Belinda Esperson

Australia 1965 – women in design!

1965 Australia

I came across this article the other day in a newpaper from 1965 that my brother-in-law found preserved under a floor. The article caught my eye with its reference to Scandinavian Design and contemporary furniture in what was otherwise a very traditional publication. However reading the article I was truly shocked at the way these entrepreneurial women were portrayed.

As was the appalling custom of the time they are referred to by their husband’s name eg. Mrs Douglas Alexandra – as if they did not have their own names and identities. We are then advised of their husband’s professions – despite the fact that their husbands have nothing to do with the business in question. We are then reassured that both women manage to run the business (this “outside interest”) without compromising their home and family duties (despite one having six children). Having devoted half of the article to these important details we then learn about the furniture….

The Scandinavian furniture they were selling is timeless and would sit well in a contemporary furniture showroom today – but thankfully those attitudes towards women are well and truly gone!

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Jenny Kee and the 1980’s

I was blown away yesterday when I dropped into Pieces of Eight Gallery and saw their amazing window display by Benja Harney to celebrate the work of designer Jenny Kee.

jenny kee1

I have to admit those Jenny Kee pullover designs of the 1980’s featuring koalas and other native fauna and flora make me feel a bit queasy. They were such a feature of fashion in Australia in the 80’s together with the bright bright colours, big shoulder pads and puffed sleeve shirts in synthetic shiny fabrics, big hair, stilettos and power suits for women. Ugh – it was so not my decade….I was so relieved when it was over!

That said however, I really admire Jenny Kee – she’s had an amazing life, she is a true original and her work really does celebrate the beauty and vibrancy of Australia. It is great to see a younger generation appreciate her work as fresh and new – wearing it in a fresh way and being able to enjoy it without the ugliness that surrounded it in the 80’s.



Benja Harney has captured the native Australian flowers that feature in Jenny’s designs so superbly in paper. I so enjoyed looking at how he had created 3D forms of Warratahs, Sturt Desert Peas, Wattle and Flannel flowers out of 2D paper. And of course Jenny’s distinctive glasses took centre stage – unmistakably Jenny Kee.

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Earth Matters at Artipelag by Li Edelkort


I was just reading one of my favourite design blogs in which she features an exhibition I would love to see by the guru of design trends Li Edelkort (whose beautiful blog trendtablet is also on my bloglist for its stunning imagery).

The exhibition “Earth Matters – when natural and creative forces meet” looks at the issues of consumerism and over-consumption and the increasing influence of nature and sustainability in design, art, food & fashion.


Artipelag 5

The exhibition is being held at Artipelag gallery in the beautiful archipelago near Stockholm. I visited Artipelag shortly after it opened two years ago when I was briefly living in Copenhagen. I’d always wanted to see the archipelago – inspired early on in my life by images in Ingmar Bergman films (and ABBA) – a vision of thickly forested little islands with traditional red and yellow timber houses and rocky outcrops perfect for diving into the glassy water.

To get to Artipelag you take a ferry from central Stockholm that weaves its way through quiet waterways for over an hour to drop you off at the boardwalk leading up to the gallery. The scenery along the way did not disappoint – it was beautiful, everything I’d dreamed it would be. The gallery building itself was still being finished but sat well amongst the rocks & trees with views out to the water. In addition to the art there were walking paths through the woods and down to the shoreline to explore and a stylish cafe serving fresh scandi food. A very nice place to be …..wish I could.

artipelag 1

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Leaf necklace

sterling silver curled leaf necklace

I was looking through some images the other day and came across this sterling silver leaf necklace that I made a while ago for Galerie Hoff in Copenhagen. I was so pleased with how this piece turned out – with its fragile and ephemeral air. I love that smoky, dusty appearance that oxidised silver can have. Seeing this necklace again has reminded me I need to make some more pieces like this.

| Posted in pieces i've made

vale pippin


Today we said a sad farewell to our friend of 13+ years. She will be much missed.

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Finally I’ve put some new stock into my webshop – some of my new 18ct gold plated pieces as promised.

I’ll also take this opportunity to introduce you to my “house model” pictured below, whom I use in the webshop to provide an idea of the scale of each of the pieces. She does an excellent job I think ;-)

banksia pod stud

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drawer layouts

Last year I bought some wide/shallow plan drawers from IKEA. They have been fantastic as they allow me to create layouts and group sources of inspiration without taking up bench or shelf space – and the contents can remain there dust free and undisturbed, ready to be revealed any time. On the spur of the moment I took these photos the other day of a few of the drawers  – no styling or preparation involved.


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I’ve recently been making some pieces in gold which is a new thing for me. I’ve discovered I really love the look of brushed gold – it gives it an earthy appearance that polished gold lacks and works beautifully with the organic forms of my work. I’ve also discovered gold plating onto sterling silver – which means I can make larger pieces that don’t break the bank. Here are couple of pairs of earrings I’m dropping into Pieces of Eight Gallery today and I’m all set to get some pieces into my webshop too.

pod stud earrings – 18ct gold plated silver


pod hook earrings – 18ct gold plated silver


| Posted in pieces i've made

scandi design

I have to admit that I’m both delighted and just a bit miffed that Scandinavian design (and all things Scandi) are so “in” at the moment. I have been obsessed with Scandinavian design most of my life – possibly because of my distant Scandi family heritage, possibly just because the principles of Scandi design so fit with my own philosophy “beautiful things for everyday use”, possibly because of the focus on natural materials, craftsmanship and simplicity.

The reason I’m a little miffed is that I have finally had the opportunity to work with an architect to design a Scandi inspired extension to our old house (hence the reason for my long absence from blogging) – but now it just looks like I’m following the latest design trend…..

I have more books on Scandi design than any other topic – including several that I can only look at the pictures of as they are written in Swedish/Danish/Norwegian. I even subscribe to the beautiful RUM interiors magazine from Denmark – I can read a few of the words – but mostly it is just for those beautiful images.

In 2012 when we lived in Copenhagen for a few months I found a fantastic new book on Danish 50’s modernist houses “Mestervæker” written in English by an American architect but only published in Danish! I contacted the publishers, tried to contact the author…but eventually just bought the sizable book in Danish for the stunning images. So imagine my delight when I was browsing through the NGV gallery bookshop the other day and came across the recently published English edition: “Landmarks – The Modern House in Denmark” by Michael Sheridan. So now I have 2 copies, one of which I am greatly enjoying reading. Every one of those houses truly is a masterpiece.







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Indigo shibori

Late last year I finally got around to doing a workshop in shibori – the japanese method of tying and dyeing cloth – generally using indigo dye. I’d been meaning to try this for ages and a workshop came to my attention at The School run by stylist Megan Morton. It all just worked perfectly – I could visit my friends in Sydney for the weekend, learn shibori, check out the adjacent Koskela‘s beautiful shop and have a meal at the delicious Kitchen by Mike. Perfect!



The workshop was great – about 25 students all of whom shared a love of the colour indigo (what is it about the combination of blue and white that is so seductive?). It was such an easy and satisfying process and in just a few hours I finished a couple of beautiful silk scarves. I love that you are not really sure what you are going to get until the end – a bit like cutting snowflakes out of paper (which I find very addictive!)

I had visited a traditional indigo dyer in Kyoto and had been intrigued by natural indigo – the seething vats of dye – a living material that reminds me of fresh yeast in temperament. It has so much potential and I’m looking forward to trying out some ideas at home when I get some time.



The workshop was so well run by Joanna Fowles (see a review of her course at Design Files) – and the morning tea was outrageously delicious (courtesy of Mikes) and beautifully presented (that Megan Morton attention to detail….). In all a great experience and highly recommended!


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Belinda Esperson