Friday, 18 June 2010

What's Hot, What's Not! - CRAVE

Crave * v. 1 feel a powerful desire for. 2 dated ask for: I must crave your indulgence
ORIGIN: bef. 1000; ME craven, OE crafian (‘demand, claim as a right’), of Gmc origin;
akin to ON krefja to demand, lay claim to

Early February, when the mornings are still too dark to be enjoyed by any stretch of the imagination and feeling as though I have a starring role in the movie Ground Hog’s Day, I crawl behind my computer, backed up by a pot of tea, with the idea of finding something for the ‘What’s Hot, What’s Not’ spot in the Spring issue of the Connections magazine.

Yes, it would be easy to take the low road and continue on the traditional negative downward spiral of Monday morning that I so often suffer from, but I decide I should make a concerted effort to lift my spirits, after all I am writing for the spring issue of the Connections. This is a time of re-birth, when everything comes back to life again. The infernal snow and permanent living in ugly walking boots (party shoes in a bag) scenario, has come to an end and attractive footwear rules once more. Crocuses and snowdrops emerge, wagging tailed little lambs and fluffy chicks are born and yet, I crave something… My permanent bar of big chunk chocolate in the fridge is temporarily gone and I can’t lay the blame on anyone but myself, as my son is at school and I have yet to see a cat eat a piece of chocolate, let alone open a fridge door; although I must say I used to own a very clever large black tom cat who could open doors, but I digress.

So, I turn my attention to the Internet and tick in the word crave. The search offers up a variety of sites, which cover edibles, games, sexy videos, a perfume by Calvin Klein, as well as a hospitality public relations and marketing services firm. That’s all very well and good, but it doesn't hit the spot. How about Wikipedia? That presents, of course, a definition in much the same way as my trusty Oxford dictionary, some music, a band and a brand of cat food. With the party (Soul Train) from a previous weekend still playing clearly in my mind, I idly tick in crave and party, well nothing ventured as they say… and so I come across The Crave Company. I enter their website hoping to be pleasantly surprised.

© Alison Day
Alison Day Design 

First published in the Connections magazine #27 Spring 2009 

Jessica Lelieveld

Jessica divides her time between a house in the countryside, situated in Norg (which she shares with her family and two dogs) and her studio in Groningen. With two such different worlds at her fingertips, she finds plenty of influences, which can be photographically captured. After much contemplation, an idea will emerge and this she then interprets in clay.

Particularly interested in the transience of existence, she is fascinated by the process, structure and colours in nature when something dies away. Layers and organic forms are recurrent themes in her work and with this in mind; her interpretation of the four seasons has emerged. This consists of twenty clay panels (mosaic-like in their layout), depicting the flora and colours typical of each season. During my visit to her studio, winter and summer were laid out on display, ready and waiting for the panels to be joined together with a copper-coloured wire to make a wall hanging.

Other current works include lamps; one of which has as its base form, a large stripped walnut tree trunk, encircled by metal swirls. The finished product will symbolize the relentless continuance of life. On display in windowsills smaller works can be seen, comprising of a series of clay tiles, some displaying cross-section slices of a small tree trunk, some a procession of pebbles, ever increasing in size. The roundness of the forms she uses symbolizes nurturing whilst the tile procession that of evolution.

With beautiful high ceilings and ornate decorations, Jessica has renovated her studio-house, imprinting on it her signature style, with a touch of the modern here and there where appropriate. Future plans are to decorate every room, door and space with her work so that it becomes an artistic house, where it would be possible to spend the night, or artistic companies could come and hold workshops and inspirational events.

Apart from the natural world, another inspirational source (as well as his philosophy) comes from the Austrian artist and architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser. He was best known for the colourful buildings he designed as well as being a champion of human and environmentally friendly construction.

Jessica is a member of a collective of artists, Galerie Huis ter Heide, which can be found in a converted stall of a farm in Drenthe. The exhibits are refreshed every couple of months with new work and all works are for sale. More about the collective can be found at: Galerie Huis ter Heide.

The aftermath of the economic downturn has had its effect on every walk of life and particularly that of the artist. I asked her what kind of effect it has had on her and her work. From her reply it seems that art fairs have become more important as venues for artists to show and sell their work, as well as making a concerted effort to offer a selection of work in a broader range of prices. Jessica intends to show her work at a couple of these fairs, as well as taking part in Art Explosion, a platform for artists, which occurs annually in Assen.

She has no issues about parting with her work when it comes to selling it, for her it’s the process that is important, particularly whether her idea is feasible, not only from the design perspective, but within the confines of the size of her clay oven. The biggest ‘present’ for her is that she can make people happy with her work.

© Alison Day
Alison Day Design 
First published in the Connections magazine #27 Spring 2009 

Relocating from Oz to the Netherlands

So what made them move from Australia to Holland?’ was my son’s remark, as we made our way round the puddles towards their flat. ‘That’s a very good question and one of the first things I’m going to ask them’ I said. The apartment of Meredith Tavener and Peter Tooley (also in the Indian neighbourhood in Groningen) is only a five-block walk from ours, is very spacious and flooded by light through its large windows. We were greeted by equally large smiles and voices with a recognizable Australian twang.

Meredith is the reason they made the move, exchanging Perth in Australia for The Netherlands. They arrived 11th January 2010, right in the middle of a real snowy winter. Such extreme weather was something completely new to them coming previously from a heat of 47 degrees. It seems that after she had completed her PhD, Meredith thought it would be interesting to find employment out of her then academic environment, which although pleasant, no longer provided her with a much needed challenge. So, she began to look around. First efforts brought up a job at Oxford University in England, which would have been a marvelous opportunity, had it not been for the fact that she would most probably be competing against the world and his wife for the position! Next she found a position in Groningen at the University and thought I can do that!’ Two interviews later she was hired.

Both Meredith and Peter were used to moving regularly from place to place, due to work, in Australia and inventorying their lives down to how many forks they owned. They think this made their shift from, Australia to Europe, and into expatriates’ status, somewhat easier.

Now where is Peter in all this? Before the move, Peter worked in military aviation. He had spent the last eighteen years of his life doing this and earning a good salary. But he decided to give up his job and follow his wife in search of adventure. While Meredith works Peter is taking his time to find out exactly what step he would like to take next. He says that at the moment he feels as though he can’t just walk down the street and say ‘gidday’, to people as he did in Oz, not knowing how it would be received. He says his ‘compass’ is adjusting to a new hemisphere, which must be strange for someone with a job where navigation was an integral part.

Nonetheless they are both very enthusiastic to learn the Dutch language, but unlike their European counterparts (who generally have a knowledge of a minimum of two foreign languages) getting their heads round actually learning a language, has been quite a challenge. They decided to bring in a private tutor to get things rolling, so that one day soon they will be able to finally decipher their mail and find out if the news reader on TV actually makes sense. In the meantime, when they don’t understand something, they call upon the help of friends, colleagues and Connect as well as making use of those often rather interesting online translation websites, which give a vague idea of a document’s contents, in between some very hilarious literal translations.

Looking around their modern apartment I see brightly coloured painted canvases leant up against the walls and ask who’s the artist. Meredith laughs at the term ‘artist’, saying she started dabbling with paint as therapy, whilst she was taking her PhD. The canvases have traveled with them as instant d├ęcor for their new apartment. Peter too, is a creative soul and has an interest in photography, which he would like to really like to get into now, seeing as he has the time to do so.

Both Meredith and Peter are happy to be in Europe, not only to see what The Netherlands has to offer, but also to discover more about its neighbouring countries. Travel is something they enjoy and with past trips across Australia, often covering thousands of kilometres, they find it a refreshing change that distances here, around town or to work, are a lot shorter and can be done either on foot or by bicycle.

Paintings: Meredith Tavener & Photos: Peter Tooley

© Alison Day
Alison Day Design 

First published in the Connections magazine #27 Spring 2009 

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Connections Magazine - Winter #26, 2010

The Skater - William van de Velde

© Alison Day
Alison Day Design 
First published in the Connections magazine #26 Winter 2009

What's Hot, What's Not! - CouchSurfing

Participate in Creating a Better World, One Couch At A Time

There are many ways to travel the world, whether it is on foot or by mechanical means, but at the end of each day we all need a place to rest our heads and stash our baggage. This calls to mind the well-sung words of a 1983 UK chart topper by Paul Young, ‘Wherever I lay my hat is my home’.

When travelling aboard, there are a multitude of options and types of places to stay on the market and budgets vary accordingly. A hotel, however, whilst a comfortable option on the one hand, remains an impersonal one, even after you have finished plundering the mini bar. Also, from your ivory tower you have to make a concerted effort to get out and get to know the city and its inhabitants and hope that your guidebook is still up to date. 

Enter an increasingly popular solution in the form of CouchSurfing. No, this is not a modern twist on the Walt Disney musical Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971). CouchSurfing is a non-profit organization that was set up in 2004, and boasts connections in 230 countries and territories around the world. Their aim is to promote cultural exchange, understanding of others, friendship and education amongst world citizens.

By becoming a member you become part of an international community of travelers and can Surf or Host or both. Hosting is when people around the world offer their ‘couch’, as a place to stay to someone planning on visiting their country, the length of time being pre-determined between the two parties. Or you can Surf for ‘couches’, in countries you would like to visit. The only requirement of becoming a member of CouchSurfing is that you too will reciprocate your ‘couch’ to a fellow traveler at some stage in your life. On top of this via their website community, they also organize regional events and activities.

The advantages of such an exchange are many. By staying with the people local to an area, it is a far more interesting way to explore a new country. From your host up to date information on places of interest, things to see and do will be at your fingertips, plus if you get on particularly well with them you may even be included to join in their social scene. It’s a way of leaving the realms of total tourist behind and being privy to a country from your host’s perspective as well. Also, from reading a few of the testimonials on their website, a far cheaper option than the afore mentioned hotel. For the host there is the fun of meeting new people and learning about new cultures from around the world without leaving the comfort of their home and of course they can also use CouchSurfing too and may even end up on your couch in the future!  

For more information: CouchSurfing

© Alison Day
Alison Day Design 
First published in the Connections magazine #26 Winter 2009

William van de Velde - Kunsteboer

On a blustery and rainy Sunday afternoon (kitted out head to toe in rain gear, in anticipation of what the delightful Northern European weather was going to throw at me), I set out on my trusty bicycle to visit William van de Velde, also known as Kunsteboer (Artistic farmer), to learn more about him and his work.

Nestled in the woods, you enter chez William’s via a little bridge over a stream, the railings of which have been designed and created by him. Then through a large gate topped with an impressive iron bird, rust-red and in mid-flight.

The house has three separate parts to it. In one part Karen (William’s partner) was preparing to give a Thai’s massage to a client. Then we had a peak into the trailer, transformed by William into their son’s (Padouk’s) bedroom-playroom. The interior is of wood complete with one of William’s creative wood burning stoves, in the form of an elephant. In the garden everywhere you look there is a piece of William’s work; some pieces are functional whilst others are decorative and amusing. A fusion of pieces of metal and found objects, the older pieces having added charm due to being aged by the weather. Then we moved onto the hub of their house and the kitchen-living room. I was greeted by a very friendly dog and astutely ignored by two cats, as we sat down over hot drinks and William began to tell me about his life.

He was born in Paris, but his youth was quite a nomadic existence, (he lived in a variety of places in southern France), so it wasn’t until he visited Groningen, in the mid nineteen nineties, that he found a place he actually wanted to stay. He likes The Netherlands and the sobriety and directness of the Dutch, in comparison to the passionate often-irrational explosive nature of his fellow countrymen. According to William, with the Dutch you know what to expect and where you are with them. He also likes Groningen because it is bursting with art, exhibitions, festivals, music, and attractions, far more than his native France. This has definitely played a roll in him becoming an artist: “I have become what I am because I came to live here,” he says. Also, as most of his circle of friends are artists too, there is a constant stimulation to develop oneself.

He had a brush with Minerva (the art academy) for a period of three months, before deciding it would be better to just go out and do it, seeing as he was already exhibiting at the time (at Stichting Baksteen), funnily enough with his entrance piece (a man-lamp) to the art school.

Having the Dutch directness off to a tee, he became a member of the prestigious Groningen art circle ‘de Ploeg’ by asking to become one. When they questioned him as to why, he unabashedly said, in order to promote himself. Liking his audacity and the fact that they didn’t have a sculptor at the time in their numbers, they accepted him!

An artist of circumstance, as a ship restorer the start of William’s creativity was when he noticed the sheer amount of metal left lying about, after the welding process was over. This was considered waste and so he took the pieces and began to solder them together, often giving his creations away as birthday presents. One time he made a set of Jujitsu fighting figures, which were so popular that they went like hot cakes, with orders for more.

When asked about his artistic process from start to finish, he says that initially rubbish is abstract, so he aims to make something recognizable out of it. Often seeing heads and arms amongst the pieces, he takes them and waits to see what they become in his hands. When it comes to commissions he is quite happy to work to the specified design of a client, but of course to be given free licence is his real passion. As to influences, he says although he is a culture barbarian he is not consciously influenced by anyone in particular, except himself, and then roars with laughter.

Does he have plans for the future? Yes, he wants to create on a larger scale, the bigger the better. With this in mind he would like to be given the chance to embellish buildings throughout the city. One such idea is to make a palm tree out of the chimney attached to the Simplon building. He apparently has been given the go ahead, now all he needs is investors; anyone interested? It will be a feat of mastery to realize, but once completed it would certainly improve the Groningen skyline.

William’s work can be regularly seen in exhibitions, at art festivals and markets, however, if you would like to contact him for more information about his work: Mobile: 0640751613. His website can be found at: Kunsteboer.

© Alison Day
Alison Day Design 
First published in the Connections magazine #26 Winter 2009

Connections Magazine - Autumn #25, 2009

© Alison Day
Alison Day Design 
First published in the Connections magazine #25 Autumn 2009 

What's Hot, What's Not! - Sky Cars - The Only Way is Up

Aerodynamically the bumblebee shouldn't be able to fly,
the bumblebee doesn't know that so it goes on flying anyway.  
~ Mary Kay Ash

Mid-flight to England this summer, trying to take my mind of the nausea provoking turbulence, I noticed in the in-flight magazine an interesting addition to the gadget section. Nestled on the page in between this years ‘must haves’, of a pair of Skull-crusher headphones, a weird USB stick and an ugly suitcase cover was a cherry red PAL-V (Personal Air & Land Vehicle).

For one horrible moment, I thought that the makers of the Reliant

Robin (a 3-wheeled car from the 70’s, infamous for toppling over whilst cornering) was trying to make a 21st century come back. Upon further inspection, it became apparent that this is far more superior. Intended to be the world’s first practical ‘flying car’, the PAL-V is a single seated, three-wheeled vehicle that can fly as a gyro-copter, drive as a regular car and handles with the diversity of a motorbike. Now how cool is that, in these days of increasing gridlock and road rage! Its fold-able rotor means that it can be driven from your doorstep and then flown to your destination of choice. This could revolutionize personal air travel, as just getting to the airport and one’s flight is a nightmare these days.

The PAL-V is due to appear in 2012. Conceived by John Bakker working with Spark design (amongst others), it has taken 6 years to develop a vehicle concept that can fly as well as drive. The PAL-V has a possible speed of up to 125 mph on land and 120 mph in the air, as well as being able to soar to heights of 4,000 feet.

With transport going vertical, our highways may soon look like something out of the film ‘The Fifth Element’, with Bruce Willis. But it’s not all plain sailing or should I say flying? In order to be able to drive/fly one of these you will need a plethora of licences. For starters, an aircraft certification: “Small Rotorcraft”, road certification: Three wheeled Motorcycles, Class L5e, car drivers license, 20-40 hours of flying experience and approximately $ 7000 to pay for it all! That’s all before you have bought the aircraft, which will only set you back a paltry $75,000.

The PAL-V on the other hand is ‘cheap’, compared to the middle of the range priced, Terrafugia at $194,000. This one looks rather like a plane and has been dubbed ‘not a true skycar’, by its critics. Then there is the top of the range (not on sale just yet) Moller Skycar M400 at $526,634.35. This can comfortably seat four people and travels up to speeds of 380 mph.

Of course in order to fly with the happy abandon of a Jetsons cartoon, (Hanna Barbara), a foolproof GPS navigation system will also have to be implemented for transport that is going to be land-air, at a moments notice, otherwise it could be disastrous. But all said and done, I must admit I like the idea of this mode of transport and should I decide to invest in one, it’ll land nicely on the roof of my vertical garden!

Sources: Pal-V   Moller   Terrafugia

© Alison Day
Alison Day Design 

First published in the Connections magazine #25 Autumn 2009 

Het Paleis, Groningen

Once upon a time Het Paleis (The Palace) used to be a laboratory for physics, but now this magnificent building found at Bloemsingel 10 (near the centre of Groningen), has been totally renovated and transformed into a cultural venue for artists, designers and cultural entrepreneurs. Also, included in the plans were accommodation, in the form of apartments, most of which I believe went like hot cakes, and the complex also has a coffee shop.

Creatief Stad (Creative City) who are also housed in Het Paleis, organized the opening of Creatief Stad, which was opened by the then Mayor of Groningen, Jacques Wallage on 20 July 2009, accompanied by Cuban music, food and drink.

Included in Creative City is the prototype for a rather unusual but thought provoking hybrid shop, called ‘Zooi Box’ (literally, ‘Mess Box’) with re-cycling, as it’s central theme. So much of what is thrown away these days, can of course be re-cycled and re-used again, not only our daily lives, but also in art projects and workshops. The sky’s the limit! Also, if you have any ‘rubbish’, to get rid of…

The official opening took place 19 September, and was opened by the new Mayor of Groningen, Peter Rehwinkel, who was newly inaugurated on 18 September 2009.

For more information: Het Paleis

© Alison Day
Alison Day Design 
First published in the Connections magazine #25 Summer 2009