While I was in Amsterdam recently, I took a rather indulgent day off, flying to Basel for the day in order to get to the Vitra Design Museum where a massive retrospective of Alexander Girard’s work is currently underway.

The Vitra campus is basically one big photo opportunity, as it’s dotted with buildings by  Tadao Ando / Frank Gehry / Herzog de Meuron / Zaha Hadid, and furnished throughout (even on the lawns) with classic contemporary furniture pieces. And if you’ve been looking for a Hang it All , you might as well stop right now, as I think Vitra has used them all up.

Chairs at Vitra Haus. Photo: Heather Moore of Skinny laMinxHang It Up at Vitra Design Museum. Photo: Heather Moore hang-it-up-3

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Most of my day was spent in the Gehry building above, where the the Alexander Girard retrospective  was on show. It was a real treat to have nothing else to do but to take my time, read every piece of information, watch every video, and to sketch and photograph to my heart’s content. And it really did take quite some time, as the exhibition was exhaustive, showing artefacts, drawings, collages, ceramics, models, fabrics, sculptures and massive project installations made by this prolific designer throughout his long career.

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Vitra-Haus-entrance

I loved seeing the meticulous drawings and collages Girard made for his fabric designs, and the depth of detail that he went into when tackling giant projects like restaurants and airline rebrands, taking on a project in its entirety, from logo development to the shape of a salt and pepper pot on a table. Girard was a rare genius with enormous capacity and vision which translated itself into intensely design which is intensely pleasureable in its simplicity.

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The thing that struck me particularly was in the early part of the exhibition, where a little room with an arched entrance had been built, and named The Republic of Fife. Here, an immense number of books, stamps, pennants, maps, letters and ‘passports’ were displayed, all made by Girard when he was a teenager at boarding school in England, imagining a world of his own construction, which he called Fife. The meticulous attention to detail in his construction of an imaginary world (complete with currency, alphabet and postage stamps) are entirely prescient of the enormous projects he would go on to do in the 1960s, on restaurant projects like La Fonda del Sol, and the re-brand of Braniff Airlines too. I just love the idea that this little oddball was able to find such a perfect fit for his rather peculiar bent.

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Braniff Airlines branding - Alexander Girard

There was an extensive exhibition of some of the folk art that Alexander and Susan Girard collected over decades, which inspired a lot of his design work:

“We can preserve evidence of the past for its incentive to the present, but not as a pattern for sentimental imitation, but as a nourishment for the creative spirit in the present, so that we too may evolve customs and shape objects of equivalent value”.

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If you’re unable to visit the Vitra Design Museum yourself, take a look at this comprehensive review on Hyperallergenic, with more images from the exhibition and catalogue. I hefted the giant catalogue home with me, and it was definitely worth the suitcase space, but you can find it on Amazon here too.

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I also visited the massive chair museum at Vitra, showing a huge quantity of iconic chairs throughout the Modern period (with only one bench for punters to sit on), with more archives downstairs, as well as a reconstruction of the Eames’ office. It’s Design with a Capital D, that’s for sure!

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All in all, a memorable day out! I feel extremely lucky to have had this opportunity.

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mushy-mouth by Heather Moore

Making Friday: Renewing my vows

One of the things that keeping a blog is good for is to make public commitments that (in theory) hold me accountable. So here’s a pronouncement from me: Making Friday is not optional, and for the rest of the year, barring floods, fire and aeroplane trips, I will be in the Think Tank every Friday. The entire reason that I ended up having Skinny laMinx is that I love to make things in my studio, and I love sharing what I made with other people. So if I don’t make things in my studio, Skinny laMinx will no longer be what it’s supposed to be,… Continue reading

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In the shop: New Cloud9 Fabrics

We’re so happy to have been in collaboration with Cloud9 Fabrics once again, with our third fabric collection, called Around The Block, now available in our shop on Bree Street, and online too! This range came out of some of the block printing I’ve been doing in my studio on Making Friday, over the past couple of years. Isn’t it wonderful that spending a fun day in the studio printing this piece of fabric above … … eventually results in yards and yards of organic quilting cotton and canvas being printed in multiple colourways, and then made available across the globe? I love my job. This… Continue reading

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My pics of Lisbon

Travelling is such an immensely stimulating time, and to keep all the overload in check, I like to set categories for photo-taking, so that my eye knows what to do. This was especially useful to do in Lisbon, where there is SO much to look at, so my categories of Tiles (obviously), Blue Tiles, Signs & Graphics and Gates & Grilles helped shape my photo taking… although when you click through to each of these, you’ll see I STILL took a squillion pics! Click on each of the categories’ image to see the full post.

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Just about all the tiles in Lisbon

I took so many photos of tiles in Lisbon. SO MANY! I’ve already showed you some of my blue tiles, and I have a whole heap of subway tiles still to edit, but this post is just a mashup of all kinds of tiles, some handpainted, some press moulded, some unusual, some ugly, but most just lovely. There’s a lot of need to keep looking up… and looking down too, as I found out while leaning out of my window, waiting for my Uber driver. My AirBnB apartment was covered in tiles too. Duh!     One of the things that… Continue reading

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Lisbon: Grilles and gates

When I travel, I like to set categories for photo-taking, so that my eye knows what to look for, and this was especially useful to do in Lisbon, where there is SO much to look at. So here are the photos I took for my “Grilles & Gates of Lisbon” category (with a few brise soleil walls at the end, for good pattern-mad measure):   And while it’s not really one of my categories, I did spot a good few lovely brise soleil walls in Lisbon too:  

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Pop up in Amsterdam

We’ve got a pop up shop in Amsterdam! Visit the rather spectacular Gustafson in Westergasfabriek, and you’ll find us there for the next three weeks. Everyone in Amsterdam has been so friendly and generous to me. I love this place! The management of Gustafson  let us have the run of the place, and also offered us much more than we’d anticipated, and when I knocked on the door of Hippo – the vintage shop down the road from Gustafson, asking if I could borrow some furniture for our pop up – the owner Rob was utterly charming and superbly generous.… Continue reading

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Best Things: Alexander Girard

I’m off to see the Alexander Girard retrospective at the Vitra Museum in Basel today. Pinch me, please! The first time I came across the work of Alexander Girard was in a vintage shop in New York City, where I opened a vintage Herman Miller fabric book and felt my heart drop out of my chest. I saw there the simplest designs in colours and weaves of such quality, and they made me realise that a design could be ‘simple’ without being basic or easy. Also, ‘playful’ didn’t mean necessarily mean lightweight or throwaway . When done with integrity and excellence, simple… Continue reading