Cyantists: Studio Glithero's blueware

Tim Simpson and Sarah van Gameren stand in front of some of their work. Photo: Petr Krejci

Tim Simpson and Sarah van Gameren stand in front of some of their work. Photo: Petr Krejci

The London design duo Studio Glithero revives Victorian flower pressing to pay homage to the art of blueprinting.

In the hands of Tim Simpson and Sarah van Gameren of London’s Studio Glithero, the production process is something as beautiful and avant-garde as the product; a type of performance that melds elements of art, design and science to initiate often extraordinary changes of state.

For their Blueware range, the designers applied the Victorian process of cyanotype, or blueprinting, to magically transform a range of plain white ceramic vases, lighting and tiles to high-contrast Prussian-blue objects. 

Van Gameren says once encountered, the technique was of immediate interest to the duo. “We felt blueprinting would be an interesting technique for us to use because of our conceptual interest in the principal of transformation.”

After further historic and technical research into the diverse application of the cyanotyping technique, the designers became captivated by its use by nineteenth century botanists such as Anna Atkins who used blueprinting to create photograms of pressed floral specimens. 

“We decided to stay quite true to its botanical application but make it its own production method with its own reasoning,” she says.

Experimentations with different materials led to their discovery of intriguing results when pressed flowers were attached to ceramic samples. When the pieces were washed, the specimens dissolved leaving a delicate but enduring negative imprint of the floral form on the object’s surface.

Each flower leaves a unique mark memorialising its transient existence but it was important to Studio Glithero that they chose to venerate not the exotic or flashy plants found in florists but more dimunitive and poorly relations.

Consequently, the series uses species so common they typically go unnoticed, or the unwanted weeds that creep into cracks in footpaths and along the edges of cultivate gardens.

Sourced from the locality of their North London studio and the nearby Hampstead Heath, their collection became a social exercise, as the duo mapped the floral story of their neighbourhood and made friends along the way.

Design Miami/Fendi supported the presentation of Blueware vase prototypes at the 2009 Salone di Mobile in Milan. While visitors and design media were charmed by the beauty and theatricality of the pieces, it took the duo another eighteen months of dogged experimentation and research to resolve conceptual and technical components of the project so it could be made available to market. 

“We develop in a very slow way as a studio I think compared to other designers but that is because we want to stay really true to our conceptual path, says van Gameren. "Steps go slowly for us because we always want to think about why we are taking them.”

This is a version of a story that first appeared in Vogue Living Sept/Oct 2010.