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Object of the Day… Whitefriars Concentric TV Vase

August 20, 2014 Leave a comment

The first in an occasional series of posts with a single image and a short explanation…

Concentric TV

This beautiful grey vase was designed by Geoffrey Baxter and first manufactured in the last 1960s by Whitefriars Glass. Known as the concentric TV vase, it stands about 18cm/ 7″ high and weighs considerably more than you would think it might.

Baxter’s technique for producing the textured surfaces of his pieces derived from the timber moulds he made in his spare time, moulds he lined with anything he thought would make in interesting finish including bark, old nails and wire.

Unfortunately due primarily to the downturn of the mid/ late 1970’s, Whitefriars closed its doors in the 1980’s but it’s generally accepted that the final 20 years or so of the company’s existence was almost solely down to the designs of Geoffrey Baxter.

A huge thanks to R&S for rescuing this wonderful thing from the shop (and then deciding to give it to me…)

The Increasing Value of the Coins in your Pocket…

March 7, 2014 3 comments

Next time you’re looking through your small change, keep an eye out for the following UK commemorative coins. If you find any of them, you could be in for a pleasant surprise (especially if you bang it up on eBay…)

Kew_50 Pence_2009The one that’s in the news at the moment is the Kew Gardens 50p. Issued in 2009 and limited to a mintage of only around 200,000 (anywhere between 3 and 11 million is a more usual mintage for commemorative 50p’s) this rare coin is currently changing hands for around £200

But there are others that are worth looking out for…

The 2008, 20p coin. When the Royal Mint redesigned the definitive UK set of coins (i.e. the ones you see every day) in 2008, the new design had the date on the Obverse side (the Queens head side).

Undated20pThe old design however had the date on the reverse side. For reasons that are unclear, there was a mismatch of the dies/ stamps used to make the new coins when it was first minted and the old obverse (Queen’s Head) was used on the new reverse (the lions back legs). It’s the middle combination of the three versions to the right.

Confusing perhaps, but the upshot is simple: there are somewhere between 50,000 and 200,000 20p coins with no date on them… Find one of those and you could be £100 better off.

st-change-checker-spot-the-difference-olympics-aquatics-50p-coin-2Then there is the Swimming Olympic Games 50p. The initial design had the swimmers face much more obscured by water than the reworked final version. Around 600 of these first coins were issued and if you’ve got one, they are currently worth around £3000.

Finally we have a lettering mistake. In 2005, a £2 coin was issued to mark the 400th anniversary of Guy Fawkes and the gun powder plot. It seems the dies used to stamp the inscription around the edge were not 100% accurate resulting in the words “Pemember Pemember The 5th of November” appearing rather than the more familiar phrase… These are only worth about £20, but it’d still be a nice thing to find…

Pemember

And in case you’ve ever wondered why the edge inscription on the £2 coin sometimes reads correctly with the reverse side up and sometimes with the obverse side up, it’s simply because the inscription is rolled into the edge of the blank disk before the two faces are stamped, and the blank is allowed to fall into the coin press as it will…

Lazy Post No. 8: Michael Johansson

November 18, 2013 Leave a comment

Another find by my friend Mr. Wong, the Swedish artist Michael Johansson

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These works appeal to me in so many ways… my penchant for orderliness, and my predilection for sorting and filing things, factors that all collectors (or hoarders as I’m sure And would have it…) have to face up to and deal with, as well as displaying a wonderful eye for colour coordination and theming…

Suffice to say I think the work in these photos is most excellent: a simple and elegant idea, executed beautifully and sparkling with humour and panache…

Just one more thought… where does he get all this stuff from and how does he keep it organised and tidy so that he knows what he’s got….? When he’s in mid creating flow, his studio must be sight to behold, with stuff everywhere, waiting to be arranged neatly into its final form….

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John W. Mills – Coin Designer Extraordinaire…

November 14, 2013 1 comment

1995twopoundwwiiburev400I was contacted recently by friend who is currently doing her PhD on The Decorated Schools or Pictures for Schools Program, a post war initiative to get art and sculpture directly into and onto new school buildings…

As part of her research, she is hoping to interview an artist and sculptor by the name of John W. Mills, a man responsible both for selecting and creating many of the artworks that went into the initiative. The name rang a distant bell when I read it, but it wasn’t until I visited Mr. Mill’s site and specifically the pages on coins that he has designed, that I realised why…

As well as creating some very fine sculptural work over his long and distinguished career, John Mills has designed five UK Commemorative coins over the last twenty years or so, all of which have always been in my list of favourites…

The original style £2 coin with the dove pictured above is from 1995 and commemorated the 50th anniversary of VE Day. The Euro 96 £2 Football (a design that has always impressed as it is one of the very few UK coins in which the image goes right to the edge with no separating line around the rim) and the two stunning 50p designs, the D. Day Landings 50th anniversary design with the planes and boats heading off towards uncertainty from 1994 and the 25th anniversary of the EU from 1998 with its jubillant stars…

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The big surprise for me however, was finding the section of John’s site where his unaccepted coin designs live.. There are some wonderful suggestions here and had I been in charge, they would almost certainly have been chosen…

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Possessed…

April 17, 2013 1 comment

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A number of my friends seem to be doing cool art stuff at the moment.

Take Sarah Faraday for example. A photographer by trade, Sarah is working on a project based up in Liverpool called Possessed, in which she is considering issues around the value and status of a photograph of a thing, compared to the actual thing itself, and asks the question, which of your own possessions could you give up in exchange for a photograph of it…

Good question eh?

There are obviously different levels on which this can be considered. At one end is the ridiculous. Giving up a body part (although I see someone has offered their wisdom teeth.. ouch) or a million dollars or your flat/ house in exchange for a photo of it, would I suggest be a step too far.

At the other end of the spectrum is the very easy thing to swap. Sarah can have as many of my old Weekend Guardians, Kit Kat wrappers or as much household dust as she likes in exchange for one of her lovely photos…

In between these two extremes however, are some real conundrums… A love letter for example. As long as you could still read it, do you really need the actual paper with the words on? Or a present from someone who is no longer around. If it’s just sitting on a shelf, or even worse, shut away in a box in the spare room, wouldn’t it be better (or at least as good) to have a picture of it in a little frame on the wall?

I’ve thought about this for a while now and have decided to send in some of my favorite stamps…

They were issued in 1957 and celebrate the World Scout Jubilee Jamboree. Whilst they may not look much to you, I’ve had these for many years as they were given to me by my parents when I was an, erm,  Boy Scout.

There seem to be a number of  levels at which this issue operates, and the image below is an attempt to represent some of them. Firstly there’s me holding the actual, real set of stamps I’m proposing to send in, then a (not very good) photo I’ve just taken as a record of my stamps before I send them off. Then there is a stolen digital internet picture of the high value stamp which is far better than my effort, and shows the finer details of the design. And finally another internet picture this time of a first day cover, which in terms of value alone, could be argued would be a far nicer thing to own…

Stamps combined

So four versions of the same thing. The ones I’m holding I’ve owned for at least 35 years and although it will be a wrench to give them up, I know I can easily get some more, and to all intents and purposes no one (except me) would ever know the difference, certainly not my parents (unless they read this of course) and anyway, whose to say that’s not what I’ve done already…

In the end, it all comes down to the attachment generated by sentiment, how much emotion we have committed to the object in the first place before we are asked to give it up, although monetary value I suspect will usually have a part to play.

All in all I think it’s an excellent idea, one with huge scope for argument and discussion about the value we put on things.  This post for example is now record of this process, and having spent a couple of hours putting it together, it has already accrued some value that may help soften the blow of losing my stamps….

One final thing, I’m a big fan of the ambigramic project logo, very clever…

Ultima Thule – Tapio Wirkkala for iittala (1968)

April 23, 2012 Leave a comment

My little A recently bought some glasses from Scandium, which I knew I liked when she chose them, but having now had the chance to use them and look at them properly, I’ve come to the conclusion that they are actually very beautiful things indeed…

Designed by Tapio Wirkkala in 1968 for the Finnish Iittala company, the form of the glasses was intended to represent the dripping and refreezing ice drops from the glacial landscapes of Finland. The name Ultima Thule is in fact a latin phrase and was historically used to describe a distant place that was beyond the borders of the known world…

The technique for making these beautiful objects is called the ice glass technique, and Wirkkala himself was involved in developing and perfecting it over a period of many years. The rough surface structure characteristic of this technique are achieved by blowing the glass into a wooden mould, and as I understand it, the skill is to know when to stop blowing as the colours and patterns change as the hot glass burns the wooden surface of the mould as it begins to cool.

The Ultima Thule range encompasses glasses, jugs and bowls and in all variations, there are only three small drops of glass that touch the table, a very nice touch… I suspect we will be getting more of these glasses, which I for one would be very happy about…

As for Mr. Wirkkala himself, well he seems to have been something of a talented all rounder. As well as designing these and many other beautiful objects in glass, he was also accomplished in wood, ceramics, metalware and plastic, and also found time to design the Finnish Markka bank notes in the mid 1950’s…

He certainly looks the part in this photo from the 1980’s…

New Architectual Stamps

February 24, 2012 2 comments

It comes to something when an article in the Metro elicits three emails from friends all asking me the same thing, in this case, did I know that there were some new stamps with Basil Spence & Coventry Cathedral on.

I’m not sure if it’s because of the Basil Spence connection or the stamp collecting, either way, it’s probably not a good thing to be known for if I’m honest…

Still here are the stamps as seen in yesterday’s Metro.. and very nice they are too…

Ten stamps of distinguished Britons, two of which are architects; the undoubted genius that was Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (a man so driven, he had worked himself to death before he was 41) and my personal favourite Sir Basil Urwin Spence (why is it that the old school architects have such great names…)

I suspect that Spence was chosen not only as he is a Briton of Distinction, but that this year marks the 60th anniversary of the consecration of his masterpiece, Coventry Cathedral…

Personally I think it’s good that architects are considered worthy of inclusion. My profession at the moment is suffering from something of an identity crisis. We generally know the value of what we do and how much benefit good design can bring to a project, but all too often it seems that a sadly decreasing number of clients agree with us. Architecture is too often considered as nothing more than a bolt on service to the main job of getting something built, rather than a fundamentally important aspect of the process.

Still like most architects I know, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do and I suspect (and I’m aware this sounds a bit pretentious) this is a key part of our problem, in that architecture is a career that we’re born to do rather than are paid to do.

And yes I will be getting a set for my collection.

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