Well hello there


St Trinians


It seems an age since we’ve been here and time has just flown by. The summer term is always busy as the students make the final rush towards the degree shows and we fly along with them. But now the showbiz razzmatazz of the opening night has passed, the results have been sent, celebratory corks have popped and we can breathe a small sigh of relief before it all begins again in the autumn.

Summer is always a welcome time for experimentation and reflection here at Treacle Towers and we’ve been beavering away at a new projects.

Watch this space for updates as the summer unfolds.


Pleasingly Pointless


We find irresistible the drawings of eccentric machines by cartoonist and illustrator W.Heath Robinson, (1872 –1944), that have become part of common parlance for unnecessarily complex and implausible contraptions. We often use the phrase ‘Heath Robinson’ in relation to any of our temporary fixes using our ingenuity and whatever is to hand, – often string and tape, or unlikely cannibalisations. Continue reading

Thinking through Making


At Brimstones & Treacle, we take time to look at materials, processes and technologies to understand why and how they are harnessed in particular ways by designers, but more importantly to understand the values that we place on them, not only in their visual and tactile properties but also the cultural associations they hold. An icon of this approach is the theoretician Enzo Mari who came to design via the world of art as a fervent critic of Consumerism. As an ideological contributor to the debates surrounding design for the last fifty years he has become renowned for his mantra, “Good design for everybody at affordable prices’.

Central to Mari’s beliefs is that design, rather than simply being an expression of others values should develop its own ideology. Much of his work can be considered from this viewpoint, as a sort of critical design exercise where understanding is reached through experiment that can be best described as ‘Thinking through Making’. Continue reading

Simple Pleasures of Being Neat Freaks

At Brimstones & Treacle we’ve been thrilled to witness the recent re-awakening of pride taken in neatness. In particular comes to mind one of our favourite blogs, Things Organized Neatly curated by Austin Radcliffe, and additionally the image-sharing service Pinterest that has become frequently visited to fulfil our pleasure in tidiness,  by collecting photos of orderly arranged things on “pinboards” that are themselves neatly organised. Continue reading

Drawing on a recent history of chairs

Viktor 5000 years of chairs


Earlier in the week we found this video featuring the handiwork of Viktor, a large scale wall-drawing image making tool. The machine is an amalgam of digital and mechanical technologies, becoming a collage of tools, all of which were invented for other general and specific uses. Viktor is a robotic chalk-drawing machine created in 2008 by the designers Jürg Lehni and Alex Rich, who share a fascination with the role of technology in design and are intent on exploring this interest through the creation of new tools and machines. Jürg Lehni  states, “I wanted to make new things with new meanings using what I knew already,” he says. “I wanted to bring back the spirit of printing or publishing or design from the past, but using modern technology. My computers became my working tools, my brushes and paint.”

Viktor is conceived as being far from a closed mechanical device – a black box between creative impulse and output – but rather is described as the ‘nuanced interaction between the user and the technologies of communication’. In a recent interview Jürg Lehni explained his perspective on technology. ‘we are all being sold proprietary software 
all the time and being told how to use it in a prescriptive
 way, but it is possible, if we know how, to bend it to our
 own will and to use it in a different way. The capacity of this software is not anticipated by us and it often has poetic potential.’

The exhibit demonstrates this 
‘poetic potential’ by injecting a degree of humanity into the mechanical nature of 
machines. Viktor works by covering an entire blackboard-painted gallery wall reproducing texts and drawings that elaborate on the themes of the show which is derived from talks and workshops.

The video shows Viktor illustrating the lecture “5000 Years of Chairs” by Michael Marriott about the development of the world through advances in chair making technologies spanning five thousand years. The talk was held on the occasion of the exhibition “A Recent History of Writing & Drawing” by Jürg Lehni & Alex Rich, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, 2008.

Find the Video for Viktor here: http://vimeo.com/16379803

Website for Jürg Lehni:  http://lehni.org/

Posted by Brimstones.

Michael Marriott shows some Stools

We were fortunate enough to join a compelling and entertaining lecture last week by Michael Marriott (MM) the designer. Michael has trained with both a technical and art school background as a Royal College of Art graduate.

His thinking and philosophy comes from furniture design although he works in other areas covering product and curatorial design, but his love and passion for furniture is the core of his practice.

His lecture was entitled ‘Michael Marriott shows you some stools’, we thought that we would share our reflections of the day with you and highlight some of the intriguing references and anecdotes that Michael brought to our attention. Continue reading

You are a Nomad

We know ‘change’ is a paradox, as it is the one thing of which we can be truly certain. As change happens everyday in all our surroundings we endure by continuously adapting ourselves, and our belongings to our situation. In nature species rely on dynamic modification in form and size in order to reproduce, feed or protect themselves. The capacity to adapt is essential to continued survival. And so it is in our ‘man made’ artificial world. As practical experience shows us, many organisations that fail to adjust to ever changing business environments tend to disappear.

Back in 1973, Victor Papanek and James Henessey had already prophesised the necessity for greater movement of people, suggesting that through our changing lifestyles we are all becoming nomadic. At Brimstones and Treacle we delight in their book ‘Nomadic Furniture’ in which they have attempted to fill a void by designing furniture that can be built yourself, bought or adapted by being easily constructed, but which also folds, stacks, inflates or knocks down, or else is disposable whilst being ecologically responsible. Continue reading

Similar Differences

It seems at the moment that I spend most of my time on the A50 as I shuttle between Treacle Towers and Staffordshire University where I teach on the BA Photojournalism course. Much of this time driving time is split between quiet contemplation of the driving skills of other road users and a wonderful spell of self indulgent wallowing in my musical past.

This week I have been accompanied on my travels by the fabulous Kate Bush and particularly the song Army Dreamers from the album Never For Ever.

Now, I am not normally known for a great love of covers, but I have to say that the cover of this song by the Trwbador a duo from South Wales is just as sparkling and haunting as the original. You may have heard the track Sun In The Winter from their second EP on BBC6 recently. Here are links to both Kate and Trwbador’s versions of the song and I hope the sun shines all through your weekend.

Much love Treacle x

What is Design?

What is Design? A Transcript of an Interview with Charles Eames

What is your definition of “design?”

A plan for arranging elements in such a way as to best accomplish a particular purpose.

Is design an expression of art (an art form)?

The design is an expression of the purpose. It may (if it is good enough) later be judged as art.

Is design a craft for industrial purposes?

No— but design may be a solution to some industrial problems.

What are the boundaries of design?

What are the boundaries of problems? Continue reading