Business partners Susannah Baker-Smith and Gail Arnold have great passion for all things handmade, a passion that extended beyond mere conversations between friends. Together, they launched the exquisite Notting Hill shop, Hand. Visitors describe Hand as “shopping a fabulous bazaar”, and from viewing their website, I cannot question this observation. Their ecclectic selection of items arrive to them from skilled artisians based worldwide who share Susannah and Gail’s commitment to quality craftsmanship and materials, along with originality and beauty. With a delightful array of housewares, jewelry, clothing, both vintage and contemporary, these ladies can’t help but inspire us to think more about the importance of spoiling oneself with unique hand-crafted wares.
You’re sure to like what you see at this fine store, you may even leave with a huge smile and a bag swinging in hand. Why so happy? You opted to shop for something special while supporting independent crafters. You may purchase less than at a big box store, however you own something with meaning, with value, and a quality item that will outlast most purchases at a mass retailer. Sometimes, the best retail therapy isn’t about the number of items you purchase, but the emotional experience of browsing a relaxed beautiful environment, running your fingers over smooth hand-thrown porcelain and luxurious silks, interacting with store owners who tell the stories behind their wares, taking you far from their little shop in London, opening you to an adventure around the world.
Since the beginning of time, people have tried to communicate through drawings on walls. Fast forward to the 1960′s, and east coast American cities (mainly Philly + NYC) started to show signs of a new trend – urban expressionism on walls which mostly consisted of the name of the person with spray can in hand. As pictureesque as European cities may be, there exists a historic graffiti problem here, too. Urban youth, who were once content to simply spray their names to mark their territory or that of their gang, are now creating colorful, imaginative works of art. As time marches forward, graffiti continues to grow into much more than simply spray painting a name, and certainly isn’t all about gangs, drugs, and crime… Many talented young artists use it to make a public statement, a way to express themselves. Some are selective about location and others simply are not, using private residences, government buildings, train stations, etc. to leave their mark, ruining the facades of many a beautiful building. This is where the problem lies, at least in my opinion.
As is the case for most cities worldwide, there often exists a greater need of preservation than of rebuilding, especially when a building is in good overall condition and simply needs the facade renovated (painted, cleaned, blasted, etc.) In New York and Boston, you see scaffolding on many buildings, owners work hard to preserve their precious real estate (and for good reason). In cases where buildings fall under the protection of a historical society*, the pressure to preserve a building is of upmost importance of both the owner and the city. Here in Europe, where most buildings you see date to over 150+ years old, seeing a building become a canvas for graffiti raises the blood pressure of many.
On one side, I think graffiti can be interesting and even attractive if done on the right “canvas”, but on the flipside I’m a bit upset by it, especially when the selected wall is a historical building or monument with a porous surface, like brick or stone (hard to clean). It can be quite a process (and expense) to remove it, and can result in the artist returning to leave his mark all over again.
The goal here in Hannover has always been graffiti eradication, but the reality is that it will most likely be a problem for many years to come, or until law breakers suffer more extreme penalties. Either that, or when graffiti is no longer dubbed as cool or being independant. But I doubt that will happen anytime soon.
As someone who works hard to create positive and aethetically pleasing interiors, I am bothered when buildings aren’t shown due respect. A defaced building looks lonely, unloved, and messy. So many great minds poured their energy and resources into a structure, only to have the facade ruined by a stranger calling their creation art, giving a crime a dose of prestige. Placing the moral bit aside however, when a great display of creativity is shown, either through color, detail, or the expression of social and economic issues, I can’t deny that graffiti is somewhat appealing and of interest to me if in a designated area, perhaps a section of town that is otherwise boring and ugly (an overpass or near train tracks). A city could even designate a zone especially for graffiti artists to do their thing. I think that would be fair. Question is, where to draw the line?
Since we talk a lot about design here, I wondered if you cared to explore this topic a bit with me. What is your position on graffiti?
* In Germany the protection of historical buildings, districts and monuments is the responsibility of the states.
(image from decor8)
I first heard about Lisa Stickley some time ago, but only recently did I have a chance to view her wares and learn about her online store, where she offers her newly expanded line to include zippered pouches, totes, laundry bags, and other useful goods. Lisa takes traditional English imagery and breathes her flirty style onto a solid background (mostly crisp white) adding a dollop of color and lots of charm. Her prices are very affordable, and you can purchase them all online right here.
It’s impossible for me to stay indoors with such beautiful weather, so I went out today for more shopping + eating, and of course, a walk in the Eilenriede (it’s a good place to rejuvenate). While out, I checked out a few of my favorite design stores over on Theaterstasse, one is called Seydlitz, who pulls out all the big guns with names like Designer’s Guild, Vitra, Bootnje, Hirche, Eames, and dozens of other major lines. Even though the Danskina rugs have been out for awhile, I’m still in love with their thick dreamy pile and that great foot massage you get everytime you step on one. Seydlitz also carries the Fortuny Ornaments floor lamp, it’s a real beauty. This is most definitely a store that I would shop at for that one special designer piece, but I certainly couldn’t afford to outfit an entire space there. The showroom is huge and is worth a visit if you’re ever in Hannover – only a block from the main station, the “center” of Hannover where you can connect to trains that take you all over Europe. While waiting for your train to Prague or Berlin, visit the shops on Theaterstrasse.
Fortuny Ornaments floor lamp
Another store I popped into while on Theaterstrasse was Pro Office where I had a nice conversation with a sales professional regarding upcoming design shows in Europe. Seems a lot is going on over here in October. Pro Office carries Zimmer + Rohde textiles, and believe me when I tell you, they are exquisite. The Pro Office website does the showroom no justice, it is an absolute pleasure to browse this large store, where you can even chat with the sales staff over coffee in their cafe. Cafes in stores seem to be the norm here, I can totally get into this. Sure, there’s a bistro on every corner anyway, but having one inside a design store is that much more of an incentive to linger. Pro Office carries most of the big names, and I just love how they use a lot of brightly colored art (photos on canvas) to pull together their rooms — makes for a beautiful focal point and really demonstrates how easy if can be to decorate based on art alone. The photo below is a good example of how they do this.
Love the art!
Zimmer + Rohde – Weekend Textiles Collection
Of course, these two stores are only the tip of the design iceberg in Germany, Hannover has many other stores, as does the rest of this fascinating and beautiful country. I can’t wait to show you more! I’m off to see my friend Angie, but I’ll be back a little later on with a few more posts before I wrap up for the day. :) Bye!!