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Makers and Shakers: A Revival of Simplicity, Utility and Honesty.

“All beauty that has no foundation in use, soon grows distasteful and needs continuous replacement with something new”.

This is the ideology adopted by a little known religious community called the Shaking Quakers, or more affectionately- the Shakers. Often regarded as the first to embrace minimalism, this quote sums up their design ethos- one which catapulted them into furniture manufacturing pioneers.

A religious community that moved to colonial America in the 17th Century from Great Britain, the Shakers were founded on the practical principles of simplicity, utility and honesty. Earning their name because of their wild dancing and shaking during pray, they became known as the Shaking Quakers. The Shakers peaked 200 years ago. Numbers were declining by the 1950s and today only 2 Shakers exist. Despite this, their quest for functionality over aesthetics has lived on through their attention to handcrafted timber furniture, objects and architecture.

How did the Shaker philosophy influence 20th Century Danish designers, such as Hans J Wegner and Børge Mogensen? It began in 1927, when a Shaker rocking chair found its way to Denmark, catching the eye of one of the most important figures in the Scandinavian modern movement; architect Kaare Klint. When the Danish Co-operative Wholesale Society began to make well designed, affordable furniture its designers looked to the Shakers for inspiration. Scandinavia began exporting furniture in the 1950s and since then, the Shakers legacy has evolved into the modern mantra ‘Form Follows Function’. Today, designers such as Neri&Hu, Norm Architects and Studio Tolvanen have all borrowed Shaker elements.

Brother Shelf by Studio Tolvanen (top) and Norm Shaker Trays by Norm Architects (below)

In New York, an international group of emerging designers showcased their own interpretations of Shaker objects at the Sight Unseen Offsite. Clever designs included a modern-day work station by Ladies & Gentlemen studio, which is versatile and considered, including a compartment for every item. Shaker traits can also be seen in Studio Gorm’s geometrically minimal rocking chair.

Work Station by Ladies & Gentlemen Studio (top) and Rocking chair by Studio Gorm (below)

Also paying testament to the Shaker design, Toronto based store Mjölk curated its own original items with their ‘That Is Best Which Works Best’ collection. Mjölk co-founder John Baker believes the recent surge of enthusiasm in Danish modernism has been the guiding force behind the revival of the Shaker aesthetic.

As public awareness of the Shakers’ lasting influence on contemporary design and culture grows, the design community are embracing the Shaker mantra that function doesn’t mean a sacrifice on design. With shrinking personal spaces and more nomadic lifestyles, this balance strikes a significant place in our lives, now more than ever. The Shakers are still showing us that the art of pared-back simplicity and beauty is forever timeless.

Furnishing Utopia Stand at the 2017 Stockholm Furniture & Lighting Fair. 

(All photo credits: Charlie Schuck & Natasha Felker)

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Take A Tour Inside Tate Modern’s Switch House

London is home to some 1,500 odd galleries and its current art scene is one of the world’s largest, with an international reach that rivals that of other famed art hubs including New York and Paris. However, one that towers (quite literally) over all others is the Tate Modern.

At only 15 years old, most will agree that the Tate has done well in asserting itself alongside the globes’ ‘gallery greats’. When it first opened back in 2000, it seemed the Tate had already entered as a key player at the highest level, levelling with its’ counterparts at New York’s MoMA and Paris’ Pompidou and becoming a pivotal, leading voice in today’s contemporary art scene. We think it’s fair to say that the Tate Modern has settled very nicely into the museum landscape.

Since its arrival, the Tate’s familiar Turbine Hall has been lauded as one of the most photographed spaces in the world of contemporary art. So, where does this leave the new Switch House extension? How has the new building been received so far, and how does it connect with the existing landmark that we’ve all come to recognise in the London skyline?

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The Tate Modern opened its brand new angular extension in June earlier this year. Using 336,000 bricks to wrap around the ziggurat shaped pyramid, Swiss studio Herzog & de Meuron were invited back to design the extension, having been responsible for the original conversion of the former Bankside Power Station in 2000. The latticed brickwork facade intentionally helps to match the exterior brickwork of Giles Gilbert Scott’s original power station. Ascan Mergenthaler, a senior partner at Herzog & De Meuron sums up the spatial design, saying “from the cavernous subterranean Tanks dedicated to performance and installation art, to the lofty top-lit galleries with their large luminescent ceilings, each form a broad ribbon for circulation meandering up through the building, to the generous day-lit education spaces.” (Dezeen, 2016).

Named after part of the power station that housed the electrical switches, the new galleries have expanded the museum by 60% to accommodate its’ thriving visitor numbers (The Art Newspaper, 2016). Frances Morris, the Tate’s new director, explains that the objective for the new building was to harbour more “participatory art or the debate around art and audiences”. Morris pinpointed the 1960s as the decade where this can be articulated with the greatest amount of authority. The 1960s, being a time where massive social, political and artistic shifts were witnessed in society, creating crucial moments in history that deserve to be celebrated within the new spaces (Dezeen, 2016). The installations begin in the mid-1960s in the theatrical basement tanks and as you climb the spiral stairs the narrative from artists of the 20th century begin to take over.

With a view to present a greater variety of artworks and more global artists, the Tate is aiming for an increasingly global portfolio of modern and contemporary art. It’s all part of Morris’ plan to grow the Tate. Not just underground into the Switch House and up ten storeys into the new ziggurat, but within its international outlook and it’s vision to right the gender balance, so that the next generation will understand that women also make great art.

The result? An undoubted consensus that Switch House has had a transformative impact on the city already, reinstating the Tate Modern’s landmark appeal and continuing to be an influential force in honouring the contemporary arts. We can’t wait to climb the spiral staircase to the outlook over the Thames ourselves.

Have you visited the new Tate Modern building? We’d love to know what your experience was like in the comments below.

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How To: Create A Gallery Wall

Charles Saatchi once declared “When you see something special, something inspired, you realise the debt we owe great curators and their unforgettable shows – literally unforgettable because you remember every picture, every wall and every juxtaposition.”

We think there is something inspiring to be said about curating our own personal collections and displaying them between the four walls of our own homes. It’s obvious how profoundly influenced we are by the spaces we inhabit and through the art we choose to surround ourselves with. Have you ever noticed what a difference artwork makes to the ambience of a room and how shifting a piece around your home can alter the entire mood of the space?

With the seasonal transition into Spring well and truly upon us, we saw this as the perfect opportunity to consider reinvigorating our humble abode with a gallery wall. Not only can we make a stylish statement, we can transform the space we live in. From full floor-to-ceiling compositions to a more minimalist grouping, creating your own gallery might sound a little daunting, but it doesn’t have to be complicated.

We enlisted the guidance of Melbourne based patronage to the art world: Barbara Hermon. An Australian household name synonymous with her intrepid interior style, quality for craftsmanship and an avid art collector alongside her husband John. Barbara invited us inside her Melbourne home and talked us through her personal experience on selecting different mediums, laying it out and hanging it up.

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Otomys: How do you go about gaining the inspiration to begin putting a collection together? 

  • Barbara: We don’t enlist a ‘theme’ as such, because we have such a varied collection of artwork and items, a lot being accumulated from my travels through the world over the past 45 years! Some of the larger pieces do take pride of place due to their size though.

Otomys: Do you have any tips for choosing frames when grouping artwork together?

  • Barbara: No, I personally don’t mind a mixture of different frames together, but of course my general rule is that they each need to be of a high quality to ensure the artwork is well housed.

Otomys: Do you think certain compositions work best in certain spaces? 

  • Barbara: As you will see from the images of my home, the size of the artwork or the space, really defines what composition will best suit each space. In some cases I have created a theme, sometimes applying a dominant colour- such as red, my favourite! However, I do like larger works to take the lead but it all just depends on how much I love the piece and how much I just have to have it- then a place will be found for it to belong on the wall not matter what its size!

Otomys: Do you aim to achieve balance & symmetry with each composition?

  • Barbara: I think there has to be a certain amount of balance, but it also depends on what furniture sits below or around it.

Otomys: Are there any general rules of thumb to measuring out how each piece sits next to one another? 

  • Barbara: We have been lucky to enlist the help of the talented Jasper Inskip over the years. He has a brilliant eye as to the placement of each piece. I choose the collection/story and Jasper then sets out the plan, all the while discussing the composition of each piece with me along the way.

Otomys: As far as tools go, what would we need to create a gallery wall? 

  • Barbara: I trust the expert, Jasper. A word of advice for renovators though; we had to remove a wall of artwork recently due to renovations and Jasper reminded me to take a photo of the placement, making it infinitely easier to return to the wall to its former glory!

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Artwork pictured above includes pieces by artists; Ivana Perkins, Marco Luccio, Alex Rowland, Robbie Perkins, Isabelle, Kim Barter, Judy Holding, DLK & Joshua Yeldham. For more information on certain pieces please ask us in the comments section below. 

Otomys would like to thank Barbara for her contribution to Chronicles and for her ongoing support of the both Otomys Gallery and the Australian art scene.

For more daily inspiration follow Otomys on Pinterest. Images below all via Coco Lapine Design.

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Q&A with Interior Designers: We Are Huntly

There’s no denying that We Are Huntly (WAH) are top of our list as one to watch. This multi-disciplinary, Melbourne based interior studio of six, have been clocking up some impressive design credentials. Most recently earning themselves the prestigious title of Emerging Design Practise at the 2016 Australian Interior Design Awards.

Otomys caught up with founding directors Kylie Dorotic and Alicia McKimm to get their take on the relationship between art, design and the detail in-between.

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Otomys: How did WAH come about?
Kylie + Alicia: Prior to We Are Huntly, we both worked at high end Melbourne based interior design firms. We studied together and followed a similar career path maintaining a great respect for each others design aesthetic along the way.

Otomys: What are you currently working on?
Kylie + Alicia: A really great variety of projects!

  • A Wellness Studio in Prahran – Sum Of Us
  • A name local café for Armadale – Moby 3143
  • A handful of residential projects, amongst them a stunning Art Deco Apartment in South Yarra.
  • An executive office
  • Multi Residential development in Mornington

….this and more!

Otomys: What influences WAH’s overall design aesthetic?
Kylie + Alicia: All aspects of life! From Art and fashion to random objects or the texture of the pavement. We are always hunting for inspiration from unique and unexpected sources.

To us, beauty is not only found in the way something looks, but also in the way it works. Every aesthetic decision should be grounded by purpose, so that we can create a space that we would want to be in, live in, work in; not just look at.

We’re focused on the details. After all, that’s what makes up the bigger picture.

Otomys: How important is art when considering the design of a space?
Kylie + Alicia: Art can be introduced into the space once the interior has been completed, or alternatively if it is existing it can be the one thing that drives the space. No matter what order, the scale and consideration of its placement is critical.

Otomys: Is there an approach WAH takes when selecting art in relation to a project? Does this influence your method of work?
Kylie + Alicia: Art is subjective and we value many different styles and a variety of artist’s work. We will work with our clients to select the most appropriate piece for the space but also ensure it is something they really love.

Otomys: WAH have already built an impressive portfolio, have there been any stand out projects/clients to date?
Kylie + Alicia: Thank you! A couple of our favourite projects are:

  • Richmond Residence – for its unique sensibility and fabulous client
  • The Penny Drop – Due to the holistic approach of the project team and the execution of one big idea.

Otomys: Which artist(s) or creative thinker(s) do you find inspiring?
Kylie + Alicia: In no particular order a few of the people that inspire us are:

  • Piero Lissoni
  • Ryue Nishisawa
  • Studio Peppe
  • Aparatus studio
  • Victoria and Woods
  • Alain Capeilleres
  • Brooke Holm 

Otomys: What about your own homes? Do you have any favourite pieces?
Kylie + Alicia: There are many pieces on our wish list that we hope to add to the collection eventually!
Kylie: I have a timeless piece from Wendy Stavrianos that I love.

Otomys: Lastly, what advice do you have for readers looking to invest in a piece of artwork? 
Kylie + Alicia: Invest in pieces for life and ensure you love it.

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Huge thanks to Kylie and Alicia for sharing their design insight with us. Want more? Head over to their website: http://www.wearehuntly.com.au and watch this space!

Photography credit: Brooke Holm