We’ve long been enormous fans of Ally Capellino, for the timeless bags and vessels she creates that seem to adhere to and stand up to everyday problems of a “doing” person who rides bicycles, carries a lot of books, or just needs a sturdy bag as a tool rather than something to show off. Saying that, everyone I know who’s got an Ally Capellino bag definitely shows it off, and it’s normally so beautiful that no one really minds anyway.
It’s funny how a Bookshelf feature can give so much insight into the cogs that turn inside designer’s brains. In the case of this one, it reveals the infamous creative’s passion for Africa, and her love of fine art, hard work and heart-stopping design. Here’s Ally on the five books that have inspired her over the years…
John Picton and John Mack: African Textiles
This book and several others about African textiles, buildings and people seem to be a constant inspiration for me. The colours tend to be quite basic and the designs are really graphic. I love how the basic type of patterns are produced with such freedom so that all the corruptions and irregularities become the exciting part of the story.
Sam Haskins: African Image
I was given this book by my friend Zoe Miller. She used to work with me a lot on research, and we share a taste for this kind of stuff.
Again it’s very graphic with all the pictures in black and white, and it has a great layout. I wish I could show more of it here. Sam Haskins was born in South Africa but then came to London in the late 60s. This book was a follow-on to the famous Cowboy Kate, a pioneering book of nudity, also in black and white.
Concrete rides the waves of the current obsession with Brutalism. I was given this book as concrete has been a passion of mine for many years. Our shop in Sloane Avenue had a two-storey wall of poured concrete in it and I’ve recently experimented with more of it in the back garden with a big square pond. The fish are very happy but the newts are keeping away, they are a bit old fashioned.
Richard Avedon: Evidence
This book of photographs by Richard Avedon is the closest to fashion in this group of books, but in the end I chose this shot of his ageing father to illustrate his work. The book claims to be the definitive account of the life and work of this powerful photographer. I bought it at the National Portrait Gallery after seeing the exhibition of the same name there. I was reduced to tears at some of the pictures as well as being inspired and thrilled by the work and layouts. There are also pictures showing the instructions to his printers illustrating just how meticulous he was.
Picasso was never able to switch off, and I am particularly excited by these little cardboard sculptures that he knocked out. They are playful but powerful in their simplicity. I prefer the sketch quality of these to some of the more finished ideas that are more publicly known. I would love to be able to mess around with a cardboard box and turn out something as original as this.
Martino Gamper: 100 Chairs in 100 Days and its 100 Ways
Martino Gamper is another free thinker. His book of cobbled-together disparate and found chairs has so much humour and is so beautifully laid out by Abäke, that it was an instant sellout. Now in its third edition the book’s design construction and restricted colour printing make it extremely modern and yet somehow modestly dated. Produced economically, it is finished like a hardback stripped of its cover.