After a marathon wrapping session last night, I let myself imagine all the other gifts wrapped in our paper this season (the people opening our cards, or even receiving some of our goods) and felt strangely warmer. Whatever this feeling is, I'm sure it'll pass. Until then… Merry Christmas!

N.B. I know this hand-coloured glass slide of the Holy Lands makes a very tenuous Christmas decoration, but it looks so pretty here every year, back lit by fairy lights.



A0 plan print of Christmas mountainside with woodshack and reindeer

Phew! We managed to mail all our A0 Xmas posters out to friends and associates in plenty time for last post, but, wait, what's this? A seriously beautiful poster from the kindly folk at Ryantown... now I have seasonal illustration anxiety! Still, it does look real pretty (even on the difficult walls of the roundhouse). Thanks guys.


Star Shape

Marina Abramović home in winter
Just how Christmassy does Marina Abramović's star-shaped house look with a light sprinkling of snow? I'm surprised it hasn't all melted with her super intense art energy.


Some Stripes

Stripy Socks
Stripy Pen
Hexagonal Stripy Wooden Brooch
So far, my Christmas list seems to be shaping-up pretty stripy. I think I'll mismatch the boy's socks like those in the picture, it's not like you don't still get two pairs. Then there's a lovely pen for his papa and a big ol' brooch for me.

• Images: COS / A Platform / Darkroom


Built Black

Artist's Architechtural Impression
Tarred Black Wood
Charred Black Wood
Tarred Black Building
Black Ettore Sottsass House
This week, we paid a visit to the brand-spanking wing of Ditchling Museum; its black zinc bulk looked as impressive in the thin winter sun as it does in this austere artist's impression. I have a thing for black buildings right now; whether they're charred like the gorgeous Hunsett Mill in Norfolk or tarred-sticky like Norway's Knut Hamsun Centre and Shingle House (not too far from Derek Jarman's garden at Prospect Cottage). Oddly, my favourite (Sottsass Associates’ Bischofberger House, Zurich) doesn't really feature online anywhere… yet.



If we have anything like a patron, it'll be Melt Chocolates in west London. It's a pretty straight forward working relationship, with mutual satisfaction assured. Right now we're hatching plans for Easter, but here's a promo shot for their current kids' bars featuring our characters. I wish I looked this cute with chocolate on my face… smeared sleepily round my chin of an evening, with a few errant flakes on my chest.


• Anthony Caro (1924-2013), Month of May, 1963



Is it really 5 years since 'Press + Pull', the first show of power-pattern prints from Kate Gibb (work pictured) and James Brown? It seems like only yesterday. In another 5 years I guess 'Press + Pull II' will feel like only yesterday... but really it starts tomorrow.

Press + Pull II, The Stour Space, 7 Roach Rd, Tower Hamlets, E3 2PA


Here in the self-professed 'Bonfire capital of the world', shop-fronts are boarded-up and roads are closing down in preparation for traditional processions and the influx of visitors by the tens-of-thousands.

We're in for a rowdy ol' night.



This wonderful sculpture is part of a series in marble by thinky artist, Ryan Gander. Based largely on the sheet-covered dens his young daughter created indoors, this one's perfect for Halloween.

• Ryan Gander, Tell My Mother Not To Worry (ii), Marble, 2012


Super-Ply Guys

Bear clock, fox clock, lion clock

This week we received another batch of plywood circles and set to work printing new whiskered critters to accompany our Cat Clock; a Lion, a Bear and a Fox. (Given that the boy identifies animals largely by the sounds they make, I never really know what to do for foxes; that ill-pitched, desperate cry that suddenly cleaves the night? I don't think so.)

pizza boxes pimped with coloured corners
I could also take the opportunity to say that all UK clocks switch to daylight saving time this weekend, but it's funny when befuddled people do things slightly out of sync, so just forget I mentioned it.


While impending global apocalyptic catastrophe is the major drawback of climate change, a lesser effect is the way we came to greet unseasonably warm days with suspicion rather than joy. This week we ignored the the quarterly tax return and hit the beach at Hove for an hour-or-so. If days are limited, we figure we should make the most of them and choose a route home that takes in the patisserie too.



De la War Pavillion, Bexhill-on-Sea

Turner prize winning artist, Mark Leckey, made my son cry. Not directly, of course, but with his rave-like anthropological room in The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things. Curated by Leckey, the exhibition outlines an idiosyncratic history of ideas through art, artefact and objects. The show's been on a while already and finishes its stint at Bexhill-on-Sea's De La War Pavilion this weekend. It's oddly apt to encounter universal and expansive themes on the quiet edge of a distinctly local-feeling town.

Ultra Violet Installation View 
The gallery assistants explain that children often love the darkened, disorientating space with its occasionally dissonant bursts of sound (elsewhere the exhibition emits ominous clicks, aggressively edited video loops and baritone hums), but I think he's right to feel disquiet; not every space can be made inclusive, interactive, a fun-filled, family-friendly dribble-fest. Sometimes our manufactured world is a fiercely adult realm, toxic and malignant, where the monsters have teeth.

• Image credits here and here.



Emily Dickson, Leonard Baskin, Edward Gorey, Doubleday
I didn't know too much about Gerbrand Bakker's The Detour before I trained my ready eyes on it. Somewhere Between Margaret Atwood's Surfacing and All Quiet on the Orient Express, this short novel's an inspired choice for the season; simple, sharp and cold as a dry-stone wall.

While the overall design is not entirely awful, both cover and body text are weirdly pixelated, indistinct as though corporeal presence is no longer publishing's utmost priority.

With a cover illustration by the great Leonard Baskin and type by Edward Gorey, here's my paperback copy of Emily Dickinson's poems and letters instead. Dickinson's life and work colour every page of The Detour; mostly grey with sickly blotches of mustard, sepia and lichen-green.


Dishy Cloths

I do try to foster a vague air of humility on this here blog, but sometimes you just have to pause in public and throw an awkward air-punch. I like our new collection of tea towels so much I'd probably even buy them — from a shop! Let's hope it's not just us.



Daniel Rybakken
A new daughter, Sol, AND a London Design Medal… it's been a busy month in the life of wunderkind, Daniel Rybakken. Daniel bagged the category of Emerging Talent, while the Lifetime Achievement went to the king of understatement, Dieter Rams.

The medal itself is seriously ugly. Luckily, the daughter is gorgeous.



bear eating sandwich hung in the style of vintage educational poster

If you're not running too late you can glimpse the curious new Design Museum taking shape behind the hoardings on route to Kensington Olympia... not that Olympia didn't have enough curios of its own at Top Drawer trade fair earlier this week. It's been predictably good to catch up with old friends (now stockists), Black Bough and some of our oldest friends (also now stockists), Present London.

It wasn't all familiar faces though, we spent a few days in the spirited company of Joy, Anna and Rose of London Pooch and Anna Wright, even getting to meet Polly, one half of pattern-mad design duo, Wrap. While I admit the current copy (No.8) is my first, at least I can check out those back issues while I wait for more!

Young lovers clinch upon the shore

Too preoccupied to scour the charity shops proper, we did find a copy of Charlotte Salomon's (1917—1943) extraordinary document Life? or Theatre? in Oxfam, W8. This untimely 836 page tome dates from the early 1940s and forms a dream-like diary, or early graphic novel, where each gouache panel becomes a fevered or fluid artwork in its own right.



I've collated the samples, bought apple flavoured hospitality sweets, made a few hundred business cards (and a business card holder); it can mean only one thing... that's right, it's trade fair time!

If you're off to Top Drawer at Kensington Olympia (15-17 Sep) then do drop in and say hi… or point and laugh as you pass us by. Sounds like new strain of avian flu, I know, but our stand number's H111.



Illustration of colorful garden tools

I could still see the 'All Books 20p' sign at the back of the RSPCA shop when the cashier charged me 80p for Growing Vegetable Soup last week. It was still a bargain.

Illustration of Courgette blossom

A quick image search filled the shameful gaps in my knowledge of illustrator, Lois Ehlert. I also saw her penchant for crazy knitwear… now I really am a fan.

Preparing vegetables for soup

The blossom on our courgette plant is spectacular, but the bounty is nothing compared to our generous neighbours', who've put regular veg on our plates for two weeks now.

Bring on the soup!

• Lois Ehlert, Growing Vegetable Soup, 1987


Wrapper's Delight

Inky madras plaid style recycled gift wrap

Recycled gift wrap with road layout pattern

Recycled gift wrap with star chart pattern

Exotic animals peep out from jungle foliage

This is our third selection of recycled gift-wrap. I can’t say we’d been especially eager to make any more in the intervening years, but eventually you idly imagine, ‘that might make a nice pattern,’ enough times that another batch is ready-to-roll.

I'm so pleased we did.

You can see those old, discontinued styles from 2006 and 2008 on our scrappy archive page. If you can spookily guess what book is gift wrapped for these pictures, I'll send you a set of the new stuff. Good luck!

Forest dwelling creatures peep out from a spruce thicket

Recycled wrapping paper with monochromatic pattern of fruits, vegetables and a few funghi
From top: Madras / A2B / Stars / Jungle / Forest / Fruit'n'Veg


Sussex garden in late summer
Not long after we arrived in this place I noticed these impressive plants growing wild on the scrappy bit of land we use for parking. When they went to seed I sowed some in the garden.

Thing is, last year they grew healthy but dense and close to the ground, now they're 7 feet tall! Turns out that this Verbascum is a biannual; next year there'll be nothing.

Stored well enough, half of this year's seeds should still be good for 2014. Green fingers crossed, we'll eventually have tall AND short plants simultaneously.


hardback novel with b/w figurative illustrated dust jacket
Tessa Hadley is a clever girl for writing the first full novel I've read since motherhood came knocking (really hard on my front door).

After The Master Bedroom and The London Train, this is my third from her these past few years.

Don't ask me what any of them are about though, the artistry's in the telling, not the tale.




Collier Campbell Cote d'aZur textile

Collier Campbell Archive

Maybe they're deeply unfashionable, I don't know, but when I bought a swatch of Liberty's Bauhaus fabric last year it sparked a little love affair with the patterns of Collier-Campbell.

In an age when creativity means a handlebar moustache motif on a canvas tote, the live's of these sisters, spent in the highly specialised advancement of their aesthetic, is an absolute inspiration.

This ratty old cushion in CC's exuberant signature fabric, Cote d'aZur, repays its 50p over again in given pleasure.

black and white photo of textile designers
Watch video clips here or here.