creative orange studio

Innovation is a common term in business today, some say overused, and often mysterious. Taking a look at the current Innovation landscape and one theme will dominate: ‘technology’. Today when we talk about technology we talk about computing, electronics and all things digital.  However, ‘technology’ used to be associated with ‘useful arts’ and included things such as printing, beer making and leatherwork.  Interestingly the root of the word technology identifies with craft and skill, with no mention of electrons at all!

What if we put the idea of ‘craft’ back into innovation? What value can craft add to innovation? I propose it can add a lot of value if we look at how innovation is done rather than focusing on the what. In his 2016 book “Innovating A Doer’s Manifesto …” MIT’s Luis Perez-Breva proposes that innovation is something that can be learned:  “The process of creating what eventually becomes an innovation is something you can learn and become better at through practice.” This is exciting because it helps to de-mystify innovation and make it accessible to everyone. 

Here is where the idea of craft can be useful. If we look at how a craftsperson works-we could say their practice, we can use this idea of ‘practice’ to learn how to innovate. Peter J Denning & Robert Dunham, innovation & entrepreneur writers also suggest that innovation is a personal skill that can be learned and advanced through practice in their book “The innovator’s way”.

In April 2019 I was pleased to help organise an event called the Craft Innovation Salon which brought together a diverse group of people from the worlds of craft, industry and academia.  This event was made possible by the collaboration of the UK’s Crafts Council and University of Arts London. During the day we explored this idea of How we do things by thinking about mindsets and skills, and later how these might be applied in partnerships between craftspeople and industry. 

Some of the themes from the day can be seen in the illustrations by Josie of Studio Jo Jo shown above. Participants enjoyed hands on activities to promote discussion, and the diverse mix of people.  Overall there was a lot of appetite for further discussion in the area of Craft Innovation. So next time you hear the word innovation, perhaps you can think about the role that craft could play?

Looking Glass while digital in approach has been curated with the intention to showcase craft across a wide platform of mediums – reflecting creativity, innovation and inspiration from a variety of visual perspectives. This ethos organically led to a conversation with invited guest writer – Ann Marie Newton.

 Ann Marie has a career spanning over 20 years in the Textile & Fashion industries, this includes roles as a scientist, designer and technologist. Her career has been based in the USA & UK but has included travel to many countries in Asia.  Having just completed her MA in Innovation Management at the renowned Central Saint Martins college in London, Ann Marie is now pursuing her interests in workshop facilitation, writing, weaving & all things creative including setting up her freelance company Creative Orange Studio which reflects her love of the colour orange. Ann Marie would love to hear from you, please email her at

Name that tune…

Music has the power to evoke memories – be it a riff, a lyric, the sound of a certain instrument, or vocal, a song has the magical ability to conjure up a visual in the mind…transporting us back to a moment in time.

Combined with curiosity as to the creative process of other designers, and my love for music l feel totally captivated by Katrina McHugh´s project and subsequent book – “Pop Charts: 100 Iconic Song Lyrics Visualized”. With a artful mix of poetic understanding and visual positioning, Katrina draws us in to ponder on a song title – in all its playful beauty.

As an artist, author, creative director and co-founder of Flight Design Co . Katrina started her work while participating in “The 100 day project” – undertaking a daily practice of visual creativity. How inspiring that this path would organically lead to the development of “Pop Charts”.

l love the idea of dissecting a song and reflecting it in a visual capacity. Fun for the eye and uplifting for the spirit. The approach to weave elements of nature into the piece highly resonates – as l am a graphic designer who finds the natural world balm for the creative soul.

l warmly invite you to further explore the project, its thought-provoking origins of visual inspiration, and to happily discover the answers to the diagrams above – personal favourites of mine.

Wishing you plenty of joyful “name that tune” moments.

Illustration & exploration

September has happily begun with not-too-distant summer memories of places visited and joyfully explored. Prior to my trip to Spain at the beginning of August, l discovered the exuberant map ‘Barcelona, Spain’ illustrated by Farida Zamanvia the web platform ‘They Draw & Travel. Syncroncity at its magical best! Especially since it was just a few days before my flight that l caught sight of this colourful city guide.

Founded in 2011, by brother & sister (design and illustration team, Studio SSS) , Nate Padavick & Salli S. Swindell, ‘They Draw & Travel – younger sibling site to the delicious ‘ They Draw & Cook,  is a pure celebration of illustrative maps and travel.

l adore the concept of reflecting the places we love through the visual voice of map illustration. Inviting artists from around the world to illustrate their unique perception of the places they have visited or perhaps even places where they live, Nate and Salli have opened a new window for us to discover and explore, and above all, generated inspiration to record our own travels through map-making.

Having fell under the charms of the incomparable, yet equally compelling Barcelona, and southern region of Andalucia, (2012) the maps (Barcelona, Spain, Farida Zaman / Andalucia, Spain, Benjamin Bay) will long keep aglow the warmth of these places visited.

l warmly invite you to submit a hand-drawn map of your favourite places to the TDAT website, or perhaps have a simple browse as inspiration for your next port of call. l for one, feel inspired to continue drawing, traveling and cooking!

Fresh visual air for the creative eye

Founded by wife and husband team, Anna & Nathan Bond, Rifle Paper.Co knows no visionary bounds. Starting out as a small stationary business in 2009 their design journey has rapidly, yet intuitively developed into a global “lifestyle brand” with products galore.

Anna has taken her creative talents to heights of visual impact that packs a stylish punch. l’m impressed how original illustrative pieces have been translated and adapted for different mediums, from gift-wrapping to phone-cases, proving a pattern can travel a visual path with distance.

Two collections which have been picked up on the Looking Glass radar are the recent collaborations with French illustrator, author, and photographer Garance Doré and Lauren Conrad of Paper Crown. Featured above, both give a compelling nod to glamour from a different perspective, a pure reflection of their own unique style.

“We strongly believe life’s personal stories and moments are best told through the gift of a handwritten card or note”. With this ethos, it’s no wonder Rifle Paper.Co are growing their stationary roots and branching out to wallpaper and other homeware products…be sure to check out the carefully crafted gift guide and the enchanting Puffin In Bloom’ book collection.

A welcomed breath of (visual) fresh air for the creative eye.

“Carrier of valuable messages”

It was through printing talent Rita Nicolussi that my introduction to the communicative charms of Le pigeon voyageur was made. A collaboration (based in Switzerland) between Rita and illustrator Naomi Baldauf, the classical form of high-end stationary is richly celebrated hand in hand with creative illustration and extensive exploration of print production techniques. Their passion for creative ideas and printed form is widely reflected in the attention to detail.

I’ve had the immense pleasure to enjoy a couple of printing conversations with Rita Nicolussi concerning some of the projects created via the Le pigeon voyageur collaboration…the phrase “eyes light up” springs to mind.

l have been most fortunate to attend the annual printing Messe in Frauenfeld, Switzerland. While visiting Rita Nicolussi and the Le pigeon voyageur exhibition stand, l came across these beautifully illustrated Christmas tags. 

The Snowman imparticular caught my attention, closely followed by the OwlBaby in a shoe and the Mushroom man. l find they make not only lovely gift tags, but also appear rather pretty as a tree decoration. The Snowman has certainly found a new home on my tree.

Le pigeon voyageur retains the delightful pleasure of receiving a hand-written note, and truly is a “Carrier of valuable messages”.

Welcome to Flow – an exhilarating paper playground

l was introduced to the creative charms of Flow by artist friend Sandra Ondraschek, who on a trip to Edinburgh wrote, “I thought of you as I picked up a copy of ‘Flow’ (magazine) and wondered if we had talked about it?”. lt was early morning when l read her e-mail, yet l felt immediately compelled to discover this sparkling jewel for myself…

Pure delight swept over me as l set out on my journey and explored my first port of call – the Flow app. Smiling to myself, l read the editors note to the tapping sound of the typewriter – just lovely! The attention to each (imaginative) detail was a wonderful start to my design day!

Founded by Creative Directors, Irene Smit and Astrid van der Hulst, Dutch-based Flow magazine celebrates its fifth anniversary and l have a feeling it will continue to flow for many more years to come.

Published eight times a year and with a recent international launch, (English copy being published twice a year) Flow is a visual feast, offering inspiration, insights and solutions for paper lovers. A paper playground which brings enjoyment to me on a daily basis.

It’s pure joy to plan my agenda, write letters and cards utilising the various “Flow” items as a source of visual creativity.

Welcome to Flow, a gloriously vibrant hub of paper innovation, a positive energy field which lights up the path of inspirational creativity!

* Photograph credit: ‘Flow Book for Paper Lovers’ by Elizabeth Hitchman


Dot-to-Date your way through the year

What a wonderful way to spend the calender year, plotting your way through British made ´Dot-to-Dot´ – a playful piece, designed by Dan Usiskin. Each design takes a well-known London landmark and invites you to join the dots in your choice of medium. Perhaps you may feel inspired to brighten up Nelson’s Column with an array of coloured crayon derived dots, or for the tactile stitcher, weave colourful threads to join up the dots on the London Eye?

l like the idea of taking an object which helps navigate our schedules, and customizing each month with a moment of creative expression. This calendar will surely enrich the working space.

Dan tells me that due to the global success of the Dot-to-Date London Edition, he has plans in the artistic pipeline to create a World Edition…watch this space…

Tales of far-away lands & adventure

“La Casuni” is a world where fairytales and imagery of far-away lands leap off the page and enrich the imagination. Born and raised in Rosario, Argentina, Valeria Cis has created a space that merges her talent for illustration with childhood memories of engaging story-telling.

l am captivated by the bold, colourful, surreal style of Valeria’s drawings. And l smiled when l explored the “La Casuni” website. An inviting, delightful space which reflects the fairytale themes with such delicate, whimiscal enchantment.

l can clearly see why the “La Casuni” atelier has generated much global success within the creative realms of illustrating children’s books.

And l do feel a sense of excitement when l glance through the many online platforms which Valeria Cis has joined – sharing her richly illustrative tales of far-away adventure.

Be whisked away…

A picture paints a thousand words

It was whilst reading an online article in relation to the Virgin Short Film Awards, that l came across talented artist, illustrator and designer, Sarah Maycock. The article presented pieces of work by various illustrators, and it was the poster for the Short film ‘Without Saying’ directed by Paul Dingwell that caught my creative eye.

l find Sarah’s authentic style of illustration heart-stirring and richly expressive in the way that the brushstrokes dramatically create a scene. Looking at this particular watercolour illustration, l can instantly feel nature’s elements, with the sea lashing against the harbour wall, and the wind causing the couple to huddle together to keep out the cold – a moment of tenderness, perfectly reflecting the title – ‘Without Saying’.

Naturally, this then led me to explore Sarah Maycock’s website. And what a pleasure to behold! From the broad brownish form of the bear to the elegant fine lines of Virgina Woolf’s portrait, each piece with its emotive brushstroke style tells a story.

Sarah describes her work as “quite chaotic”, and feels the best piece of advice given by a tutor was “if l put one thing in there, that is really crisp and looks like l’ve done it on purpose, then the whole thing will look like l’ve done it on purpose, and not sort of just fallen over near the paper”.

l completely agree, leading me to believe that this train of thought creates an illustrative style that is truly her own.