designconsort one year on...

Posted on - 14th February 2018
Countryfile Live Oxfordshire

designconsort is not all it seems. Indeed, die-hard Moorcroft fans either love, dislike or are simply confused by the new W Moorcroft Ltd brand. In Moorcroft we can rest, for the most part, in familiar images from the natural world and take the Arts & Crafts pottery for its raison d’etre without much thought. Swarming fish, animals, even the Morris style grotesques, bird imagery agreed with the RSPB, all give nature and, our imagination, a safe home. The outside enters our home and even fond memories of holidays abroad or at home, as so beautifully captured by Vicky Lovatt in her West Country Collection, allow us to quite literally breathe in something rather pleasant. The attraction to people in from designconsort holds something rather different.

In groundbreaking ceramic design, the work of Emma Bossons FRSA delves into hidden imagery as objects or an image are stripped down to its raw form. A form of ‘abstract art’ if you like. In an interesting article in the Irish Times, there is said to be a new discipline called neuroaesthetics was founded about 10 years ago by Semir Zeki of University College London. It aims to discover the neurological basis for the success of artistic techniques. Most people find the blurred imagery of Impressionist paintings appealing and the new studies show that these images stimulate the amygdala, the area in the brain geared to detect threats in our peripheral vision. The amygdala plays a big role in our emotions, which may explain why we find Impressionist paintings so moving.


Garden Night from Emma Bossons :Shape and surface design to release towering geraniums in all their glory.

Not unlike the endless stream of computer generated games for children, the images in abstract paintings do not directly picture anything in the physical world. The question therefore naturally arises as to whether we would find random lines, shapes and colours daubed on canvas by animals or small children equally as pleasing to the eye as the work of professional artists.

Angelina Hawley-Dolan of Boston College, Massachusetts, did an experiment to answer this question (Psychological Science, volume 22, page 435). Volunteers viewed pairs of paintings, one painting of each pair being the work of a famous artist and the other the doodle of an amateur, infant, chimp or elephant. One-third of the paintings were not labelled and two-thirds were labelled – however sometimes the labels were mixed up. The volunteers generally preferred the work of professional artists even when the label said it was the work of a chimp or an elephant. Apparently we can sense the artist’s vision even when we cannot explain why.


When Emma Bossons first created her Babington design (featured above is the green version) I commenced the descriptive process in the way all wordsmiths work – a self-imposed perception and described the vase on the website as ‘Clay impressions - pebbles dashed against aquatic hues with lustre.’ so that people could quite literally buy what was said on the tin. I don’t believe the designer was all too impressed. As I recall, Emma wanted the absolute minimum mentioned in the descriptive process. For her, the design would mean different things to different people but the joy was always to be found in the seeking - what is the object in form and surface design?

It has to be said that designconsort has received the odd comment like ‘That is easy to paint’ or ‘Why on earth would I pay that significant amount of money for something that doesn't even relate to anything?". Of course, Production Director, Gloria Withington would no doubt have said that each piece of designconsort is still outlined with liquid clay slip, hand painted and requires an extra lustre firing, not to mention the arduous process of creating a plethora of entirely new and unique shapes. To a designer such thoughts are of little consequence. For many, to appreciate abstract art, you must grasp at the heart of this art form. Not unlike the creation of our universe, when looking at abstract art, you are seeing the most freely formed type of artwork an artist can create.

You would think that when looking at art that is non-representational, it would be less interesting to view as you do not know what the artist is truly trying to depict in his or her artwork. This is where the beauty of Abstract Art comes alive. This type of art is meant to grab your attention and demand a response from within you. Once you consider a part of the painting that initially draws you in, and your mind keeps processing, that is when you know you are analyzing something special - something called Abstract Art.

The new designs from Emma for 2018 caused some to wonder. Ellipse is one such design. In maths an ellipse is a urve in a plane surrounding two focal points such that the sum of the distances to the two focal points is constant for every point on the curve. Ellipses are common in physics, astronomy and engineering. Ellipses also arise as images of a circle under parallel projection and the bounded cases of perspective projection, which are simply intersections of the projective cone with the plane of projection.

Canadian artist Osnat Tzadok has stated, "Every time I pass near a blank canvas I feel something explode inside of me. It is not something I can explain or pass on to someone else...but it is, always, a beginning of a new creation". This quote of Osnat's perfectly portrays what we, the viewers, should feel when viewing an artist's abstract creation. Just as an artist gets this "explosion" that Osnat speaks of, we receive the same feeling when looking at their piece if we truly appreciate Abstract Art. The beauty of non-representational art is that we can create the story within the painting. We can ask ourselves, "Why do these colors interact with each other?" or "What does this symbolize?" and other questions. With those questions our imagination brings about answers. This is where Emma may have been quite correct in names and descriptions not giving much away and I must confess I did not google the word ellipse as I wrote the description – thinking, like many others, that it depicted an eclipse. It may be true that representational art is still beautiful in its own way, but the artist already has revealed what they want you to see. Did Emma want you to research the word Ellipse or simply enjoy the design? At the Handmade at Kew show last October, viewers nearly always saw an eclipse in the art and that was enough. Their journey of discovery stopped at the point of contact with the design before moving on to examine other pieces in the show.

Emma’s Town vase and lamp were well received at Kew as people considered industrial-coloured shapes becoming the edge of a building, the roof of a factory or the window of a house, to create an abstract art form of a townscape. Nevertheless, the people who actually purchased were drawn to the design before the mind had fully consider the imagery. For them, it was simply something they instantly wanted in their home.

This was also true of the work of Nicola Slaney as her large bulbous Venn vases featuring interlocking circles were consumed and considered assets worthy of a home within minutes. Some people liked the bold Black and Silver versions of Venn whilst others preferred the soft pastel pinks and greens or Autumnal variants. Nicola gave no commentary for her designs as there was no need. A design simply came from her mind to the watercolour paper as a geometric design. So it seems that the buyer of geometric or abstract designs can make a decision to buy for the same reason – simply something beautiful for the home.

So there we have it - one year on and designconsort continues to use subtle colourways and design to enhance interiors as well as providing something more. Design that provokes thought. Thoughts that do not seek to dominate the conscious or indeed, the unconscious mind, but created simply to encourage you on your journey through life.