A manic month

Since the last week of September, my life has felt like a blur. First helping out with the craziness that is Freshers’ Week, then barely recovering from that before saying yes to what life threw at me and ending up in a new job! Since coming back to Nottingham I’ve been sofa-surfing while getting to grips with my new role. I don’t know how I would have done this without some great friends who not only gave me a place to stay but put up with my ranting and scatty-mindedness!

Thankfully things are now settling down; I have a place to live, have slowly been instilling order in my new job and finally I’ve had some time to settle in and make my new room feel like home. Now I can’t wait to visit all the places in Nottingham that I’ve been missing!

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I feel a bit like I’ve come full circle. I’m back to the same great organisation and city I love. My next challenge is to crack on with grad scheme applications!

Getting reacquainted with my sewing machine

I am not someone who can survive sitting in front of a computer 24/7. Don’t get me wrong I spend half my life on the internet, but I also need some practical activities to stay sane. When I first started university and they broke the news to me that moodboards were now to be done on Photoshop without any glue or scissors in sight, it broke me heart. That’s why I joined Knitting Society and eventually taught myself to crochet(ish). With jobhunting mainly being online and my mum’s birthday coming up, I decided this was the perfect time to get reacquainted with my sewing machine!

A few months ago I’d fallen in love with a kimono Naida Crystal had posted on her blog (click here!) and the patternless instructions seemed so simple for such a nice garment. Thinking about what my mum wears, I decided to experiment a little and make a more wintery kimono, something she can throw on to go to work or town and not look too out of season. I found this lavender herringbone fabric in our local shop and knew it was perfect straight away, a bit thicker but with a lovely drape. I won’t lie, some of the seams were a bit tricky due to the thickness, and as this was the first time I’ve added lace edging the finishing is a bit haphazard, but overall I’m pretty happy with it. Most importantly, mum liked it too, and within 5 mins she’d found found the perfect brooch to pin it up with!

If I made a smartwatch…

Was I the only person who found the Apple Watch underwhelming? After so much speculation, I thought it would at least be beautiful in comparison to the chunky competitors which look like toy watches for 6 year old boys. But it’s just a tiny iPhone. Fair enough you can customise the clockface and have a few choices of straps, but everyone’s will still look the same overall. The payment option seems to be the biggest innovation, but do we really need to pay with our watches? With smartwatches in general there seems to be the need to fill them with as many functions as possible, even if there is a more suitable device. For example, if we are as surgically attached to our phones as recent studies show, do we need another device, and a smaller more uncomfortable one at that, which can make phonecalls and send messages? The same goes for mobile payment. If we’re soon going to be using our phones for this are we really so lazy that we can’t even reach into our pocket? Seems more innovation for the sake of it rather than in reaction to a need. A few of the other functions also erred on the side of the downright creepy. Sending vibrations and your heart beat to other people?!

With that in mind, I decided to have a look into what else is on offer, and think about what I would do if I was in charge. Looks-wise Google’s Android Wear options already bypass Apple for me as there is more than one shape to choose from. Pebble’s e-ink screen wins on battery life, but Apple’s wireless charging means there’s no need for a USB port. In terms of functions, nothing really stands out and most seem overpopulated with things I don’t think I need a watch to do.

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The main thing that caught me was the style of the watches, or lack thereof. A few years ago we did a university project designing a wearable activity tracking device, and maybe it’s because we were fashion students, but a lot of our research focused on aesthetics. I don’t know about the rest of the world but I always thought a watch was 75% decorative and 25% function. It’s something people wear every day, it has to go with every outfit and not go out of fashion for many years. Quite frankly I think nearly all smartwatches fail every single one of these points!

In my mind, smartwatches should:

Be as customisable as possible. While more work would be involved in adapting the user interface for different base shapes, changing watch straps is definitely an easy way to let people choose a watch which suits them. In theory there should be no limit on styles, the same way you can buy custom phone cases with family photos printed on them.

Not just replicate ALL phone functions. We already have better technology for communication, do we really need another device constantly keeping us connected? Instead focus on time and activity; calender reminders telling you where you should be, helping you track and improve your activity and telling you when a traffic jam develops on your usual route.

Not be dependant on a phone. Apple is obsessed with locking things down. How about a smartwatch where everything is done through an online account. You log in and sync it to whatever calender you want, set what you want it to track and connect your travelcards.

Make use of new tech that hasn’t yet been fully exploited, where is the innovation that will make smartwatches stand out? Wireless charging is a must, no one is in the habit of plugging their watches in every night. NFC is the other area where I think smartwatches could set the standard. Imagine walking into a room, tapping an NFC sticker and your lights/ heating/ music react to a certain setting? Or even in the future using them as a digital key, which with fingerprint recognition would unlock your car/ house/ safe? So many possibilities! Yes your phone could also do these things but if you’re wearing your watch there isn’t even the need to search through your pockets.

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Do you really need that upgrade?

I love clever ideas. It doesn’t matter what industry they’re in or what they’re about, some things just make you go ‘That is brilliant’. The most important thing my degree course taught me was to connect the dots between current affairs, consumer behaviour and cultural trends. Without understanding the context of where brand activity is happening, I don’t think it will connect with consumers naturally and they just won’t buy into it. This way of connecting the dots and tapping into our lives seems to be the thing great ideas have in common.

To keep my brain ticking while I’m jobhunting, I’ve decided to put one of my many notebooks to good use. The rules are simple, I get a double page to think of an answer to a question that has been bugging me. One side to find two possible routes and remind myself of any relevant news I’ve seen, and the other to brainstorm ideas. Having had to change my phone twice in the last few weeks due to technical issues (if a phone can’t make phonecalls is it still a phone?), and the reading all the discussion from the latest Apple announcements, I started thinking about our obsession with upgrades, do we really need them? I was adamant I wasn’t changing my phone until I was forced to, not only could I not be bothered with setting up all my apps and homescreens again, but I just couldn’t think of what massive difference the latest one would have that would be worth it. I don’t think this game of technological one-upmanship is healthy for us, let alone our planet.

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One of my doodly sketches made me think of an idea I had for the National Trust D&AD brief, about putting down the tech and seeing what’s around you. Having just seen the IKEA bookbook spoof (genius) I thought about putting nature in the language and context of smartphones. The strange thing is if you change the words I think it could well be an advert for a smartphone, telling you how your phone gives you the freedom to explore/share/monitor, instead of the telling you to take the time to think/see/breathe.

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Background from National Geographic wallpapers

 

Phyllida Barlow at the Tate Britain

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While looking for inspiration on Pinterest (again) I came across some pictures of Phyllida Barlow’s work, and realised I never got around to writing about her installation at the Tate Britain. In my mind the Tate Britain isn’t known for large-scale contemporary installations, that’s more the Modern’s territory, it sticks to British works of historical importance. Imagine my surprise when I walked in and was confronted by the most impressive and immersive installation I have ever seen…

Located in the Duveen galleries, dock is her largest work, a sprawling landscape of wood with neon highlights. I didn’t expect it to be so large, but every time I turned a corner there was more. Walking through you realise things are placed as obstacles you have to work around. Taking the meandering route through meant more time to absorb it all , walking under and around pieces you see new sides to them you wouldn’t have had they just been lined up against the wall.

When you look closer you realise the materials are nothing special, just scraps and things you might find at the dump, but when put together like this they are impressive in a way that transports you to another world. A bit of a dangerous world, some of them gave the impression that they could cave at any moment.

I’ve never experienced a  work that felt like walking through a landscape. I loved everything about dock, from the bright colours to its chaotic intricacy. It made me feel like a child, wanting to climb and build forts, and changed my opinion of the Tate Britain no end.

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Having seen the space evolve over several decades, I’m very excited by the opportunity to work in the Duveen Galleries. Considering a body of new work, I was very conscious of two particular contradictory aspects: the tomb-like interior galleries against the ever-present aspect of the river beyond.
Phyllida Barlow, Tate Britain website

Seville

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Seville’s Moorish heritage in all it’s intricate glory

The highlight of our holiday for me was Seville, the capital of Andalusia, full of Moorish heritage and astoundingly detailed architecture. Although the 40 degree heat hits you as you soon as you get out of the car, it didn’t stop us exploring. First stop the Cathedral. Having seen quite a few cathedrals this year, I’ve become a bit desensitised and it takes something special to impress. While English ones might be winning on overall architecture and stony grandeur, they have nothing on the detail and opulence of Catholic European cathedrals. The main altar was basically a wall of gold. My favourite thing about the cathedral however was it’s historical quirk, the belltower. The Giralda actually began life as a minaret for the mosque which originally stood on the site. Considering the divide there seems to currently be between the two religions, I like the fact that it has served as an important landmark for both.

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The Giralda, one tower, two religions

Our second stop was truly unmissable. The Alcazar is the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe, with a history starting in the 1300s. My photos in no way do it justice. The level of intricate decoration in practically every room is insane. With so many different parts added on over time, walking around you see the rooms change as you enter a new period of it’s history. Not a member of my family left here without their mind blown in amazement.

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Just a doorway, not even a grand entrance doorway

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Looking at this wall I can only think of those games where you have to rearrange the tiles, impossible…

The gardens were no less impressive than the palace, every time you turned a corner you’d stumble upon a tile covered pavilion or water feature. Despite the heat everything was stunningly green, and with the plants and trees obviously being different to the ones we were used to by the coast, it felt like we’d ended up somewhere far more exotic than Spain. Oddly enough it was 2 hours away from the sea that Africa felt closest.

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Beautiful ceramics everywhere, even on the ground

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My favourite view of the gardens, a walkway fit for royalty

Although it’s a close call, our final landmark was definitely my favourite. After a long day in the heat we practically had to drag ourselves there, but when we got to the Plaza de Espana it was completely worth it. It fits so beautifully with the rest of the old town that I couldn’t believe it was only built in the 1930s. While the overall view was impressive it only really got amazing when you came closer and started noticing things like the tiled displays of all the provinces, and similarly painted lampposts. Being too tired to walk around the whole area we probably only took in about a 1/4 of this amazing public space, but it was nonetheless a beautiful way to end our day.

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The lake looked particularly appealing in the heat, shame the idea of rowing did not

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Ceramic ‘Alcoves of the Provinces’, all 48 unique

Our visit was mostly a whirlwind tour of the old town. Next time (because there will definitely be a next time) I would love to see more of the modern side of the city, the first thing on my list will be the Metropol Parasol.

Goodreads Challenge #7 – #19

As I mentioned, my holiday was a bit of a reading marathon (just the way I like it!) but I didn’t realise quite how much. It seems my Goodreads Challenge target of 25 books might not have been ambitious enough…

#7 – Innocent: The inside story told from the outside – John Simmons

It was strange reading about how the company has come from such modest beginnings to being owned by Coca Cola. While I still love the smoothies, the packaging and the Big Knit, I think it’s taken a bit of the sheen off the brand for me.

#8 – 419 – Will Ferguson

A really interesting insight into the world of email scams. Despite it being fiction it feels like a balanced portrayal of both sides of the story.

#9 – Moranthology – Caitlin Moran

Perfect bite-sized chapters of Caitlin Moran’s columns to read when you need a pick me up! Made my first month of job hunting a little less painful.

#10-12 – Divergent Trilogy (Divergent, Insurgent, Allegient) – Veronica Roth

EMOTIONAL TURMOIL. Those are the only words I can think of to describe the conclusion to this trilogy. Not the mindless teenage fiction I was expecting (especially not after watching the terrible film adaptation), but a heart-wrenching love story set in a scary reality that could actually happen. I cried more than at the end of Fault in Our Stars…

#13 – How to Build a Girl – Caitlin Moran

While I love Caitlin Moran and it explicitly states the characters and situations aren’t based on real life, I can’t help but feel it sounds a bit too familiar. It is still a great, funny, coming of age book that makes you feel like life will be alright in the end, but the context is just a little similar to her writing about her upbringing to feel completely new and unread.

#14 – The Silkworm – Robert Galbraith (a.k.a JK Rowling!)

Only after months of listening to Spotify adverts for Robert Galbraith did I realise it is JK Rowling… As exciting, well-written and intriguing as Harry Potter, but then again I’ve always loved a good murder mystery.

#15 – Fault in Our Stars – John Green

I’m a little scared to admit I was a bit disappointed with this book for fear of being massively judged! While I liked reading about life from a teenage cancer sufferers perspective, the way the characters talked to each other really put me off and I found the language quite annoying. Whether it’s because of this or because it’s a fairly short book so there’s not really time to get invested in the relationship, there weren’t as many tears as expected at the end…

#16 – The Book Thief

After finding out the narrator of the book was Death I wasn’t sure how it was going to go, but it perfectly suited this portrayal of the Holocaust, showing the struggles and terrors 0f a single family as well as the terrible overall impact on humanity.

#17-19 – The Oslo Trilogy ( The Redbreast, Nemesis, Devil’s Star) – Jo Nesbo

Like I said, I love a good murder mystery, and these three were awesome. I’ve just figured out that the full Harry Hole series is actually 10 books so that’s the next month sorted!