Mashed potato, mashed potato…

Since completing Lesson 7, I haven’t been able to look at a potato masher in the same way. What was once a very effective and simply-designed kitchen tool, is now the inspiration behind my very first exploits into pattern design. I’ve heard so many times that “inspiration is everywhere” but now I really do believe it. Having a reason to look at everything that surrounds me from a new perspective, has been like turning the lights on. We all move so fast… rarely stopping to smell the roses or look up from the pavement but I challenge you all to ‘turn on the lights’ as often as you can.

To help us further understand the elements and principles of design, we first had to understand what makes good design. Balance, is at the core and it appears in a number of ways; asymmetrical, symmetrical, triangular and circular. When decorating and arranging furniture most of us stay safe with a symmetrical layout but asymmetry can add more interest and fun.

My clippings

My clippings

This study of composition would contribute to our pattern making exercise.

Semi-abstract and abstract design has never really been of interest to me… the many trips I’ve made to galleries over the years and even painting classes I’ve attended, I never really got to grips with it. I always preferred still life, life drawing and landscapes. So when the lesson started to talk of semi-abstract and abstract pattern design I was worried!

But I have to say it’s been one of the most enjoyable lessons so far!

Firstly we drew an accurate drawing of our man made object – my masher – and then studied specific areas of detail that appealed. In my case I was interested in the ‘masher’ bit and also the way the arms curved up to the handle. These drawings were then photocopied in different sizes to give plenty of choice when creating our designs.

Now the fun part!  Giving ourselves ‘frames’ of little squares, 8cm x 8cm, we were to create as many different semi-abstract and abstract patterns as possible; tracing off parts of the realistic drawing using different angles, mirror imaging, reversing, chopping, slicing, extending lines, on and on. I have to say I spent every evening over almost two weeks doing this exercise. I found it so fascinating how so many different patterns and designs were possible. 

Some of the best patterns from my humble masher

Some of the best patterns from my humble masher

My final patterns

My final patterns

I discovered a new appreciation for abstract design. Never again will I question why an artist chooses to represent a tree as a triangle, or lots of blobs on a canvas as a significant childhood memory. There is so much emotion, talent, vision and imagination that goes into abstract design that none of us should judge it or say ‘my two-year old could do better’ ; )

In one of my next updates you’ll see how I brought these designs to life!


When is a vase not a vase?

It’s in the mail… Module 2… another five wonderful lessons focused on ‘conceptualisation and the design process’. Over the coming week I’ll expand on each lesson rather than just dumping everything on you all at once!

Firstly, Lesson 6 started with ‘mind mapping’, a critical step in the design process and where all your ideas can be explored. I’ve often used mind mapping in my day job of marketing… there’s so many angles to be considered when you’re formulating a marketing campaign that it’s good to get everything down on paper so you don’t miss any possibility.

So in this instance we had to find an everyday object, something just lying around the house that particularly appealed to us and come up with an alternative purpose and use… we could change the size, colours and material. I chose my favourite little vase… I can’t remember where or when I got it but I find it so cute and simple that it was a natural choice.

My little vase about to be transformed!

My little vase about to be transformed!

I turned it over and over in my hands, taking in every little detail. How the light bounced from its smooth rippled surface, the organic curves, the shape and form. I then started forming my mind map… dividing each ‘arm’ into logical elements.

So many possibilities!

So many possibilities!

Now I just let my imagination go wild!  My little vase became a gold resin bracelet, a perfume bottle, a lamp shade, a coffee table, a fabric design, salt & pepper shakers, and even a marquee!!  I was having a ball!  And then I had a vision ; )  My cute little vase would make the perfect public seat!!  It could be manufactured in hardened plastic and used in shopping malls and parks, lit from the inside so it glowed for city square features, covered in plush fabric for nightclubs or casinos… so many possibilities!!

My final concept

My final concept

The final step was to develop the chosen concept into a simple marketing document that presented the purpose, materials and applications… et voila, my cute little vase became a public seat for many to enjoy ; ))

If you find yourself in any situation that you can’t find a solution for, try mind mapping… it’s great fun and really gets the creative juices flowing!

Do you think ‘design’ is valuable?


I know I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here (I don’t design anything yet but it’s good to have a mission!) but this article (by Bernadette Jiwa) really struck a chord. The first few words had me…. “Design is undervalued.” It’s so true. We all do it… every time we shop for a special outfit we’ll first look at the price tag and then question why it’s so expensive. We rarely appreciate the carefully crafted design elements; the intricate pattern on the hand dyed fabric, the hours spent drafting patterns, the labour of love of the designer that thought it needed four pockets when two would have been enough. And even if we do appreciate all these details, the purchase only occurs if we have an overwhelming sense of “I just have to have this! I need this to complete me! I will look special and unique!”. So as a budding designer (of whatever it is), I need to consider how will I somehow ‘move’ my lovely customer so much, that they will part with their hard earned cash without checking the price tag 😉

Photo: Art (or is it graffiti?) by Banksy.

Image by Wally Gobetz.

Module 1 completed!

Monochrome collage

Inspired by Chanel!

So, I submitted the first module of my Cert IV in Colour & Design and it looks like I ‘get it’. That first submission was nerve-racking… not knowing if I really understood the assignment and grasped the design concept that was being explored. Distance learning has its challenges. You don’t have the opportunity to really bounce ideas off fellow students. We have a google + community which goes part way to filling this need but a touch of reality can’t be beat. I attended my first face to face ‘workshop’ with fellow distance learners at the International School of Colour & Design (ISCD), in Sydney two weeks ago. It was a great opportunity to meet with the lecturers and get 1:1 feedback on my portfolio so far. It was also horrifying to see the high quality creative work of other students!!  I don’t mean that in a bad way… I just felt so out of my league! I so desperately want to be a designer… full time, all the time and because I want it so bad I feel exposed to failure. Words of support, positivity and encouragement are bountiful around me but I still feel insecure about my talents. I’m hoping this exercise of putting oneself ‘out there’, will help me overcome the fear ; )