Sharing our Art with Heart

    2017 Laboratory c/o Natasha J. Hussein Correspondence cards , by Papier

  2017 Laboratory c/o Natasha J. Hussein Correspondence cards, by Papier

The first e-mail entered substantial use in the 1960's and since then has been eroding our use of paper based communication. Though email has allowed us to communicate much faster, it has reduced our inclination towards personalisation, beauty and charm. It has also reduced our patience for something that is thoughtful and well crafted. 

I personally get a deep pleasure from personalisation, communicating in a way that is not about quantity or 'doing something to get it done' but creating a meaningful connection with the other party, to celebrate what is unique to that individual or team whilst infusing the experience of communicating with creativity, colour and fun. And though I will not abandon the e-mail, I endeavour to fill all Laboratory communication with as much art and heart as possible. 

Words by Natasha J. Hussein

Textural Inspiration from Food

  Christmas Collection , Pierre Marcolini

Christmas Collection, Pierre Marcolini

The story of chocolate begins in 1900 BC in Mesoamerica. The cacao seeds were believed to be a gift from Quetzalcoatl, the God of wisdom. Cacao's power lay in the fact that it was an aphrodisiac and was thought to provide strength. The story of chocolate evolves through its discovery by Christopher Columbus in his 1502 mission to the America's and its introduction to the Spanish Court by the Spanish frairs. As chocolate began to capture the hearts of the European's, it was subject to mass production processes in advent of the Industrial Revolution. The love of chocolate has inspired many to become chocolate artists or chocolatiers, brilliant individuals who have tasked themselves with the joy of presenting and remaking this powerful elixir from the cocoa plant into ever more multi-sensory experiences. From Pierre Marcolini to Sadaharu Aoki, these pieces of art work delight us in both simple and complex ways. 

In the evolution of the project 'Waste is a Misconception', I was inspired by the multi-sensory nature of chocolate. Chocolate and fine patisserie have a series of desirable characteristics. These mini edible sculptures are biodegradable, beautiful and awaken multi-sensory pleasure in those that delight in them. If you are attentive enough, the noise of breaking through one and the slight challenge that you encounter in that process is highly satisfactory within itself. Any surprise flavouring is but a pleasing addition. 

In creating with bio-resin, a resin that had been made from waste plant matter and waste coffee granules from Nespresso pods, it is ever more important to bring out the deliciousness and desirability. The 'sustainable cause' has often suffered from a lack of pleasure consideration and until we can create items that bring as much gorgeousness into our lives as some of their more harmful cousins, it will be a challenge to convince the public that environmental mindfulness is indeed attractive. As I move forwards with this project, I am looking to cultivating the same sensory pleasures inherent in a piece of edible artwork. 

Words by Natasha J Hussein

In Conversation with Materials

Empathy with materials involves treating them as if they are human —  looking at a material with wonder, studying its behaviour, its make up, its strengths, its weaknesses and how can we shape, colour and place it in conditions in which it will flourish. This is especially true of materials that have come from the Earth, materials that have biological processes just like humans, for whether we wish to accept it or not, our interdependency on the natural world is as great as our interdependency on one another. 

Words by Natasha J. Hussein

Why do we work across disciplines? 

  Get a Grip , Resa Rot   What are the components of a visceral experience?

Get a Grip, Resa Rot

What are the components of a visceral experience?

We work across disciplines because we see design work as a vehicle to transform lives. We are interested not in one segment of life but in the experience of life which is complex, multi-sensory and multi- object. We are interested not in isolated occurrences but multi- point interactions.  Our design work is simply a vehicle through which we hope to improve life, bit by bit, whether it be helping people to think more critically, to try out a new perspective, become more aware, experience more joy or connect more deeply. We also love the thrill of making unusual connections, keeping our thinking challenged and fresh, but also allowing us to serve in a more impactful way. 

Our work is solely the process of mastering bringing ideas to life, even if the exact manifestation of those ideas looks different. Our emphasis is on the process, dedicating ourselves to bringing our full spirit and attention to creating for our customers and clients. 

We also feel that it is important to leverage our knowledge as we go along, which is why we work with young people to inspire them to create and to stimulate their thinking in a way that conventional education can fall short. 

Words by Natasha J. Hussein

Creating conditions for non-attached immersion: can it be done?

  Grids and Consistency,  John Dilworth

Grids and Consistency, John Dilworth

I was recently reading Zen in the Art of Archery: Training the Body and the Mind to become one by Eugen Herrigel and it made me contemplate the idea that the design journey, the creative journey and business journey could also be a task of personal evolution and ideally a facilitator to evolve others. Is the creative journey a chisel for the human spirit? It made me inquire as to how others experience the act of creativity and whether or not context shifts ones personal experience. Where does the stress of attachment to an outcome come from? I postulate it is different for different people but perhaps the conditions for non- attached blissful work are perhaps the same? Even books that are perhaps less metaphysical in nature, books like the incredibly popular Flow by Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi suggest conditions for happiness comes from an non attached immersion in an activity. What I enjoyed the most about Flow was the fact that the end of the book talks about purpose, that life can be given one and that it is helpful if that purpose is in flow with that of community, culture and environment. One of the lines of “... the Master's warning that we should not practice anything except self-detaching immersion,” is a condition talked about extensively in Csikszentmihalyi work. I’ll end this exploration with a beautifully expressed paragraph from Eugen Herrigel “...the preparations for working put him simultaneously in the right frame of mind for creating... that collectedness and presence of mind...the right frame of mind for the artist is only reached when the preparing and the creating, the technical and the artistic, the material and the spiritual, the project and the object, flow together without a break.” Can we create conditions for non attached immersion in the workplace? Can we create conditions for joy? And if we did, would that impact the work that we produce? I’m intrigued as to where this inquiry may lead…

Words by Natasha J. Hussein

Remaining responsive in the pursuit of excellence

  Plomp , Louise Zhang // What artful, fun and interesting combinations can we create when we look at creative practice as space without 'boxes'? 

Plomp, Louise Zhang // What artful, fun and interesting combinations can we create when we look at creative practice as space without 'boxes'? 

A friend wisely said to me that the answer we have to creative education today is “one of many possible answers” that could have rooted itself in our society. In times of great change and uncertainty, do the things that we perceive to be ‘right’ hold as much integrity as they used to? Perhaps loosening the attachment to established methodology in achieving a particular goal or vision can free us of the tension created between what we instinctively feel we would like to do and was present times suggest would we wise, versus systems that have grounded themselves as the status quo over the centuries. Micro movements in education and discussion within the design community would suggest that in the future a mind that is able to integrate different subject matter could be helpful. Renowned trend forecaster Li Edelkoort is introducing a department of Hybrid Design Studies to the Parson’s School of Design, New York claiming that the present system “seems to be obsolete” which builds on a conversation with Thomas Heatherwick who mentioned that he believes there is no difference in the process of designing a building as there is to a chair. “Whether something is a Christmas card or a masterplan for a site that's eight miles long, we've found it's exactly the same process that you're going through,” Heatherwick said to Dezeen. Perhaps then whether we choose to take the responsibility of being entirely self educated or are within an institution at a specialised course and eye on our future and the future would be wise.

Words by Natasha J. Hussein

Nature as Master Designer

Biomimetics, Beauty and Circularity

  Gold Dust Women,  Pamela Cocconi

Gold Dust Women, Pamela Cocconi

In 2010, in the final year of my Chemistry degree at the University of Bristol, I studied the sea urchin spine, seeking to understand the nature of its crystalline properties and how this gave rise to a fracture resistance higher than that of traditional man made ceramics. This process is formally known as biomimicry. Biomimicry is defined as the activity of seeking sustainable solutions to human challenges through emulating nature's time - tested patterns and strategies. I didn’t contemplate the term again until I read The Medici Effect — Strategy and Innovation in an Unpredictable World in late 2011. In this book I encountered the work of architect Mick Pearce, who had mitigated the need for air conditioning in the construction of a Nairobi shopping mall by incorporating a cooling mechanism inspired by the structure of the termite mound. Mick, brought to my attention to the extensive but relatively unknown application of scientific principles to the craft of the designer, being quietly used by individuals like Thomas Heatherwick and Daan Roosegaarde. I even encountered ‘protocell architecture’ — the method of creating entire material systems from the bottom up that are both artificial and responsive. 

“Biomimicry is defined as the activity of seeking sustainable solutions to human challenges through emulating nature’s time tested patterns and strategies.”

  Photograph and Photographer Unknown

Photograph and Photographer Unknown

Nature makes a brilliant advisor for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it is has been around for long time and mastered the skill of adapting and evolving to optimise its chances of survival. The natural world is also locally attuned, resilient, responsive and runs in a cyclic process so there is no waste in nature. Natural systems, unlike man made systems are structured to optimise instead of maximise; to value interconnectedness and interdependence to the rest of the organisms in its surroundings; and the process of manufacturing in nature is predominantly benign.

To complement my reading self study, I completed an online course Biomimetic Design, intrigued by how science was being taught to design focussed minds. The course is based on a spiral made by designer Carl Hastrich, that takes an individual from a brief to creating to take their understanding of a particular biological phenomenon and translate it into making a product, service or system that aligns with natures principles. 

Through breaking the barrier between science and art/ design we might find that each discipline helps us to ask better questions.
— Natasha J. Hussein

An outline of Hastrich’s process involves, firstly identifying and understanding the basic functions that need to be performed by the design. It is a place where we reflect on what an object/ system needs to do and more interestingly, what it potentially could do. Secondly, we translate and interpret that in biological terms, asking the question of ‘how does nature perform a certain function?’ Thirdly, we undergo a journey of discovering the strategies used by nature including materials, shapes, processes and systems. Fourthly, to interpret biological strategies back into terminology relevant to the item that you are trying to design. Fifthly, to emulate and create an item based on what you trying to design. Finally, to assess the design in alignment to the original objectives. 

Design has a large role in determining how we interact as a society, this includes our relationships with others, with the environment and with the objects in our lives. Through breaking the barrier between science and art/ design we might find that each discipline helps us to ask better questions. If the firefly is able to generate light without burning fossil fuels, how might we be able to achieve the same? Why are our homes constructed and heated the way that they are? What can the rainforest teach us about how to run organisations that operate more efficiently yet optimise the wellbeing of the individual? Why do paving stones have to be grey and ugly, can the abalone teach us to to make something beautiful and supportive? It is a popular belief that we have reached the age of ‘stuffocation’ but perhaps the solution to improving our collective quality of life is not in having less or making less, but in changing how we make existing objects, experiences and systems so that they might serve us more effectively. 

Words by Natasha J. Hussein

On working without labelling

Exploring the Influence of Language on Behaviour

  Otokoyama Sake Brand Identity , Designer Unknown

Otokoyama Sake Brand Identity, Designer Unknown

Recent conversations have led me to acknowledge that I have unconsciously been attempting to work without ‘labelling’ and to close myself off to the noise that is outside to retrieve what might be inside. Beyond suspending labelling myself, which often makes introductory conversation a little bit more challenging, I have extended this lack of labelling to how I see. If we attempt to unlearn what we have learned cognitively about certain objects, processes and experiences how will that influence how we move, behave and create — will we see possibilities that were not there before?

Perhaps if we suspend what we ‘think’ about and object we can experience it anew.

Perhaps if we suspend what we ‘think’ about and object we can experience it anew. I think back to something I read a some time ago from designer Kenya Hara, on the concept of ‘Re-Design’ — the idea of looking “at familiar things as if it were our very first encounter with them. Re-design is a means by which to renew our feelings about the essence of design, hidden within the fascinating environment of an object that is so overly familiar to us that we can no longer see it.” I would encourage us to look beyond the word design (for that has its own conventional meanings also) and to think about existence itself from policy making, to software development, healthy eating to organising urban environments. How can we benefit from a fresh eye each day on the activities and the environments we create and play in? 


Words by Natasha J. Hussein

On creativity being a collective responsibility

  Unknown , Eibatova Karina

Unknown, Eibatova Karina

I feel that great creative work is not just the responsibility of the ‘maker’, it is also the responsibility of the person that commissioned it. It is their responsibility to understand the difference between good, great and world class work. It is their responsibility to understand the cultural context in which they are asking this work to be created. And, at the very least, even if they do not know, it is their responsibility to ask the right questions to equip them with the knowledge that they need to make more impactful work along with a creative person they have hired. The reason why so much of environment looks the same and some of the reason individuals abandon creative careers is that in a lot of cases they are restricted by the vision (or lack of) of the client. It is time for us to shift the conversation from how can we do this on time and on budget to how can I get your best work out of you and you get your best work out of me/us? What does best work look like with the time frame and budget that we have? What are the social implications of the work that we are doing? How can we create impactful aesthetic and social impact?

Words by Natasha J. Hussein

On Material

  I want nothing more than you , Designer Unknown

I want nothing more than you, Designer Unknown

Ask not for less material things but for more items worth cherishing

What if we get people to buy into a thought process, an item that pushed the boundaries of the imaginations of many not as a means of marketing, but as an act of generosity?

Words by Natasha J. Hussein

The Problem with Words

 Weisses Rauschen

Weisses Rauschen

When positive impact and transformational change is packaged in a way that doesn’t move and inspire, we project particular projects as a ‘thing for certain kinds of people.’ None of us are immune to advertising and what is fashionable. What if green was glamorous? What if social development was beautiful? What if altruism was something that could both be stylish? 

Words by Natasha J. Hussein


On unlearning the word ‘problem’

  What is your problem? , Robot Tiger

What is your problem?, Robot Tiger

Solving a human ‘problem’ is what is commonly spoken of as a motivation to create a product, service or system. I used to think to myself where does beauty, aesthetic and memorable experience come into this? How do restaurants fit into this? Or hotels? Or museums? Is not being able to get Mexican food in my neighbourhood a problem? No. The average person will not die if there isn’t a brilliant Mexican restaurant outside their front door. What about fashion? Craft? Music? Literature?  Just because there is abundance does not mean that one should not create in any one of these spaces — in fact I believe that we need all of these things. We need art just as much as we need technology to solve individual isolated problems; we need to beauty, art and experiences that take people to another world, just as much as we need routine. Though perhaps we could try blend the two — make technology more artful; make being in another world and having a memorable experience as part of our everyday routine — maybe this is how we improve life. 

Words by Natasha J. Hussein

Further thoughts on the Art of Process

  The Anatomy of a Cupcake , Patricia Sanchez

The Anatomy of a Cupcake, Patricia Sanchez

I am impatient. I am the type of individual that wants things to be done, yesterday then beats oneself up because it wasn’t done. It has taken me a lot of time to realise that somethings can’t and more importantly shouldn’t be done ‘quickly.’ Although I appreciated this cognitively, I found it a struggle until recently to embody it. As a former Editor of the Startup Magazine, I came to realise that condensing a story into into 600 -1500 words depicts an unrealistic picture of what actually goes into making something, regardless of whether that creation succeeds of fails. There are a million unwitnessed moments that form an impression on the consciousness of those involved, but yet that the public never get to see, from moments of ‘micro’ triumph to a moment of ‘micro’ loss. Those moments, are what make up the creative process. 

 Number the Stars, Designer Unknown // The whole Universe exists in a single creation. 

Number the Stars, Designer Unknown // The whole Universe exists in a single creation. 

As I shifted into making more, I began to realise that design stories shared on social media or indeed in the news focus only on the end product, i.e: company X makes vases, here are there vases, finished and maybe here are some highlights of the ‘vase making process.’ The audience are rarely invited into the ‘thinking,’ those peculiar movements of the mind that help shape an outcome. The random sentences read in a book, the colours of flowers in a local park, the childhood fairytale that means a lot to the creator, the abandoned trains of thought, throwaway sketches or the odd questions asked that led to a breakthrough answer… we don’t see any of these things. This is particularly sad because these can be equally beautiful, inspirational and interesting. More importantly, shows that the process is all that 1 table, 1 company, 1 drug discovery adds up to. There is a whole universe within each object, system and service including friendships made and lost, inspiration exchange, empathy shared, help provided… all of those moments. So, I would like to try my best to share my thinking, movement, learning and change.

Words by Natasha J. Hussein