Barcelona, Gaudi and mosaics

A couple of years ago I enjoyed an Autumn break in Barcelona. Looking through my photographs recently, I thought it would be nice to share them. The main difficulty was in deciding which images to share!

My overwhelming impression of Barcelona was that if it doesn’t move, then it gets decorated with mosaics. Even the trees look to be covered in mosaics (yes, that is the tree bark on the left), and I love the building with the umbrella ‘mosaic’.

Much of the best known mosaic work in Barcelona is the work of Gaudi. It’s a difficult choice, but Casa Batlló was probably my favourite of Gaudi’s buildings. As well as being the architect of this building Gaudi was also able to design the interiors, including light fittings, door handles and even decorative (but efficient) ventilation systems. It is designed in its entirety. The main central hall has tiles of varying shades to compensate for the amount of light that reaches different levels – there is such attention to detail here. But I also particularly liked the stables and gate at Finca Güell, especially the idea of putting bright mosaic pieces into the mortar in the brickwork.

But Barcelona is more than just Gaudi’s mosaics. The Palau de la Música Catalana is stunning. Designed and built in the early 20th Century when Gaudi was also designing, it has a more structured and illustrative style while still employing the mosaic technique. One day I hope to go back and see the inside of this impressive building. There is only so much you can do on a short city break.

What I particularly like about Gaudi’s work is the joyful randomness of the mosaics. The pieces were not cut into perfect regular shapes and exactly placed into geometric patterns. There was always the feel of the work being hand-crafted rather then precision engineered. To create that feeling of almost casual randomness takes a great level of skill and confidence.

Before my visit to Barcelona I knew of Gaudi, but I didn’t understand very much about his work. Nothing prepared me for the explosion of colours, shapes, and textures that his work presented. I was also surprised to discover the diversity of his work, and the way he referred to legends and his cultural history. Casa Batlló is actually based around the story of Sant Jordi (or Saint George) who is the patron saint of Catalonia. A good explanation can be found here. And the wonderful dragon gate at Finca Güell was also inspired by literature and legend.

Visiting Barcelona gave me a much wider appreciation of Gaudi’s work. He paid great attention to detail, wanting everything to work together to tell a coherent visual story. And he worked in so many media and different design disciplines. This attention to detail is evident in the scale and structure of Sagrada Família, where you an also see his models and working drawings that he used to calculate the various architectural constraints.

Barcelona is a beautiful and inspiring city to visit. The bus tours are great to help familiarise yourself with the city before deciding where you want to focus your time. Although I visited many places, there are others that I simply didn’t have time for. So one day I will return, as I am sure there are plenty more sights waiting there to wow me.










“The Durrells”

Over the past six weeks I have been enjoying the TV program “The Durrells” on ITV.  This has been (in my opinion) perfect Sunday evening TV, gentle and beautiful to watch.

For those of you who don’t know, it is based on The Corfu Trilogy, an autobiographical book series by the naturalist Gerald Durrell. The story is of when his widowed mother suddenly decides to move her family of four children to Corfu in search of a better life for them all. They struggle with language difficulties, lack of electricity, no money, and cultural differences. But this post is not really about the TV series. It is about the TV titles.


Image by kind permission of Alex Maclean of Rupert Ray

The tiles of the program have had me mesmerised. In fact, I was inspired to try and find out who had created them. The company behind the titles is Rupert Ray, and the particular designer is Alex Maclean. The full title sequence can be seen here.

So why do I like this title sequence so much? I have been thinking about this and have identified some of the reasons.

Firstly, the style is so evocative of the story and the era in which it is set (1935). The strong, bold, and flat colours remind me of the railway and travel posters of the 1930s. I now know that these posters were part of Alex Maclean’s references for the titles. It was nice to know that my interpretation of the imagery matched with what he intended.

Secondly, the title sequence is full of character and storyline references, as well as contextual information about Corfu. There are lots of hidden details not necessarily observed at first sight. We see different activities from the story (such as Margo sunbathing and Leslie shooting), also items  or ‘props’ that we can identify (such as Larry’s typewriter and the pink bicycle). There is so much character and personality in the people we meet in the titles. And as the TV series progressed I was able to see and understand more items that I had previously missed.

Finally, it was the overall flow of the titles. Rather than being a series of more static images, the ‘scenes ‘ flowed into each other with a lovely sense of almost being on the journey with the Durrells. It was an amalgamation of different events. Not necessarily correct in terms of storyline timescales, but really effective at creating the feel and the ambience of the program. While some scenes were very literal (the sunbathing) many were combinations of different events or character traits. And I especially loved Roger the dog bouncing through them.

To find out more about the ideas behind these titles, you can see some of Alex Maclean’s developmental work here, and also visit his development board on Pinterest.

Why has this TV title sequence been important to me as a designer?


As part of the Make Art That Sells course there was a brief to illustrate a children’s book. I struggled with this and am not happy with the work I produced. But I did not really know why. Analysing these TV titles has helped me to understand why. I focused on one scene from the story, I was too literal in my interpretation. I did not pay enough attention to creating the whole context and feel of the story, putting in all the little extras that would help to create the overall atmosphere and visual interest. My focus was on creating the characters, and I am pleased with what I did there. But now I start to realise that the visual characters are only the start. They need a context rich world to inhabit and to make them ‘come alive’. Yes, Lilla told us that, but it took Alex Maclean’s work to help me realise and understand it. Thank you Alex.



“Gifted Too”, Week 3

Third week of this challenge, and again there are three of us taking part. I struggled this week as none of the topics really appealed to me. I had ideas for ‘Selfie’, but wasn’t sure about how to realise them. But they are in my sketchbook and I shall return to them another time.

I eventually decided to go for ‘On the Spot’. I used different layers of different sized spots, and then played with digitally cutting out some areas to allow the lower layers to show through. Although I liked my colour version, I decided to add the ‘Black and White’ theme too. I’ve been using a lot of colour in my work this year, so it was nice to go back to just black and white for a change. The resulting design has an almost camouflage look to it and I could envision it on clothing.

What I am really enjoying is seeing the work that other designers create. Too often when you work alone you can get limited in what you see or imagine as the possibilities. It simply hadn’t occurred to me to photograph a collection like Faye has done. And I would love to see that composition repeated into a block or brick repeat, maybe with each unit rotated 90 degrees. Lindsay’s lovely design reminds me of embroidery with cutwork spiders and little areas of darning stitch. So now the embroidery books will have to come out too for inspiration!


‘On The Spot’ and ‘Black and White’ by Annette Kirstine Designs

wk3-slumbermonkey‘On The Spot’ by Slumbermonkey Designs

wk3-faye‘Collection’ by Faye Brown Designs

I hope you have enjoyed a little look at what we got up to last week, and don’t forget to visit the websites and blogs to see more work by Faye and Lindsay. Hope to see you back here again next week.




“Gifted Too” Week 2

Another week and another seven themes for us to choose from for our designs. The list of themes given by Tigerprint is diverse, and although they were thinking of themes for their own products we have been able to consider any market we choose. There were several themes that appealed to me this week, and also some that could be combined.

Three of us took part in the challenge this week. Again we produced very different work, which is part of the fun. Maybe we should have one week where we all have to use the same theme and see what happens?

As with last week, I have included links to the websites or portfolios of the designers involved so that you can see more of their work. And we would love for you to leave a comment here with your thoughts or suggested products for our designs.


‘In Bloom’ by Artistically Afflicted


‘Make Your Mark’ by Annette Kirstine Designs


‘Make Your Mark’ / ‘Geometric’ by Slumbermonkey Designs

I really enjoyed this week’s challenge – it pushed me outside of my normal way of working. Hopefully you enjoyed seeing our work too.

“Gifted Too” Week 1

Each year Tigerprint Design Studio run a competition for art & design graduates. This year it is a design-a-day competition, with each day having a theme to use as a basis for a design. It started immediately after New Designers in June.

As I, and most of my design friends, are not recent graduates we decided it would be fun to play along with our own version. We are following the same themes, but started 1st July instead. On Tuesdays through to 5th August I will be showcasing work done in response to the themes of the previous week.

Please pop over to the designers’ blogs and portfolios using the links below their designs. I am only accepting one design per designer per week, and I know that many of them are very prolific and have some fantastic work for you to see.


 ‘Food Glorious Food’ by Slumbermonkey Designs


‘All About Colour’ by Artistically Afflicted


 ‘Alphabet’ by Faye Brown Designs


‘All About Colour’ by Annette Kirstine Designs

I hope you enjoyed our little gallery, and don’t forget to come back next week for some more lovely designs!

Flowers by Ruth Moilliet

The latest issue of Crafts Magazine recently arrived, and yesterday I had a chance to sit down and read it properly. My dear oversized dog had managed to knock me over and I didn’t feel up to much with a bruised and swollen knee (well, I certainly didn’t feel up to doing the ironing!)

One image that jumped out at me was similar to this – Pollination Canvas

Ruth Moilliet is a sculptor whose work will be featured in the MADE showcase at Yorkshire Sculpture Park starting 3rd March. The image above shows some of her ‘pollination stems’ range. Made from anodised aluminium and stainless steel, these flowers can be purchased separately and then arranged and rearranged by the purchaser. They come with short stems (for wall installations) or longer stems for more traditional arrangements. What a great idea! I love the idea of them being something that could be purchased over time to result in a very individual and evolving installation. Here are a few more detailed images from Ruth’s website – and it is really worth visiting to see her other work too.
individual-flowers These are detailed and complicated small flower heads that have been simplified and then enlarged up to 20-25cm diameter. There is a contrast between real and created size, as well as real softness and created hardness.

So why did I decide to share this work with you? Well, the image reminded me of a collection I have been working on recently. This collection, inspired in part by the flowers of Alaska, features simplified flower heads. I’ve entitled it Northern Florals, but for now it is only available for clients to view.