Paper Vases: Aesthetically Edgy, Morally Sound

Pepe Heykoop's paper vase project. Photo by Annemarijne Bax

Pepe Heykoop’s paper vase project. Photo by Annemarijne Bax

It’s a familiar, often unfortunate equation: a designer (industrial, fashion etc.) from a wealthy country has a trend-setting idea, manufacturers it for pennies in an impoverished country and then sells it for a premium without sharing the riches with the labourers who made it.

Dutch designer Pepe Heykoop is trying to create a new paradigm. His paper-vase project is both aesthetically edgy and morally sound. It was recently shown at the largest furniture fair in the world, Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan, Italy, where the influential design blog Dezeen called it a “a runaway success.” The business model for the vases is helping raise a community in Mumbai out of severe poverty.

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The Comeback: Art Deco

Tomas Alonso's silver tea service (photo by Craig Dillon)

Tomas Alonso’s silver tea service (photo by Craig Dillon)

Although Art Deco reached its apex of influence during the Interwar period, its rich colours, bold geometries and lavish materials (such as sterling silver and ebony) have never really disappeared from fashion.

It is, essentially, timeless. But every once and a while, our collective fascination with the movement’s decor and architecture reaches a new fever pitch. Like right now. The resurgence is the direct result of Baz Luhrmann’s blockbuster adaption of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby (the sixth such adaption of the 1925 novel, which comes out this Friday). Suddenly, everyone wants an air of the Jazz Age, in their clothes (think shimmering flapper skirts) and in their decor.

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Outside the Box: Why Cardboard is Kingly

Design objets en carton // Design cardboard objects

A detail of Marie-José Gustave’s cardboard chair (photo by Stephanie Lamy)

When designer Marie-josé Gustave moved to Quebec from France 15 years ago, she, not surprisingly, hauled her stuff with a bevy of cardboard boxes. But, unlike most of us, Gustave didn’t give away, store or toss the containers when she got here. She started turning them into art and decor.

“I had lots of boxes,” jokes Gustave.

The Montrealer studied clothing production, was working in textile design and long loved tactile crafts such as sewing and knitting. Like an interesting fabric or yarn, she admired cardboard’s rich, versatile texture. Depending on how it’s cut, layered and woven together, it looks like wool, woven seagrass or clay.

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Coveted: JustPotters’ Charming Garden Markers

Hand-crafted ceramic garden markers

Hand-crafted ceramic garden markers

Garden markers are a must for green thumbs who can’t remember where they’ve seeded the beets versus the radishes. They’re particularly necessary before the buds start to grow in the early spring, when one, dirt-filled pot in the windowsill is indistinguishable from the next. JustPotters makes an especially handsome version — slender, ceramic stems with that perfectly-imperfect, rough-edged quality that only comes when something is hand spun. But the Vancouver-based pottery shop is laudable for more than its unique nameplates. It was started in 2006 to give people who face traditional barriers to work — mental or physical disabilities, for example, or problems with addiction — a way to make money and learn new skills. Most don’t come into the studio with a background in clay, but under the training of expert potter Jasmine Wallace — she has a Master’s degree in ceramics from the University of Minnesota and has exhibited across North America — they learn the nuances of the craft and take great pride in creating such beautiful objects. From $21. justpotters.com.

This piece originally appeared in the Globe and Mail on Thursday, April 18, 2013.

Coveted: Carey Ann Schaefer’s Cross Legged Basket

A big basket made of crocheted nylons

A big basket made of crocheted nylons

At the Cumulus Project ­— the online concept store of B.C.-based artist Carey Ann Schaefer — only one, one-of-a-kind item is posted at a time, and it doesn’t get replaced until it’s sold. A ridiculous business model for an e-commerce site? Maybe. It is, in effect, the anti-Etsy. But there’s something refreshingly simple about having only a single, serenely crafted option to consider at every visit. Past pieces include a slug-shaped, ceramic salt container and a circular mirror subtly etched to mimic the mottled surface of the moon. The latest — the Cross Legged Basket — is no less whimsical. At a glance, the hamper looks like a stack of water worn river stones. But the pile is actually quite plush — Schaefer crocheted it out of colourful, baton-stuffed nylons that were sewn end-to-end into a giant-sized piece of yarn. 24” h x 36 dia. $220. cumulusproject.com.

This piece originally appeared in the Globe and Mail on Thursday, April 11, 2013.

Forget Minimalism: How ‘More is More’ Made Nicky Haslam a Top Designer

Nicky Haslam at the Toronto home of Colette van den Thillart (Photo by Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)

Nicky Haslam at the Toronto home of Colette van den Thillart (Photo by Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)

The client list of British interior design legend Nicky Haslam reads like an issue of Hello! magazine. It’s packed with the bold-faced names of royals (Princess Michael of Kent), rock stars (Mick Jagger, Ringo Starr) and oligarchs (a house he did for bank magnate Pyotr Aven features the largest private collection of Russian art in the world). His social calendar – parties with Jerry Hall and Bob Geldof, posing for pictures with Kate Moss – is much the same.

Haslam’s rooms are as diamond-encrusted as the celebrities he works for. Nothing is ever too excessive or ornate.

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Coveted: Ryan Taylor’s Babylon Pendant

Ryan's Taylor's luminous hanging garden

Ryan’s Taylor’s luminous hanging garden

A few years ago, designer Ryan Taylor’s kitchen was startling to look more like a greenhouse than a cook space. He loved having ferns, herbs and succulents around, but had run out of places to put them. So, Toronto-based Taylor decided to create a new type of planter. His hanging Babylon pendant is a resplendent way to add herbage without losing square feet. The white aluminum casing is particularly elegant. The shape is inspired by an upside flower bloom and echoes mod, ‘60s style. Plants aren’t included, but anything that can grow in shallow soil, like small orchids, moss and cacti, would do well. For anti green thumbs, the trough might make a smart place to hide keys, cards and wallets. Babylon pendant. $425. Through oniprojects.com.

This piece originally appeared in the Globe and Mail on Thursday, April 4, 2013.