Tuesday, 22 March 2011


An intriguing exhibition about contemporary enamel is held at the moment and until May 28th at FLOW Gallery, Notting Hill, London. The show, called FUSED, is curated by Melissa Rigby, the Chairman of the British Society of Enamellers, and as described in  FLOW Gallery website “aims to challenge the pre-conceived ideas attached to enamel by questioning technique, process and aesthetic and to explore contemporary artist's voices within this ancient medium. “FUSED” brings together artists who use the traditional enamelling technique in new and exciting ways, creating a fresh visual language for this process. Their application of enamel gives an arresting beauty and unique patina to a diverse group of objects, panels and jewellery”.

I am myself fascinated by enamel and use it in my jewellery. This exhibition is the occasion for me to reflect on this technique and on what I would call: “the contemporary enamel paradox”. Using enamel is generally associated with three main characteristics: the possibility of adding colour to metal, the pursuit of a smooth, vitreous surface and a high level of technical skill. However, looking at the works displayed in the FUSED exhibition, I saw mainly white or colourless pieces, rough or granulated surfaces and an apparent lack of highly skilled techniques. Does it mean that enamel has to abandon its intrinsic characteristics to be labelled “contemporary”?

 Out of 14 artists exhibited, 10 are using white enamel: some of them exclusively, some of them in the majority of their pieces. One artist is using silver and gold leaf and one is using over-firing brownish tones. The colour is predominant in only two artists’ work. Why should artists using a medium supposed to enhance colour not take advantage of this defining property?
A first clue to this contradiction can be found in the use of new alternative materials in contemporary jewellery. Enamel, coral and gemstones were produced and developed for the sake of colour, but today you can achieve coloured pieces with plastic, resin, powder coating or every kind of material available. Therefore, making a statement about colour is no longer a good enough reason to use enamel nowadays.
Another possible explanation might be the cultural and social value of colour itself. In his book “Chromophobia” (Reaktion Books Ltd, 2000), David Batchelor writes: ”chromophobia manifests itself in the many and varied attempts to purge colour from culture, to devalue colour, to diminish its significance, to deny its complexity”. He sees two main reasons to this trend: “in one, colour is regarded as alien and therefore dangerous; in the other, it is perceived merely as a secondary quality of experience, and thus unworthy of serious consideration. Colour is dangerous, or it is trivial, or it is both”. He then goes one step further: “to this day, there remains a belief, often unspoken perhaps but equally often unquestioned, that seriousness in art and culture is a black-and-white issue, that depth is measured only in shades of grey”. As enamel is suffering from an “out of fashion” and what I usually call a “Faberge Egg” syndrome (I have noticed that enamel is commonly associated with those objects), contemporary practices may have been contaminated by this “chromophobia” and are maybe willing to step away from colours in order to gain seriousness and to clearly distance themselves from more traditional enamel works, which are usually very colourful.

Here are some pictures of the white works exhibited in FUSED:

Carole Bauer. Photo FLOW. Courtesy of the gallery.

Karin Johansson  Photo FLOW. Courtesy of the gallery.

Lydia feast. Photo FLOW. Courtesy of the gallery.

A similar comment can be made about surfaces and textures, and I was struck by the fact that very few works displayed featured the smooth, vitreous and shiny aspect that we usually associate with enamel works. Again, artists seem to refuse the diktat of the good practices of enamel (the ones you find in books, websites or the ones you learn during workshops) to use this technique in a more experimental way.

Stacey Bentley is inspired by urban scenery and she explores the new possibilities of industrial liquid enamel. Her pieces are textured and grainy:
Stacey Bentley. Photo FLOW. Courtesy of the gallery.

Evangeline Long is inspired by corrugated metal structures and she over-fires enamel to achieve some aspects of erosion:
Evangeline Long. Photo FLOW. Courtesy of the gallery.

Kirsty Brown explores the deterioration of once treasured objects and applies enamel in layers over fabrics:
Kirsty Brown. Photo Isabelle Busnel.

Monochrome works, highly textured and rough pieces: this exhibition requires to be open-minded and to put aside pre-conceived ideas about enamel.

The last characteristic I would like to mention is the generally high level of skill demanded by enamel techniques. In FUSED, no specific manual dexterity was obvious, no technique was breath taking. But it doesn’t mean that those works didn’t require high skills. The artist Jessica Turrell has recently completed a three-year research fellowship entitled “Innovation in Vitreous Enamel Surfaces for Jewellery”. The project was hosted by the Enamel Research Unit at the University of the West of England, Bristol and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (Project Website). The initial stage of her project involved a comprehensive and wide-ranging visual and literature survey that reviewed the work of 175 jewellers from all around the world, and for whom enamel forms a significant element of their practice. Work was then allocated to one of three main categories:
  • “Skilled (fine)
Broadly work that concentrates on traditional enamelling techniques to create work for a main- stream or commercial market.
  • New
Where the work itself engages with contemporary ideas but where enamel is used simply to add a paint-like layer of colour to the surface of the piece using only basic techniques.
  •  Innovative
Where the two practices overlap and the artist is able to demonstrate both a knowledge and understanding of the material and a desire to use enamel to explore contemporary aesthetics and concerns”.

Her survey findings give a very interesting panorama of contemporary enamel today: “There appears to be a divide between enamel work that is produced with high levels of skill but that essentially makes no reference to contemporary preoccupations, and enamel work that strives to be innovative in and of itself but which operates from an impoverished skill base and therefore often fails to exploit the expressive potential of the material”. And she adds that: “only a small number of British jewellers were identified whose enamel work fitted within the innovative criteria”.

I personally think that the artists featured in the exhibition FUSED belong to the innovative categories. And maybe the paradox I was seeing, where enamel has to abandon its intrinsic characteristics (colours, vitreous and smooth surfaces and apparent high level of skill) to be labelled contemporary is not a paradox but only a logical evolution of a technique that aims to make reference to contemporary practices.
For example, instead of considering white as a non-colour, we can see it as an aesthetic experience. White is a fascinating colour (and I personally share this point of view. See my posts on White) and the vitreous aspect of enamel makes it particularly versatile and interesting. In his article “In the midst of colour. Reflection on colour’s inescapable presence” (published in Metalsmith Vol 29,No 4), Jamie Bennett says: “Once a coloured material is no longer a given property of jewellery or metal, and now results from a conscious decision, we must understand the impact of that choice”. He then says: “Colour both expresses an idea and stands as an embodied idea […] and it remains an opportunity beyond framed language and social conditions”. In that case, using white enamel is part of the artist’s statement and is used to convey ideas, messages or aesthetic considerations. 

Astrid Keller in her plates and vessels reproduces the traces left by the way people handle objects. She applies fine lines on the white surface to give the impression of an old object:
Astrid Keller. Photo Isabelle Busnel.

Helen Carnac is fascinated with mark-making, uses the metal as a “white page” to experiment with lines and draws onto the industrial enamel surfaces using sgrafito techniques:
Helen Carnac. Photo Isabelle Busnel.

Kye-Yeon Son explores positive and negative spaces through her branch structures. White enamel allows her to play with shadows and emphasizes the positive/negative game:
Kye-Yeon Son. Photo FLOW. Courtesy of the Gallery.

Same arguments can be used regarding surfaces and textures: until recently, enamel’s surfaces were exclusively smooth and shiny but contemporary artists have discovered the endless potentialities of this technique and they use enamel to explore contemporary aesthetics:

Kirsten Haydon has found a new process to create reflective surfaces by mixing vitreous enamel and road marking beads. The beads are fired into the surface of the enamel at high temperatures:
Kirsten Haydon. Photo FLOW. Courtesy of the Gallery.

Helen Carnac bowls are obtained by firing the enamel only once, then areas of the panels are ground and abraded to a matt finish in places, allowing the steel substrate to oxidise naturally, creating new relationships with the enamel: 
Helen Carnac. Photo Isabelle Busnel.

Even if chance, surprise and randomness can play a role in the process of making, all those artists demonstrate a high knowledge and understanding of the material. The work sometimes looks simple and effortless but it generally requires a high level of skills.

Although there might be an apparent paradox in contemporary enamel, where artists consciously or unconsciously reject characteristics associated with traditional enamel (colours, surfaces and skills) to exist as contemporary artists, I believe it is not mainly that motivation that drives the enamellers featured in the exhibition FUSED:  works clearly belong to Jessica Turrell’s categories of “innovative”, where understanding of the material and desire to use enamel to explore contemporary aesthetics and concerns are the main originality of those artists.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011


I knew at first glance I was in front of a fascinating object when I met this pigeon at COLLECT 2010 in the Lesley Craze Gallery space. Let me introduce you to “Io ce l’ho d’oro” by the French artist Benjamin Lignel:

Io ce l’ho d’oro, 2007. Photo Enrico Bartolucci, Paris. Courtesy of the artist

This work is labelled as:
“Io ce l'ho d'oro (yeah...but mine's gold)” 2007
Beak extension for pigeon 

Fine gold 
6,5 x 3,4 x 3,4 cm

Benjamin Lignel describes it as “an experiment on the ambivalent use of accessories to either mock, or ape, the demeanour of our betters”.

This project is a perfect illustration of Benjamin’s artist statement: trained in philosophy and literature, then art history at New York University, he then graduated in furniture Design at the Royal College of Art, London. This gave him an “interest in the functional object, complicated by a penchant for art, and further perverted by sustained exposures to literary works”.
His approach is design-led and offers an “alternative to our craft-based profession: as an extended family of individual objects that hope to tackle specific aspects of body adornment - with little concern for overall stylistic or technical homogeneity”. (Klimt02 website)

One specific aspect of body adornment that Benjamin is researching thoroughly in his last projects is to describe “the changes and exchanges that the body tolerates, that its owner submits it to, sometimes encourages.” He doesn’t like the word series (as he prefers to remain more ambiguous and address several themes at once in his projects) but the pigeon is part of a family of projects that tackle this subject of body’s alteration. In his publication “Benjamin Lignel / Comic Book” (self-published, second édition, June 2010) he writes: “While plastic surgery presupposes an ideal body type it strives to emulate, it in fact establishes a completely new aesthetic genre. Thus modified features can, and often do, convey something other than their intended message. This effect is never as strong as when surgery somehow misses the ‘natural effect’ (a contradiction in terms, some would say) and hits upon a super-natural effect: forms that are both excessive and idiosyncratic, common and strange.”

Other projects revolving around this theme include:

Gold Lingam, a project developed in response to Ruudt Peters’ invitation extended to over 100 artists to re-interpret this votive representation of the Hindu god Shiva.
Benjamin Lignel describes it as “an educational toy for the 21st century man

 Lingam, the collapsible version, 2009. Photo Enrico Bartolucci, Paris. Courtesy of the artist

Lingam, the short collapsible version, 2009. Photo Enrico Bartolucci, Paris. Courtesy of the artist

Getting old sucks : this piece was short-listed by Chi Ha Paura in 2010 for its ‘Body stories’ collection (it did not make it to the final selection of pieces produced by CHP) .
Benjamin describes it as “Brooches for mammal in the p.m., worn to signal some things other than protracted youth: feed, sag, and pride. (The pair)”.

Getting old sucks, 2006-07. Photo Joel Degen, London (still life) and Elene Usdin, Paris (portrait). Courtesy of the artist

The ‘Post-Columbian gold’ series was developed towards ‘Ultrabarocco’,  an exhibition curated by Valeria Vallarta Siemelink as part of the Walk the Grey Area project (Mexico, May 2010). It was showcased alongside a headgear by another artist, Alex Burke, which completed the installation. Each piece was displayed in lieu of the body part it was supposed to enhance…This series take its cue from “both contemporary corrective practices, and pre-columbian gold ornaments - anthropomorphic add-ons which suggested a somewhat improved version of reality”. Another project, “Redecoration II” follows a similar idea and was displayed at COLLECT 2010 next to the pigeon: I presume that “Redecoration II” is the feminine counterpart of the beak extension for pigeon

Post-columbian gold (facebow), 2010.
Post-columbian gold (pads),2010
Post-columbian gold (sheath),2010
Photo Enrico Bartolucci, Paris. Courtesy of the artist

Redecoration II, 2010. Photo Enrico Bartolucci, Paris. Courtesy of the artist

So having set the context of the beak extension for pigeon, let’s go back to it. While I find those explorations about body alteration very interesting, my heart goes first for the mocking bird.
Several layers of meaning can be found in this installation: first the title “Yeah, but mine’s gold” refers to men’s tendency to show off and to compare themselves with others (physically but also through material goods). I questioned Benjamin and he confirmed that the pigeon was male and that this detail was of great importance. Then the verbs in the subtitle have also been carefully chosen: to mock or ape. “This dual dynamic”, Benjamin tells me, “echoes mediaeval parodic practices as exemplified by mystery plays, and their reversal of the established order and values. Grotesque was an important element of these plays, in which, actors dressed to look like the social elite – the lord and the clergy – at its most caricatural took a trip down the gutter”. Here the artist has chosen a pigeon, which is a nondescript bird, a kind of city’s vermin, to convey his message, and if you look closely to the beak, it is aimed to look like an eagle’s beak, one of the most noble and majestic birds on earth…

Photo Enrico Bartolucci, Paris. Courtesy of the artist

The verb “to ape” has been chosen by the artist to convey another idea: here he talks about social hierarchy and the fact that humans tend to emulate the social class they aspire to join. So there are different meanings possible and as a viewer you can make your choice: is this pigeon mocking or aping the eagle?
The use of gold is important too: if you want to climb the social ladder, you might use visible signs like gold or expensive accessories. Gold is fascinating and spectacular. This beak is made in fine gold and the artist has made a “sport” version of it in 9-carat gold, still precious but more casual. And this beak is longer, strapped on the back of the head like a baseball cap and is worn by a blackbird… I personally find the idea to make a subtle variation of the pigeon’s beak extension brilliant!

Io ce l’ho d’oro (sport), 2009. Photo Enrico Bartolucci, Paris. Courtesy of the artist

I really don’t know which one I prefer: the defiant pigeon or the slender blackbird…  But they work very well together and are usually displayed in pairs.

It brings the question of the display of such a work. As this “experiment” navigates loosely between art, design and craft disciplines, the environment in which the birds are displayed can give rise to different interpretation of the work. The first time I saw the pigeon was at COLLECT. It was displayed on the wall, highly perched, pairing with the blackbird sport version, with “Redecoration II” standing in the middle.

Photo Benjamin Lignel, courtesy of the artist

This was, I think, too formal and had a “Museum-like” feeling. The connection between the pieces was also not obvious and the birds looked somehow lifeless. The mocking part of the message was, in my mind, also missing.

The birds travelled to another exhibition called “Under the Counter” by the artists collective “Intelligent Trouble” (website). Through the work of five artists the exhibition called “Jewellery conversation” sought to explore jewellery’s communicative role and potential in a wider social field.
The pigeon was therefore in conversation with the other pieces of the exhibition and he was standing on the top of a blackboard.

Photos from Intelligent Trouble website

I think this display was far more successful as the pigeon was integrated in the decorum as if it just landed here by mistake. And with a closer look, one could discover it was wearing a golden beak.

According to Benjamin Lignel, the most successful display so far was on show at Galerie Jungblut, where he had his first solo show last November. There, he put the two birds on top of white columns two meters high:

Photo Benjamin Lignel, courtesy of the artist

Here the birds majestically overlook visitors in their grandeur and they really are showing off. The white cube surroundings gives an Art Gallery feeling.

The last display I would like to mention is my favourite: Benjamin Lignel and 8 other artists have been invited by “Le Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, Paris” (Hunting and Nature Museum) to place their work in the permanent collection of the museum. The theme of the exhibition was: “Ghosts hunting” and people were asked to stay alert and be prepared to unusual encounters.

Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, Paris. Photo Enrico Bartolucci, courtesy of the artist.

The pigeon can easily be missed – nothing apart from the beak itself, indicated a status different from that of its surrounding - but if you spotted it, you could almost hear it whisper: “Yeah, but mine’s gold!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011


If you go to SCHMUCK in Munich this year don’t miss the Dialogue Collective exhibition (for those who are not familiar with SCHMUCK, it is the oldest exhibition of contemporary jewellery work in the world and it takes place since 1959 every year during the Munich International Trade Fair in March).

The exhibition is called DIALOGUE X and will be housed in a working foundry.

Photos from the Dialogue Collective blog

The press release states that Dialogue Collective is “a group of artists with a passion for Jewellery and Silversmithing in the broadest sense of these two disciplines. The Dialogue Collective consists of makers with a direct connection to London Metropolitan University aka The Cass, and invited guests. The remit is to develop new ways to create and show Jewellery and Silversmithing through making and discussion, bringing contemporary jewellery to new audiences”. (Dialogue Collective Blog)

It sounded promising but I wanted to know more: I had the opportunity to take part in one of their meetings and asked some basic questions: why a collective? How do they function? How do they develop new ways of making, thinking, showing?

I was greeted with a glass of wine and some nibbles and the first thing I noticed was that those artists seem to have a genuine pleasure to work together. They insist on the fact they like to be in a group where people mix socially and where everybody knows each other’s work quite intimately. “It is like carrying on the excitement we had in college” says one of them. The connection is the London Metropolitan University though everyone can bring friends. But a condition is to be like-minded and “not too commercial” as this group aims to be innovative and to support artists that are stepping out of the usual jewellery and silversmithing’s comfort zone. They usually meet every week and one of them noticed, “Working on a bench on your own can be very solitary. Every time I go to a Dialogue meeting I come out feeling very positive”. What I found very refreshing with this collective is that they don’t take themselves too seriously: they are aware that Dialogue won’t bring them immediate fame and money but there is real group dynamics in the way they support each other’s projects and in the way they try to develop new ways to create and show their work.

Dialogue Collective at work. Photo Isabelle Busnel

They usually work with set briefs. One of their previous exhibitions has been inspired by Delia Smith’s classic book “Complete Cookery Course”, and last year each member received a different secret present in the post as a starting point for their inspiration. For Munich 2011, each artist was given a brown bag of ten random directions. Their starting point on the map was Charing Cross and they all arrived at ten different locations in central London individually following their own ten directions. The final location for each was the starting point for the members’ own interpretation of their finished pieces for this show.
I then asked some of the group’s members how this “Treasure Hunt” did inspire their work. Interestingly, they all responded in very different ways. Two of them focussed on the feelings they had throughout their journey. One felt paranoid as he had the impression that he behaved strangely and that everybody was staring at him: his work includes CCTV features, hidden people… Another one felt uncomfortable during the journey and was happy to end by the river: her work is about the pleasure to end up in a pleasant environment. Some artists of the collective are storytellers and their work is about their journey. One of them ended up where she started and felt like “Hansel and Gretel” lost in the forest: her work will deal with the “circle as life” metaphor and will feature lamps, shades and bulbs going on and off. The other artist noticed everything that happened during her journey and her imaginative character “The Flying Fish Commando” will tell this story thanks to objects created for the exhibition. Another artist ended up in front of a free mason building and the outcome is a “range of exotically weird, bizarre creatures that move with articulated precision constructed with Masonic exactitude”. The last interviewed member collected discarded objects she found on her way and transformed them into pieces of jewellery, giving them another life.
Obviously this “treasure hunt” was a very efficient way of arousing the members’ creativity and I was wondering how important those briefs are for the group. It appeared that they all like working with them as they feel certain nostalgia for the briefs they had to follow when they were in college. In real life, you are on your own and you have to set your own brief and it might be sometimes frustrating. And as their works are all very different, briefs are also a way of connecting them and making things more interesting by responding to a common theme in many different ways.

Works inspired by the Treasure Hunt. Photos Isabelle Busnel

I was convinced that group dynamics and set briefs are very interesting and challenging ways to stimulate creativity but I was then curious to learn on how the collective Dialogue actually tries to develop new ways “to show jewellery and silversmithing […] and to bring them to new audience”.
One of their favourite themes seems to be the over-discussed / never-answered debate about: is it Craft or is it Art? But again they don’t take it too seriously. They are convinced there is no wall between the two but if acknowledged, things will become boring, as everything will be “grey”. As one needs black and white, they prefer to think there is a wall that they can climb or jump over…. I felt again a certain kind of nostalgia in this argument reminding me my time as a student when you could debate all night in the hope to change the world…
What seems to interest them is not to formulate answers but to debate about this “wall” and to test its limits. Therefore they seem to use different strategies: in their previous project Dialogue 9, they set a Pop Up jewellery shop showcasing “jewellery by members of the collective alongside an invited group of London based designers, all set the challenge to design and produce pieces of jewellery to retail for £20. Timed to coincide with London Jewellery Week, the event showed work by established makers alongside that of new designers and was focused on introducing contemporary jewellery to a wider audience”.  (Pop Up Shop Webpage)

Pop Up Shop June 2010. Photo Julia Patterson from the Dialogue Collective Website.

The experiment was a great success and Dialogue was very pleased with people’s reactions: set in Columbia Road, the shop attracted a varied audience, interesting feedbacks and they sold many pieces.

In Munich, they will display their work in a working foundry. They have already used this space for their 2010 SCHMUCK exhibition Dialogue 9. I have been there once in 2009 and I must confess the place is amazing and unique: the place is full of tools, dust and is lit with some spare bulbs coming from a very high ceiling.

SCHMUCK 2010. The Foundry. Photos from the Dialogue Collective Website

Dialogue Collective will separate this intangible environment in 3 different spaces: “Shoppery”, “Xhibition” and a space for games. Shoppery is a contraction of “shop” and “gallery” and has been thought as a hybrid space to play with the differences between a shop and a gallery. Each artist will display 2 collections: one for the Shoppery and one for the Xhibition. The first will feature repetition, price tags and less space where the second one will bear the usual codes of a gallery space. Is it Art or is it Craft? What is a shop and what is a gallery? Those are amongst the questions the collective wants to address to the public through those displays and people’s reactions will be invaluable clues.
The third space will be dedicated to games and this raised my scepticism: why games? Do they need games to attract people? Are games related to the exhibited pieces? Won’t it be confusing?
According to the Collective, for Art to work, it needs 3 components: the makers, the audience and the facilitators (shop, gallery, critics etc). And they consider games as a way of engaging the audience, of “facilitating” the contact between visitors and artworks. People will come to the foundry, maybe slightly intimidated, they will play simple games (like throwing paper planes in a bucket) and they will then feel at ease, ready to wander again through the different displays. And maybe they will see things they didn’t see the first time. That’s the whole idea. Again, it is not pretentious, just fun, easy and down to earth.

I am really interested to see how people will react to the three different spaces in Munich. I have asked Dialogue Collective to gather as much information as possible: pictures, people’s reactions, audience feedback and we have agreed to meet again soon to debrief. Rendezvous in a few weeks…

Tuesday, 1 March 2011


When researching for my Master, I realized that rounded objects and shapes endlessly attracted me. Something visceral was going on but what exactly?

The book “Emotional Design” by Donald A. Norman (Basic Books, 2005) gives an interesting insight. His theory is that humans have powerful brain mechanisms for accomplishing things, for creating and for acting and that these human attributes “result from three different levels of the brain: the automatic prewired layer called the visceral level; the part that contains the brain processes that control everyday behaviour, known as the behavioural level; and the contemplative part of the brain or the reflective level.” The visceral level is “pre-consciousness, pre-thought… It is about the initial impact of a product, about its appearance, touch and feel”. The behavioural level is “about use, experience with a product.”… And “interpretation, understanding and reasoning come from the reflective level.” Each level plays a different role in the overall functioning of people. In his book, Norman shows that emotion and cognition work in tandem as we relate to products. He asserts that the emotional side of design is more critical than its practical elements and that attractive products work better.
We humans evolved to coexist in the environment of other humans, animals, plants, landscapes, weather and other natural phenomena” says Donald A Norman. “As a result, we are exquisitely tuned to receive powerful emotional signals from the environment that get interpreted automatically at the visceral level”. And as John Ruskin has written in “The seven lamps of architecture (Adamant Media Corporation, 2000): “all perfectly beautiful forms must be composed of curves; since there is hardly any common natural form in which it is possible to discover a straight line”. That is why I think that rounded and curvy shapes play at the visceral level and the reason might be as well, according to Natalie Augier (Woman: an intimate geography, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1999) because the first thing we see when we are born is “our mother ‘s face…human faces are round”; or, “it may have all began with fruits…fruit is round”…or our “reverence for light? The sources of all light, the sun and the moon are round”?

But I had the confirmation that something was definitively happening with rounded shapes and objects when I read the last chapter of Gaston Bachelard’s book “The poetics of space” (Beacon Press,1994). This chapter is called “The phenomenology of roundness” and one has to pause here to understand what phenomenology means: “in its most basic form, phenomenology attempts to create conditions for the objective study of topics usually regarded as subjective: consciousness and the content of conscious experiences such as judgments, perceptions, and emotions.”. (Wikipedia).

I this chapter, Bachelard is quoting
  •     Karl Jasper, a philosopher: “Every being seems in itself round”,
  •     Van Gogh a painter: “Life is probably round”,
  •     Joe Bousquet, a poet: “ He had been told that life was beautiful. No! Life is round
  •     and La Fontaine, an inventor of fables: “A walnut makes me quite round
to justify the interest for a phenomenological enquiry such as roundness. According to Bachelard, “such images bear the mark of primitivity […] and do not stem from any earlier experience.[…]. If we submit to the hypnotic power of such expressions, suddenly we find ourselves entirely in the roundness of this being”. 
So when Bachelard speaks about primitivity or hypnotic power, we are quite close from the emotional design of Donald A Norman. Bachelard states thateverything round invites a caress” or “images of full roundness help us to collect ourselves, permit us to confer an initial constitution on ourselves and to confirm our being intimately, inside”. And Bachelard writes about a poem from Rilke “in this rounded landscape, everything seems to be in repose. The round being propagates its roundness, together with the calm of all roundness”.

Therefore, theories about emotional design and phenomenology of roundness confirmed that rounded shapes and objects had a particular effect on human brain and that we might be viscerally attracted to them.

And this is why a category of objects called “Blobjects” fascinates me as I am convinced that this design concept is a perfect visual implementation of the “phenomenology of roundness” described by Bachelard.

But what is a Blobject ?
A Blobject is a design product, often a household object, distinguished by smooth flowing curves, bright colors, and an absence of sharp edges. The word […] is a contraction of "blob" and "object."
The origin of the term is disputed, but it is often attributed to either the designer-author Steven Skov Holt or the designer Karim Rashid. Author and design journalist Phil Patton attributed the word to Holt in 1993 in Esquire magazine”. (Wikipedia)

Cover of the book Blobjects & Beyond (Google Images)

Blobby objects of every kind were grouped for an exhibition in 2005 at the San Jose Museum of Art under the title: Blobjects & Beyond: the New Fluidity in Design. In the book accompanying the exhibition (Steven Skov Holt and Mara Holt Skov, Chronicle books, 2005) Holt describes a Blobject as a designed object that brings together several of the following qualities: “a pleasing plasticity of fluid form, a delicious sense of colour, a chance to exist at any scale, a heightened sense of flowing materiality and a powerful connection to our emotions, including a strong optimistic tendency”. According to him, a Blobject is “always inviting, it encourages touch and interaction and it responds with softness of form, material and experience”… 
Here are some everyday examples of Blobjects:

Philou Shampoo (Google Images)

Selfridges Birmingham (Google Images)

Lava Lamp (Google Images)

Volkswagen Beetle (Google Images)

Karim Rashid is one of the key figures of Blobject design and in his book “I want to change the world” (Univers , 2001) he defines his work as “soft, friendly organic forms communicating tactility and expressing a strong visual comfort and pleasure” and aims to create “products and furniture that must engage our emotional lives and increase the popular imagination and experience”.

Here are some visual examples of Karim Rashid’s Blobjects :

 Karim Rashid, Zontik Umbrella Stand

Karim Rashid, Orgy Sofa

 Karim Rashid, Blobulus Chair

I don’t know if this Blobulus Chair will change my life but I particularly like it as it seems to be a perfect illustration of Bachelard’s quote: “The round being propagates its roundness, together with the calm of all roundness”…And when I look at it, I really feel like curling up on it…