from those in Britain. This is good and bad. on the plus side you get nice looking interiors with funky, uneven details in Japan which find their way into lots of international design magazines. The blind are also catered for extremely well - organised crime having not only a massive interest in concrete but also in yellow, sensory floor tiles. On the down side though, you get stairs at dizzy angles with handrails that seem to be designed for that 5th percentile of hobbits.
went to nara on sunday, a short train ride from osaka but, like kyoto, a world away in terms of pace and beauty. I was with some photographers who were going to snap the lantern festival or 'toukae' (light flower event). the afternoon was very, very hot as we roamed the back streets of what feels more like a big town than a city - the sacred deer which roam the streets only helping to compound the feeling. we ducked into a few places for an air-con breather before heading back out for more. gradually we met up with more people, some by chance, some arranged and walked around all the many parks and ponds and temples that were scattered with lamps. my favourite place was just an undulating park at the back of todaiji temple which felt like a dream or heaven, with lights going almost as far as you could see and people slowly making their way around.
had a meeting and some research to do so I was wandering around the city centre flitting from air-conditioned space to air-conditioned space, from shade to underground arcade like an animal. I eventually headed to meal muji in nanba for a cheeky coffee and melon pan. a regular haunt, it is thankfully mildly air conditioned opposed to my local supermarket which could be mistaken for a walk-in freezer. It takes a keen eye to spot the mildly air-conditioned carriage on the train as well - I find the cold carriages an uncomfortable environment to mix with sweat.
meal muji reminds me of a minimal version of 'hendersons' vegetarian cafe in edinburgh and it's a fine place to go and have a bit of space, decent scran and do some thinking. It's nice that there is a good range of seating options - from a huge circular table to high stools and shelf. I talked myself out of buying a yukata coz I think I'll look like a fanny but function might yet win over.
I had a meeting near shibuya today in daikanyama. nice gaff: all the fashion names (APC, 45rpm etc) seem to have their main shops and headquarters there. as a visitor, the yamanote line was an enjoyable exercise in information graphics and whilst tokyo does it much better than osaka, it's also horrifically busy. to be honest it's the first time I've been squeezed solid against others and hopefully I won't do it again in a while. terribly uncivillised. I did take the advantage of groping some young women as I read it was 'de rigueur' last year. the information is great though - exactly what you need: amoungst other things - tv's telling you how long til your next station and where the exits are relative to your carriage. basic, but so rarely available elsewhere. every design student should visit tokyo.
now I've got the weekend in kyoto which will be a welcome relief.
Posted by stupot at 11:55 PM Friday 21 Jul
one of the first necessities you need to get after arriving in japan is a personal seal to act as your signature. the hanko or inkan is still used for everything from opening a bank account to 'signing' for a couriered parcel. it's kind of your ID. I love mine - each one is personally designed, and although you can get ready made ones, I found everyone seemed to be out of stock of 'Kerr' seals when I was looking. many people have a few of them, one for everyday use and one, perhaps more stylised, for official use. I wanted to blog about a hanko shop I used to pass but I never got a snap. as the product is so small, the shops tend to be tiny. this one was about a meter wide and 4 meters long but as demand is sporadic you really don't need much more. some non japanese use the sylable sounds of their name to choose a fitting kanji to make up a 'japanese' name but as I had already been documented in the simple katakana form there just would have been too much red tape to change it. but not to worry.
Posted by stupot at 08:11 PM Friday 14 Jul
odd that you would steep 'fried noodles' in water before draining and adding sauce but nissin's UFO pretty well succeeds as a tasty emergency snack. the new tv commercial (or 'CM' as the japanese refer to it) is good fun - the designers playing on that child-like sensation of not being able to get enough of a pleasing scent. we've all done it I'm sure. I do it when I pass the local cream bun shop or ohagi shop. sometimes you just cannae draw enough air in.
Posted by stupot at 10:38 PM Wednesday 14 Jun
I just ordered my new road bike which will be my first custom built. I'm pretty excited. the columbus tubing has to be ordered though, so I must wait about 4 weeks which is a little frustrating. Due to a swollen ankle from jogging, and a subsequent cold, I have not been training so much during the latter part of may. this makes me only slightly anxious with the up and coming 'fuji hill climb' on the eleventh. it might only be to the '5th station' of fuji, but I think the generic term using 'hill' is a little misleading. having received my information pack (and signed the disclaimer) it seems like it's a constant 7% for the 25 kilometeres which is tamer than I had expected. the granny gear will none-the-less be seeing some action no doubt. my new commute has helped as gentle training and being out the saddle has quenshed my thirst for more. the theory sounds good.
I'm not usually a big fan of motors but I love the styling of the honda PS250 above. the military references are great and the first one I saw the other day had been well personalised with various attachments and netting on the back - very mad-max.
Posted by stupot at 05:48 PM Friday 2 Jun
following on from last years collaboration with elley kishimoto etc., UNIQLO has recently released loslogos t-shirts and they're pretty nice. at a thousand yen (a pam shriver) a pop, they are pretty cheap too. as usual the girls stuff is nicer than the guys but unfortunately they're always a little short for me to get away with.
it reminded me of the imminent arrival of IKEA to japan. I suspect the japanese public as well as the likes of MUJI won't know what has hit them: certainly if it's anything like the epidemic in rest of the world. then, six months down the line people will start disliking it - the traffic, the furniture falling apart, the ethics. but as with everywhere else, we'll be back every sunday for cheap hot dogs and our retail fix. fags are out. plagarised cheap design is in!
researching manbags, with the idea to design something like han-solo's holster, you can imagine both my happiness and disbelief at stumbling upon this. this great 'wallet', via cool hunting, is of a similar vein. nice stuff. In japan of late, the old boys still tend to go for the classic leather toilet bag, whereas the 30 somethings can often be seen with cell phone and wallet in a rock climbers chalk bag.
Posted by stupot at 08:48 PM Monday 27 Mar
out today to see a friends exhibition in horie, I came across some new post-it-notes in a kind of 'easy-to-carry' sketchbook form. there's also a credit card size which I didn't buy. I always felt like a bit of a geek when I bought stationery in scotland but now I'm in the majority. people spend lot's of time deliberating over which line-weight of pen to go for. it is, after all, a very important question when you have to write miniscule kanji.
Posted by stupot at 07:59 PM Monday 20 Mar
things are hardly ever perfect. perfectly designed things are scarce, except perhaps in nature. I was watching the 'skeleton' from the winter olympics recently and noticed that the winner, despite having a very expensive helmet, had had to seal up the sides with gaffer tape. it's good to see people improving and personalising products as designers rarely have sufficient experience to design perfect things. you can never predict every user. products which assume completely new roles are equally fascinating and japan is full of both.
The new ad campaign for kirin's nuda drink reminded me of the hidden katakana characters for kirin found within the mythical mascot. They are pretty much invisible at first glance but a while back I was told that you can find them if you look carefully (I've highlighted them above). So the next time you settle down for an ichiban, see if you can spot the cryptic message.
Posted by stupot at 11:18 PM Saturday 11 Mar
I don't get why plastic bags are still used. like I don't get why schoolbags in japan cost $600. but at least the former lasts a few years and comes with LED's and a tracking device.
new habits, it seems, die hard as the country is at a juncture of still trying to buy its way to the top of the capitalist ladder whilst being sympathetic to kyoto in both senses. pressure from china and others has become the weight on the back of the salaryman whos 'just work like a bastard and it'll be alright' philosophy is becoming more and more redundant. the uncouth yet essential creativity and youth are crying out to be heard above the bellow of the out-dated suit with the large framed spectacles. japan could be nearing the point of working smart and not just hard, but the plastic bag remains.
who needs a playground when you've got bollards that are made of rubber? these things are great. I'll sometimes go a detour just to mess about with one - although I attract enough attention because of my hair and eye colour. they make good seats as well and have even been known to stop cars without damaging them. living in a tight space serves up a smile yet again.
au have just brought out a phone called neon by naoto fukasawa. it's fairly plain with hidden text that appears from under the surface. it's part of the au design project, a kind of annual event where they have someone famous design a phone. I think the talby by marc newson is still my favourite although most of these phones aren't billingual and often sell out faster than others.