Monday, 22 December 2014


…the Tassel Queen's that is.
Well it's been another lively year in the Urban Croft. The order book was full, we showed our tassels down in the tube station at Old Street for the London Design Festival, talked at The British Museum, judged the Textile Art section for the Koestler  Trust and chewed over the next big colour stories for 2016 on the Mix trends panel. Phew!
And 2015 is already shaping up to be another stellar year. It's also going to be a bit of a landmark one too as it's my 25th year of working in the creative industries. It's been quite a roller coster and to be quite honest I'm amazed that I've lasted this long. So over the next twelve months I'll be picking my personal 25 favourite products, designs and projects. To get the ball rolling and in no particular order…

The Tonkin, from one of our first collections, Formosa, launched in 2008, is my favourite tassel. I loved it from the minute I made it. It's quirky, colourful and happy. The collection was inspired by Chinese frogging, Central Asian ikats and the traveller Hippie Trail of the 60's. This tassel is also one of our best sellers and to mark our silver jubilee we will be producing a special limited edition colour way of the Tonkin that will be available from Jessica Light Shop in March. There will only be 25 ever made and each one will be numbered.

Above, the Tonkin Tassel
Below, a whole tribe of Tonkins

 from the

Monday, 1 December 2014


The bay at Peniche.

After spending a week in Peniche with SupXscape doing the ASI level 1 [and attempting Level 2] stand up paddle board courses I decided to spend a day in Lisbon on my way home.
I woke up to blue sky and 24 degrees which were wonderful conditions to discover this delightful city. Late November was transformed into a summers day and off I wandered to lose myself in Portugal's capital[the only way to really explore a city]
Lisbon is not a city for modernists. It's lively rickety Baroque streets ooze a crumbling decorative charm and faded glamorous grandeur. Tiny shops have interiors that wouldn't look out of place at the turn of the century- the 20th century that is, not the 21st. Old trams trundle on their tracks with the drivers having to get out to manually change the points in the road. The steep streets[ Lisbon is built on seven hills] offer vibrant views over the city often ending at the Atlantic.
The most Westerly city in Europe embraces you with it's fascinating, rich and often turbulent history. From it's many occupations by foreign powers; the North African Moors in 714 until 1147 when Crusaders captured the city after a four month siege, the Spanish in 1580, and later by Napoleon in 1807 to the wealth and power brought by it's famous sons, like explorer Vasco Da Gama, in the 15th and 16th centuries. Then there was the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 1755 and later massive political unrest and dictatorship in the 20th century. Even one of our past queens, Catherine of Braganza, came from Portuguese royalty  and on meeting his bride, because of her hairstyle, Charles II is alleged to have said- They have sent me a bat-

One of Lisbon's streets.

Top, a church facade,
Below, it's disintegrating interior

Above and below,
A tram and it's interior

Above, Belem monastery
Below, the 16th century fortified Tower of Belem looking out to sea.

Above and below, a tiny bar serving Ginjinha, a sour cherry liqueur [bit like sloe gin] drunk from small glasses as a shot and very popular with Lisbonites judging from how crowded it is and that this was only 11am

 Lisbon's lovely shops.
Above, a hat shop and below,
a glove shop.

Above, the bakery at Belem.

The ubiquitous pasteis de nata.  
In my book if you don't love custard you don't love life.

I stayed in what was described as a luxury hostel, The Independante. Conceived by four travelling brothers as a place where locals and guests could feel at home, this unique hostelry combines a backpackers haven, hotel, funky bar and restaurant. The style is an eclectic quirky mix of grand high pargeted ceilinged rooms, mid-century vintage and antiques. The dorms have three tier bunks constructed from chipboard with crisp white linen. There is a large guest-only lounge with a kitchen off it if you wish to prepare your own food or you can eat with the staff in their dining room for €5. On the top floors are suites- private rooms with en-suites and balconies where I will stay next time I go. Staying in the dorms would be terrific fun if under 35 but were very noisy and if you are a women of a certain age who really needs her beauty sleep this isn't the place to get it.

Above, The Independante.
Below, it's grand staircase.

Above, the bar lounge,
Below, looking through to the restaurant.

Above and below,
the guest-only lounge.

Above, the chipboard bunks in one of the dorms.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014


Choosing to show passementerie in Old Street Station was a bit of a gamble. Why on earth would you put a bespoke extremely niche top end product in  the last place on earth you'd expect to find it? Well the answer is in the question and did it pay off? It was certainly the most extraordinary experience exhibiting in such a public domain.

Tube stations are tidal. They ebb and flow. Twice a day the tunnels flood with human tsunamis. All life's jetsam and flotsam drifted past my window, from the well heeled to the down trodden. Then there were the nutters. Gawd bless London's loonies- that deep-rooted English eccentricity that from time to time still prevails.
The Angel of the Northern Line who looked out from our window.
Below, a detail showing some of our new collection using Straw, banana fibre and silk.

Bob's guardian angel. Which Bob? See the dedication below.

So how was passementerie received by the public at large? Well generally with intense bemusement. But bemusement is good. It arouses curiosity, questions and at times amazement. So apart from the purposeful visitors we had so many people coming in who just wanting to know what it was all about? The responses ranged from 'Why?','What?','How?', to 'I've never seen anything like this before' and my favourite 'What's going on here then? You a fortune teller?'. 
Funny thing is I do have a certain gift for the other-worldly and am quite partial to a bit of hocus-pocus. All my major decisions are made with the help of a bit of card reading. Maybe that's the next show- Tassels and Tarot- although having now shown in a tube station I'm thinking of what the next design destination could be. Gatwick Airport? Passementerie On A Plane?
When large swathes of the design community want to bathe in familiarity and repetition and the word 'version' seems to be an acceptable replacement for the word 'copy', it's well to remember that old adage that familiarity breeds contempt. Whatever people think about what I do and it is a bit like Marmite- you either love it or just don't get it- at least I'm trying to push some boundaries within my field, and I'd rather have bemusement than patronising dismissal. Not everything has to be 'got', have a reason or even liked. Life would be a very boring place if everything was explained, comfortable and quiet. I'd like to see a bit more belligerent bemusement brought back into design.

Above and below,
Our new Temple Gardens collection featuring elastic, brass and mono-filament.

It was the last day that Old Street's malingerers really surpassed themselves. One passed, stopped, poked his head through the door then trotted unsteadily to the tunnel entrance to where one of his compatriots was slumped asking passers by for spare change.
Do you know what's in that f*****g shop? Tassels!
F*****g Tassels!
There then ensued a loud shouty unsober chorus of 'Tassels, tassels, tassels' from both men. I looked at the red London Design Festival sign outside my unit and felt it rather redundant with this heralding of such magnitude.
Then the first man staggered back and came in.
'I just wanted to tell you that that' pointing to The Angel Of The Northern Line 'is f*****g beautiful. It's given me a few moments of joy and I don't get much joy in my life due to this affliction' waving his can of Special Brew in my face.
Then he noticed the box of London Design Festival guides.
'Those free? Can I have one?'
'Of course you can'
There was a poignancy to this exchange. I started thinking about all the pompous hot air that exudes from the endless talks, lectures and debates about how design is there to enrich our lives, because, let's face it, 3D printing isn't going to make one iota of difference to this man's life.
When I was breaking down the show I popped out to buy some water and I saw the man again at the top of the underpass trying to sell dodgy travel cards. Hanging out of his pocket was the rolled up Festival guide. Perhaps he managed to sell it to some un-suspecting tourist for a tenner so maybe for a brief moment design would enrich his life.

The Tassily chair waiting to depart

Showing this year meant I didn't get to see much of the rest of the London Design Festival. Luckily A Place Called Home in Trafalgar Square was still on and what a treat it was, especially the house by Raw Edges, a solution to small space living that had panache, wit and an refreshing irreverence. The simple concept was moving walls within one space to continually create different dimensions.
Dividing space is nothing new. The Japanese have been doing it for centuries with Shoji screens made of paper stretched over wooden frames, but sliding walls that change the size of the space you're occupying is a way of moving this idea on. If the the house had floated it would be the perfect architectural solution to future living issues.

All images above,
Raw Edges changeable house.

One final thought on this years Festival. As we showed on the underground it seemed only fitting that All Change be dedicated to the man below.

BIG Thank you to
House and Garden, Crafts Council, Design Week, Sally Davis, and Tricia Guild for their support.
Neil from Artvans for amazing service 
Meriel from Precious McBane for coffee and other breaks.
and to everyone who visited All Change

Tuesday, 19 August 2014


..and I'm down at the tube station at #LDF14 as Jessica Light presents ‘All Change- Tassels On The Tube’, a showcase of passementerie in the unusual venue of a unit in Old Street Station. This instillation will launch two new directional collections, Temple Gardens and Southside, which feature materials like elastic, monofilament, brass, straw, horsehair and banana fibre, as well as displaying our latest diffusion range and introducing a new colourway and tassels to our Potsdam collection.
We will also be featuring some of our collaborations with other designers such as The Tassilly Chair with Sophia Wimmpenny from Precious McBane and The Tassel Pendant from Curiousa and Curiousa.

New trims from the Temple Gardens collection

The new Garrow tieback.

The above tieback is named after historic barrister William Garrow, who coined the phase 'Innocent until proven guilty' and is a response to the government's plans to change the legal aid system so people without means may not be able to get proper legal representation and therefore a fair trial [political passementerie? Now there's a first]

A bespoke white version of the Tassily chair, our collaboration with Precious McBane. We will be showing the original version.

The Tassel Light

A tube station may seem the last place the place you'd expect to see passementerie, but there is method in the madness. The London Underground, since it's inception, has been a bastion of brilliant design from the magnificent moquette seating textiles to the iconic graphics of the tube map, so to stage a design show in one of it's tunnels isn't so off the random Richter scale.
I grew up on the Northern Line [or Misery Line as it was known in days of yore due to it's lack of movement in any direction], which Old Street is on. I was born off it, lived off it, went to school [or often didn't] off it. In fact from the ages of 0-25 it was my main stamping ground so it makes perfect sense to show on it.

Map of my Northern Line life.

So charge you're Oyster cards and head down to Station Decoration.
All Change-Tassels On The Tube,
Unit 2A
Tunnel One,
Old Street Station.
16-21 Sept 2014

Friday, 2 May 2014


CardenCunietti are one of our most respected interior design teams known for their elegant and beautiful spaces, but, at the end of May, Audrey Carden and Eleanora Cunietti, along with other industry luminaries such as Nina Campbell and Martin Brudnizi, are putting their talents to another purpose- The Spring Clean. The premise of this idea is a call out to the design industry to clear out their cupboards and donate top end products to be sold at a pop-up event for the charity, Kids Company. We all have press samples, old stock, one-offs lurking in store rooms[we here at the Urban Croft dream of having a store room], cupboards,or boxes so why not put this surplus to good use.
And what a response they've had with donations from Lee Broom, photographer Chris Craymer, a Vivienne Westwood design from the Rug Company, furniture from Knoll, Christophe Delcourt,  Minotti, Mirelle, glassware from Harliquin and Guinevere Antiques, and textiles and surface patern from Lelievre, Watts of Westminster,The Darkroom, Paperboy, Lilli Popp and Domus Tiles. The list is endless and grows daily.

Below, a little taster of whats on offer
A lively cushion from the Darkroom

Christophe Delcourt's classy IXO side table.

One of Lee Broom's fabulous Crystal Bulbs

A classic Knoll Chair

Bespoke hand-spun chunky cord tiebacks from yours truly

Kids Company,founded by Camila Batmanghelidjh in 1996, is a charity that provides support, whether it be emotional, educational or practical, to children and young adults. It operatates out of centres in London and Bristol as well as working in schools to help the most vulnerable in our society. It's Poverty Busting campaign is particularly aimed at addressing the issues that poverty brings such as malnutrition, housing and basic material needs.
So if you want to support a fantastic cause by either donating or bagging yourself a design bargain make sure you don't miss The Spring Clean. There'll be the best design talent on show as well as food, drink and general jollity.

Above, Audrey Carden,Camila Batmanghelidjh and Eleanora Cunietti

30 May-1 June,
28 Redchurch Street,
London E2 7DP
Fri-Sat 10.30-6.30,
Sun 12-4pm