This is how to live…

stoneywell rear

We recently visited Stoneywell, a delightful homely retreat and a paradise for the many generations of children who lived there – perfect for “Swallows and Amazons” adventures.

stoneywell cottage

We are lucky to live only a couple of miles away from Stoneywell, one of the country’s rare surviving examples of an Arts and Crafts cottage complete with many original furniture and contents. Continue reading


Happy Birthday Habitat; the story of a little brown teapot.

Artist James Joyce created the 50th birthday logoIn case you’ve missed it in the news Habitat celebrated its 50th birthday this May and commissioned artist James Joyce to create this 50th birthday logo. For those of us born in the 1960s Habitat was the store that changed the way we wanted to live. Their designs represented the new and exciting, clean yet exotic and oh so very different from the homes we had grown up in. From the chicken brick to the ‘Continental’ quilt, the paper moon lampshade to the garlic press we all yearned to live surrounded by these simple and well designed objects. 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

The Utilistic Optimism of Jasper Morrison

We dislike extravagance in design, and for us Jasper Morrison is a key influence as the difference between his work and many contemporary designers is it’s obviousness -and it’s obvious charm. He can be seen as a modernist, as he is scathing about postmodernism, and much of his work owes a debt to the vocabulary of modernism and it’s materials. He is not, though, old fashioned. The modernist faith in design as a vehicle for improving life provides the link to the work of Morrison he describes as Utilistic Optimism. 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:

Website for Jürg Lehni:

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

Is Design an expression of Art?

At Brimstones and Treacle we take inspiration from Donald Judd’s practice that encompasses art, furniture and architecture. Whilst retaining their distinctions Judd allows them to inform one another, sharing a sensibility of material and form. Judd’s output of deceptively simple objects provide a formal purity despite complexity of their construction, that stand as a testament to his mastery of fabrication and understanding of structure with respect to materials. Continue reading

Noble Design

A noble design tradition includes Windsor chairs, the Shakers and the Mini, where the appearance is born of utter pragmatism, and style merely comes as a by-product of its context, its use and its making. All have come to take a place our hearts in ways that go beyond the merely visual and rational. We believe each is an excellent example of how design can give greater emotional meaning and give our daily reality more depth. Continue reading