Down the rabbit hole: Alice in Wonderland’s 150th anniversary

Happy New Year!

The time has come,” the walrus said, “to talk of many things: Of shoes and ships – and sealing wax – of cabbages and kings”

This new year, among other things, marks the 150th Anniversary of the classic story Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – more commonly known as Alice in Wonderland.

Alice in Wonderland the mad hatters tea partyThe Mad Hatter’s tea party, from the colour illustrated Nursery Alice, 1890 (source: British Library)

English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson – writing under the pseudonym, Lewis Carroll – wrote the story in 1865. It tells the tale of a girl named Alice who falls through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world populated by peculiar creatures. Full of philosophy and truisms, the absurdity of the plot and the strong underlying narrative plays with logic and is one of the best examples of the literary nonsense genre.

I knew who I was this morning, but I’ve changed a few times since then.”

Alice in wonderland www bl uk

Lewis Carroll, ’Alice’s Adventures Under Ground’ (source: British Library)

The anniversary will be marked in several ways by cultural institutions such as the British Library, which will loan the original handwritten illustrated manuscript for Alice in Wonderland to New York’s Morgan Library and Museum and the Rosenbach Museum of the Free Library of Philidelphia this year. The book, which bears its original title of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, was bought by an American dealer in 1928 and returned to Britain in 1948. Later on this year, the British Library will display the book as part of an exhibition marking the 150th anniversary since its 1865 publication.

In fact, there are nearly one hundred events in 10 countries, to mark the anniversary, including a few in Canada. Alice fans everywhere are being encouraged to create their own events, and list them on the official site.

louise-kirk-alice-in-wonderland-rabbit-placematThe White Rabbit by Louise Kirk (image courtesy of Avenida Home)

The fantastic characters created by Lewis Carroll have left a lasting impression and become enormously influential in popular culture and literature.

To mark the anniversary, artist Louise Kirk has created a series of designs that pay homage to Carroll’s characters – notably the King and Queen of Hearts, the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat and the White Rabbit.

Alice in wonderland image telegraph co ukLewis Carroll, ’Alice’s Adventures Under Ground’, 1865 (source: British Library)

Her designs have been translated in delightful homewares in the UK by Avenida Home, which has created an enticing collection of placemats, coaster and trays featuring characters and scenes from the book.

louise-kirk-alice-in-wonderland-queen-placematThe Queen of Hearts by Louise Kirk (image courtesy of Avenida Home)

The Mad Hatter by Louise Kirk (image courtesy of Avenida Home)
We have received our shipment of placemats, coasters and trays!
louise-kirk-alice-in-the-court-of-hearts-wooden-trayAlice in the Court of Hearts by Louise Kirk (image courtesy of Avenida Home)
Does this post conjure up any childhood memories for you?
Will you mark the 150th anniversary?
Let us know in the comments below, on Facebook, or on our Twitter or Instagram @galerieco!

Spectacular new kitsets launched by David Trubridge at Wanted Design

During New York Design Week this year (May 9-20) visitors to the Big Apple were spoiled for choice for interesting design venues, galleries and intriguing design events to attend. Not-to-be-missed is Wanted Design, held each year in the exceptional landmark Terminal Stores building on 11th Avenue in the meat-packing district. This is where CO designer David Trubridge has exhibited for the past four years – and his booth is always a highlight (pun intended, of course).

Wanted Design


This year there was a lot going on over the three-day show that was visited by over 10,000 design lovers. Trubridge and his team built a sumptuous booth anchored by a giant bespoke floor-to-ceiling tree-like canopy. He launched several new “Seed System” lighting kitsets, exhibited a couple of prototypes, showed us his new line of fine jewellery and presented a suite of furniture now available in build-it-yourself kitsets. Just another day in the life of David Trubridge!

Wanted144aDavid Trubridge in his booth at Wanted Design (Source: David Trubridge)

The idea of the Seed System build-it-yourself kitset is central to David Trubridge’s work. He lives and works in New Zealand where his small company is continually doing all it can to reduce its environmental footprint. Yet his clientele is global and Trubridge has determined that the most positive thing that his small company can do for the environment is to reduce the volume of freight that he transports around the world.

UnpackedKouraSeed System Koura pendant kitset (Source: David Trubridge)

Packaging and shipping a light as a kitset results in about 1/40th the volume of freight compared with shipping the same light, assembled. So the kitsets dramatically minimize the overall volume of freight being shipped out of David Trubridge  Ltd. Of course, shipping the kitsets (as opposed to the assembled lights) all the way from New Zealand also makes them more affordable.

SnowflakeIce2Snowflake (Source: David Trubridge)

The Seed System has therefore become an integral part of Trubridge’s design practice, which means a growing range of his iconic designs are becoming available as kitsets to be assembled by the end user. This year, some of Trubridge’s most spectacular designs were added to that list: the Sola and Snowflake pendant lights and the Swish light are now available as flat pack kitsets, launched at Wanted Design.


Swish kitset (Source: Galerie CO)

Trubridge also showcased his Pequod lightshade (in small and large), which mimics the ripples of the ocean using pieces of bamboo and polycarbonate.

IMG_20140517_160924“Pequod” lightshade (right) (Source: Galerie CO)

Alongside the new kitset offerings, Trubridge exhibited two prototype designs. The first, Hush, is a dome-shaped pendant light fashioned with a constellation of LED lights set above a layer of recycled polypropylene felt, chosen for its sound absorbing properties so it is effectively a light fixture that doubles as an acoustic device. The second prototype, Belle, is a new pendant and wall sconce made from overlapping bamboo pieces. Both Hush and Belle are formed with signature Trubridge modules of interlocking elements to allow for flat-pack shipping and assembly without tools.


Hush pendant (Source: David Trubridge)

Trubridge also exhibited a selection of indoor/outdoor furniture. His redesigned Ruth and Dondola rockers are now suitable for the outdoors, and can both also be supplied shipped as a flat pack kitset. The Ruth rocking chair was inspired by Australian designer Ruth McDermott with whom David Trubridge exhibited at the Milan Furniture Fair in his early years. She encouraged him to design a rocking chair, which he did, and he called it “Ruth”. Using the new kitset, Trubridge estimates that we can build our own “Ruth” in 20 to 30 minutes.


Ruth rocker, kitset (Source: David Trubridge)

The second kitset is the extraordinarily graceful rocker – Dondola. According to Trubridge, the name comes from the Italian word for rocker that, as a happy coincidence, rhymes with gondola, which also rocks gracefully as it transports its passengers around Venice.


Dondola rocker kitset (Souce: David Trubridge)

Mark your calendar for next year’s Wanted Design in NYC. It’s a design destination chock full of interesting exhibitors and there’s no reason to think that David Trubridge won’t be back for year 5 with a new crop of inspiring designs to lust after.

Colourful-Seed-System-Kitset-Bamboo-LightsCoulourful Coral and Floral kitset pendants (Source: David Trubridge)

They take New York…CO designers shine at the ICFF

Congratulations to CO designers NLXL and Ronel Jordaan for each winning one of the very prestigious ICFF Editors Awards over the weekend at New York’s 2014 International Contemporary Furniture Fair.

Every year, the ICFF convenes the industry’s top editors and invites them to scout the floor of the Jacob Javits Center to choose the best of the best of the year’s design crop. This year, the award for “Best Wallcovering” went to the small Dutch company NLXL for its latest collection of wallpaper, “Archives by Studio Job”.  The award for “Best Textiles” went to Ronel Jordaan Textiles from South Africa for her sublimely beautiful felt work.

NLXL All designs backdrop Lookbook LoRes

Collection “Archives by Studio Job” (source: NLXL)

In the four years since we’ve been working with NLXL, this is the second time they’ve won this coveted award – the first time being for their inaugural collection, Piet Hein Eek’s wildly successful “Scrapwood Wallpaper”. This year the win was for their bold collection of seven expressive designs, which is a retrospective of sorts of the history of design studio Studio Job. The wallpaper collection had its European debut in April 2014 to critical acclaim at the Salone del Mobile in Milan.

Studio Job Archives Wallpaper

“Withered flowers” (colour) (source: NLXL)

To create the intricate patterns for the nine metre rolls of wallpaper, NLXL meticulously combed through the archives at Studio Job taking images from their extensive library. The references are both traditional and topical, organic and artificial, and convey a narrative that is ornamental, sophisticated, playful and ironic.

NLXL original_nlxl-archives-wallpaper-by-studio-job-alt-deutsch

“Alt Deutsch”, detail (source [cropped]: NLXL)

Studio Job (founded in 2000 by Job Smeets and Nynke Tynagel) is known for its eccentric and expressive work that combines a high level of craftsmanship with extreme ornamentation. We agree that these intricate and opulent designs translate beautifully into wallpaper.

Studio Job Archives Wallpaper

 Source: NLXL

By contrast, Ronel Jordaan  a well-established felt artist with an international reputation who lives and works in Johannesburg South Africa, is inspired primarily by nature. Her felted designs eloquently and playfully infuse contemporary interiors with the beauty, simplicity and serenity of the outdoors.

Ronel Jordaan

“Porcupine cushion” (source: Ronel Jordaan)

Using 100% merino wool, Ronel lets her imagination run wild in the creation of rock cushions, pebble carpets, intricately accented wall hangings and throws, opulent floral cushions, and more. We started working with Ronel six years ago, drawn in initially by her collection of “rocks” and “boulders” that cleverly mimic the look of natural stone. Her use of natural dyes and the subtle shading in her work give it a minimalist, realistic and earthy appeal.

Ronel Jordaan 3

Hand-felted merino wool rocks and boulders (source: Ronel Jordaan)

Among other pieces showing in New York were her hand-felted merino wool boulders and rock cushions in metallic finishes – covered with silver leaf, bronze, and combinations that incorporated the natural charcoal grey of her traditional felted rocks.

Ronel Jordaan 4

Felted throw (source: Ronel Jordaan)

All of Jordaan’s felt pieces are made with an eye to environmental and social responsibility. The wool is treated by hand, the soap used is biodegradable, the dyes are lead free, and they grey wastewater is used to grow a vegetable garden. Job creation and training are also at the forefront and under her guidance over  40 previously unemployed women have been trained and are now felters of international standing themselves.

Ronel Jordaan Ndebele Chairs

Ndebele chairs (source: Ronel Jordaan)

Galerie CO is proud to be working with such innovative, responsible and exciting designers and we congratulate them again on the well-deserved recognition they received in New York.

We can’t wait to see what they’ll do next.



Sustainability — the ability to last or continue for a long time or the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level — is a word that often relies on its context for clarity of definition. The concept of sustainability as it relates to human development first appeared in 1987 in the idea of “sustainable development” as follows:

Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

—World Commission on Environment and Development’s
(the Brundtland Commission) report Our Common Future
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987).

Meeting the needs of the future depends on how well we balance social, economic, and environmental objectives–or needs–when making decisions today. For example, at a broad level, industrial growth might conflict with preserving natural resources. Yet, in the long term, a balanced approach that advocates the responsible use of natural resources now will help ensure that there are resources available for sustained industrial growth far into the future.

sustainability and CO

As applied to policy making, sustainability requires us to question what are the needs of the present? How do we decide whose needs are met? What happens when needs conflict? When there has to be a trade off, whose needs should go first? What gets prioritized?

The decision with respect to which “needs” are most vital and should weigh most heavily in the balance is a subjective exercise and depends critically on immediate hardships, challenges, value structures and expectations. If you did not have access to safe water, and therefore needed wood to boil drinking water so that you and your children would not get sick, would you worry about causing deforestation? Difficulties notwithstanding, the balancing of objectives is vital in the short term – by individuals, communities, cities, countries and groups of countries – if we expect to sustain our development in the long term.

We recently asked our Facebook friends and our Twitter followers what sustainability meant to them in the context of design.

Consistent with the breadth of the concept of sustainability, we got a diverse set of responses. So we built a word cloud around the definitions where the larger the word, the more frequently it was used in a response. Within the diversity, the similarities stand out: “environment”, ‘materials”, “beautiful”, “creating” and “long-lasting”.

The words in the cloud touch on the many facets of sustainability and those used most frequently are consistent with the values in a society with a robust social safety net, access to services, relatively low levels of gender inequality, and where our basic needs are met in terms of subsistence, education and health. And importantly it reflects not only the importance of the responsible use of resources, but also the idea that design can be a driver of sustainability through original ideas and innovation.

The construct of a sustainable balancing act exists.  #COclientsarethebest!

sustainable design word cloud

Welcome to Chez CO

Welcome to Chez CO, the official blog of Galerie CO. Galerie CO is a unique retail destination for home decoration and design inspiration, located in the Mile End district of Montreal.

galerieCO outside

When I opened Galerie CO, I was fuelled by a passion to create a business that would let me bring together my love of art and design and my professional background in international trade and sustainability.

To me, sustainability means finding innovative and imaginative ways to build stable economies that respect the environment and improve the lives of people and communities.  That’s why we are called CO.  The ‘C’ and ‘O’ represent the two letters common to the three words that are fundamental to sustainability — economy, ecology and community. At CO, we are interested in how and where these three elements can weave together.

Why “Galerie” CO?  Continue reading